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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Everybody's Got One

There’s an old saying expressed in varying ways, as follows:

“Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one;” “Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one and they usually stink;” and, “Opinions are like assholes: everybody’s got one, and everybody thinks theirs smells nicer than everyone else’s.”

When discussing opinions, I describe them as views or judgments formed about something which aren’t necessarily based on fact or knowledge. For instance, someone may be of the opinion that I’m a shitty writer—something with which I don’t disagree.

Keeping this in mind, I recently listened to an episode of Lex Fridman’s podcast that featured Sam Harris. During the conversation, Harris expressed a number of opinions I think are worthy of addressing.

Noteworthy, I support Harris’ right to free speech. Even when I disagree with his opinions, I wouldn’t want for him not to be able to express his views.

In particular, I emphatically disagree with Harris’ opinions regarding COVID-19 and our nation’s reaction to the pandemic. Much of the podcast episode was devoted to this topic.

Supportive of my views, there were dissident opinions related to public policies which were expressed by a number of sources who wound up being correct, though Harris apparently attributes this phenomenon to happenstance. Harris stated:

We’re swimming in a sea of disinformation where you’ve got people who are moving the opinions of millions of others, who should not have an opinion on these topics. (Starting at around minute 1:31:53)

Why shouldn’t United States [U.S.] citizens have opinions on matters related to the pandemic? Treating assumptions as though they are direct threats seems hyperbolically irresponsible to me.

As Fridman gently pushed back on Harris’ perspective, Harris alluded to a logical fallacy concerning an appeal to authority—something I’ve written about elsewhere in my blog. Harris opined:

One larger problem—this goes back to the problem of how we rely on authority in science—is that you can always find a Ph.D. or M.D. to champion any crackpot idea. It is amazing. But you could find Ph.D.’s and M.D.’s who would sit up there in front of Congress and say that they thought smoking was not addictive, or that it was not harmful—there was no direct link between smoking and lung cancer. (Starting at around minute 1:56:13)

Harris appears to recognize the fallibility of humans, even so-called experts, which calls to question what mechanism remains available to challenge opinions expressed by these individuals. If people shouldn’t have opinions, and the opinions of experts are flawed, one wonders who then is allowed to speak at all.

Are professionals disallowed from voicing opinions of the hoi polloi (common people)? Are only specialists who echo views of the elite worthy of attention? One imagines this isn’t the standard Harris is truly advocating. Harris continued:

I do believe that it is rational and sometimes effective to signal in patience with certain bad ideas, and certain conspiracy theories, and certain forms of information. (Starting at around minute 2:54:14)

From a rational perspective, which bad ideas, conspiracy theories, and forms or information are worth of communicating when people “who should not have an opinion” regarding matters related to COVID-19 express their views? Who gets to decide which opinions are or aren’t worthy of expression?

For three years, I listened to academics, journalists, pundits, politicians, law enforcement organizations, social media commentators, and others who assumed power and privilege over the masses, as they echoed nonfactual talking points about the pandemic.

Those of us who dared to question official narratives were deemed “harmful.” Who should have the right to express opinions when those who long for authority have clearly indicated they aren’t deserving of control? Harris expressed:

Once you’re messaging at scale, to a vast audience, you incur a certain kind of responsibility not to get people killed. (Starting at around minute 2:58:54)

How has listening to so-called experts benefited U.S. citizens when dissident voices were broadly silenced on social and legacy media platforms? Who will hold accountable those who Harris claims have incurred “a certain kind of responsibility” for COVID-19 response atrocities?

Will government entities which oppressed workers by forbidding businesses to flourish be held accountable? Will policing organizations that violated constitutional oaths be held accountable?

Will journalists and pundits who regurgitated talking points from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and pharmaceutical conglomerates be held accountable? Will these echoed sources even be held accountable?

Why was it ok to oppress an entire nation while defiling the scientific process? Were those of us who were justified in our skepticism, and who valued critical analysis, correct simply due to circumstance? Harris stated:

It’s possible to be right by accident. Right? Your reasoning—the style of reasoning matters whether you’re right or not. You know? Because, your style of reasoning is dictating what you’re gonna’ do on the next topic. (Starting at around minute 3:05:54)

I agree that one’s style of reasoning matters, because it’s likely that during the next largescale threat to existence people will recall how inefficient authoritative voices were at addressing COVID-19. Flawed logic since 2019 has looked something like the following:

Premise 1: Those who value “the science” are morally upstanding.

Premise 2: Deric values science, not “the science.”

Conclusion: Therefore, Deric isn’t morally upstanding.

I’m glad Harris was able to express his opinions on Fridman’s podcast. It seems to me that virtually everybody’s got an opinion of some sort.

Nonetheless, I disagree with Harris’ smelly opinions. Although I may think my opinions smell nicer than his, my views could stink just as much as his.

What I think is an important takeaway is that both Harris and I are able to pass gas without the effects of authoritarianism forcing us to hold them in. Ergo, I decisively disagree with the notion that Harris, I, and others “should not have an opinion on these topics.”

Perhaps you, too, believe that others shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to have the ability to express opinions. I imagine your rigidly self-disturbing belief could lead to discomforting consequences—especially as you live in a country wherein many would gladly dedicate their lives to protect free speech.

If distressed by your beliefs, what can you do to provide relief? Since practically everybody has a stinky opinion, it occurs to me that your unhelpful beliefs about these opinions could use some attention from a qualified therapist.

Are you in search of a mental health practitioner who can show you how to get out of your own way, as well as getting out of the way of others, so that you can lead a more purpose-driven and meaningful life? I may be able to help.

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


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