Capital Editorial

Hutzell, Rick, Editor’s desk: Beware the word ‘lie’ in Anne Arundel politics, June 2, 2018.

Snider Comment

“It should shock you whenever you hear one person running for office accuse the other side of lying.”

Modern social science confirms that lying is a pervasive feature of human life; e.g., see Dan Ariely’s The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves. This is also reflected in popular culture and opinion, where the incentive to lie is understood to be exceptionally strong in politics. Deception is also a pervasive feature within the animal kingdom more generally.

The editor here has constructed a straw man argument. No, it shouldn’t shock anyone when one candidate accuses another of lying, especially if it fosters a healthy debate about the facts.

“’[L]ie”’ and ‘liar’ just aren’t words we hear often in Anne Arundel County politics.”

Yes, in public debate, including in the pages of the Capital, this is true. But it’s certainly not true in what people, including politicians and reporters, say in private discussions.

What does the omission of such public debate signify? I’d suggest a vigorous culture of Machiavellian politics in Anne Arundel County. Thanks partly to the editorial practices of the Capital, public officials here are rewarded for their noble intentions, not their actual performance. For example, try to recall the last time you read a story about the discrepancy between a school board member’s professed concern for AACPS students versus their actual behavior. I bet you cannot.

“The most shocking thing, for me,….”

This opinion piece does have one great virtue: it both cleverly and accurately summarizes the Capital’s editorial philosophy regarding investigative reporting and fact checking. It’s a low-cost, highly profitable editorial philosophy that may be good for the Capital’s owner, Tronc. But it’s not good for Anne Arundel County.