Friday, October 30, 2009

Imperialist American Aggressors Attack Poland?

The headline: The lead paragraphs:
"Shots were fired form the destroyer USS Ramage as it was leaving the Polish port of Gdynia on Wednesday (October 28), Polish media reported.

"A witness working in a port warehouse told news channel TVN24 he heard rounds hitting a wall and video shot on Thursday (October 29) shows marks on the building's exterior...."
(Reuters)
The rest of the story:

A crew member on the USS Ramage was cleaning a machine gun. It was loaded. Three rounds were fired. The Polish military police boarded the Rampage. The Rampage's crew cooperated fully, according to American Navy authorities.

Nobody, thank God, was killed - or, apparently, injured.

The Lesson

I think this is a good reminder
  • Don't stop reading at the headline
    • Or the lead paragraphs
  • See if other news outlets give the same story
  • Remember generic words like
    • To fire on
    • Shell
    • Mark
A "shell," for example, could be anything from something coming out of a 22 caliber deer rifle, to something weighing more than a Cadillac. In the context of that news article, a "mark" could be anything from a square inch of chipped brick to a gaping hole.

That Reuters story wasn't inaccurate: but it can be seen as misleading. I'd be willing to write off a single instance of this sort of reporting, if there weren't a pattern.

Back when I was in college (one of the times: I'm a repeater), someone pointed out how unfair it was that, for a while, anyone with an eastern European accent was the bad guy in films.

I doubt that this dramatic shorthand was quite as universal as it was made out to be, any more than the 'bad guys always wear black hats in westerns' stereotype. But after reading that assertion, I paid attention to films of a particular period, and sure enough: A whole lot of people from eastern Europe were bad guys: more than you'd expect.

The point is that 'eastern European accent = evil intent' was so solidly planted a cultural assumption, that filmmakers could use the association.

These days, most people - I hope - realize that quite a few people from eastern Europe aren't deranged assassins, sinister spies, or mad scientists.

And some day - I hope - most people will realize that America is not the source of most of what's wrong in the world. But I'm not holding my breath.

Related posts: In the news: Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

4 comments:

Brigid said...

"Shots were fired form the destroyer USS Ramage..." What scares me about that sentence fragment is that this is exactly how it appears in the original article. Aside from the bolding.

"These days, most people - I hope - realize that quite a few people from eastern Europe aren't deranged assassins, sinister spies, or mad scientists."

Or hot femme fatales who have mastered the ambiguous moral alignment.

Duckham said...

Not all the bad things in the world originate in or are down to America. And I run a website that has been accused of being an apologia for Islam. So hold you breath briefly if you like, not all of us are anti.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Duckham,

Well, I did say "most" - but I do seem to have written this post while in a glum mood.

It's easy to assume that the loudest, shrillest, people represent the ones who are quiet (and sometimes have their fingers in their ears).

Thanks for that comment - and for saying something nice about America.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

Indeed!

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

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