Wednesday, February 4, 2009

“Conflict” as a racial term

I found this article on a curious website after a search sparked by a radio interview a few weeks ago. Heather Mallick, a Guardian columnist, argued that using the term conflict to describe the bloodshed in the Gaza strip was an inadequate term to describe the horror of what was occurring in that region. That got me thinking about semantics influence the racial overtones of media representations of these types of horrific events. This article points out BBC's operating procedure in using certain terminology to describe what has been occurring in the Gaza strip over the last few months. It is intriguing to see how careful this organization is to convey a position of objective neutrality in their coverage of these events.

That a neutral position is actually possible is an interesting point of debate in itself but the fact that the BBC (and I would suggest most other North American news media) is pursuing this position is intriguing. Weismantel and Eisenman (authors we studied in my anthropology course) suggest that ignoring racist constructions and categories seems to actually reinforce the power of racism. In effect they might argue that attempting to fashion public discourse in a concerted attempt to neutralize the reality of racial frameworks evident in the region can only serve to advantage one side over the other.

It could be argued that the term conflict used to describe what has happened in the Gaza strip advantages Israel's agenda in the region. What is more difficult to parse from this use of terms is whether or not the neutralization of the term can carry racial significance.

I, as many university students here, use the BBC as a source for objective news but is that news really objective if in the attempt to provide neutral coverage it actually advantages one group over another?

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