By Tony Samson
A REGULAR SEGMENT in the news involves an interview of the “man (or woman) on the street”. This everyman opinion is supposed to reflect the common sentiment of the populace on the news of the day, like the integrity of the election process, the impact of a water shortage, or the safety of public transport.
What is the particular bias of the interviewee, plucked out of a rally? Is the sound bite representative of the expressed opinion? How was the selection made on the subject to feature for the news? And how was the interviewee to be featured chosen, the only one with time on his hands?
We are often asked for an opinion on a variety of topics with little regard for: a) Expertise on the subject matter; b) Personal knowledge or involvement in the incident being asked about; c) The value of whatever is said on the subject; or, d) Any relevance of the opinion on how the situation is perceived.
Soliciting and offering of opinions have multiplied with the advent of social media and chat groups.
With alacrity, even absent any valid basis, we bravely give an opinion whenever it is required. What about an honest refusal? “Sorry, I have no opinion on that subject. I just don’t know enough about it to give any intelligent perspective.” Most times, we sail through uncharted waters and give ideas regardless of their ability to float.
It is perhaps in preparation for this constant social quiz that we endeavor to keep up in the new plague of FOMO (Fear of missing out). We see movies in some film festival to be able to reply, when for an opinion — It’s aimed at the school market for obligatory history lessons on the Philippine revolution and how factions lead to executions of heroes.
We read books to be current and give one-line reviews: it’s not his best work. Non-readers are safe as far as being solicited for their views. Literary opinions are rare in any social gathering, including book launches. A snappy repartee of not having read a particular book (or any book at all) is seldom ground for social ostracism. It’s perhaps the reader who needs to be on guard — oh, so you think you’re literate.
The social sin is not being the last to know, but not having any opinion to offer.
In the case of the professional observer and columnist, being opinionated is not considered derogatory. It’s part of the job description. Otherwise, the opinionated person who does not have access to media, supplies views which others can freely quote. On any topic, say the mind-conditioning of surveys on leading candidates, views are swiped from a ready inventory of opinions in the market which fit all ideologies and loyalties.
Bloggers, even with huge followings, do not need do any research. They write a journal of their activities in their blogs: what happened to me today which you should pay attention to. They parlay the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” into a comment worth uploading. The coffee at a food chain has a fly learning the breaststroke. There are too many billboards. They report rude bus drivers and motorcycles that cut across their lanes.
Anything is fodder for the once-popular person trying to insert herself back into the news cycle, even on such conventional wisdom as the usefulness of being wealthy, especially when you get sick and need to be treated abroad.
To be prized is an individual who refrains from offering an opinion, feeling unworthy of inflicting his views on others. Asked about his impression of a person, such an unbiased individual will only shrug and dig into his salad niçoise. Of course, he is sure to be boring company.
Still, there are designated individuals who call publicly televised briefings with media, specifically to be asked for positions on the issues of the day. Here, opinions are not only solicited but noted down and parsed for subsequent reporting. So, when asked about matters like hospitalizations, incursions on contested shoals, the infringement on the rights of fishermen, the patented smirk accompanying the non-reply leaves much to be desired — I have no opinion on that matter. Next question please.
Tony Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda.