If Someone Makes a Mistake and Corrects It, You Should Trust Him Even More

On Saturday, Donald Trump called for the firing of Washington Post reporter David Weigel after he posted a picture of Trump’s Friday night rally with a sparse crowd. Trump said the Post was lying about his crowd size. The truth was that Weigel tweeted what he believed to be an accurate crowd picture (from his personal account, no less), realized a few minutes later the picture was taken before the rally began, deleted the tweet so as to not spread any misinformation, and sincerely apologized after Trump blasted him about it.

In effect, Trump called for the firing of a journalist who corrected his mistake before Trump called for a Twitter mob to come after him. Even though Trump routinely lies about far more important things all the time and never once apologizes.

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We saw that same blatant hypocrisy on display last week when Sen. Al Franken resigned over sexual misconduct which he (somewhat) apologized for… Even though Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, accused of far worse, hasn’t done the same. Even though alleged child molester Roy Moore is on track to win a Senate seat. Even though Trump has been accused of all kinds of sexual misconduct from nearly 20 women without any fear that his party will ask him to resign.

When asked why he was supporting Moore despite all the accusations from women, Trump made it very clear: “He denies it. Look, he denies it.”

There’s a sad lesson in all this: If you do something wrong and correct it (even if it’s not a great apology), you are demonized in today’s political climate. If you do something truly awful and deny it, you’re promoted. (The lesson, of course, doesn’t apply to both political parties equally.)

During a conversation yesterday on CNN’s Reliable Sources, conservative writer David Frum pointed out to host Brian Stelter that people who make mistakes and work to correct them are the people who deserve your trust. Not the people who lie, stick to their lies, and criticize everyone who points out their lies. He put it just perfectly.

… you asked the question Brian, why should given these mistakes, why should people trust the media? I would say, the mistakes are precisely the reason the people should trust the media.

Look, astronomers make mistakes all the time because science is a process of discovery of truth. Astrologers never make mistakes, or at least they never own up to them, because what they are offering is a closed system of ideology and propaganda.

Faced with wrongdoing circled by lies, the process of piercing the lies to uncover the truth about the wrongdoing is inherently not only difficult but adversarial, because the people are trying to find the truth are offered against bad faith actors engaged in concealment. So, they get partial pieces of the truth.

This is one of the main reasons so many atheists condemn religious thinking, too. Pastors frequently make the mistake of acting like the Bible has all the answers, that they know what God wants, that their interpretation of the Bible must never change. Fundamentalist Christians do the same thing with the Book of Genesis, arguing that it must be taken literally despite all the evidence to the contrary. They can never be wrong.

But we don’t know everything. We can’t know everything. One reason I enjoy being an atheist is because the words “I don’t know” aren’t as scary. It’s okay to admit that. “I’ll try to find out” is the best we can hope for in certain situations. Like scientists, we try and get to the bottom of an issue, and if we screw up, we can always try and correct ourselves, but we’re always (hopefully) progressing in the direction of truth.

You don’t get that when you just lash out against people who point out your mistakes and act as if you can do no wrong.

The phrase “I’m sorry, I was wrong” rarely comes out of the mouths of astrologers, and many religious leaders, and Trump because they’re not interested in the facts. They’re too busy trying to sell you lies.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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