Two things can be true

Of the psychological phenomena I have encountered in the last two years while pursuing the DIA case, one of the most fascinating is the premise that “two things can be true.”  Actually, what has astounded me has been how people are resistant to accept that fact.  On February 19, 2022, the Wall Street Journal published an article highlighting some of the abuses that were transpiring within the Defense Intelligence Agency.  Of course, this sent the leadership of the organization scrambling into damage-control mode (despite the fact that the Journal had contacted them weeks prior for comments).  In the hapless charm offensive that the Agency launched, the main thrust to diffuse the story was to highlight all the good work people within the DIA did.  That’s roughly the equivalent of this scenario:


“Hey, Ryan, looks like your car is running low on oil…”


“Yeah, listen to this sound system – top of the line, isn’t it awesome!?”


Obviously, in the above, you would say one has nothing to do with the other.  It should then be obvious that, in the case of the DIA response, one had nothing to do with the other: the (self-touted) incredible accomplishments of the Agency had no bearing on whether or not harassment and discrimination was or was not taking place.  But the Director and his subordinates didn’t seem to be able to make that leap…or, perhaps more likely, thought their audience couldn’t, because, in essence, their retort went something along the lines of:


Article: “There are multiple abuses occurring within the Defense Intelligence Agency and the leadership is allowing it to continue.”


DIA: “Look at all the great stuff we do!”

Translated: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”


It’s a fairly amateur tactic, however, I was taken aback by how it seemed to resonate with people (and how the leadership of the Agency actually seemed to believe it themselves!)  There are many aspects of the DIA affair I cannot explain and this is pretty high on the list.  In lieu of delving into the psyche of others, I think it is time better spent to instead convey a lesson learned, which is simple: two things can be true at the same time.  Your car’s sound system may be awesome and it may be at the same time about to explode because the engine oil is low.  You may take a lot of cool vacations with your family, but your spouse still may be suffering from depression.  Your organization may do a lot of incredible things, but its leaders may also be vindictive bureaucrats that abuse their people.  If your car were low on oil, you’d have it serviced, right?  If your spouse were suffering from depression, you’d get him or her help, right?  If the people in your organization were claiming they were being abused, you’d address it…………………right??