Clementine argues for suppression of "incorrect" views
Mind the Fascism! Clem Ford puts up a reasonable-seeming argument below to the effect that the facts behind an opinion should weigh on whether that opinion is given exposure. If only! As an extreme atheist myself (I don't believe in Karl Marx, Jesus Christ or global warming. And I also don't believe in the unhealthiness of salt, sugar and fat). I would love some way of filtering out credulity. But how do you do it? What to one person seems factually-based will to another seem hogwash.
Let me give an example from Clemmie's own misapprehension of what is factual. She dismisses global warming skepticism on the basis of an "ad hominem" argument: "Experts" believe in global warming so we all should". Where are the facts in that argument? "Ad hominem" arguments are not only one of the classic informal fallacies in logic but they have repeatedly been proved wrong. A hundred years ago, the reality of continental drift was pooh-poohed. Now it is an accepted fact. And combustion is explained by the presence of phlogiston, of course.
And, more to the point, what does Clemmie make of the long temperature stasis between 1945 and 1975 when CO2 levels were soaring? What should have been 30 years of warming was 30 years of no warming. Has she ever looked at a climate chart and noticed how tiny the calibrations are? Does she know why that should concern her? Has she ever noticed how pro-warming scientists repeatedly flout basic scientific standards by refusing to share their data and by treating as significant differences which are not in fact statistically significant?
I could go on but I think it is a pretty good argument that the distinction between fact and hokum that she is keen to make leaves her supporting hokum. Discourse shepherded by Clementine Ford would rapidly stray away from reality
Former US Senator and political advisor Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously once wrote that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts". It remains an unwavering truth in a world where opinions are increasingly viewed as equal to facts, even when those opinions have little more than a suspicion or feeling to back them up.
More recently than that, Ruby Hamad wrote that "We may all have the right to an opinion but that does not make our opinion right – or even worthy of a place in a debate." Hamad was responding to a planned televised 'debate' in which eight people would ponder the question, "Is male privilege bullshit?" before a live audience. In her piece, she elegantly outlined how and why the pursuit of 'balance' has been manipulated to the detriment of journalistic inquiry. But more on that televised debate in a minute.
The science behind vaccinations is a good example of this. Vaccines have saved millions of lives over the past century but sceptics continue to spread their dangerous paranoia across the landscape of the internet, revelling in the phenomenal privilege they get to enjoy from living in countries where herd immunity protects their "free-range" tribe.
But press them on their qualifications to counter decades worth of scientific research and you'll hear about how "Big Pharma" is invested in turning us all into robots.
The rhetoric around anti-choice movements is similarly lacking in insight. When the founder of the annual Warped tour (a music festival whose audience members are predominantly teenagers), invited an anti-choice not-for-profit to set up a stall at the 2016 event, he was roundly criticised. But Kevin Lyman stood by his decision, tweeting, "Punk rock was about welcoming all points of view, you can make your own decisions, and opposing platforms and views are important."
Lyman claims to be pro-choice, but you cannot be pro-choice while also providing microphones to people who support the reduction or removal entirely of reproductive healthcare rights – particularly when those people are manipulating some of the people most at-risk of underage and unwanted pregnancies.
Too many people labour under the bizarre assumption now that everything requires "hearing all sides" if there is to be fair and balanced commentary. But fair and balanced commentary around, say, climate change does not mean that we have to counter the weight of an actual scientist and their quantifiable research with the opinions of someone who loftily refers to themselves as a "climate change sceptic". It's an insult to the time and energy spent by people working at the forefront of their fields to suggest their expertise is little more than one side of the story.
And so to the debate on male privilege. I appeared recently on that episode of Hack Live, a televised version of Triple J's popular current affairs program. Hosted by Tom Tilley, the episode brought together eight panellists to debate the existence of male privilege; something that all reason, logic and (most importantly) evidence supports as being very much real.
I was sceptical of the show's purpose in the lead up to its filming. But I believed that it may do some good in terms of reaching an audience of young people who may be forming their views on feminism by watching angry YouTubers.
However, after experiencing the indignity of being pitted against people who literally had no idea what they were talking about, I have to abandon my Pollyanna optimism and agree with Hamad's view that it was pointless from the get-go.
I have amassed hundreds of thousands of words of writing on the topic of gender inequality. I have worked with health experts and survivors and persisted through the sludge of the online space to try to conduct a conversation based on facts, research and cold, hard data.
So it was extremely frustrating to listen to the baffling claims put forward by the panel's token men's rights activist that the oppression of men manifests in far more significant and damaging ways than that of women, starting with the fact that (apparently) young women all over the country are kicking their boyfriends in the balls as a joke.
Most of his evidence was anecdotal in nature, and the bits that weren't were drawn solely from an American propaganda film funded by MRAs and headlined by a man who has, among other despicable declarations, proudly claimed he would vote to acquit in any rape trial on which he served as a juror, even if he knew the rapist was guilty.
Yet here he was not only offering his opinions as if they were in any way, shape or form meaningful to the discussion, but being validated in that belief by way of invitation.
Most recently, we've been presented with the gobsmacking, disgusting treatment of Yassmin Abdel-Magied by not just the nation's lay people but its politicians, media conglomerates and poison-penned journalists. And all because she expressed an opinion on the subject of Anzac Day that was not by-the-book – though nor was it factually wrong.
After Abdel-Magied announced her intentions to move to London this week, Channel Seven posted a poll asking its fans to vote on whether or not she should leave or stay, providing her haters with another avenue through which to bully her.
There's no shortage of irony in the fact that a country whose citizens fight so fiercely to have their rights to an opinion recognised have so gleefully participated in the bullying of a woman who calmly, compassionately and quite correctly expressed her own.
But I guess white privilege has always been good at making some opinions more equal than others.
We are living in very troubling times when it comes to factual analysis and respect for the disciplines of academia. Opinions are not the same as reasonable deductions. They're certainly not the same thing as facts, particularly when based on little more than passionate opposition to what those facts may be.
We have to get over this idea of having to air multiple sides of the same story. As Hamad wrote in the lead-up to my appearance on Hack Live, on topics like "does male privilege exist'', there is no debate to be had. There's no such thing as balance of opinion when it comes to evidence. There are the facts – and then there are ideas about what we should do about those facts. Anything else is distraction.
And goodness knows we are in too much trouble as a global community to succumb to the dangers of distraction.