After Tony Stewart hit and killed Kevin Ward Jr. on a racetrack last week an online war between racing and non-racing fans quickly erupted. Before Kevin Ward Jr. had even been laid to rest the onslaught of who was to blame exploded into a controversy that even has some well-known sports commentators and columnists arguing online with each other.
And it’s beginning to get ugly.
One well-known Daily News Columnist and host of CNN’s Crossfire, S.E.Cupp, as well as other famous commentators, have been very vocal with their support for Tony Stewart, while others have not been so supportive.
But it’s not their support of Tony Stewart that is questionable, but instead their persistence in saying that non-racing fans have no right weighing in on the tragedy and offering their opinion.
That’s quite an hypocritical ruling coming from a group of people who voice their opinions daily on topics that they sometimes have no informed knowledge of themselves.
How many times have we heard CNN commentators passing judgement on the latest police shooting where a young, black man has died? Where is their extensive law enforcement experience at that moment while writing or vocally airing their opinions?
In her, August 13th, 2014 column, Tony Stewart fan, S.E.Cupp took a Daily News Sports Editor to task for his column that portrayed Stewart in less than a glorifying way. She was obviously upset when Justin Terranova wrote of Stewart, “Tony Stewart’s Checkered History as a Mega-Hothead,” also included some other words of non-approval.
S.E. Cupp wrote,” “I don’t know if Terranova actually follows NASCAR.” She also wrote in that column that many commentators on her site know nothing about racing at all and implied that opinions on other sites about the tragedy are nothing more than “anecdotal drivel.”
S.E. Cupp’s comments of course bring to mind the issue of “informed opinion” and who has the right to air publicly what is on their mind about a tragedy or any other hot-button topic.
Should someone have to be considered an expert in any field to have the right to offer an opinion online?
Of course, professional credentials and experience for commentating or writing opinions online are priceless (along with the proper backup research material) but is that an excuse to censor the less educated surfer and tell them to shut their mouths?
Does a loyal racing fan have the right to tell a non-racing fan to butt out of something they know nothing about, or does a political science professor have the right to tell an online surfer that their political opinion is worthless and an uneducated one?
Sometimes the problem with relying on only informed opinion is that sometimes it it is biased, depending on who it supports or does not. At other times, it is the only genuine opinion we can count on to make a valid judgement.
The problem that comes along with relying on only informed opinion though is that it can sometimes be used as a tool to sway an investigation or influence those who don’t know any better.
For instance, in the Kevin Ward/Tony Stewart video we see a driver running into the middle of a racetrack. We see Ward get hit by Tony Stewart’s car and getting killed. We then hear countless opinions on why Stewart was to blame or was not to blame for Wards death.
Lots of those opinions offer priceless and irrefutable facts about Sprint Car racing and the dangers of dirt tracks and how Sprint cars respond. Lots of the other opinions only offer judgements on what is seen visually on the video.
But is that all we should investigate or take into consideration? Does Tony Stewart’s frame of mind at the moment count? Is there any way for authorities to examine that?
Sometimes outside opinions are invaluable to thwart off opinions based solely on experience or possible tunnel vision. Sometimes they offer valuable insight that judges on face value only – like in the video.
They should not be discounted as drivel or an uneducated response.
What you see is what you get. Do you believe what you just saw, or can an expert influence you to believe that you do not see the entire picture?
It is interesting that when we try a suspected criminal in a court of law that we pick 12-jurors who usually have no experience in the profession that the crime involves. Usually, one would think it should be the other way around. If a suspect is being tried with a financial crime, you can bet the defense attorney will not pick jurors to judge him who have extensive banking experience.
So why is the informed opinion not valued at that moment?
Opinions of outsiders who have no education with a specific topic should be listened to more carefully for what they have to offer rather than what they do not have to offer.
Sometimes seeing something at an uneducated perspective supplies valuable insight that the educated opinion conveniently ignores.
Joseph E. Rathjen is a freelance writer, blogger and an Opinion Writer at 1World Online – America’s Fastest Growing Social Research Engine.