Given that human fallibility is a key theme of Future Babble, it seems somehow appropriate that I made a silly mistake on the fifth paragraph. (It's also embarrassing as hell, but I'm trying to be constructive about this.)
I wrote: "Several years later, the celebrated Manchester Guardian journalist H.N. Norman was even more definitive. 'It is as certain as anything in politics can be, that the frontiers of our modern national states are finally drawn. My own belief is that there will be no more wars among the six Great Powers.'"
The quotation is accurate. The source is not. The deluded chap's name was "H.N. Brailsford."
How did I turn that into "H.N. Norman"? My source was a New York Times essay. I checked it. It got Brailsford's name right. But there, next to Brailsford, is a reference to another famous British journalist of the era, "Norman Angell."
So did I simply give the article a casual glance and muddle the names? No, it was more than that.
Elsewhere in Future Babble, there is a whole section on Norman Angell and his supposed prediction, made shortly before the First World War broke out, that war would never again trouble Europe. I did considerable research to demonstrate that Angell never made any such prediction. Indeed, even prior to the outbreak of war, Angell tried valiantly to stop that misinterpretation of what he actually wrote. "War is, unhappily, quite possible, and, in the prevailing condition of ignorance of certain politico-economic facts, even likely," Angell wrote to the Daily Mail in 1911. But still, it stuck. Everyone from Barbara Tuchman to Niall Ferguson has repeated the calumny that Norman Angell predicted eternal peace.
As you may sense, I became a little passionate about exonerating poor Norman Angell. Indeed, I had him on the brain. And sometime in the course of writing and re-writing, I inadvertently transformed "H.N. Brailsford" into "H.N. Norman."
As the newspapers say, I regret the error.
Or maybe not. Maybe it was really an elaborate meta-demonstration of a key theme. Maybe it was quite ingenious. Maybe I should congratulate myself. Sure. That's the ticket.
Ah, sweet. I can feel the cognitive dissonance melting away.