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#1358: Fires rages in Haitian city of Jeremie - Antoine comments (fwd)
From: Guy Antoine <email@example.com>
The fire in Jeremie is a tragedy and is dutifully reported by Reuters,
and I am grateful for their coverage. As an aside, I have a comment
of a different sort to make. The Reuters report ends with the phrase:
"Jeremie is the fifth largest city in Haiti, the poorest nation in the
Western Hemisphere". I do not mean to target Reuters especially
for this practice, because nearly 100% of ALL the stories I have read
from ALL foreign wire services, on any subject whatsoever, seem
obliged to embed "Haiti, the poorest country in the Western
Hemisphere" somewhere in the text. I suspect that without that
obligatory phrase the story just would not cut it.
Now I am a realist, and far from me the thought of denying Haiti's
abject physical poverty. Please spare me the comments to the
effect that Haiti will stop getting that label when it is no longer
"the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere". That is more
than obvious. What I want to discuss is something else entirely.
What I would like to ask members of this list is whether in their
opinion there are pernicious effects from such standard labeling.
Obviously, the fact that "Haiti is the poorest country in the Western
Hemisphere" is no longer news, unless one has never read more
than one news story about Haiti or never heard a TV news report.
It is not news, it is a label. I cannot think of other countries in the
world that have labels so uniformly, so predictably, so automatically
attached to their name. I know that in a family of several children,
where one of the children is fatter than all the others, it would not
be recommended for everyone to refer to Joe at every turn as
"Joe, the fattest of the Antoine children" (I don't have a son called
Joe by the way). Imagine if Joe's parents, his siblings, his teachers,
his classmates, and everyone else always followed that practice.
"Today, Joe came home after class, and he found nobody home.
Joe is the fattest of the Antoine children," or "Last summer, Joe
went on a fishing trip with his Dad, who is an immigrant from Haiti.
Joe is the fattest of the Antoine children, and Haiti is the poorest
country in the Western Hemisphere."
I just wonder about such labeling practices. Are they warranted?
Do they have pernicious effects on nations as they would have on
individuals? I am not accusing, I would just like to know.
Again, to those who would answer that it is a fact, don't bother. If
I had not learned that after a zillion times... ... ...
Guy S. Antoine
Look thru & Imagine!