Author Harlan Ellison wrote: “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” Ellison was closer to the truth than O'Neil. If you are a free man or woman, you have a responsibility to know, and you cannot afford to jeopardize your freedom by listlessly accepting someone else's "opinion" as a substitute for personal knowledge.
I am an engineer. And engineers cannot afford opinions. At all. We have to know. And if we don't know, we have to find out. If I rely on my opinion that that beam will support the load I'm going to put on that bridge or that that column will support the roof load I'm going to put on it, sooner or later I'm going to kill people. And killing people is not beneficial to an engineer's career.
Similarly, relying on opinion is not beneficial to the career of a free people. There's no excuse for my not knowing what the real sheer strength of that beam is or what the real compressive strength of that column is. I'm an engineer. I'm supposed to know such things.
And there is no excuse for a free people not to know what their government is doing and what their government is doing to them. They are a free people. They're supposed to know such things.
One of the most insidious effects of the public preference for opinions over facts is the proliferation of so-called "opinion polls." The media are continuously and contentiously touting the results of public opinion polls as though they had some significance beyond an exposition of the efficacy of the power of suggestion.
The fact that at any one time and on any one subject there are poll results being bandied about purporting to "prove" either of two competing positions should alert you to the risk in placing your faith in opinion polls.
So-called "public opinion polls" are like elections – and any other democratic institution. They are subject to manipulation. The old computer acronym GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out – applies here. Just as I can program a computer to tell me the planet is getting warmer, I can program the questions on a poll to get the answer I want. And neither answer is worth the kilobytes it takes to store it.
But even if poll results were an accurate reflection of public opinion and not a reflection of the pollster's preconceived prejudices, they would still be a tragic waste of time and money – because public opinion is totally irrelevant! America is not a democracy – it's a republic. And a republic is guided by the law, not by public opinion.
It makes absolutely no difference if 99% of the people can be shown to favor firearms confiscation. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is the deciding factor – and the only deciding factor – in whether or not they can take our guns.
So, all you political charlatans and media hacks can just keep your polls – and we'll keep our guns.