An Open Letter to NPR's Morning Edition
Yesterday, I was shocked to hear Morning Editions' reporter talking about the current military situation in Afghanistan using the phrase "an area infested with the Taliban". The use of the word "infested" is extremely problematic because no matter what you think about the Taliban, they are human beings and the people who live in that area are human beings. When an area is "infested" with rats, it is okay to annihilate them. But when you use the language on humans, you are using words that are unacceptable and dangerous.
When the incredible movie, Hotel Rwanda came out, one of the major points it made was how the language used on the hate radio created an atmosphere where it was acceptable to murder the Tutsis.
When I saw this movie I was moved to write:
Underlying the tension and drama of the film was the omnipresent talk radio, which effectively used demagoguery to incite the Hutus into believing that the Tutsis and moderate Hutus were the enemy. And once the slaughter began, the broadcasters coordinated the hunt for people that had escaped the initial rout. Using terminology that dehumanized their victims (“you can smell the cockroaches”) and building a case that the Tutsis deserved their fate, hate radio created an environment that inflamed the anger of the Hutus who had long felt oppressed under the colonial era.
Dehumanizing other people is wrong even when they are our enemies and even when they do horrific acts. They are still human beings and thus part of our human family and when we forget this, it reflects badly on the state of our society and the state of our individual souls.
I expect better of NPR.