You would think that in a matter as serious as the massacre in the Colorado movie theater, those reporting on it would exercise caution and circumspection.
You would be wrong.
The quote was universally paraded about by media outlets as an admission that the mother of the accused movie theater shooter, was not surprised that her son was accused.
The reality? She was woken up at 5 in the morning with a phone call from an ABC news producer, knew nothing about what he was talking about, and was merely confirming for him that he had reached the right Mrs. Holmes. In other words, she was referring to herself in an innocuous way and not admitting anything of substance at all.
This is not “material”, as we say, to the case against James Holmes. But it is revealing about how errors are more prevalent – not less – in grave situations where people are excited or upset, and how that feeds the mob, and how it must be checked at some point if we are not to lapse into verdict by media frenzy.
And the worst part about errors like this is that the damage is never totally undone. People wind up believing the lie, long after it has been revealed as a lie.
It’s a psychological thing, not a rational thing.