Opinions and Beliefs

I was in a chat room recently with a group of people defending that pompous windbag Rush Limbaugh. One of them even claimed that he was “a great American.” I couldn’t stand by while this mind-numbing crap was going on, so I felt compelled to respond. The conversation (not surprisingly) devolved into a discussion about college degrees and expertise, and at one point one of the more enlightened people in the room pointed out that Rush doesn’t even have a college degree. Taking it as a slight against “uneducated” people, we had to defend our position against this perceived class warfare. The problem isn’t that he doesn’t have a college degree (I don’t even have one yet), but rather that he is an uneducated person who speaks with authority on subjects he clearly doesn’t fully grasp. Somehow during all of this, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil, and Sylvia Brown were used as examples of non-experts pretending to be experts. The following was my response.

Dr. Phil talks about relationships and personal interactions, which I’m pretty sure is his area of expertise. So, I’m not sure he’s exactly pretending. Oprah doesn’t pretend to be an expert as much as allow experts to come onto her show and share their knowledge. So, I’m not sure what she’s pretending, either. And that psychic lady…well, you’re right about her pretending. Psychics are in the business of pretending to be experts. But, Rush’s area of expertise is what? Opinions? Well, if being full of opinions is all it takes to be an expert, we could each have our own show.

The problem here is that we (as a society) tend to confuse opinions and beliefs. Everyone has the right to their opinions and no one can have a wrong opinion, but anyone can have beliefs that are simply wrong. If (for example) you believe that red is better than blue, then it shouldn’t be a problem if I prefer blue over red. There’s no arguing taste, right? However, if you think that blue is a sign of wanting to destroy America, then that’s not an opinion…it’s a belief. And people can be dead wrong about their beliefs.

Rush is one of those people who blends opinions and beliefs together in order to further his political agenda. That’s fine. We all do that from time to time. The truly unfortunate thing is that he is heard by millions of people (few of whom think critically about what he’s saying and just nod in agreement), and it just further confuses the actual issues at hand. This conversation is a perfect example of that. Does anyone remember what we were even talking about in the first place? No. We just know that the other side is wrong, we are right, and blah blah blah…

But really, who is right? If it’s an opinion we’re discussing, everyone is right. If it’s a belief we’re discussing, everyone has the potential to be completely wrong.

One person’s opinion is that Rush Limbaugh is a great American. I can’t argue that. However, it is my belief that Rush is a hypocrite, a liar, an idiot, a rabble rouser, a tool, and an evil bastard. Those are all points we can argue.


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