Monthly Archives: March 2011

Narrating War

It’s no secret that killing people is unpleasant. Even if there weren’t genetic blocks against bloodlust, we have all been conditioned to understand that causing death is bad. Other people deserve to live.

Unless they’re not people. Or they’re very, very, bad people.

"goons 'massacre' rebels" (screenshot from The Daily)

Name-calling is an effective argument. In logic-nerd circles (where arguments ad hominem are invalid) this is not true, but to the rest of us, calling someone a name often works wonders to undermine their credibility.

dislodging "Gadhafi's thugs" (clipped from The Daily)

It’s only natural that we be willing to bomb “goons” but not “fathers.” Of course, if you’re beating a war drum, “thugs” also seems perfectly appropriate (as opposed to “supporters of the current government”).

Now, before you call me a name to discredit me (Gadhafi lover!), let me say that I don’t think there’s a “right” side to this story.

Having said that, I believe we are entitled to reporting on events that doesn’t paint so clear a picture of desired outcomes. Populism is popular (notice the shared Latin root…), but invoking hatred, or very very stern dislike, is not the job of news media.

They should leave it to blog commenters…




Updated: About

I’m a grad student at UT-Dallas, which is less glamorous than it sounds. This blog is obligatory, which means the posts are assignments, which means I am generally going to procrastinate about content. If satire or sarcasm seep into my writing, it’s because I can’t help myself.

Storytelling interests me. Children do it when playing alone or with others (“Oh no! We need to go over here and save Mr. Jingles! Follow me!”) and never grow out of it. The stories may become more nuanced or complex, but they never stop coming.

When we get older, we tend to filter stories. Clearly, it isn’t possible to know of — let alone hear — every story that exists. We individually tend to trust certain sources and ignore others.

Traditional (“mainstream”) media outlets have spent decades, if not centuries, earning peoples’ trust as a source of story. Through this trust, they have come to control the overarching narrative of our lives. While we may individually have our own stories, we have all shared the world as presented by others via our televisions, newspapers, magazines, etc.

With shiny new media, this trend may (or arguably not) be changing. The number of available story sources has increased exponentially, bringing up the number of stories knowingly available. They (or we?) who control these narratives control the world. Or do they?