Is everyone truly entitled to their own opinion? I am using the word “entitled” in what I think is its common usage meaning as “special privileged position”. I am also assuming the privilege comes from living in the western world where we enjoy free speech (to one degree or another).
So, when I started to think about this, it followed days and days of hearing people say to me “everyone is entitled to their own opinion”, and I’m not sure everyone is. Our Attorney General here in Australia once said “people do have the right to be bigots, you know”, which is a related topic. My thinking started with: is an opinion a position on something that has been shared by someone? So if I have a stance on something, it becomes an opinion when it is shared. I’m guessing here by the way. Otherwise I reckon, it is just a thought.
I think everyone at some time or another, has been halfway through expressing something out loud and pulled up without finishing because it has become quite clear that it’s a stupid thing to say. It might have been a belief lightly held or simply something heard from a trusted source and repeated. I have certainly done this. Most often repeating something my parents said many years ago. (Not that my parents said lots of stupid or ill-considered things) So in that case it would not be an opinion, or would it? Perhaps one can have partial opinions?
We know that opinions do not need to be evidence based, because people have all sorts of opinions on things of an ethereal nature. Things like god and ghosts. We know that good people have opinions and bad people do too. Well balanced people have opinions as do people with psychopathy. Psychopaths have opinions on other people regarding their value or lack of it for example. Mass murderers have opinions on the value of others lives.
So are they all entitled to them? Some of those opinions could get you locked up in jail. Some form the basis for doing evil. Is everyone and anyone entitled to even those opinions that lead to mass killings? I would say possibly not. With freedom comes responsibility. Living in a community, particularly a western community comes with it, a need to act in the best interest of your fellow-man. It is a privilege to be part of a western democracy so I believe some thought should be given to ideas before they are voiced as opinions.
I am really keen on the idea that we should all have a small intimate group of friends with whom we can try out our ideas before we share them as fully fledged opinions. Back in the day when I was a YMCA leader, I used to tell my young campers “words are like toothpaste, once out they can’t go back in.” If we are all truly entitled to an opinion regardless of how much or how well we have cogitated on that idea that is truly terrifying.