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The eye-witness fallacy, by Malcolm Muggeridge

It is sad to reflect that the more reputable the eye-witness, the greater the caution with which his testimony should be received....The accomplished, the opinionated, the reputable writer, liable by virtue of these very qualities to see what he wants to see and hear what he wants to hear, will easily persuade and delude, where the hack's obviously slanted reporting gets dis-regarded. Out of righteousness and sincerity have come more deception than out of villainy and deliberate deceit. The tabloid press, with many readers, deludes few. Serious newspapers, like the Times and the Guardian, with fewer readers, delude many....

For myself, I find it difficult to see how truth could ever be extracted from this plethora of eye-witnesses, whose ostensible credentials are so impressive, but whose testimony is so dubious....[A]bsurdities abound, relating to all countries, all regimes, all the desiderata of our time, and all bearing the eye-witness hallmark. It is not surprising that Pilate did not wait for an answer when he asked his famous question: 'What is truth?' He, too, had doubtless been studying eye-witnesses' reports, including, of course, that of Judas Iscariot.

(Tread Softly for You Tread on My Jokes, 1966)

This article appeared in LM 98

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