Few of us are paid to have an opinion, but that never stopped us from weighing in on anything and everything, whether we know what the heck we’re talking about or not.

I’ve gone on record saying that we’re all becoming too opinionated for our own good, but far worse is when popular commentators with large media footprints take sides on important issues with long-term implications when they really haven’t a clue.

I’m sure you know that a federal judge has ordered Apple to help the FBI unlock an iPhone related to the San Bernardino terror attack, but I’m sure you’re also smart enough to know that, for Apple CEO Tim Cook to take a stand against that court order, he must have a good reason.

If nothing else, Cook is a good man with high moral standards. Suggestions by the Justice Department and others that Cook’s actions are motivated by marketing, PR, or profits are simply ludicrous. That’s not how Cook rolls. That’s not how Apple rolls.

Everyone and his brother is taking sides but few have first or even second-hand knowledge of what’s really going on or what’s actually at stake. An email I received from a reader distraught about the lack of nuanced understanding of her favorite news commentators sort of says it all:

Love your column on Apple and the FBI. Please make sure someone at [deleted] understands what is really going on. I’ve listened to [deleted], [deleted], members of [deleted], and some on [deleted] who truly do not understand what is at stake. They need experts to speak on the matter, not those with opinions but not true understanding.

Apologies for all the blanks, it can’t be helped.

Over the past week or so, I’ve watched the media coverage shift from actual facts about what’s really going on, to who’s right and who should get boycotted, to which famous people are siding with which side. It’s getting sort of ridiculous.

Somebody did a poll the other day where a little more than half of respondents sided with the FBI without ever having read Tim Cook’s open message to customers. Once they were shown the letter, that apparently changed a lot of opinions and shifted the majority to Apple. Go figure.

This is important and I’ll tell you why. It’s not about Apple, the FBI, or the Obama Administration. It’s about how we get our information, draw our opinions, and make up our minds. Make no mistake, that’s what translates into legislation and regulation. Before you know it, it’s the law of the land.

I watched as Americans got hoodwinked on Net Neutrality and the same thing is happening here. Before you rush to judgement and take a side, at least learn the facts.

Update Feb 29, 2016: A federal judge in Brooklyn ruled that the DOJ could not force Apple to unlock an iPhone in a drug case. The decision could have a ripple effect on the San Bernardino case, as well as any Congressional action.  

While we’re on the subject: Why Apple’s Tim Cook Is Right on Encryption and Politicians are Clueless on Encryption Backdoors.