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Even the act of not having an opinion is now opinionated.
February 24, 2013 1:49 AM   Subscribe

If you want my opinion, what we need are experts, not windbags (SLG*) *G for Guardian

I want to see more experts. I want more facts. I want to see more people who cannot just tell me what opinion they have, but can convincingly answer why they hold it too. It is not intellectual fascism to consider people who know things to be more knowledgeable than those who don't. We all have the right to our opinion, but we don't have the right to stop people laughing at it.
posted by Megami (36 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good God man, GRAMMAR! And punctuation! I've had three martinis; if I read any more of this article I will throw up.
posted by happyroach at 2:13 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good God man, GRAMMAR! And punctuation! I've had three martinis; if I read any more of this article I will throw up.

Lord, you're not kidding. Three actual typesetting errors in the first two paragraphs, and a couple more stylistically.

And of course, commenting on this is going to be sort of hard to do with integrity as it will be an opinion; but I don't think it's particularly well structured. First, we have many opinions. Second, we need less pseudo-intellectuals. While these points are connected as a matter of course there's no real segue or buildup into the secon.
posted by solarion at 2:22 AM on February 24, 2013


What I find especially interesting is how market research and polling often force people to have and express an opinion when they would not naturally do so, and all the social effects of this that distort results.
posted by The Salaryman at 2:30 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bah. Would have liked to hear from an expert on opinions.
posted by Gyan at 2:49 AM on February 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


How ironic that this is published in the "Comment Is Free" section.
Anyway, that's his opinion and he's entitled to it, right? It isn't as if here in Metafilter we'd ever proffer opinions on subjects of which we're utterly ignorant.

Three actual typesetting errors in the first two paragraphs

Well, that may just be the English love of tradition: that particular newspaper isn't deridedly known as the "Grauniad" for nothing.
posted by Skeptic at 2:49 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Comment is free; sub-editing remains expensive.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:53 AM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Opinions are OK; I could get by with less froth.
posted by Segundus at 3:07 AM on February 24, 2013


Being English, I am always keen to criticise and thought I should sharpen up my technique of derision, sarcasm and occasional loftiness.


Perhaps sharpening one's writing technique would be a prudent first step.




Opinions are like assholes. Please cover them up with pants.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:39 AM on February 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Opinions are like assholes.

There certainly seems to be a very strong geographical correlation between the two phenomena.
posted by Grangousier at 3:56 AM on February 24, 2013


Opinions are like assholes

That's what you think...
posted by Skeptic at 4:03 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Opinions are like assholes

Often the more unimaginative resist having them stretched?
posted by jaduncan at 4:33 AM on February 24, 2013 [27 favorites]


Opinions are like assholes

Everyone's got one and most of them stink.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:34 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "Opinions are like assholes"

Their development was an important stage in the evolution of multicellular animals which facilitated other developments including metamerism, the biological use of repeated "modules" which can later specialize?
posted by kyrademon at 5:43 AM on February 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Opinions are like assholes
The puckered end of a coiled-up tube of gristle.
posted by Grangousier at 5:48 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Second, we need less pseudo-intellectuals

You know that thing about grammar call-outs? Or have pseudo-intellectuals suddenly become uncountable?

Still, it's an opinion piece. About opinions. Because there's already some grar in this thread, I would say it has done its job. That's just my opinion, though.
posted by scruss at 5:50 AM on February 24, 2013


Still, it's an opinion piece.

An opinion piece by noted comedian/skeptic Robin Ince, co-host of a BBC radio show The Infinite Monkey Cage with Brian Cox, so this piece should be viewed through the lens of overwrought sarcasm. Doesn't excuse the lack of editing, however.

I've got to agree I'm sick of the publishing of opinions, however, at least in the form of formal journalisim. The more you think about it, the more ridiculous it seems. People who have no real idea what they're talking about are paid to write their opinion for a newspaper column...and the public pay to read that drivel? A good antidote these days is The Conversation - where actual experts write facts about things. A novel idea indeed.
posted by Jimbob at 6:19 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


opinions : assholes :: opinion pieces : skidmarks
posted by orme at 6:20 AM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Opinions are like assholes

That's just, like, your opinion, man...
posted by the painkiller at 6:26 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Second, we need less pseudo-intellectuals
You know that thing about grammar call-outs? Or have pseudo-intellectuals suddenly become uncountable?
The "less for countables is ungrammatical" thing was totally made up. It was totally made up in like the late 18th century or early 19th. Out of whole cloth, by one person. We even know who that person is. It was totally contrary to the actual usage of English in the thousand years or so of English that preceded it being made up. It was totally contrary to the actual usage of English at the time that it was made up. It has been totally contrary to the actual usage of English in the few hundred years after it was made up. It is totally contrary to the actual usage of English today.

How about let's stop complaining about supposed "grammar problems", especially when those complaints are along the lines of this thing that -- seriously -- was totally made up out of whole cloth by one guy.
posted by Flunkie at 6:33 AM on February 24, 2013 [16 favorites]


What I find especially interesting is how market research and polling often force people to have and express an opinion when they would not naturally do so, and all the social effects of this that distort results.

The last phone survey I did, I answered "9" to some question or other. The next question was why I gave it a 9. I laughed, thought about it, and said "because I have to pick some number."
posted by Foosnark at 6:33 AM on February 24, 2013


I thought the article was worth reading for this if nothing else:

I always take my Fiat to a homeopath when it overheats; they cost a bit more, but they use special water that has the memory of cooling.

I am sure I will get a chance to use that line sometime soon.
posted by TedW at 6:40 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Paging languagehat! Mr Hat, would you please offer your expert opinion on the correct usage of "less" and "fewer"? I will cease being prescriptivist about this if you agree with flunkie that less is OK all the time.
posted by Hobgoblin at 6:48 AM on February 24, 2013


OK, if we're going to get an expert opinion, then I want to first mention two caveats that I oversimplified on:

(1) The guy who I said totally made it up didn't even make it up. He just said he thought "fewer" might be nicer than "less" for countables. That is, even he didn't say "less" was ungrammatical in this situation.

(2) "Out of whole cloth" might be a bit of an exaggeration - I assume that he did this in contrast to "fewer is ungrammatical for uncountables", which actually does describe actual English.
posted by Flunkie at 7:00 AM on February 24, 2013


I agree wholeheartedly that we need fewer professional columnists and more actual experts. When talking about global warning, we expect a journalist to talk to a climate scientist - why do we expect less on issues like social mobility or education?

That said, his one example of an expert was terrible. He refers to David Starkey without naming him, who was called a racist after commenting on the London riots. First, what Starkey said was racially essentialist, and secondly, Starkey doesn't know anything more about modern race relations in Britain than me, you or your kinda racist uncle. He's a Tudor-Stuart political historian. He was asked to comment because he's now a tv personality, but it was just slightly less crazy than asking Paul Krugman to comment on Byzantine theological debates (unless Krugman has a secret Byzantine obsession). An expert is not an expert in everything, and the tv news skipped over a hell of a lot of people (historians and social scientists) who have done deep study on race relations in the UK in favour of asking their pet historian, and then were surprised when he said something stupid and ill-informed.
posted by jb at 7:02 AM on February 24, 2013


Opinions are like assholes

Scatological similes are like farts: enjoyable to deploy but toxic for the atmosphere
posted by neutralmojo at 7:27 AM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


One of the problems is that people are expected to have opinions on everything when they are famous and/or important. Like David Cameron having an opinion on Hilary Mantel having an opinion on Kate Middleton's lack of opinions. In fact, most of the time people are asked to comment on completely stupid idiotic bullshit, so stupid and ill-informed mostly slips under the radar.

But that's just my opinion on this pressing matter of the day.
posted by The River Ivel at 7:28 AM on February 24, 2013


Opinions are like noses. Everybody has one--and yours is fabulous--but try as you will, people will only pick their own.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:01 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Opinions are like assholes.

A cheap substitute for calamari?
posted by benito.strauss at 11:51 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fewer vs. Less

Again
posted by young sister beacon at 11:58 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think Friedman's column generator has a spinoff.
posted by surplus at 12:38 PM on February 24, 2013


> Paging languagehat! Mr Hat, would you please offer your expert opinion on the correct usage of "less" and "fewer"? I will cease being prescriptivist about this if you agree with flunkie that less is OK all the time.

I agree enthusiastically with flunkie. The whole "fewer than" thing is pernicious nonsense that distracts us all from smashing the state more important things.
posted by languagehat at 2:46 PM on February 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


I expect this article will cause a stir with those who have been arguing for fewer facts all along.
posted by michaelh at 6:26 PM on February 24, 2013


I used to have lots of opinions (way too many, I think the term is asshole), but at some point decided I didn’t need them. I’ve actually had that experience a quite a few times in recent years where people got mad at me for not having an opinion or a belief statement on something.
posted by bongo_x at 6:44 PM on February 24, 2013


were surprised when he said something stupid and ill-informed.

How much credit you do them. This isn't the first time, and he's said spectacularly stupid things in the Cambridge Union with no cameras on him (really quite impressively more offensive than the on camera stuff) that led to people actually asking that he be expelled from the union. I have to think that anyone with Cambridge connections who books him should know what they are getting and expects a few fireworks. He just failed to keep his mouth shut on camera for once.
posted by jaduncan at 9:27 PM on February 24, 2013


An example of the Starkey brand of off-camera comments. It's not unrepresentative, and this one is only explicitly mentionable because he was dumb enough to do it in public.
Dr David Starkey has ignited conflict with his fellow academics by calling a Trinity history Fellow an "immigrant who was trying to push a multicultural agenda in education", and arguing that most of Britain was a "white mono-culture."

[...]

Dr Starkey made the argument that the national curriculum should consist of "a serious focus on your own culture" echoing Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove's recent announcement that he aimed to put "our island story" at the heart of Britain's national curriculum.

Dr Chatterji questioned the idea of Britain's "own culture" and argued that Britain was "rather diverse". Starkey then interrupted her saying: "No it's not. Most of Britain is a mono-culture. You think London is Britain. It isn't. Where I've come from in Yorkshire, where I've come from in Westmorland, where I largely live in Kent, where I holiday much in the south west, it is absolutely and un-mitigatingly white."
He could tell that she was, you see, because she's ethnically Indian and thus brown. Not unrepresentative, and you get the idea. The implicit attachment of a requirement of whiteness to being a valid part of true British culture is just vile.
posted by jaduncan at 10:04 PM on February 24, 2013


> It is totally contrary to the actual usage of English today.

Maybe it's more of a British thing? When I worked at the totally-non-prescriptivist Collins Dictionaries we had tagging for countable/non-countable nouns, and ran checks that examples containing "less" or "fewer" had the right kind of noun.
posted by scruss at 1:47 PM on February 28, 2013


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