In an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, issue 503, the show’s executive producer Brian Minchin talked about writers limiting themselves because of online debates and concern about what some communities might say. I know several people who no longer post opinions online because they have experienced unacceptable personal criticisms or fear that they will.
Some of the comments in recent debates such as Brexit, gay marriage, grammar schools, Mother Teresa’s canonisation, and the US election, display general ignorance and, consistently, a failure to identify and discuss the real issues. People make spontaneous remarks without bothering to research or attempting to understand the facts. Often they begin with their preconceived view and a blanket refusal to change. Those who disagree are ignored or described as prejudiced.
Mine is probably the last generation who ventured regularly to the local pub to debate topical issues. Opinions were often heated but forgotten in the morning light of sobriety and friendships remained. We learnt to respect alternative viewpoints, without being obliged to agree. Differences did not lead to isolation but to healthy discussion and a varied social group. Sometimes individuals decided to change their minds in the light of exposure to facts but never in response to peer pressure. Now the debate is between strangers with greater intolerance. Many people, especially in the younger generation, socialise exclusively with those who share their views. In the long-term this is likely to expand rather than heal the wounds of prejudice.
Writers should not be afraid of opinions. Everything we publish attracts comments. If you can’t handle this then maybe you should put down your manuscript and start tweeting instead.