Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine is one of the most dominant international events of the past two weeks.
In addition to the death, destruction, and havoc that it’s causing, the conflict is predictably generating significant news and social media interest.
The news media has interviewed current and former politicians, retired four star generals, academics who are Russia and Ukraine specialists, former ambassadors to these countries, and current or previous National Security practitioners and experts.
But then there’s the social media circus.
Many people appear to have gone wild weighing in on all matters of import concerning the invasion, and have freely offered their opinion about who is really to blame, which side is currently winning, what the end game might look like, etc.,
This opining, pontificating, and bloviating has taken place even when people are misinformed, the evidence upon which their opinions are based is circumspect, and the logic that they use to make their arguments are flawed. All information does not fit nicely into a little box. And points are often cherry picked without examining counterarguments.
Clearly the Russian invasion of Ukraine is not the first time that uninformed people freely offer their opinion. But the invention of different types of social media platforms and their increased use has transformed what used to be the annoying drunk at the end of the bar, or your crazy uncle spouting his conspiracy theory to an army of people operating in hyperdrive status.
But why do people freely offer their opinion on subjects they know nothing about?
It’s hard to know for sure but I suspect that it has some do with some combination of
• An innate need to engage
• Ease of access/minimal barriers to access social media
• The desire to build or maintain an audience
• Positive reinforcement of one shape or another
• Part of the propaganda/disinformation war
What’s wrong with this kind of behavior?
Although reading or watching this kind of rhetoric can initially be amusing, it can slowly change to being annoying.
For the poorly informed, or misinformed, this kind of opining may unnecessarily muddy the water and confuse those who are easily confused.
Even worse this kind of pontificating can contribute to the ongoing propaganda war, and encourage lots of undue fear, panic, or overreaction.
The fact that just because you have access to a microphone or megaphone does not mean that your opinion is just as valid (as in plausible) as someone else’s. That’s why we have experts.
On the other hand, when confronted with situations in which you have minimal expertise it’s important to understand this, to admit it, and if you believe that the situation calls for it, then you should educate yourself using respected sources.
Yes everyone has the right to free speech. They also have the right to be ignored.
Photo Credit: Ilmicrofono Oggiono
portrait of young man screaming with megaphone against a tropical background