You say a thing. I disagree with the thing you said and I tell you so. You say:
- Everybody is entitled to their opinion.
- Why are you so difficult?
- nothing, and look surly or distraught.
The first example is a ‘non-answer’, designed to stifle discussion and debate. I may have information you don’t have about the topic. Telling me ‘it’s just my opinion’ rather than engaging with the opinion or assertion of ‘fact’ achieves nothing except to silence me. Your original statement remains unchallenged and unchallengeable, because anything anyone might say is ‘just opinion’. This isn’t true. Not everything is opinion.
Academics are trained to research a topic until they know it inside and out. That doesn’t mean there can’t be new data at any time, that may shift the scholar’s position once uncovered. It does, however, mean the scholar is considered ‘an expert’ who has authority to speak on the topic. This authority has come with years of work and constantly challenging assertions and so-called common sense beliefs. It has not come from reading an article in the newspaper and then citing that article for the next year as authoritative.
Newspapers are not authoritative. Research is, as carried out by academics and other knowledge workers across many sectors who read widely, ask questions, observe, and engage in constant discussion and debate on a topic.
What you read in The Australian about climate change is not authoritative. What you read from the Union of Concerned Scientists is.
The second response (that I am being difficult) is also a non-answer, but a more aggressive one in which I am positioned as an unreasonable person who won’t let a person speak freely. This answer, while serving the same purpose as the first (to silence me), is, I would argue, pernicious. It allows statements that commit symbolic violence to go forth and prosper.
You’re not racist/sexist/nationalist â€“ I’m just difficult.