Extremist Views

This is going to be a long and rambling post (even more than my posts usually are, you’ve been warned), but it’s something that I’ve seen in several different places recently involving a wide variety of topics.

In my reviews as well as my ramblings throughout the course of my time in my blog, I have tried to be as unbiased as I can, and where I can’t be unbiased, I try to say it in advance.  For example, in my review of Alloy of Law, I started out by saying that I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson’s novels and that it would not be an unbiased review.  In a similar vein I said in my review of Stardust by Neil Gaiman that I’ve had problems with some of his books before and that influenced my review of the book.

There are hundreds if not thousands of articles posted online every day as well as hundreds of reports on television about any topic that you can think of.  How is anyone supposed to figure out which articles are worth reading?  It’s simple; you look for what other people are reading.  Unfortunately, most of the articles that come up through the dross are those that have the most extreme views.  One of the best examples of this is with political discussions.

We have a bi-partisan political system.  Yes I know that there are quite a few smaller parties, but with few exceptions, there are only two parties that really matter.  Because of this bi-partisan political system, many issues that are important to a lot of people in this country are presented as either A or B issues.  You agree with this party or that party, there are no other options.

I hate discussing politics, so I’m not going to bring it up any more in the post, I’m simply going to discuss the fallout of the bi-partisan political system on the rest of our culture.  The most vocal opinions about practically anything in the world tend to fall into the A or B category.  The problem with taking an A or B view is that there is practically nothing in this world that really comes down to an A or B choice.  (Not even something as simple as Pepsi or Coke, you have other options.)

If you’re wondering where this came from, I was perusing some other blogs and came across a link to Jim Hines website and this post where he was talking about Dean Wesley Smith’s posts about whether an author needs an agent or not.

I have an opinion about a lot of things, but I’m not so stubborn that I believe that my viewpoint is the only valid one and that there are no other options.  I also try to understand where other viewpoints come from.  Beyond that, I’m also more than willing to admit when I’m wrong (which is something that no political pundit will ever do).  (And that after I promised I wouldn’t bring up politics again, I’m sorry.)

One of the big downfalls of this is that when people have an extreme opinion, they see only two possible responses to their opinion: those that agree with their original premise, and those that they think are stupid.  What happens is that they will dismiss those comments that go against their viewpoint, which causes those with dissenting views to stop giving them.  After this happens, the original person no sees any other view, and only sees comments from people who already agree with them, which pushes them towards an even more extreme viewpoint.

A lot of people seem to think that changing your opinion or admitting that you’re unsure about something is a sign of weakness.  I think it’s a sign of strength.  Two of the most intelligent things that a person can say are “I don’t know” and “I was wrong.”

I try to keep my blog focused on books, but once in a while I talk about other things.  Hopefully this post makes sense, and hopefully I’ve given you something to think about.

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  1. hannahrose42

     /  December 12, 2011

    I have say, I find discussing politics revolting. I know someone who is extremely A and I am moderately B. That person knows I detest talking about politics, so I can usually get them to drop it.
    The thing that I deal with most with this theme is religion. Surfing (does anyone say that anymore?) the internet as much as I do, I see this debate over and over again. Except… it’s not a debate. It’s people ‘shouting’ their opinions and expecting others to be impressed they are so knowledgeable and switch sides. The moderates, like me, are either too scared, quiet, or bored with the ‘debate’ to get involved. This also goes with the idea that people think others are idiots if they don’t see things their way… I had a solid train of thought, but lost it.

    • You’re right, it never ends up being a debate, it really does end up with people yelling at each other. I think that moderates also get really irritated along with every other option you mentioned (my irritation with some things I saw really prompted this post).

  2. “Two of the most intelligent things that a person can say are “I don’t know” and “I was wrong.”” Very astute observation Adam. Thanks for the words of wisdom. You definitely have given me something to think about.

    • I never claim to be a deep philosophical thinker, but I do believe in the Blind Squirrel Theory when it comes to a person like me coming up with a line like that.

  3. Two of the most intelligent things that a person can say are “I don’t know” and “I was wrong.”

    I see I’m not the first person to note this, but it’s so true. There is no shame in saying I don’t know. And saying I was wrong is a real sign of strength.


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