Opinion and Editorial

Celebrate diverse opinions and win the war of ideas

Allan Jacob (Senior Editor)
allan@khaleejtimes.com Filed on January 29, 2020

Changing my opinion ever so often has been a liberating experience.

It's okay to change your opinion like you would change your mind after you have tried out a new promotional product or garment and decide to return it to the local store or the supermarket because it doesn't agree with you or fit you well. So feel free to throw out this piece if you disagree with what I am saying and spare me the apologies.

Disapproval is fine if you are not swayed by my opinion as long as you pick your words with care and poke fun at me respectfully. It's acceptable to cast the first stone and I promise not to take offense. These views are indeed mine and they need not stem from any dark ideology or blind submission to any leader who appears infallible to his acolytes.

Staying with rocks, let me state unequivocally that opinions are not cast in stone. They are subject to change based on the situation, behaviour of an individual/community or circumstances surrounding an incident. They may be critical or laudatory in tone or plain neutral, which makes them boring to the bone. Some provide solutions, while others comment, confuse or mock and rile the opposite camp. And yes, opinions are open to interpretation, which is the dangerous part when people peddle their personal views that might be based on truths, half-truths, alt-facts, or plain falsehoods. Soon they are thrusting them on unsuspecting people who take them literally without a sliver of objectivity.

These are not facts per se but are perspectives and points of view that may be couched in reality or rooted in truth or falsehood. Now that I have suitably impressed with my knowledge of opinions - never a constant but that which can cause much harm if used irresponsibly - let me continue.

First, opinions are viewed and written by armchair writers (yours truly included) who haven't the faintest clue of what's happening on the ground. But the goal of opinion writers on news media is to get their facts right, because, if they fail, they will succeed in promoting lies and denials.

Recently, I made a determined effort to hold back my opinions for a week on social media. The effort failed miserably because some of my peers weren't shutting up. Their warped views on issues and people drew me out of my self-imposed virtual exile. Ashamed at my lack of control I am now blaming my hasty online return to the seven-day itch. It is irresistible, these outbreaks of self-aggrandisement and know-how from do-littles like me.

My salvo was sparked by a cheap shot targeted at my profession as a journalist in the news media when someone said most journalists are 'Presstitutes'. It's a favourite slur of the ruling elite in India that is fast gaining traction among the political faithfuls, particularly those living abroad who predict the revival of some glorious civilisation from the past that they believe was laid to waste by periodic invasions. It may have begun with Alexander the Great. Old Alex, however, is not the problem, their trouble is with Muslim and Christian conquests and latter day liberal saints.

They claim journalists who refuse to toe government's line are being paid to print, publish, and telecast fake news by those in the opposition. Those who make the allegation don't know their left foot from the right. But that's an opinion and you must allow me the liberty to make it in this space.

I once received a call one day by a doctor who alleged that this newspaper was giving too much space to fallen journalists in India. I asked the man to send in his thoughts in writing and provide proof. How about publishing them in the letters section with the evidence at his command? Resorting to calumny is uncalled for, I said to which he replied that he would stop reading me.

The point about opinion I am trying to make is there is beauty in diversity of views. The Left and Right, religious and secular are secure in their space on the news media. Feminists, communists, progressives, and conservatives are welcome. This is their domain, too, as muffling alternative, creative ideas and views are counter-productive to civil discourse among equals.

Anarchists and extremists with hatred on their minds, however, may seek refuge elsewhere. They are undeserving of civil courtesies for they harbour anti-social views. The news debate is supervised, regulated, and credible unlike those on social media where the likes of Mark Zuckerberg draw the line.

Through opinions, people can pose uncomfortable questions to those in power and punch holes in the 'popular' narrative that democratic despots believe they control. I am happy facing fire for changing my views. I am for nationalism and countries securing their sovereignty but I shall not be silenced if the spirit of inclusive governance is broken by popular ideologues and strongmen who want to curb freedoms in the name of the majority.

Changing my opinion ever so often has been a liberating experience. I suggest you try it to defeat the cult of personalities and win the war of ideas. - allan@khaleejtimes.com


Allan Jacob

A news junkie with an abiding interest in foreign affairs. I'm a keen follower and learner of the media and how it will pan out in the future when the common man and woman will themselves be journalists and not just sources of information. Lead a team of bright journalists who are driving the change and have their feet on the ground.

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