The courage of conviction

I never publish anything that I am not prepared to defend. To my way of thinking, that is the most basic rule of political commentary. To publish something and then refuse to deal with criticism of it is nothing short of intellectual cowardice.

The bio that I use on Twitter and elsewhere reads, in part,

None of my attitudes are immutable.
None of my conclusions are final.
None of my opinions are humble.

Not everybody ‘gets it’. In fact, the world appears to divide rather neatly into the two camps of those who understand this immediately – almost intuitively, and those who will never comprehend what it means no matter how often and how patiently it is explained to them.

When I say that none of my attitudes are immutable, I mean that I am always prepared to question my own attitudes and challenge my perceptions. In fact, it tends to be the very first thing I do when considering any issue. Ideally, it would be the first thing anybody does before making any public statement of their views.

When I say that none of my conclusions are final, I mean that I prefer to regard all debates as open-ended. I accept that, in most debates, there there is always the possibility of fresh facts, novel arguments or altered circumstances which may render previous conclusions moot.

When I say that none of my opinions are humble, I mean only that those opinions are not expressed without due consideration. Nobody’s opinions should be humble. Because nobody should speak without thinking.

This doesn’t mean that I’m always right. It means only that I make it a rule to be thoughtful. To interrogate myself in order that I may be ready to be interrogated by others. To scrutinise my arguments so as to be as sure as I may be that those arguments are fit to be scrutinised by others. I welcome the interrogation and the scrutiny. How else might one hope to have attitudes that evolve? How else might one find the reasons for adapting and adjusting conclusions? How else might one develop better informed opinions?

I don’t regard this as extraordinary in any way. It’s just how it’s done. So I’m always perplexed by people who write blogs or newspaper columns and then get upset when others offer their views. Granted, those views may be expressed in ways that are, shall we say, less than elegant. But when a writer uses this as an excuse for shutting out all comment they leave themselves open to the suspicion that they have so failed to develop their arguments as to be unequipped to back them up.

When we put our thoughts into a public arena, it is arrogant to imagine that we do so with complete impunity. It is also misguided. because, being in a public arena, those thoughts will be dissected and examined regardless of whether we are willing or able to defend them. We can run from that scrutiny. But we cannot hide.

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7 thoughts on “The courage of conviction

  1. Graham Watson

    Geeze Pete feeling that white guilt hard for attacking a black woman aren’t ya?

    We can run from scrutiny but we cannot hide… Have you told SNP about this little nugget of information? Alex Sammond could have used it for sure when he banned the media. Better yet, this could help anyone associated with teenage dreams of Indy deflecting daily.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald

      No, I do not think he is.

      He was justified in criticising the article by Ms Heuchan. He made no comment about her skin colour. Ms Heuchan and her supporters are portraying any criticism of her position as per se racist because, it seems her blackness is intrinsic to the article.

      That position is racist and sexist.

      Mr Bell has stated his attitude towards responses to his blogs. He has, of course, often responded robustly, but, in my experience he has not indulged in ad hominem attacks.

  2. Hugh Wallace

    Doubly so when someone writes something in the public sphere for which they receive payment or other reward.

  3. Andy McKirdy

    Ms Heuchan–same as Jackie Baillie, stupid fuck!!!!
    If they were yellow, red, white, black, fat, skinny, tall or short, it’s irrelevant to the fact that they are stupid fucks, but they want people to believe that they are criticised because of race or nationality- NO, it’s just cause they’re stupid fucks, end of!!!!!
    Only my humble opinion of course.

  4. Geejay

    It’s an underhand, anti-intellectual, undemocratic, totalitarian response increasingly used by certain groups to shut down criticism and discussion – just cry, for example, “anti-semitic”; “racist”; “misogynist” or whatever. It’s bullying, plain and simple and bullies have to be called out.

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