The right to call your opinion a load of fetid dingo's kidneys.

Je déteste ce que vous écrivez, mais je donnerai ma vie pour que vous puissiez continuer à écrire!

The saying above - I detest that which you write, but I would give my life for you to be able to continue writing - is often attributed to Volatire. Unfortunately it does not show up in any of his works nor in his letters and is most likely misattributed. However no quote better encapsulates these fundamental principles: Freedom of Opinion, and Freedom of Expression.

A person - calling himself The King of the country Lagom - recently blogged about some comments I made to one of his earlier blog entries. Since the blog entry in question was in Swedish, I have provided you with a translation.

The King of Lagom says that I am "not respecting other people's opinions", that I am "forcing my opinions on them", that I think my own opinions are the only ones right, while everyone else's is wrong. This isn't exactly the first time someone has accused me of this. Let me break down the criticism in parts.

"He thinks he is right"

Isn't this one a complete no-brainer? Would I be expressing an opinion if I thought it was wrong? Is that what the King of Lagom does; expressing opinions he doesn't think are right?

"He is forcing his opinions on others"

This one is just plain silly. I do not have brainwashing powers. Nor am I versed in suggestive hypnotism, subliminal HTML, or mind control. And to the best of my knowledge I have yet to seek out someone out with a baseball bat and go "Hold this opinion, or else!".

I cannot "force" anyone to hold any kind of opinion, nor do I have any interest in it. If by "forcing" he means that I respond to people's opinions with some of my own, he's throwing rocks in a glass house.  

"He is not respecting other people's opinions"

In subjective matters, I don't say that I am right and everyone else is wrong. That's for kids to do, saying "Britney/Kate Perry/Nine Inch Nails is best and everyone that doesn't agree is stupid!". I don't discuss subjective opinions because there is nothing to discuss. I know what I like and if someone else likes other things, that's their own lookout.

However when it comes to objective issues, we are not dealing with matters of preference any more. If someone is going around saying that a Swedish BWR/PWR reactor can explode like a Soviet-built RBMK reactor, then are talking about something completely different. The King of Lagom however thinks that I am engaging in some kind of misconduct when I tell people that the laws of physics do not approve of their opinions. So basically he says I'm "not respecting his opinion" when I speak up against statements that are equivalent of claiming the Earth is flat.

People like The King of Lagom confuse the concept of respecting their right to hold and express opinions with being forbidden to speak up against them. This is of course wrong. I have my own right to hold and express opinions. And if I am of the opinion that what someone said is a load of fetid dingo's kidneys, then I am in no way obliged to "respect" their silly statement by not uttering those very words.

The person vs. the person's opinions

Reading the blog entry again I see that The King of Lagom has a very rude manner. He is hurling all sorts of insults and abuse my way. He acts as if a person is the same thing as that person's opinions. This would explain why he is so upset, because I speak out against his opinions and this he takes as a personal insult. He acts as if I have said mean things about him personally simply because I showed that his arguments does not hold up to science or facts.

This again is a matter of mixing up things and missing important nuances. I have no idea who the King of Lagom is as a person, nor do I care because this is not important. What matters is the things he says. I will never attack a person's character in the way the King of Lagom did. Not only is it poor style and rude, but it also hints very strongly that the person has run out of factual arguments for their case. I used to include insults a long time ago when I first entered the Internet. I have since grown up and stopped using character attacks.

However...

I will attack a person's opinions, arguments and statements, and rip them to shreds if I think I have due cause for it. This is my right and I intend to exercise it. Just like in the expression above, even if I do respect their rights to voice opinions, I also have the right to say that I truly detest the things that they write. If this offends The King of Lagom, or any other person whose opinions I comment, that's solely their own problem.

Opinionated people who are not prepared to deal with others expressing opinions of their own are not advised to engage in a discussion to begin with.

If you can't take the heat, the kitchen door is at your disposal.

/Michael

ADDENDUM: there is a second blog entry that deals with the factual errors of The King of Lagom's blog entry. And even though I called him on using Ad hominem attacks, he is not stopping. The man just keeps on trying to insult me and dodge the subject.