Now that virtually all of us inhabit the metaverse, an opinion column about opinions seems in order.
Other than the fact that I have been writing for newspapers and magazines for more than 50 years, there really is no particularly good reason why anyone should care what I think. I understand that very well, but that doesn’t stop me.
I have opinions on just about everything, some grounded in facts, others just expressions of personal preferences and prejudices. I share my opinions in this newspaper weekly and could easily do so daily, they are so numerous and insistent. My current list of column topics runs to 473.
I assume that, to the degree readers read my opinion columns at all, it is a function of agreeing with me, sharing my liberal point of view and enjoying seeing their own opinions confirmed in print.
For me, writing this column is mostly a form of letting off steam. The outrageous ideas and actions that are deemed acceptable among Americans these days, like presidents who attempt to overthrow free and fair elections, drive me nuts. My head would explode if I didn’t unload in print on a fairly regular basis.
This column is also about expressing solidarity with those who share my point of view and about indicting those I see destroying this country with their ignorance, bigotry and selfishness.
What this column most certainly is not about is changing anyone’s mind. That doesn’t happen anymore, if it ever did. People these days believe whatever the hell they want to believe despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s true if I believe it’s true is the mantra of QAnon MAGA Amerika.
There is more opinion than fact in the media today, even more opinion than fact in American political discourse. Trump Republicans are the first fact-free political party in American history.
Fox News used to be understood as an organ of conservative opinion, but in the wake of the Dominion voting machine lawsuit, we now know that it wasn’t even that. To hold an opinion you have to believe it. The Fox News endorsement of Trump’s Big Lie that he had won the 2020 election was just that, a Big Lie. Turns out even Fox News didn’t believe it.
As clear as it is to me that Trump Republicans are totally full of it, I also understand that none of us really knows what we are talking about. We sit in front of our desktops, laptops, smartphones and televisions and take scraps of information from remote media sources and decide what those fragments of information mean based on our own interests, needs and desires.
Take the Durham report on the FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections. Conservatives believe Durham got the goods on the FBI. Reasonable people understand that, like the Benghazi investigation, the Durham investigation was a total waste of time and money that came up with nothing actionable.
As often as not when I read the daily paper these days, I am more interested in the anonymous online comments than I am in what’s being reported. Internet trolls are not trying to win an argument. They are just trying to tick people off.
I’m afraid I am often as guilty as the next guy. I only hope I get credit for being honest about my motives. Honesty is important, IMHO.
Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen review column.