Friday, February 19, 2016

IMHO You Should Stop Saying IMHO!

I have to share with you MHO about something. What I want to do is to share MHO about when people use MHO or IMHO before they say or post something. 

Stop it!

Unless you are actually stating your opinion, stop it!
Unless your opinion is informed, stop it!

Here is a pet peeve of mine. It is a two-fold thing that my wife and I see and talk about almost every day. It is mainly on social media, but also in actual news reporting. 

1.  We think that saying MHO or IMHO excuses whatever we say afterwards.

2.  We say MHO or IMHO and then what comes afterwards is NOT our opinion. 

Before expanding on these two things, let me give an illustration and then explain my goal. When I was in graduate school, sometimes my professors would ask us our position on something, and then offer us extra credit if we would write a research paper defending the opposite view. This made us thoroughly research and understand the other viewpoint. It did not make us agree with it, although I must admit that in some occasions my mind has been changed…I believe that is called education and growth. What it did accomplish was to help us really understand and know why we disagreed. This practice let us evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of both our position and that of the other. 

Because of this practice, we were able articulate the opinions and believes of both sides. We were able to defend the point of views of both sides. In conclusion, since we truly knew what was being discussed or challenged, we were able to come to our own conclusions, opinions or beliefs about the subject. 

This is a far cry from what I see happening in our new IMHO culture. What I have experienced is that we have our favorite news commentaries (not news sources—another blog on that may be in the future). We listen to what ‘our people’ say, we read what ‘our people’ write, and we watch what ‘our people’ record. Then, we start trending the opinions of others as if they were our own. 

A great example happening right now is the ‘immigration crisis’ of our country. Take that phrase and look at it. It is a loaded term. It calls us to arms. It is a ‘crisis’. A ‘crisis’ is a bad thing. A ‘crisis’ must be dealt with and eradicated. From the very start, it is hard to have an honest conversation when the person that you are talking to is in crisis-fear-factor mode. 

Let us back off of the terminology for a moment and ask ourselves if we truly understand the immigration laws, policies and procedures of our country. 

Have we researched the facts? 

Do we know what it means to come to the States legally from South America in both time and money? 

Do we know where both sides have come up with their numbers when they talk about undocumented workers? 

How did the costs of these illegal immigrants get calculated? 

Who did the calculations? 

Is it a trustworthy source? 

Were the conclusions truly the result of the facts? Did the conclusion flow from the facts or was it a predetermined conclusion and facts/examples were sought out to reinforce it? 

For example, if the Grand Master of the KKK wrote an article on the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, would you automatically assume that everything has been presented in a factual and honest manner, or would you perhaps assume that there is a particular bias in the reporting?

If a liberal news commentary presented a story on immigration would you assume that the story was factually and accurately presented or would you assume that some facts were intentionally left out in order to bring the listener/viewer/reader to a predetermined conclusion?

If a conservative news commentary presented a story on immigration would you assume that the story was factually and accurately presented or would you assume that some facts were intentionally left out in order to bring the listener/viewer/reader to a predetermined conclusion?

What if, instead of just believing whichever ‘news’ channel we followed and then pursuing a confirmation bias type of information gathering, we actually went deeper into the topic and sought to understand and articulate all of the points of view without disdain? 

What if, we were able to REALLY say, “IMHO” before we said something?

Let me go back to my two points earlier.

1. We think that saying MHO or IMHO excuses whatever we say afterwards.  

You and I have both seen this myriads of times. We immediately recognize it when ‘they’ do this, but ignore it when ‘we’ do it. I can say, “IMHO racism does not exist” and then move on, in spite of the overwhelming amount of evidence that disproves what I just said and makes it not an opinion but a stupid thing to say. If I say, “IMO the immigration crisis is the result of Obama trying to turn the USA into a Socialist Country that worships Allah” then the subject is closed. I don’t need any proof. I don’t need to justify my opinion. I don’t need to show how I came to my conclusion. Not only that, but if you challenge my opinion, you are being judgmental and harsh because I am allowed to believe what I want to believe and you should accept me for it.

Please listen to this. Saying IMHO does not negate science. It does not change facts. It does not alter reality. I can say, “IMHO, people should eat with their anuses and poop out of their mouths. I believe that doing the reverse is the result of a liberal conspiracy.” That doesn’t change a thing about our digestive system or how it functions.  “IMHO, gravity does not exist“. Well, your opinion is not what is keeping you from floating into the nothingness of space, gravity is doing that. “IMHO, women do not face a glass ceiling in the market place.” That would be wonderful if it were true, but a look at the statistics show that it is not.

Please, do not state things that do not line up with reality and think that saying it is your opinion changes anything. Saying that it is your opinion does not excuse you from actually knowing something about what you are talking about. Do not let your ‘opinion’ reveal you to be a moron. 

Lets look at the second thing that is flooding social media.

2. We say MHO or IMHO and then what comes afterwards is NOT our opinion.  

What I mean by this is that usually it is not our opinion, it is  the opinion of someone else that has been given to us. We have not done any type of fact checking, soul-searching, or data mining. We hear what our channel and our sub-culture says and then start parroting that as if it were our opinion. 

An informed opinion is a belief that is stronger than impression based on the possession of information. In other words, this is something that I actually believe and that I came to this belief by investigation. 

For example, I can say, “In my opinion, the Denver Broncos are the worst football team in the history of the NFL.”  This is an opinion. I can hate the Broncos. This is my belief, it is my opinion. The Denver Broncos are the worst team in history. Another person states the opposite opinion, they believe that the Denver Broncos are the best team in NFL history. They truly believe this to be the case.

Are both opinions equally valid? Yes they are. Both of these are personal judgments and beliefs held by the individual.

Are both opinions ‘informed opinions’? This takes it to another level.

The Bronco Hater is adamant in his opinion and derision of the Broncos. When he is pressed for information as to how he came to this opinion, you discover that he has never even seen an NFL football game. You then find out that he does not know the rules of football. As you continue the dialogue you discover two things. First, he hates the color orange and therefore hates the Broncos. The second thing is that he belongs and wants to belong to a peer group at work and they hate the Broncos. 

What do you now think of his opinion? It is still ‘an’ opinion. However in reality it is not actually ‘his’ and it is definitely not an informed one.

Now, you begin the same dialogue with the Bronco Lover. You discover that he has followed the Broncos for 25 years and has been a season ticket holder for 10. He then points out to you that they are the 2016 Super Bowl Champions, and that they have the best record in NFL history of wins/losses, with 504 wins, 366 losses and 14 ties giving them a win percentage of .580 which is tied for overall percentage with the Cowboys. He then pointed out that the Broncos have the records for most touchdowns, most players with 10 or more touchdowns, most passing first downs, and most games with 50 or more points. As you continue the discussion, he shares with you the individual stats of various players and the fact that the Broncos have been to the Super Bowl eight times and have won three of them.

What do you now think of his opinion? Which of the two opinions is an informed one? Which opinion has more credibility?

Why is it that we can easily see this in our football illustration, but we can not discern it in politics or current issues?

I can say, “IMO the refugees are nothing more than terrorists seeking to sneak into the country and kill our children. They come to the country without a background check of any kind and the majority of them are young males.”  This is an opinion. It is an opinion that is shared by many people, and one that some candidates for the presidency are capitalizing on. I would go so far as to say that you, my reader, have heard this and that many of you agree with it.

Is it an informed opinion? Are there any actual facts that substantiate this opinion? Can you give real life examples and data? Where did you get your information and how objective or unbiased was your source? 

When this was trending on Facebook, I decided to do something. I asked people for their sources for their statements and opinions.When they would make a claim such as 'the majority of refugees are young, Islamic males', I would ask them how they knew that to be true.  99% of people either had no source they could point to, or simply pointed to their one News Commentating Channel. In other words, the group that I want to belong to said this and since they said it I now say it. 

That may be an opinion. However it is not truly ‘your’ opinion and if so it is not an informed opinion. If you cannot state the sources for your information, or even give any data that led to your conclusion, it is not a conclusion nor is it an opinion. It is just a re-statement of someone else's re-statment of someone else's statement. 

Let me ask you something. This is targeting people that post and re-post points of view on various current topics such as, but not limited to: climate change, refugees, immigration, securing borders, welfare, military, gun laws, Supreme Court Justices, and political candidates.

Have you, personally, yourself, actually researched what you are saying that you agree with? 

Have you looked at the opposing viewpoints to see if they have any validity, or maybe some good topics of discussion or thought? 

Have you looked beyond your confirmation bias and read well written and documented articles that come to a different conclusion than what you hold?

Have you actually formulated an informed opinion on the subject, so much so that you can articulate how your opinion was a conclusion from your research and not your research was the conclusion of your opinion?

If not, then stop it.

IMHO or MHO does not make your next statement accurate or intelligent. It does not change facts. It does not prove a point. It is not entering into the public forum or contributing to discussing or solving problems. It is simply letting people know that you love MSNBC or FOX, and that you hate whoever and whatever they hate.

IMHO people who use that phrase without actually holding a personally formulated opinion based on research and thought out to STOP IT. 

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