Why we know so very little

It’s one thing for an ordinary person to be wrong. It’s quite another for a public figure to be just spectacularly, famously wrong. On-the-record. And with disastrous results. Like the people who brought us the 2003 Iraq War.

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Remember Dick Cheney?

  • “And he [Saddam Hussein] is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time.” (March, 2002)
  • “I think it will go relatively quickly. Weeks rather than months.” (March, 2003)
  • “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” (March, 2003)
  • I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” (July, 2005)

Dick and daughter Liz are back, opinionizing in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal. Well, not surprising. It’s Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.

There is no penalty for getting things wrong. 

And the famously wrong Bill Kristol (we “could have terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East.” September 18, 2002) and the equally thick Paul Wolfowiitz (“We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” March 27, 2003) are back, too. They’re on the supposedly serious Sunday morning TV shows, discussing — believe it or not — what to do about Iraq’s current descent into sectarian violence. It’s very much like having the captain of the Exon Valdez offer advice on how to clean up oil spills. Except, to be fair, grounding an oil tanker is only a very small blunder compared to the colossal moral, military, planning and policy blunders advocated — insisted on! — by these wrong-way neocon blunderers.

The lesson? There is no penalty — in large swaths of our news media — for getting things wrong. Even calamitously wrong.

In real life, people do fail. They get fired. They’re effectively discredited. They lose reputation. After a big blunder, they never work in the same field again.

That’s real life. If you screw up, you will probably experience accountability. That captain of the Exon Valdez? He never captained another oil tanker. Probably he never expected to. And indeed he never got the chance.

Meet the Press and This Week weirdly operate with entirely different rules — the incompetents never need to leave. Observe, the incredible shrinking news.