Nearly every day someone is in the news with an admission of a “mistake.” Politicians do it, sports figures do it, evangelists do it, it seems even the birds and bees do it. We have become the most mistake-prone society in the world.Just what is a mistake anyway?
I remember from my college days a course called logic where I learned about the many fallacious argumentums we encounter in daily life. So, when I read or see so many public figures explaining their behavior as a mistake, I have to choke back the urge to vomit. To put it by way of example, if you believe it’s raining outside and tell someone that it is, when in reality it’s not, that is definitely a mistake. If you turn down Broadway when you truly meant to take 42nd Street, that is also a mistake. In other words, when you honestly thought the action you took represented your intentions, and it didn’t, that is the classic definition of a mistake.
Now, if you have a tryst with prostitute—and get caught—you can’t say it was a mistake. If you inject yourself with steroids—and get caught—you can’t say you made a mistake. If you carry a concealed weapon—and get caught, whether you shoot yourself in the leg or not—that also cannot be claimed as a mistake. If you lie under oath—and get caught—you can’t say you made a mistake.
Do you see a common thread here? Yep, it’s getting caught that makes an action illegal, immoral, or stupid—and consequently a “mistake.” Claiming a misdeed was a mistake is akin to the evangelist philanderer saying, “I thought the woman was my wife,” or the baseball player claiming, “I thought I was injecting vitamins,” or the politician perjurer protesting, “It depends on what the definition of the truth is.”
When is the media going to call these “mistakes” what they really are? Why don’t they just come out and say, “A-Rod says he made a ‘mistake’ when he injected himself for three years with an ‘unknown’ substance when in reality, had he not failed a steroid test, he would not have made a mistake at all.”
On the other hand, take former President Bush, who never made a mistake, but “regretted” that the intelligence reports leading to war were mistaken. In fact the mistaken reports were the result of his people “cooking the books”—i.e. lying—so they could justify going to war.
Why, we should ask, does the media even allow the use of the redundant phrase “honest mistake?” There is only one kind of mistake—honest. There might be room in our lexicon for stupid or foolish mistake, but no matter how dumb, they are still honest. A dishonest mistake is nothing more than a lie.