Sunday, December 21, 2008

NY Times Letter: When Labels Carry Moral Weight

Letters to the Public Editor
Other Voices: When Labels Carry Moral Weight
Published: December 20, 2008

Re “Separating the Terror and the Terrorists” (Dec. 14):

Dear Editor,

Choice of terminology is a moral statement. If morally neutral terminology is used for morally repugnant acts, it reduces the sense of repugnance. And when the same terminology is used for a moral and immoral act, a moral equivalence is created.

The Times and other news media influence the morals of our society. Do you want readers to believe that a terrorist deliberately killing civilians in a coffee shop is morally equivalent to, for example, American soldiers attacking the Nazis to end a world war, who certainly killed some civilians accidentally?

If society is conditioned by the media to treat moral and immoral actions as equivalent regardless of intent, context and goal, the media will have failed, and society will pay the price.

Beit Shemesh, Israel, Dec. 15, 2008

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