If You Don’t Want My Opinion, You Don’t Get My Money

In this present age, companies are always looking for positive opinions for their businesses online and to aggregate the opinions of the products that they sell.  There are various rules as to how many positive interactions it takes to outweigh a negative one, because those who have mixed to adverse experiences are far more likely to share their experiences than those who have pleasant and good experiences.  Be that as it may, it is also clear that there are many companies who no longer appear to want the opinions of certain people because of the perspective of certain views.  It is also probably unsurprising that my own opinion is not that not everyone greatly appreciates, largely because I come from a particularly fierce sort of views that are fairly easy to recognize as having a particular bias.  Admittedly, we are all biased in some way by our worldviews and our experiences and perspectives [1], but I find it interesting that some companies (Amazon pretty high among them) seek to manage bias through removing biases they are not fond of, even at the risk of not selling as many products because they would appeal to a certain audience that would recognize and approve of a given bias in a reviewer.

It is easy to think of a better approach to questions of bias.  The most obvious one is to leave it alone.  Most people who are looking for recommendations are savvy enough as people to recognize the sorts of biases that reviewers come with, and are able to discount and handle those views accordingly.  For example, if I read the reviews to a book by unsuccessful 2016 presidential candidate Hilary Clinton, I will likely see a large cluster of reviews that view it as a five-star book that decisively answers her critics or presents her views stunningly well and a large cluster of one-star views that view the book as a waste of space from someone who should just go away already.  Knowing my own worldview as I do, I would have a good idea as to how I would view the book.  The same is true if I was looking at the reviews of a book on evolution/intelligent design, ancient history, or a wide variety of other subjects.  The biases of the other readers, combined with my own self-awareness of my own perspective, would allow me to filter out that bias and determine how I would likely view a work myself given my own knowledge of what I am fond of and particularly not fond of in music or books or movies or games or anything else.  To be sure, those who publish various books or release music want as many five-star reviews as possible and may view negative reviews in a less than friendly fashion, but if a given product completely fails to appeal to those of a given perspective or segment of the population or approach and I happen to be a part of that particular group of people, I want to know beforehand if something is simply not worth my time or money invested in it, and reading rave reviews from people definitely not like me or adverse reviews from people like me is a good help in that.

If even the reviews of very biased reviewers are highly useful to customers, why is it that Amazon does not want the reviews of certain people?  Some of the reasons are rather straightforward, and that is that the views of customers like me may not be in accordance with the views of the company and the people who run it.  I can certainly understand that many technology companies are based out of Silicon Valley and other left-leaning places and simply may not have the interest in hearing what other people have to say, and are even willing on hurting their own potential profits by not wanting to advertise even the favorable opinions of those whose perspectives they do not respect.  I’m not going to pretend that I do not care about such matters.  I care about them a great deal.  Moreover, I am the sort of unpleasant person who is deeply inclined to punish companies whose worldviews I dislike where it hurts them–in the pocketbook.  After Citgo, for example, offered discounts to customers in areas that voted for Sen. Kerry, I decided that Citgo no longer needed my business.  Likewise, if Amazon doesn’t like my opinion enough that they refuse to allow it because my bias is not one that they appreciate, they don’t need any of my money either.  I am willing to pay more money to avoid dealing with a company that has contempt for who I am and what I stand for, and take matters of worldview at least as seriously as they do.

Nevertheless, I am not sanguine about what this means.  As someone who regularly censures and/or mocks point of views that are hostile to mine that appear on this blog, I can understand how people would be less than happy to see my own perspective about matters, for even a positive perspective is likely to mean that a work appeals to a different sort of people than one happens to be.  I am used to having to bite my tongue and be polite and quiet when I want to slap people upside the head for the sort of ridiculous falsehoods they claim are gospel truth of one kind or another.  And likely at least some of those people who hear my own perspectives would wish to do the same thing and view their restraint as saintly when they simply behave with ordinary politeness.  This is not an ideal situation, because when we no longer want to hear opinions that do not line up with our own, we are signalling that we are unwilling to gain insight from points of view that are different than our own, and that is in general an unfortunate admission to make, and one that can hinder our own growth.  After all, most of our own growth comes from seeing things through another perspective than our own, since we see how we appear to others, and how we relate to others, and how we are when our own optimistic self-biases are accounted for.  When we only demand that others will listen to our opinion and we have no interest in hearing their opinions, though, we create an atmosphere that actively hinders the open and honest sharing of opinions, and we are all the poorer for it.  How to reverse this trend, though, is not clear.  Perhaps there just needs to be a better and less biased Amazon.com that actually wants my opinion and is willing to take my money to ship books to me and then accept the opinion I have about them.  Who would think that to be such a difficult thing?

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/02/10/a-musing-on-confirmation-bias/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/10/20/book-review-the-color-of-law/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/10/16/blame-it-on-intersectionality/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/09/02/a-modest-proposal-for-the-development-of-economic-infrastructure-for-unpopular-businesses/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/07/10/the-economy-of-galilee-during-jesus-day-a-case-study-in-historiography/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/06/16/activity-above-all-the-politics-of-chess/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/05/30/hurricane-marias-death-toll-a-statistics-story/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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