Monday, June 26, 2006

Wrongly accused

I remember as a child watching a movie about someone wrongfully imprisoned and I was so outraged that I unloaded on my mum, shouting: that's wrong! that's unfair! that shouldn't happen! I can tell you that that response to injustice has persisted and, while I no longer have a mum to unload on, I do have my trusty blog! Ranking up there with being wrongfully accused is being guilty of wrongfully accusing someone else. This is why it is so important to try hard to get one's facts straight -- to ask questions -- before one makes accusations.

However, if one does get it wrong, then it becomes very important to do the right thing i.e. to come clean, to correct the mistake, to apologize and to take the heat for having erred. I've written about this before here and I've found that you can tell a lot about someone by observing how they deal with finding themselves in this uncomfortable situation.

One of my favourite bloggers, Glenn Greenwald, has found himself in the unfortunate position of being wrongfully accused of being a liar and an hysteric, and has suffered the slings and arrows of misfortune all weekend.
Personally, if I told my readers that another blogger was lying or was drowning in paranoia when making certain claims, only for those claims to turn out to have been true all along, I'd be quite eager to retract my accusations and apologize for them as clearly and prominently as I could. I can't think of anything that would be a more immediate priority than that. But it goes without saying that different bloggers have different ethical standards which guide them, and in the case of some of the above-named bloggers, some are entirely unburdened by such standards at all.
However, while one of his accusers has come clean: "the facts have borne out Greenwald'’s contention. I stand corrected. He is no liar", the majority has "moved on" (my favourite euphemism for refusing to be held accountable) or persists in the slander without supporting evidence and in the face of exonerating evidence.

I like to think that my conclusions are evidence-based and that my goal is to get it right, to do the right thing and I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that anyone worthy of respect for intellectual honesty should have to do the same. Sadly, many don't share this view. But the fact that Glenn does, is just another reason why reading his blog is so worthwhile. I'm not interested in discussing things with people who are not prepared to be constrained by being evidence-based and rational. As Glenn says:
I have not addressed that accusation precisely because there is no "substance" to it [...] Anyone who believes that is willing to believe accusations based on nothing, and is thus, by definition, someone who is not amenable to rational persuasion.
You're a good man, Glenn. You deserve better.


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