[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

29686: Leiderman: comment re: 29683: knee-jerk Haitianism (fwd)

17 December 2006

dear Readers:

to me, Associated Press has poorly spun another story of danger in Haiti.  this time, it's Stevenson Jacobs' about Senator Andris Riche (posted today as 29683, with headline and weblink missing).  a few comments:

1.  PASSIVE VS. ACTIVE VOICE --  the story's first two sentences are in the in passive voice..."[a] Haitian senator was kidnapped..." and "Sen. Andris Riche was seized..."  this is the kind of writing that stops the brain; it leaves you with nothing but the victim in mind, although there are others in the important cast of characters, namely the gunmen and the United Nations.

imagine an alternative opening sentence, "A United Nations official said that gunmen kidnapped a Haitian senator Friday night while driving near a dangerous slum..." and an alternative second sentence, "According to U.N. spokesman Fred Blaise, the gunment seized Sen. Andris Riche along a highway..."  [note also the sloppiness of the phrase "through the capital of Port-au-Prince..." that more accurately should be "Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti."]

2.  "SPRAWLING SEASIDE..." -- I think the writers choice of "...the sprawling seaside slum of Cite Soleil..." segregates that part of the capital city when, in fact, relative to the conditions of other coastal capitals of the world, the writer could characterize Port-au-Prince itself as "a sprawling seaside slum."  thus, especially because the attack happened outside Cite Soleil, an alternative fourth sentence could have been, "The assault happened on the highway near Cite Soleil in Haiti's poor sprawling seaside capital, Port-au-Prince."  the story imputes guilt-by-association but offers no connecting facts, only proximity.  it could be true, but we know that people often select locations and other trappings to cover their actions.  Boston Tea Party, anyone?

3.  VANISHING PASSENGERS -- what happened to the senator's three companions?  did the U.N.'s Fred Blaise never volunteer the information?  did the writer never ask?  or both?  if so, these people aren't earning their keep.  it seems like "need-to-know" news coverage for the purpose of blackwashing Haiti.

so, did the kidnapping toll for December rise by one or by four?  further, was the demanded ransom only for Sen. Riche or a package deal for all four?  darkly, could one or more of the passengers be accomplices?

4.  VANISHING MOTIVES -- crime-fighters know that the bottom line is never just kidnapping, per se; kidnapping is a vehicle whose drivers are "motives" and "beneficiaries."  we also know that crimefighters need to mobilize the people...that means rationale, willingness, resources and direction.  I think this story mobilizes fear and apathy, but not crimefighting.

5.  TROUBLE IN COLONY-LAND -- I almost could not believe my eyes at the writer's final sentence, "...prompting criticism that Preval's government and an 8,800-strong U.N. peacekeeping force cannot secure the former French colony of 8 million."  at best, it is misleading; at worst, it is insulting.  first, of course, there may be 8 million in Haiti now, but there were many fewer at the time of Independence.  thus, second, the sentence imputes that Haiti is recently-colonial and just going through the expected throes of crime and social realignment that come with the first years of freedom.  in other words, "Sad story, but Haiti will eventually burn itself out and we can go back to playing on the beaches."  argh!  that's like saying, "...prompting criticism that the United States, a former British colony, could not stem the rise of insurgency in Iraq, also a former British colony...." and so on.

why does Associated Press file stories about Haiti and Haitians, and why do readers post troubling and provocative veiled stories like these without any personal comment and analysis?  I think this is knee-jerk Haitianism.  it is empty participation.

thank you,

Stuart Leiderman