Correcting Errors

There was an interesting, from my perspective, moment during the presidential primaries the other day that I thought was worth a more in-depth analysis. During one of Rick Santorum’s town-hall meetings a woman shouted out that President Obama was an “avowed muslim”. Who knows, the president might be a closet muslim although there seems no evidence to support this, but the statement that he is an avowed muslim is clearly false.

When asked why he let the statement go without challenging it Santorum said, “Why do you guys ask these ‘Gotcha’ questions like it’s my job to go out and correct everybody who says something I don’t agree with?”

The inference is that it is not his responsibility to correct everyone who shouts out during one of his speeches. Certainly, there are a lot of people out there who think things are true that are not and is it somehow our responsibility to correct them?

I’d like to start the discussion with a more localized examination. How many times during an average week does someone say something in a conversation that you know to be inaccurate? What percentage of the time do you correct them? Now, we’re not talking about something that might be false but something you absolutely know to be inaccurate.

I’m not sure if I’m the best judge of this because when someone says something incorrect around me I pounce like a cheetah on a wounded gazelle, it’s not pretty. I’ve been known to anger a few people over the years, just ask anyone who knows me.

It is particularly galling to me when someone who agrees with my general position says something that is factually inaccurate. I pissed off a Facebook friend under these circumstances just a few days ago. I haven’t heard from her since. Should I have stayed silent?

What do you do in those situations? What is our personal responsibility in those cases?

I think it is important that we correct the person if not immediately then shortly thereafter, privately if possible. If we don’t make the correction then they are likely to continue to spout their claims and might even convince other people of the veracity of the argument. Often they don’t know they are wrong but are simply repeating what they heard someone else say.

Now, let’s examine the situation from the position of a person running for the presidency. If I have a responsibility to correct people for relatively minor mistakes in private conversations it seems to me that is vitally important that the men and women who vie for power must be held to an even higher standard.

This topic quickly leads to the question of why politicians tell us only things we want to hear. The simple reason is that it gets them elected. That’s another conversation.

My conclusion, we must strive to be as accurate as possible in all things. I now eagerly await my mother’s grammar corrections.

Tom Liberman
Sword and sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian twist

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