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The lost art of not having an opinion on everything

Rejected submission by aristarchus at 2021-06-02 00:39:27 from the Removing all doubt dept.
Digital Liberty

Social capital? Ex Cathedra? Runaway1956? A fine article at Salon [] nails much on the head. Though as some will doubtless point out, that is the least vulnerable part of the offenders.

"Slavery is not real. Have you ever seen a picture of a slave with dreds? White people just tell y'all that to make y'all's dumb asses serve them and be inferior. And y'all just listen like sheep."

This is a paraphrased example of a social media post by an old high school friend of mine I'll call Tim. Ignoring the hundreds of years of research and brilliant scholarship on the topic — not to mention the 13th and 14th amendments, the millions of pages written, photos from the pre-Photoshop era, personal testimonies from actual people who were once enslaved like Fredrick Douglass, Olaudah Equiano and Harriet Jacobs, and the whole Federal Writers Project in general — to offer a hot take on a topic nobody asked him to weigh in on.

I usually don't reply to posts like this. But his words irked me in a way I shouldn't have let myself be irked. Against my better judgment, I replied.

"Believe it or not, your opinion on this topic is really not necessary," I commented.

"Don't tell me that brainwashed you too, Watkins. SMH," he spat back. "Please don't tell me you bought into the whole slavery myth. That is the oldest white man trick in the book!"

"What did you study, Tim? What have you unearthed in a world where many Black people can trace their American roots back to the plantations where their families were held hostage?" I responded. "What qualifies you to make these claims?"

"Hold tight," Tim wrote. "I'll send over some links. And Watkins, be careful with this information I'm about to give you, this ain't for the weak-hearted."

Some call him, "Tim".

I know this is a wild and crazy idea — and I realize I already violated it by telling Tim what I thought about his absurd theory — but I truly believe everyone should consider trying this very simple practice: You don't have to give your opinion online. We could all try shutting up more often and keeping our two cents to ourselves.

Watch a big news story that explains a topic you truly know nothing about? Agree or disagree with how that story was presented, and its conclusion? Look away from your phone. And if you can't, at least look away from your texting apps. Look away from your social media accounts. Do not touch the keys. Look away from your desktop or laptop, look away from the guy next to you at the bar, look away from the woman sitting alone in the airport, look away from your kids, even. And as you are looking away, do us all a big favor and pack up that rickety soapbox you might be tempted to climb upon to offer some corner store commentary and instead, please, keep it to yourself.

Yes, please, Francis!

I want to be clear: I do believe in the First Amendment. People should be legally allowed to speak their minds and state their feelings. However, like owning a firearm, raising a child, operating heavy machinery, or driving a car, we should understand that the privilege of doing so comes with great responsibility. Words can and do hurt others. Fake news and fake history is divisive and harmful.

With great power comes great amounts of BS on the internets.


We need a better educated and more media-literate public to balance the effects of the unchecked platform. In the meantime, what I can do is check myself and make sure I'm not giving commentary on every topic imaginable, especially on public forums. It is tempting. I have a platform, too. Sometimes I'm guilty of the same things I'm criticizing Tim and Rogan for. Opinions are fine on occasion or when requested. But like everything else they should be doled out in moderation. At the end of the day, minding your business is really not that hard.

Well, just let me tell you what I think about this, . . . or, not.

Original Submission