The New York Times on Thursday published a series of mea culpas from eight of its opinion columnists about how they were each “wrong” on a variety of topics, ranging from the inflation and Facebook to Trump voters.
The package of apologetic essays included a piece from Paul Krugman admitting that he was “wrong about inflation”; a mea culpa by Michelle Goldberg on her hasty call for Al Franken’s resignation; a column by Bret Stephens about his erroneous view of Trump voters; and Farhad Manjoo’s updated take on Facebook.
For his part, Krugman admitted to getting it wrong when it came to inflation, noting that he brushed off any fears that President Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue package could lead to inflation.
“Some warned that the package would be dangerously inflationary; others were fairly relaxed. I was Team Relaxed. As it turned out, of course, that was a very bad call,” he wrote, explaining that, in the end, he underestimated the impact of the pandemic on the economy.
In his essay, Stephens said he wrongly judged Trump supporters, initially taking “broad swipes” at them without understanding why they voted for former President Donald Trump.
“What Trump’s supporters saw was a candidate whose entire being was a proudly raised middle finger at a self-satisfied elite that had produced a failing status quo,” he wrote. “I was blind to this.”
Stephens added that Trump’s campaign “flourished” in a climate where his supporters felt “unprotected” and “betrayed” by the country.
“I could have thought a little harder about the fact that, in my dripping condescension toward his supporters, I was also confirming their suspicions about people like me — people who talked a good game about the virtues of empathy but practice it only selectively; people unscathed by the country’s problems yet unembarrassed to propound solutions,” Stephens concluded.
Meanwhile, Goldberg said she was wrong to call for Al Franken’s immediate resignation from the US Senate, after he was accused of groping a woman’s breasts when he was a comedian.
“I regret calling for Franken to resign without a Senate investigation,” Goldberg wrote, and added, “Due process is important whether or not a person did what he or she is accused of, and the absence of it in this case has left lasting wounds. Carried away by the furious momentum of #MeToo, I let myself forget that transparent, dispassionate systems for hearing conflicting claims are not an impediment to justice but a prerequisite for it.”
Tech columnist Manjoo also laid out his own faulty reasoning when it came to his own advocacy for Facebook in his early writing about the social media giant. The columnist said he “got carried away by the excitement of new tech” without considering the “far-reaching implications for Facebook’s ubiquity.”
Manjoo cited Facebook’s power and influence over politics, privacy and free speech, among other things.
He concluded: “What bothers me is the matchless power that people like [Facebook founder Mark] Zuckerberg have acquired through their inventions. It does not seem in any way good for society — for the economy, for politics, for a basic sense of equality — that a handful of hundred-billion-dollar or even trillion-dollar companies should control such large swathes of the internet.”
Headlined “Eight Times Opinion columnists revisit their incorrect predictions and bad advice — and reflect on why they changed their minds,” the package of essays included a congratulatory note for their honesty.
“In our age of hyperpartisanship and polarization, when social media echo chambers incentivize digging in and doubling down, it’s not easy to admit you got something wrong,” the Times wrote.
“But here at Times Opinion, we still hold on to the idea that good-faith intellectual debate is possible, that we should all be able to rethink our positions on issues, from the most serious to the most trivial,” the Times continued. “It’s not necessarily easy for Times Opinion columnists to engage in public self-reproach, but we hope that in doing so, they can be models of how valuable it can be to admit when you get things wrong.”