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Language Matters(Again!)

I am very disappointed in whomever is the social media editor of Human Rights Watch. For those of you who don’t know, Human Rights Watch or HRW is a non-government organization dedicated to the defense of all human rights. They do things like pressure governments to fix issues and make policies which protect the rights of people around the globe.

Recently, I have noticed an increase of information regarding child marriage on the HRW Facebook page. This certainly is an issue and is an important issue to be brought to the attention of people world wide. However, the rhetorical tactics they are using are quite degrading.

“The marriage of a 14 year old child is illegal in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iraq and South Sudan. However, it isn’t in Massachusetts.” 

This could certainly be interpreted, generously, as “Hey, these countries have a poor record for human rights. Yet, they don’t allow for childhood marriage. Why do we have this in the U.S.?” Sure, that is one way to look at it. However, the other way to look at it is, “Hey, look at these shitty, 3rd world countries. They don’t have childhood marriage. Yet our 1st world country does in some states.” See the difference?

At the level of informal logical fallacies, this argument, no matter how it is interpreted, is an ad hominem argument against entire nations. This type of rhetoric does only one thing, perpetuates and reinforces the negative stereotypes of the nations listed. What is more, notice any similarities among the nations listed? They are all majority Islamic nations. Cue the mental images of valorous christian crusaders riding into Jerusalem.

I have said this many times in this blog. The language we use matters. The words of those who are in a position of power have long lasting effects that can never fully be predicted. 

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