Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A professional's thoughts about language and the killings in Arizona

The fantastic Roy Peter Clark at the Poynter Institute writes an amazing column about how we refer to/discuss/write about Jared Lee Loughner.

My fave section and what I tried clumsily to say in my post yesterday ...

The six dead in Tucson were not killed in traffic accidents but at the hands of another human being. The loss, the grief, the agony of those left behind remain as real whether we call Loughner an assassin, a domestic terrorist, a fanatic, a mass murderer or – the informal consensus – a “nut job,” a dismissive, self-deluding designation used by Americans (including me) who prefer to ignore the real consequences of mental illness.


The misuse of words, journalists know, is the fuel for propaganda, scapegoating, misinformation and hate. Try to think of a single hot-button issue in the American culture wars that has not been waged as a war of words, in which combatants battle to gain the upper hand by being first to name the issue.

Think of “death panels” to describe medical advice given near the end of life.

It’s the death tax vs. the millionaire’s tax; pro-choice vs. pro-life; illegal alien vs. undocumented worker; refugee vs. evacuee; prisoner of war vs. enemy combatant.


And here's someone else who said what I was feeling better than me ...

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