Friday, December 07, 2007

Mistakes were made (but not by Joe Klein)

If you haven't been following Glenn Greenwald's exposure of Joe Klein as an individual who seems to lack the capacity to say "I was wrong" and move on*, here is a quick recap: Klein wrote an article for Time saying that Democrats are in favor of legislation requiring warrants for foreign surveillance targets. Klein was uncritically "reporting" as fact what he had been told by GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra. It was untrue, but Klein has not been willing to admit error, rather, he engages in what is becoming his trademark ad hoc rationalization for incompetence. Worse, the "correction" issued by Time was nothing more than a relativistic non-correction (e.g. some say, others dispute). For further evidence of Klein's difficulty admitting error, you can read this post at Think Progress in which Klein offers an absurd rationalization for another error.

You know, there are so many books out there that I want to read that I have a difficult time deciding what to read at any particular time, but because of Klein I'll be sure to read Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson as one of my next books.

Book Description
Why do people dodge responsibility when things fall apart? Why the parade of public figures unable to own up when they screw up? Why the endless marital quarrels over who is right? Why can we see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves? Are we all liars? Or do we really believe the stories we tell?

Renowned social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson take a compelling look into how the brain is wired for self-justification. When we make mistakes, we must calm the cognitive dissonance that jars our feelings of self-worth. And so we create fictions that absolve us of responsibility, restoring our belief that we are smart, moral, and right—a belief that often keeps us on a course that is dumb, immoral, and wrong.

Backed by years of research and delivered in lively, energetic prose, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) offers a fascinating explanation of self-deception—how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it.

Thanks for helping me make up my mind, Mr. Klein.

*Greenwald has written multiple posts on the subject. For the sake of convenience I'll just number the links: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

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