When the Media is the Disaster


Chapter 8 in Language talks about how words can hurt people. The first article discusses the news reporting that was done on the major earthquake in Haiti that happened a couple years ago. The media was describing some of the victims as “looters” because they were “stealing” food. Rebecca Solnit disagrees with this term, and argues that it is a bad description of these people.

Words cannot physically hurt but they resonate with us. I’ve always heard the saying to “choose your words carefully” and that’s because words are so easy to manipulate upon others. We have the capability of making emotions by using words in different contexts. We can make each other happy, sad, and mad all by choosing the right words at the right time.

At the end of the article Solnit ends with the opinion that “we live and die by words and ideas, and it matters desperately that we get them right.” By choosing the right words, the media could have saved lives by getting compassion from people to donate instead of accusing the victims of “stealing” when they are simply trying to survive. The media knows how to manipulate people with words which is almost always the case. They realize that they have power and know how to use words to get a desired response.

It matters that we get words right because we are dealing with actual people. Words can change people and what they think. What do you think about what Solnit meant by her quote?

3 thoughts on “When the Media is the Disaster

  1. Alyssa,

    I do find some words to be really loaded. “Lazy” and “Stupid” are words that hold a lot of social connotation and reduce situational understanding. Unfortunately words are not all created equal and seem to glob on to certain people a lot easier then others.

  2. I totally agree with you on that the media manipulates situations for their own cause, in that they paint a picture in our minds of what is going on, i.e. calling the refugees “looters”. I really liked how you said “We have the capability of making emotions by using words in different contexts”. I believe this really hits the nail on the head when describing the power of words. I think that your statement coincides with Solnit’s quote ““we live and die by words and ideas, and it matters desperately that we get them right”. I think that we do live and die by words, and that they are the main building blocks used in creating every situation that is and has been going on through time.
    I am wondering, in your mind how would you have described the Haitian refugees? Also do you think that the words the media used would be considering “fighting words”? And if so who would they be fighting and why?

    • I would describe them as people who have lost everything and are trying to save themselves and others. I think that when put in that situation, laws no longer pertain if they are purely for a means of survival. I think that “looting” could be considered a fighting word. Solnit explained that looting originally had a different meaning. The media likes to exaggerate and cause more problems so that they can get a somewhat interesting story. what do you think?

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