Saturday, May 22, 2010

What's a monster?

Yesterday's Daily Mail (the fountain of al knowledge, obviously) had a headline 'Artificial Life Created In Lab'. The story is that a team led by billionaire Craig Venter has created a synthetic cell 'from scratch' (well, he copied the DNA from a bug). The commentary on page 4 was entitled 'Has he created a monster?'

What does 'monster' mean? It's often used nowadays, especially in the press, to indicate one or more of the following:

1. I don't understand it
2. It's nothing to do with me
3. It's out of my control
4. It threatens me

When the press describe a person as a monster, they are suggesting that they are not quite human, not as we know it. The result, if we call a person a monster, is:

1. We don't have to understand the person fully
2. We don't have to take responsibility for the person or their condition
3. We don't have to try to influence the person's actions for the better
4. We have the right to hurt or diminish this person to defend ourselves

Those last four points describe the attitude of Daily Mail journalism quite well, don't you think?

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