I recently had what might be termed a difference of professional opinion with some of my fellow journalists. It was touched off by a newspaper editorial that took a whack at "enthusiastic amateurs" sounding off on such issues as climate change and fluoridation.It makes me cringe when people describe me as an expert. But it makes me cringe even more when they suggest I am a nutter. I cringe on their behalf. Because ostracising is the lazy resort of the blinkered mind. There is nothing I like more than a debate over what a set of statistics might mean; the clear or cloudy distinction between cause and correlation. It's embarrassing and humbling when I get it wrong but error and correction is one pathway to understanding.
Everyone was entitled to their opinion, the editorial writer loftily pronounced, but not all views should be accorded equal weight. The views of people with years of study and experience behind them were worth more than those of non-experts.
"Everyone is free to disagree but ignorance does not have an equal right to be heard," the editorial concluded.
A member of an internet journalism discussion group to which I belong applauded the editorial, saying she couldn't agree more. "These amateur know-it-alls are a menace," she declared.
I thought this a peculiar position for a journalist for take. I mean, aren't we supposed to believe in freedom of speech?
Another member chimed in that the Sensible Sentencing Trust's Garth McVicar should be added to the "list of nutters". Then someone else suggested a couple of other names for what was shaping up as a blacklist: David Round and Lindsay Mitchell.
To get beyond "amateur" status would require, I suppose, an expensive university education in the social sciences, saturated in doctrinaire leftist thinking. No thanks.
Kudos to Karl for defending the right to be heard of those who don't dance to the beat of the dominant drum.