Home > Ideas and Philosophy > Tactics in Life: Beware the Weapon of Public Opinion

Tactics in Life: Beware the Weapon of Public Opinion

September 27, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Public opinion is one of the deadliest weapons in this day and age.  As a weapon it can be used for both good and evil.  In either case I sometimes question how ethical a weapon it is given that it’s prone to manipulation and abuse.

Public opinion can be used as a weapon for good.  Public shaming is a way to expose the wrong that someone did to the community.  These days it’s common to employ this tactic, largely through the global reach of the Internet.  It puts the target of such an action in the court of public opinion, to be judged by anyone and everyone who cares to have an opinion on whatever it is that the target did or didn’t do that’s wrong.

However public opinion can also be used as a weapon for evil.  Bearing false witness against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16) has never been as easy as it is now.  One can disseminate lies about a target, harming the target through scandal and destroying his reputation through character assassination.  This is especially effective if what the target did or didn’t do is framed in such a way as to pull a nerve, eliciting a strong emotional appeal to the public and swaying people’s opinion to sympathize with whoever will benefit from this and galvanize action against the target.

The one evil that public opinion has a tendency to create is a mob.  The mob will attack you if what you stand for is against popular opinion and is counter-cultural.  For an example of this, look no further than the Catholic Church in particular and Christianity in general which is constantly under attack for the principles it espouses; sometimes it’s under attack from its own (supposed) adherents.  There is no more any sense of respect for differences of opinion; the world of the mob can be so small and close-minded.  And the mob wins the moment you care about what they have to say and think about you, and you end up censoring yourself to avoid any conflict.

The simplest counter-measure against public opinion is to not care at all.  One secret to happiness is to care only for the things that absolutely matter.  Your time and energy in this world is limited, so any drama that ultimately isn’t important is just a distraction. Focus only on what’s important – care for only what’s important.

Fight public opinion by standing your ground.  If in good conscience you know your position or what you are doing is right, then just continue standing by it and doing it.  Let God be the judge of your actions; ultimately it’s His opinion of you that will only matter in the end.  Be at peace if you know without a shred of doubt that the truth is on your side.  However if you’re actually wrong then be humble enough to concede your error, accept correction and change for the better.  But if you’re right then continue to fight and don’t compromise; don’t let the mob stop you.  Hopefully it won’t come to this, but if you have to die a martyr for what you believe in, then be prepared to do so; the truth will eventually come out, if not in this life then in the next.

If you are so inclined, then another way to fight back your critics is to irritate them some more.  For some people you can never please them (and neither should you attempt to do so) because there’s nothing you can do that ever seems good to them.  Since they’ll always be angry with you anyway, find ways to make them angrier, and have fun watching them stew in their own juices.

How you fight and win in life still matters.  If you must use the weapon of public opinion for a just cause, then please play fair: Ensure you have irrefutable evidence against your target and give him a chance to defend himself if at all possible; preferably do both.  There are always two sides to every story, and it’s only fair that everyone hears both sides and makes their own judgments based on that.

Public opinion can be effective in influencing decisions and forcing action and change; hopefully this is used to bring forth something good.

Right or wrong, justified or not, using public opinion as a weapon is still a form of harassment; use it wisely and only as an absolute last resort, if ever you absolutely need to do so.

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Categories: Ideas and Philosophy

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