Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Media and language

Yesterday, while watching the news on PBS, a report on rising crude prices caught my attention. The reporter at one point said words to the effect of "analysts blame increased demand from China as a factor..." I remember thinking, "Wow, loaded word." Blame China? Fault China? For what? For being an emerging economy and a developing market that everyone wants a piece of? Perhaps, free of bias, it would have been better to say, "analysts point to China's increased demand for crude supplies." The question is whether any US-newscast would ever say "Analysts blame the US for rising prices due to fuel consumption of SUVs and other fuel-inefficient cars." I doubt it.

Biased language isn't limited to the political, but also to the nationalistic, whether intentionally or not. In fact, language varies from country to country; an easy example would be how US-based media describe those participating in uprisings in Iraq as "insurgents" or "rebels." But check the same stories on foreign media -- especially articles from non-aligned countries -- and see how the language changes. For instance, some articles will refer to those thorns in America's side as "freedom fighters" and "resistance fighters." It's an interesting contrast, especially if you consider that many Americans consider our troops in Iraq to be the true freedom fighters.

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