As to why the story about the stabbing keeps changing, Republican presidential nominee Ben Carson told the Washington Post,

When people record what I’ve said, they record it in different ways. When you’ve got something from 50 years ago that’s told by many different people, it’s sort of like the party game where you whisper to people sitting in a circle. When it gets to the original person, it’s very different.

This explanation has been seized on by other news outlets and written up in a skeptical way. But before we bash Carson for it, let’s recall that Albert Einstein said something very similar about how journalists work.

To be called to account publicly for what others have said in one’s name, when one cannot defend oneself, is indeed a sad predicament. ‘But to whom does such a thing happen?’ you will ask. Well, everyone who is of sufficient interest to the public to be pursued by interviewers. You smile incredulously, but I have had plenty of direct experience and will tell you about it.

Imagine the following situation. One morning, a reporter comes to you and asks you in a friendly way to tell him something about your friend N. At first you no doubt feel something approaching indignation at such a proposal. But you soon discover that there is no escape. If you refuse to say anything, the man writes, ‘I asked one of N’s supposedly best friends about him. But he cautiously avoided my questions. This enables the reader to draw the inevitable conclusions.’ There is, therefore, no escape, and you give the following information: ‘Mr N is a cheerful, straightforward man, much liked by all his friends. He can find a bright side to any situation. His enterprise and industry know no bounds; his job takes up his entire energies. He is devoted to his family and lays everything he possesses at his wife’s feet…’

Now for the reporter’s version: ‘Mr N takes nothing very seriously and has a gift for making himself liked, particularly as he carefully cultivates a hearty and ingratiating manner. He is so completely a slave to his job that he has no time for the considerations of any non-personal subject or for any extracurricular mental activity. He spoils his wife unbelievably and is utterly under her thumb…’

A real reporter would make it much more spicy, but I expect this will be enough for you and your friend N. He reads the above, and some more like it, in the paper next morning, and his rage against you knows no bounds, however cheerful and benevolent his natural disposition may be. The injury done to him gives you untold pain, especially as you are really fond of him.



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