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So many opinions offered by so few, who seem to know so little

By Kym Durance - posted Thursday, 10 March 2005

More than ever before I seem to be subjected to opinions from people seemingly paid to offer them on matters varying from stem cell research and nuclear physics, to the price of bread or the goings on in the AFL tribunal. And these opinions are ubiquitous to say the least. Television, newspapers radio all seem full with more and more “opinion”.

Like an unwanted blemish these opinions seem to pop up at every turn like pimples on an adolescent's face. And like the unwanted lesion what earthly use are they to any one? People used to seek an “opinion” from a doctor or possibly a solicitor and if you weren’t happy one was advised to seek a “second opinion”. That’s where the line of opinions seemed to stop. Now the offering of opinion is an industry. But unlike an industry or a profession there seems to be no real rules of association, no real prerequisites for having an opinion and for being of the class of citizens who get paid for voicing them.

Quite recently I was getting ready for the day's work and I turned on the television. And there he was, a popular opiner. This guy is prominent in the print media in Melbourne. He is also developing a profile on television. On this occasion he was offering opinions about the state of the economy, the state of our society and the state of our schools. He was not alone. Yet another person, a female, labeled a journalist by the little banner inserted at the bottom of my screen, was doing the same thing. She too was opining. Why two of them? Maybe it was to seek some sort of gender or political balance. I do not know for sure. I might need to get another opinion on that.


I do not know how these gigs work, but I can only assume these opiners get some form of consideration for their opinions. In the case of television at the very least I am sure they get a taxi voucher to and from the studio. Maybe they even get to sit in the various green rooms of television stations and partake of whatever fare is on offer. They might even have strange requests like visiting rock stars. Instead of peculiar beverages and food choices, they might demand freshly ironed copies of the Financial Review, The Guardian and the News Weekly as pre and post opinion consumption.

I wondered what is it about these people that make their opinion(s) a tradable commodity. Apart from what they do now, what is it that they did that gives their utterances any currency. Alan Jones was a teacher, Neill Mitchell was a journalist, Andrew Bolt was a one time political advisor, Terry Lane was, I think a lapsed cleric and radio presenter and Phillip Adams came variously from advertisement land and something to do with movies. All noble pursuits I am sure but what sets their opinions apart from those of the bloke who finds and then cuts my remaining hair? 

There are others who are free with opinions, and this list is by no means exhaustive. Consider names like Piers Ackerman, Miranda Devine, Jill Singer, Paul Gray, M. Carlton, Christopher Pearson and lately Ms J. Albrechtsen. All these people are like a band of opinions for hire. Some of them might even do other things like drive cabs, or pick fruit, work in nursing homes or even wash cars when they are not opining away for our consumption. But I still don’t get it. Why pay them to offer up something most of us would offer for free? I might need to get another opinion on that.

Opiners seem to have a position on anything you care to name. They have views on the papacy, royalty, abortion, education (tertiary, primary and secondary), social cohesion or lack thereof, terrorism, all forms of politics - national local and international - police cameras, police integrity, health issues including mental health, transport, agriculture, industrial relations the environment and animal welfare. Where do they get the time? And why are there so many of them?

They are out there in increasing numbers, mulling over their next piece, searching for examples of events and other forms of evidence that might prove their very pressing points or add more and more authority to their well paid-for opinion.

Some one or some group obviously values their opinion enough to pay them, or to send the taxi around to their place and get them to the studio on time, to mumble wisely on virtually anything raised by the presenter. But where does the value in that opinion lie? That’s what I want to know. What is it about their opinion that elevates it, in many instances from not much more than a general whine, to a view that deserves to be cast about before millions?


What for example does Andrew Bolt or Phillip Adams really know about the war in Iraq that I don’t, or cant’ find out? My guess is probably not much. What does Piers Ackerman really know about the social problems facing the communities in Redfern or Macquarie Hills that I don’t, or can’t find out? My guess again is not much at all. But still all the above turn a quid presenting their opinion.

I have also yet to detect any overwhelming wisdom in their contribution to public debate. Some times they make sense. And by sense I do not mean I agree with them. I mean they have argued their point well. But this is not always the case. Often logic seems to be an after thought running a long last to passion and prejudice. But, I must admit, I have found myself nodding in agreement when I have read something written consistent with my views. But I can’t really say they have influenced me much. At best they give me a warm feeling that some one else is as clever as me and in harmony with my take on something or another. At worst, and this is rare, they make me angry.

This matter may be of no real moment for others. But I feel myself in a rising tide of opinion and find it some what puzzling that there is so much of it about offered by so many who don’t seem to know much at all. Any way that’s my opinion.

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About the Author

Kym Durance is a health professional and has worked both as a nurse and in hospital management. He has managed both public and private health services in three states as well as aged care facilities; and continues to work in aged care.

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