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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Language

Have you ever noticed how the language that's used can change a story dramatically? The next time you read the newspaper, imagine if a few key words in the story (mostly the descriptive words) were changed slightly - would it change your perception of what happened in the story, or give you a different impression of the people involved?

Politicians are often quite clever in their use of language. Pay attention, lest you be swayed. Recently, I heard George Bush talk about the 15 British military personnel as "hostages" in Iran. That wasn't accidental. He didn't call them "captives". I don't know whether or not they were really in Iranian waters, but if they were, shouldn't they be referred to as "captives" or even "prisoners"? If Iranians had been caught in US waters, you can be sure Mr. Bush wouldn't say they were holding them "hostage".

We all do it - use language to our benefit, either to imply the other party is at fault (those hostile Iranians taking hostages - they MUST be part of the "axis of evil"), or to imply that we are above reproach. Read your local paper, and try to look with unbiased eyes how many times your own country or city is defined in positive terms while others are viewed through a different lens. It's often a subtle thing, but even journalists are guilty of a little bias and ethnocentricity.

11 comments:

karla said...

Ah yes, media and political spin. If there is one thing I took away from high school, it is to be wary and aware of biases and spin tactics. Everyone has an agenda.

Vicki said...

I heard him say that and I thought the same thing. I believe we are to support our leadership, no matter your boss, your husband, your pastor, or in this case the President. What I am learning now is that we can support them, pray for them ,but we don't have to agree with them.

btw I tagged you for a meme today.

Gina said...

I agree, it's all about those connotations that go with each word chosen.

BarnGoddess said...

the power of language must never be underestimated......its a powerful thing.

Karmyn R said...

You are too right.

Recently an old friend of mine was involved in an Amber Alert (he took his children). Although what he did was wrong - the media's "spin" and the words they used made him sound like a mentally deranged man....and he's not.

As for the media - sensationalism seems to be what it is all about.

For George Bush - well, I'll remain mum, since I don't have anything good to say.

Pamela said...

There was the British version and the Iranian Version
BBC News: The Two Versions


There were others using that term "Hostage"

Times On Line: Iran Hostages are back in Britain

The Vancouver Sun: Toronto Markets Dip on British Hostage News


I thought they were hostages.

Pamela said...

(Hit enter before I meant to.)

I think they were being held hostage -- the British version is believable and the GPS can be verified by satelite tracking,

And, initially there appeared to be a political "ransom" requirement.
There is much info out there..... it's just finding the bits of truth.

But, back to the original thought about journalism and spin.
We've had our own personal experience with that

My hubby was on a bike ride with 7 others... and they were riding east just outside the fog line...
when a car heading west, pulled out @ apprx 70mps and passed a semi truck.

The bikers all crashed their bikes into the gravel ditches and saved their own lives-- except for one woman who got hit head on. Won't go into death details.

Hubby is a retired firefighter (paramedic)... he secured the scene.

Newspaper story was all wrong. The woman got "killed" a second time in print.
It really opened my eyes to truth in media.

Kila said...

Yes, I've noticed. I can't stand reading newspapers anymore; I get too mad.

Dale said...

I agree with you, Heather. Our news goes through so many spin cycles before we're allowed to read it ...

I'm with Kila. I stopped following the news years ago. The lies and half-Truths and scandals and death and suffering. It's all too much for me.

hellojed said...

Thanks for the thought. I suppose everything we can encounter is biased to a degree. I love subjectivity though - 'the unexamined life is not worth living'.

Krista said...

'Even' journalists? I'd say 'especially' journalists. Don't trust them as far as I can throw them. Probably because I kind of am one. LOL