I was watching a news clip of a cable news anchor—it was one of those Andersen Cooper, Don Lemon types—interviewing some high-ranking White House official, like National Security Advisor or something. To clarify some point, the reporter began his question with, “Now, correct me if you’re wrong, but…” It was clearly misspoken. He meant to say if I’m wrong, but if you’re wrong came out. The intent was clarification, not repudiation. Neither party noticed the slip-of-tongue, the government official confirmed the clarification, and the interview went on. 

But I sat there dumbfounded. Did he just say what I thought he said? Was that implicit condescension uttered to one of the most powerful people in the world? I rewound the clip a dozen times, and there it was, said clearly, “correct me if you’re wrong…” Wow, I thought. What a preemptive nuclear strike. What a presumptuous rhetorical shot. What an unequivocal declaration of pure confidence in that which one knows to be controversially true.

If you don’t have any fringe beliefs, you’re a blind conformist, which, fine, fair enough. But if you do have some fringe beliefs, then you had better be ready to go to battle on their behalf at a moment’s notice. Here’s what I have to say, and I fucking dare you to challenge me on it, you wrongheaded nincompoop! is the go-to vibe.

I, like most, tend to let others’ negative reactions to my beliefs make me believe in them less and stay silent about them. But here, out of nowhere came a declaration, which, if internalized, could serve as a mantra with which I could lead my life: correct me if you’re wrong. That, I thought, is what people need to hear in my voice, see in my eyes, feel in my very presence.

Shiiiiit, I thought, that’s what I should name my fucking book if I ever write one.