Today's post is a minimalist linguistic comparison of meaning and belief. As despite popular misconceptions currently promoted by the evil, ignorant and misinformed, opinion isn't fact, rhetoric is not discourse, understanding isn't agreement and knowledge is not empathy. If you doubt these grammatical facts, read on, scroll down, or consult the nearest dictionary for confirmation.
Fortunately, appreciating the difference between the aforementioned nouns requires only enough intelligence to also accept life as both complex and subject to change. And though blessed with a species-wide and often beneficial instinct to join and belong to tribal groups, the needs and freedoms of the rational individual must not ever be sacrificed to the populist mob if we are to eventually build a just and sustainable community. The increasing worldwide popularity of various internet based 'social' media platforms, however, continues to magnify an insidious existential threat to civilisation's future.
For as software
algorithms replace the feedback cycles once provided by communities of friends
and neighbours in forming the personalities of tomorrow's society, immediate and
long-term damage resulting from their influence is effectively disguised. Among
the largest transnational commercial organisations on the planet nowadays, the
oligarchies composed by these opaque media giants also routinely operate above
the law in societies worldwide. With few, if any, rules to govern either
business or personal conduct online, the rapid evolution of supposedly 'free'
software platforms into conglomerates generating billions in profits annually
has impacted societies worldwide. Their more rapid devolution into weaponized
dissemination outlets for organised racism, bigotry and terrorism, meanwhile,
has been little short of astonishing, and represents a significant threat to
people around the globe. And despite widespread knowledge of their platforms
use by foreign governments to interfere with political sovereignty around the
world, denial of responsibility continues as the primary response from
Also worthy of note is this delightful irony; many of those able to understand the previous statements can provide no rational explanation for denial of widely published facts about the Covid-19 pandemic, the reality of institutionalised racism or the man-made sources responsible for accelerating planetary climate change. Instead, when confronted by the tremulous anxiety of self-inflicted cognitive dissonance, the parroted echo of a nonsensical falsehood promoted by online groups devoted to hatred or ignorance will most often substitute for a reply grounded in reason. It's also best to remember friends, that language is culture and culture is language, making your ability to know and communicate the facts of life vital to our society's long-term survival.
By now, history has made clear that to be better, we must do better. One way we can start as individuals is by consciously and continually reminding ourselves to beware of the real difference between proven fact and partisan fiction when engaging with online sources. Another is acknowledging our fascination with 'social' media and accepting there are many unknown and dangerous consequences resulting from its widespread use.
As result of unregulated growth and the abundance of human rights, political and legal abuses attributed to their operations worldwide, however, we must also demand public debate and discussion regarding the future place of these 'social' Media Giants in our society. To enable ourselves to engage in them, we must understand and accept these conversations as among the most historically significant of our time, and worthy of both legal and political discourse.
For those who made it this far, as promised, the noun comparisons follow. The definitions are provided courtesy of the Oxford online English dictionary. Enjoy.
Opinion: a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
Fact: a thing that is known or proved to be true.
Rhetoric: the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.
Discourse: written or spoken communication or debate.
Understanding: the ability to understand something; comprehension.
Agreement: harmony or accordance in opinion or feeling; a position or result of agreeing.
Knowledge: facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.
Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
If you enjoy reading these existential missives and want me to write more of them, remember to demonstrate your interest by purchasing one of my five novels. Available everywhere on Amazon as well as direct from the author here, I have been told they make excellent gifts. Thanks again for being here, for sharing the blog and most of all for your support.
September 19, 2020