The word protest can be used as both a verb and a noun. As a verb it means “to object to,” especially in a formal statement; as a noun it means “a formal declaration of disapproval or objection issued by a concerned person, group, or organization or an individual or collective gesture or display of disapproval.” (thefreedictionary.com)
Protesting is no longer just sit-ins and picket lines. Social media has changed how protesters share their views. On any website published by any industry that allows for comments to be shared there will be protesters posting their strong opinions against that company or industry’s practices and or products.
Some of these comments are factual and reason-based and can be beneficial to the company. Many of these comments, however, fit into the category of “I’m right and you’re stupid.”
The people who post these comments believe so strongly in their causes that they are not willing to look at any information that disagrees with their opinion, whether it comes from the industry, a company, government or independently-reviewed scientific papers.
I will use the example of the fish farming industry because I have done the most research into its practices and the criticisms against it. Here is an example from the BC Salmon Facts Facebook page:
By the sounds of it Espen Schive didn’t even bother to read the information provided. He is of the opinion that only the information he likes is credible and anything that disagrees with it must be “BS.” Here is another example from the same website:
BC Salmon facts has stated numerous times on this Facebook page that that it is interested in hearing criticisms and having discussions about their posts. Greg Tyler, like the contributor in the previous example, believes that everything from this page is BS. Just saying the other person’s position is BS does not make your opinions credible unless you can back it up with evidence of your own.
Online discussions can be a great opportunity to share diverse opinions and compare information, leading to open discussion and even changes to policy. However, open discussion seems rare.
This next example is from the archived comments on the blog Salmon Farm Science.
James Wilcox clearly has strong opinions about salmon farms and is using this site as a showcase for his protest. However his “naked assertions” do not make for good protest literature.The library referred to on this site is a list of links to scientific papers from both sides of the fish farming argument.
Here is an example from Salmon Arm Observer. The letter written by Gary Marty, B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, is in response to an article in the paper. It is clear from the comments posted after the letter that these people won’t take his opinion seriously because he works for “The Government.”
Objecting to someone’s argument by saying their opinions or facts don’t matter because “they work for the government,” or “they work for the industry,” or “that opinion doesn’t agree with my own” is not a form of protest. It is ignorance.
Feel free to state your objection, just don’t expect everyone to agree with it. Have facts behind your arguments and don’t fall into the “I’m right and you are stupid” form of arguing.
If their facts don’t agree with your facts you have a few choices: 1. Agree to disagree, 2. Read their facts with an open mind and be willing to see the other side of the issue, 3. Share your facts with them and be open to criticism. This goes for both sides of any protest.