In the modern age, we often don’t have time to enter discussions armed with previous research. If you’re caught out, here’s how to mention that fact gracefully.
If misinformation is the epidemic of our times, then we really need to break out the hand sanitiser. Admitting your lack of actual research is an act of both intellectual hygiene and common courtesy. It doesn’t invalidate your point either. It recognises that sharing an opinion, researched or not, is a pleasurable social activity in and of itself without putting your friends and family at risk of repeating something you made up on the fly.
That’s why I believe we should state “I’ve done no research” far more often. It can easily be abbreviated as IDNR and used in everyday communications. And before you think to yourself “do I really want to burden my lyrical commenting flow with this four letter abomination?”, remember it’s just that: four letters. That’s as much effort as it takes to type FUCK and one letter more than it takes to type LOL. So it’s not going to slow you down.
Here are all the different “research” scenarios it can apply to – at least, all the things I imagine it could apply to, ’cause, you know, IDNR:
1) I need to believe this
I’ve formed an opinion. Well, it formed itself. It formed itself to address a cacophony of unmet emotional needs, unencumbered by facts. I don’t know if WW3 really is imminent or I just need therapy.
2) I read a headline
OK, I scrolled past it. Sandwiched in between 37 other headlines. And I can’t guarantee my brain isn’t splicing all the headlines together into some sort of news mutant. A mutant with the power of super-reinforcing my pre-existing opinions. It’s the hero I deserve, but not the hero I need right now.
3) I took someone’s word for it
I’m pretty sure it’s a common saying anyway. People do say it. OK, I read it somewhere. Once. In the comments section. On dontworryweagreewithyou.com. Somehow they just get me.
Also on The Big Smoke
- All in the family: Biased news passed from parents, not online
- TBS Next Gen: Government investment in scientific research
- Charlie and the Fake News Factory
4) I saw a meme
A devastating Internet meme. A devastating visual exposé made of only the finest stock images, 100% genuine screenshots and captioned with complex in-depth arguments. And footnotes. ‘Cause where would memes be without footnotes and bibliographies?
5) I’ve made no effort
I’ve experienced no discomfort in the forming of this opinion. I examined no opposing views, acquired no library cards and wrote no adorably inquisitive letters to Bill Nye. I didn’t get so deep into statistics that my head hurt. There was no head-aching, codebreaking or diligent note-taking. Or excessive overwhelmed note-taking either, for that matter. No musty grimoires, no non-musty grimoires, no lost parchments, no heading back to Berlin to retrieve the Graal diary which, frankly, would have been just as safe had it stayed with Marcus Brody the entire time.
6) I’ve invoked no scientific method
No double-blind experiments. No controlled experiments. No out of control experiments. That sounds like a Maury Povich MIT special: My 14-year-old experiment is out of control. No thought experiments either. Or no Gedankenexperiment if you want to sound erudite and teutonic. Erudite and teutonic? Yes please, uh…ice and no lime.
7) I’m not implying I have had this hidden cache of information all along
Neither did I acquire it overnight. I’m admitting that I have not suddenly become an expert in Middle Eastern gender issues and comparative theology.
8) I’m admitting there is no information bogeyman
Only people. There is no evil Dr Disinformo hiding in his underground lair. Or maybe there is, but he can’t function without our egos acting as unwitting couriers for his evil contraptions. We have to stop externalising responsibility for the propagation of bullshit.
Ignorance isn’t being sprayed all over us from above, it’s transmitted through human contact. It’s time to start washing our hands. If we’re gonna irresponsibly pepper our arguments with completely unexamined information, maybe we should also salt it with disclaimers. Or maybe that’ll just bring out the pepper when what we really needed was butter. Or sour cream. At a push, ketchup.
I really don’t know, IDNR.