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Is everyone entitled to their opinion?

9 April 2012

From Seth Godin:

Is everyone entitled to their opinion?

Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean we need to pay the slightest bit of attention.

There are two things that disqualify someone from being listened to:

1. Lack of Standing. If you are not a customer, a stakeholder or someone with significant leverage in spreading the word, we will ignore you. And we should.

When you walk up to an artist and tell her you don’t like her painting style, you should probably be ignored. If you’ve never purchased expensive original art, don’t own a gallery and don’t write an influential column in ArtNews, then by all means, you must be ignored.

. . . .

2. No Credibility. An opinion needs to be based on experience and expertise. I know you don’t like cilantro, but whether or not you like it is not extensible to the population at large. On the other hand, if you have a track record of matching the taste sensibility of my target market, then I very much want to hear what you think.

People with a history of bad judgment, people who are quick to jump to conclusions or believe in unicorns or who have limited experience in the market–these people are entitled to opinions, but it’s not clear that the creator of the work needs to hear them.

Link to the rest at Seth’s Blog

To be clear, Passive Guy is posting this to help steel authors to lots of self-interested, short-sighted and ill-informed opinions floating through the book business air these days.

PG is definitely not suggesting that opinions of all sorts are not welcome on The Passive Voice. Barring personal attacks, feel free to opine.

Seth Godin

31 Comments to “Is everyone entitled to their opinion?”

  1. Even though he is a totally classless idiot in many respects, I prefer Harlan Ellison’s take on this, which that everyone is entitled to an *informed* opinion.

  2. I love it!

    (Does my opinion count?)

    • Barbara, for a brief period when I was in grad school I worked at one of those marketing survey places at the mall. I learned that everyone’s opinion was counted.

  3. I’ve always hated that “everyone’s entitled to their own opinion” phrase.

    It’s perfectly appropriate in matters of taste, but not in matters of fact, and only a fool forms an opinion on a subject about which they know nothing, or holding one, spouts it in front of someone far more informed about the field in question than themselves.

    The phrase always brings to mind this quote from Asimov:

    “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”
    ― Isaac Asimov

    • With all due respect to Dr. Asimov, to whom the following does not apply, the reason for the (very healthy, IMO) anti-intellectual attitude out there is because there are too many idiots who think that their opinions are the only ones worthwhile because they have a degree. (I have an advanced degree, so I know just how little it means. ^_^)

      Andrew Lang wrote a very funny series of fairy tale parodies. In one, the only way to kill a particular monster was to crush it, the only thing heavy enough was stupidity, the heaviest and most deadly kind of stupidity was the stupidity of the learned. ;-)

      • True, it’s surprising how little is required in terms of either intelligence or knowledge for various degrees, and of course knowledge in no way implies intelligence. :)

        But one of the main reasons the whole entitlement phrase annoys is that people almost always seem to whip it out when they’ve been made to feel stupid when it’s pointed out that their “opinion” is based on factual errors of some variety.

      • Let’s not forget L. Frank Baum’s contribution who made his first appearance in the LAND OF OZ: Professor H.M Wogglebug T.E. (Highly Maginified and Thoroughly Educated)

  4. One of my favorite sayings is “A man with experience trumps a man with an opinion.”

  5. Hmmm…

    Sounds like the guy who got in my face once and said the Constitution guaranteed his right to free speech.

    Me: “Show me where the Constitution says I have to listen.”

  6. I feel like people sometimes need to recognize the limits of their opinions and their experience. For example, if you were traditionally published 20 or 30 years ago, did very well, and have been treated well by your publisher ever since, you need to understand that the publishing landscape for new writers and writers who haven’t been treated well by their publishers is different than it is for you. It’s not a one-size-fits-all world.

  7. I have a knee-jerk wariness against anyone trying to do a broad “this class of people’s opinions are worthless” statement. However, in the context PG has stated, particularly with all the Chicken Little Sky is Falling stuff out there, I do agree.

    In Mr. Godin’s context, I disagree. I think anyone is allowed to have likes and dislikes. All are valid. Not all will be relevant to me, or need to be things that I worry about, but that doesn’t make them worthless. I’ll give Mr. Godin more credit if he’s trying to prepare authors for 1 star Amazon reviews.

  8. Some great comments here. Suzan–love the quote. I’m with Mary on the one-size-fits all thinking, and Laurie has a great point about the one-star reviewers.

    The Interwebz provide a forum for the uninformed multitudes to voice opinions, prejudices, delusions, and free-form rages. Whether they’re “entitled” to them or not, the rest of us need to learn to tell which ones matter and ignore the rest.

  9. I’ve always felt people who say, “Well, you’re entitled to your opinion…” are simply omitting the rest of the sentence: “…even though it’s wrong.” It’s tacitly understood, is my guess.

    Those who are entitled to an opinion about my writing = those who have read it. Everyone else…um, not so much.

  10. “If you’ve never purchased expensive original art, don’t own a gallery and don’t write an influential column in ArtNews, then by all means, you must be ignored.”

    Must? Typical Godin hyperbole. He likes making strong statements as though he was always correct about everything. Regrettably even the estimable Mr Godin opens his mouth a little too wide at times – and MUST be ignored.

  11. Damn, I believe in unicorns. I guess my opinion doesn’t count. :(

  12. Everyone is absolutely entitled to their opinion.

    But nobody is entitled to my attention. You have to earn that.

    That’s all.

  13. I’m going to suggest that “experience” is fairly meaningless in a generally new field, and that perhaps opinions should be evaluated on merit alone. It might be useful to simply delete the attribution tag when deciding what to think about a given opinion.

    Just another opinion.

  14. I’ve never really understood what Seth Godin was trying to sell other than himself. He reminds me a lot of Tony Robbins.

    • He’s not trying to sell anything other than himself… or rather, his ideas/books.

      Kind of like all of us.

      It might make more sense if you’ve read Purple Cow, but maybe not.

    • That’s pretty much exactly how I think of him. One of those chicken and egg celebrities. Famous for exploiting his own fame and nothing else. Sort of the MBA version of a performance artist.

      • But how is that different from any other blogger? How is that different from any of us here “selling” our opinions — and ourselves — in comments?

        • Well I don’t know about you, but I’m not getting paid for my opinions in the comments here. ;) Obviously I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I think most authors are trying to sell a story rather than themselves. Bloggers, well there’s a wide spectrum there isn’t there. But essentially, at the extremes, it’s the difference between getting a book deal because you’ve written a damn fine story, and getting one because you’re Snooki. Which of course makes it sound like I’m disparaging Godin, because people like to tell themselves they’re better than Snooki, but that’s not my intention. Whatever works. We’ve all got to scratch out a living somehow. Being much too introverted to ever be comfortable selling myself, I’m rather more fond of the Salinger model, hide in my cabin and refuse to speak to anyone while my stories are out there on their own.

          • DDW – Regarding being paid for your opinions in the comments here, the check is in the mail. I can’t remember exactly which mail at the moment, however. :)

  15. I’m reminded of a line from a Billy Joel song:

    “You can speak your mind, but not on my time.”

    I think what we can take away from this is that all artists need to, at some point, tell all the people trying to weigh in on, control and get a piece of their work another line from that song:

    “I don’t care what you say anymore. This is my life.”

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