Experts. Or Not?

by Roger Pynn

A while back I wrote about invective and how the volume of online conversation is making life in the digisphere more and more unpleasant.

Just as interesting as the volume of passionate advocates and combative opponents alike is the tendency to anoint themselves as experts … whether they are talking about fried shrimp dinners, health care reform, their favorite martini bar or least liked public official.

And, because so many people are talking on almost every topic imaginable, both the proponents and their foes seem to be claiming the collective voice as being on “their side.”

Seth Godin suggests in “True Believers (and the truth)” that the Internet is what has amplified the volume of debate and that the loudest voices may not be the best point of reference when making the case for or against something, suggesting “they’re wrong far more than they are right.”

Coming as I do from a background in the dying art of journalism, I’m tempted to say “yes, Seth … I think you’re right. In fact, you’ve proven your point because you have failed to quote anything – statistical evidence from research, anecdotal evidence, etc. – that proves how right or wrong the voices really are.”

It strikes me – but I have nothing to back up my position – that the Internet isn’t to blame for the decibel level. Rather access has provided us all with an endless roll of free paper on which to write, ALL TO OFTEN IN SHOUTING CAPITAL LETTERS, whatever we believe to be true as if it were of biblical veracity.

Whatever happened to judgment? When did we stop questioning things before we started preaching them as gospel? Where did we lose our collective ability to study things before proclaiming ourselves experts?

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