Who Gets to Have an Opinion?

/ posted in: General

While I’m on the subject of lines of discussions I think have issues on Book Twitter, let’s talk about who gets to have an opinion on a book.

Here’s the scenario.

Person A reads an ARC and says, “Hey, guys?  This book is pretty messed up.  It is racist (or sexist or whatever).  Here’s some quotes that illustrate my points.”

Then People B through K pick up the argument.  They retweet person A and start talking about how racist the book is whenever anyone else brings it up.

Person M pipes with up, “I don’t know about that.  I read it and I didn’t get that sense from it.”

Oh, now it is on.  People B through K start yelling at Person M.  “You’re such a racist.  Why do you hate Person A so much?  Why can’t you listen to what she has to say?”

Then the side arguments start.  Person J tweets, “I see you people at the end of the alphabet.  I’m remember you weren’t here for Person A.”  At that point I imagine most end of the alphabet people are like, “What are you talking about?  Who’s Person A?  I never heard of her.”

Eventually Person Z says, “Hey, Person B?  Have you even read this book?”

Person B will come back with all kinds of excuses for why she hasn’t read the book.

  • She doesn’t need to read it to know that it is racist because Person A said it was and why can’t you believe people?
  • She isn’t going to read the book because it would be Harmful to her.

Ok, time out.  Here’s way I think it should go.

Person A puts her opinion out there.  That’s fine.  People who find that they tend to agree with Person A’s opinions can then decide that they agree that this sounds like a book that they would find offensive.  They are welcome to pass on it for themselves.  They are welcome to retweet Person A so people know that the book may have problems.  If they see the book brought up in other discussion they can say that they HEARD that it was horrible from Person A.

They can not say that they know for a fact that the book is racist.

Why?

  • Person A may have misquoted the book or taken quotes out of context to make it appear in a bad light.
  • Person A may or may not have misinterpreted the book.
  • (At least Person A in this scenario has read the book.  We all know this happens a lot based just on cover blurbs which are notoriously inaccurate.)

A person who has not read the book can not know if Person A is telling the truth or not because they have not examined the evidence for themselves.   If they want to get involved in the fight, they need to know the facts.  They shouldn’t be relying on hearsay.

A person who has not read the book should be not leading the charge to get the book pulled. (Should anyone?  That’s a discussion post for another time.)

If you don’t have the facts, you don’t get to have an opinion.

This should be common sense like not forwarding news articles that fit in with your political views until you make an attempt to see if they are factual.  I once saw a person beg people on Twitter to explain a book to her that she hadn’t read.  She had heard that it might be offensive but she didn’t know.  She didn’t want to read it because, you guessed it, it would be harmful.  She had many people say that they read it and they didn’t take it that way at all.  Finally she got someone who agreed with her and then she went on a rampage against the book and author armed with nothing but a stranger’s say so on Twitter.  I unfollowed at that point so I don’t know what happened.

I see how it could happen.  One of the biggest books of the last few years is The Vegetarian by Han Kang.  Everyone loves this book.  When I first heard of it I was excited.  Yeah, a book about a vegetarian. Oh, it is about coming out to her family?  That’s boring but whatever.  Wait, this is basically a story about her descent into mental illness and vegetarianism is considered the first warning sign?  #%#$ you, I’m not reading that.  I’d just end up throwing it against a wall.

That’s how I feel every single time someone brings up that book.  This is the first time I wrote that opinion down.  You know why?  I haven’t read the book.  I don’t know if what I imagine the book to be is what it actually is so I don’t get to have an opinion on it because my opinion would not be informed.  I feel very strongly that this book would be offensive to me.  I don’t want to waste my time reading it because I would just be looking for something to piss me off.  For these reasons, I don’t get to discuss this book. If another vegetarian read it and wrote a post that factually backed up my theory,  I’d be retweeting the heck out of it though.

Be informed before you type.  There, I just fixed 90% of the Internet for you. 


I’ve had this post written for a while. It was even scheduled to post but didn’t.  I figured that might be a sign from the universe not to kick a hornet’s nest.  But I’m getting more and more annoyed by this and it turns out that there may be people who agree with me.

Yeah, I watched a whole youtube video so you know it was interesting. She talks about this at about the 12 minute mark.