Polluting Language

June 18, 2010

The BP oil disaster--words like "spill" and "leak" seem to minor to truly capture it--has sparked a lot of interesting controversies over statements, like "small people" and "shakedown." Some people have used words that downplay BP's culpability for the disaster. For instance, a statement by House Republican leaders referred to it as a " natural disaster." Although it is destroying nature, it is hardly a natural disaster. To call it such seems to represent a complete lack of understanding about what that term means. Similarly, Robert Parham had a good Ethics Daily column earlier this week criticizing religious and political leaders who have supported BP. Part of his criticism was of those who have called it an "act of God." Such language mischaracterizes what happened and could work to impact how people view the disaster. We must not pollute the language but clearly describe the disaster for what it is.

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