Back to basics: opinions

If you were to read carefully what I have written this whole week, which is a hell of a lot, you can detect that in some parts I state facts, some parts are reports about what others said or did, and some parts are my opinion or interpretation of events. If you want to respond to what I said, you must first distinguish one from the other. And this appears to be where we have failed to communicate properly.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

I have written about 20 pages with a word count of probably 10,000 words or so since the beginning of this week. I thought that means I can now take a break but it looks like rest would have to wait for another day. There appears to be still some issues that we need to resolve.

Some of you probably noticed that your comments were not posted. The problem is if I do post them then I would have to reply to them because those comments were totally off the mark. And since those comments were harping on points I have already addressed it would mean I would have to repeat what I have already said in the article. Hence it is no point repeating in the comments section what I have already said in the article. 

Furthermore, some of those comments were scolding me for what I reported regarding what others said. If you disagree with what, say, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said, that is fine with me. But why scold me for what Najib said when I was only reporting what he said? Don’t kill the messenger if you don’t like the message.

My conclusion is that some of you are still vague about the difference between an opinion and a report. You do not understand the difference between facts and views. You regard everything as opinions or views. Thus we may need to go back to basics and take a lesson on the difference between opinions, facts, testimonies, reports, dogma, beliefs, evidence, science, etc. And there is a difference so let me run some examples by you to demonstrate what I mean.

Say you make a statement saying that Jesus was crucified and was resurrected three days later and that this is symbolic of God sacrificing his son to save mankind, meaning Jesus paid for our sins so that we can be guaranteed heaven when we die.

You take that as fact. That is not fact. That is dogma. That is what you have been told. That is what someone else reported and you are just repeating what someone told you had happened. You were not there. You did not see this happen. You read in a book that this was what happened or someone told you in Sunday school or in church that this was what happened.

I consider that as your belief. Okay, your opinion is this did happen. You believe this to be true. But it is still not your opinion in the real sense. It is the opinion of the church. And you believe that the church is right. You share that opinion.

Say you believe that mankind has existed for 6,000 years because this is what the church tells you and you believe what the church tells you. And, say, I disagree with you because I believe that mankind has existed for more than a million years based on carbon dating. Hence my opinion is that the church is wrong and the scientists are right.

Clearly we have a difference of opinion here. You hold on to religious dogma and believe that the church is right. I reject religious dogma and believe that the church is wrong. Hence we do not share the same opinion.

You have your reason for holding on to your belief. And your reason would be because you have faith — and because you have faith you accept religious dogma. I, on the other hand, do not share your faith so I would have a different opinion to yours.

So what do we have here? We have the report about the incident of Jesus. We have the faith that makes you believe in the incident. Then we have different opinions about whether this incident and the dogma as the basis of our faith being correct or not.

At this point some of you staunch Christians are going to disagree with me. You will then quote passages and verses from the Bible to support your argument. And you are going to present this as facts.

You regard the Bible as a book of facts and hence whatever is in the Bible, which you quote to me, are facts. To me those are not facts. It is your opinion that they are facts. My opinion is the Bible is not yet the evidence of all this being facts.

Hence whatever you may have to say about what the Bible says is still your opinion. More accurately, it is someone else’s opinion, which you have accepted as a fact. You cannot prove what the Bible says. So you are unable to prove what you regard as fact. That means it cannot be a fact. At best it is your opinion that this report, which you were told and did not witness, is true. My opinion would be you are wrong and in any court of law what you say would be classified as hearsay and, therefore, inadmissible as evidence.

I know this sounds very complicating but I hope this demonstrates the difference between facts, reports, opinions and whatnot. You can’t treat everything as facts or everything as opinions and respond to what is being said as if they are all one and the same.

If you were to read carefully what I have written this whole week, which is a hell of a lot, you can detect that in some parts I state facts, some parts are reports about what others said or did, and some parts are my opinion or interpretation of events. If you want to respond to what I said, you must first distinguish one from the other. And this appears to be where we have failed to communicate properly.

For example, the Bersih 3.0 rally did happen. There is no dispute here. So that is fact. Furthermore, the Bersih 3.0 rally ended in violence. There is no dispute here as well. So that too is fact. Hence do we need to argue about this matter? This should be an area of no contest.

Now, with regards to how many people took to the streets last Saturday, we may disagree here. There was no roll call or attendance taken. Hence we need to estimate the crowd turnout. Your opinion could be 300,000. Another person feels it was 150,000. Then someone else may think it was only 30,000.

Since there is no evidence and it was based merely on estimation, the figure would depend on the method you applied. Hence whatever figure you quote is not fact but your opinion. Hence also, I am free to disagree with you if I think that your basis for arriving at the figure is wrong.

If, however, you had asked everyone to sign an attendance sheet and the number of names and signatures come to 300,000 then I would have to concede that you are right and I am wrong. Since it is my word against yours and based on each other’s methods applied at arriving at the estimated figure then we would have to agree that this is merely our opinions and that we have a difference of opinion.

But is this a reason to scold each other just because we cannot agree with the final tally? We both do not have tangible evidence. We are both using estimates or intelligent guesses at best. So we can agree that we disagree and leave it at that. There is no reason to scold and curse because your estimate differs from mine.

I am just using this argument as an example. I never quoted any figures in any of my articles because I do not have any basis for coming to any figure. I just looked at the photographs and videos and I am not able to scientifically calculate the number of people who turned out based on just this.

What I can do is to report what others said. The police quoted a figure of 25,000. Some news agencies said 30,000. Others said 80,000. Then there is the figure of 150,00. Anwar Ibrahim announced it as 250,000. Some PKR leaders said it was 300,000. Nobody explained what basis they used to arrive at their estimation. Hence I would rather not talk about the figure because I really do not know who is right and who is wrong.

However, because I would not ‘endorse’ the figure, some of you get angry. You make all sorts of allegations as if I am trying to ‘report negatively’. By not giving my opinion as to what the figure was some of you take that as an unfavourable report. How do I confirm who is right and who is wrong? When the discrepancy is 25,000 to 300,000 that is too large a variance. And I don’t even know how everyone came to these estimates because they never told us.

When I said that the plan was to turn Bersih 3.0 into the Malaysian Spring by first occupying Dataran Merdeka that was not my opinion. I reported what some PKR people said plus what the Prime Minister, Umno, the police, etc., said. Then I explained why the police was so adamant that no one is to cross the police line and step foot on Dataran Merdeka. Those are all facts. Those are not my opinions so don’t scold me for saying that.

Now, let us talk about the part that is my opinion. My opinion is that the police act under orders. Is that not what all of you say as well — that the police are the tool of Umno? So, my opinion is that it is the Minister or the Prime Minister who ordered the police to make sure that no one jumps over the barricades.

The police did not say this, neither did the Minister or Prime Minister. Hence that is my opinion. But I have a basis for coming to this conclusion and I explained in great detail the basis I applied. Then I gave my opinion as to why the police were given that order, in that Najib was scared he would be ousted if Bersih turns into a Malaysian Spring.

I then quoted what many people such as Tun Dr Mahathir, Najib, the Minister, the police, etc., said to support my suspicion that this was what they were worried about. I may have just been giving my opinion but I support my opinion with events and statements. I did not just pluck this from the top of my head.

Have I read the whole thing wrong? Maybe I did. Maybe I misinterpreted the events or misunderstood what these people said. But then since this is merely my opinion I may be wrong or I may be right. You may not share my opinion. That is natural and quite understandable. But this does not give you a blank cheque to scold me just because my opinion differs from yours.

Anyway, I will stop here for now. I just hope you now better understand how opinions work and the difference between opinions and facts. When I write opinion pieces they are just that, opinions. However, being the cheong hei person that I am, I always go into detail about what happened and who said what before I present you with my opinions. And you are always free to counter my opinions with your opinions if you think I am wrong.