Language: Better Honest Arrogance than Hypocritical Humility by Dr. Larry Burriss

Larry Burriss, a professor in Middle Tennessee State University's College of Mass Communication and president of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, welcomes the crowd before the induction ceremonies at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters conference in Murfreesboro for the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

LANGUAGE  By Dr. Larry Burriss

One of the things we try to teach our students is to write and speak clearly, so there can be no misunderstanding.

“Better honest arrogance than hypocritcal humility”

So why does it seem like as soon as someone gets into either sports or politics, language skills go out the window.

Let’s take sports. It’s nearly baseball season, and I can already predict what the coaches and players are going to say when asked about the upcoming season: “Well last year we didn’t do some things we wanted to do, and we’ve had to do some rebuilding, but I think by the time the season really starts we can be where we need to be.”
And why can’t a coach just admit they have a really good team, and expect to do really well in the season? As my father used to say, “Better honest arrogance than hypocritical humility.”

But politicians are the worst.
Notice how most politicians never give direct answers to direct questions. Why can’t government officials just tell us what they think, without all kinds of nuanced subtleties?
Now, some political operatives will tell you it’s naïve to try to run the government that way; since politicians have to cater to each and every group, they have to change their position with every new audience. After all, solving any problem is going to make some group mad at you.
Still, why can’t politicians just be honest and tell us what they really think, and ignore the folks who don’t like it?
But what I really think is they don’t want the job of being a public servant, they simply want to be a public official, a job that, admittedly, has some of the best perks around.
So, as it becomes harder and harder to tell sports from politics, remember, what the candidate says in the newspaper and on radio and television doesn’t bear any relationship to what the candidate really thinks or believes. It is simply what they want you to think they believe.

(DR. LARRY L. BURRISS, is a Professor School of Journalism & Strategic Media at
Middle Tennessee State University)