The Washington Post

War of words

Scahndalous, dahling! What IS a “scandal” now anyway? I wrote a week or so ago that there is a difference between a Bad Thing and a Scandal. But apparently not anymore. I always assumed a scandal was a disgrace caused by an intentional pattern of subverting a public trust. Is that where we are?

What we actually have now is Controversy, but headline writers and story writers are adopting the language of one side of the debate when they call them ‘scandals.’ Scandals meaning what, exactly? Bad policy that was caught and addressed? Bad outcomes that were a result of difficult circumstances? Problematic policy based on competing concerns? Incomplete information that MIGHT POSSIBLY complete a certain way?

But call them what you want. Battles over semantics can never be won. But semantics can affect the way you think about things, so just decide what your own terminology is when you think about this stuff, and don’t let somebody else choose your terms for you.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog. See all of his cartoons here.


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