I often get the impression from various people’s comments on my posts that they think that when I write words to the effect that “Person X didn’t do this bad thing,” “Person Y did this bad thing,” “Person Z did this good thing,” or “Person A didn’t do this good thing,” I’m making an overall judgment about the person.
If you think that, then you don’t know me.
I’m a truth seeker. So when someone makes a statement that I think is true, and others are saying it’s false, or makes a statement that I think is false, and others think it’s true, then, if I comment, it will be to point that out.
My doing so has nothing to do with my overall evolution of the person who makes the statement.
I’ll take two examples from recent history.
The first is the deposition of Bill Clinton by the Ken Starr legal team. I’m one of the few people I know who watched every second of that long deposition. One of Bill Clinton’s famous lines during the deposition, a line that led to endless ridicule, was “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” I was one of the few people around me who never made fun of him for that. It made complete sense and, although YouTube didn’t exist then, so it wasn’t easy to find the testimony, it does exist now, and all you have to do, if you want to know the truth, is watch a 3-minute video.
Does that mean I’m a fan of Bill Clinton? No. But I’m not a fan of falsehoods and false interpretations.
Here’s another example. Many readers will remember the “Mission Accomplished” banner on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln when George W. Bush landed on that carrier. In the months following, when the situation in Iraq got really ugly, many people criticized and often ridiculed Bush for his too-early celebration of the mission. But that wasn’t what the banner was about. How do I know? One of my star students at the Naval Postgraduate School had been a junior officer on the carrier at the time. In the ward room one day, they discussed how to respond to a request from the White House. The White House people had said that they wanted a banner and they would provide the banner, but they wanted input from the ship’s officers. So the officers in the ward room decided on “Mission Accomplished.” It had almost nothing to do with the Iraq war. It had to do with the fact that the carrier had finished a 10-month deployment, which, according to Wikipedia, “was the longest deployment of a carrier since the Vietnam War.”
When I point that out to fellow critics of that ugly war, most of them don’t want to hear it. That would be alright if they stopped using that banner as ammo for their attacks on Bush. But they typically don’t.
You might say that in the grand scheme of things, these things don’t matter. Maybe, but they seem to matter to the people who do the ridiculing. So if it matters to make a false statement, it matters to correct it.
The bad thinking that I’m going after here consists of first deciding, maybe on perfectly good grounds, one’s position on an issue (“Bill Clinton is a liar,” “George W. Bush messed up big time by invading Iraq and killing thousands of innocent people”) and then looking carelessly for evidence that the person who did the bad thing was even worse than one might have thought.
There are also ways to mess up in thinking on the other side. So, for example, one could think a policy is good and then look for evidence that the person proposing or carrying out the policy has done something else good
Thus the title of this post: Deltas. I was a math major and I still use the word “delta” in daily conversation to mean “change.” Someone makes a statement that he claims is factual. It’s a delta in information. Is the delta true or false? If they think it’s true, and they bothered making it, it must matter to them. Which is why I pursue the search for truth: If it matters, I want to know whether it’s true or false.