Thursday, September 01, 2005

Looting and finding

Several people have noted the racism underlying the Yahoo news captions that describe black looters as "looting" goods but white looters as "finding" goods.

Here's a handy reference in case anyone's confused.

Yahoo's apology: "Yahoo! News regrets that these photos and captions, viewed together, may suggest a racial bias on our part. We remain committed to bringing our readers the full collection of photos as transmitted by our wire service partners." (Apparently the "looting" captions were from AP and "finding" captions from Getty and Yahoo doesn't edit photo captions.)

So maybe it's not a racial bias on Yahoo's part - it's a racial bias that permeates all of society and subtly influences journalists who send wire reports.

I feel much better now.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The difference betwen the two captions has nothing to do with race.

The photographer who took the “looting” picture saw the subject enter a store and loot it.

The photographer who took the “finding” picture saw loaves of bread literally floating out of a store to where the finders found them.

In any event, the stories were written -- and the language chosen -- by two entirely different news agencies.

9/02/2005 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Yes, I've heard these explanations too. In fact, if you actually bothered to read my post, you would see that I explicitly acknowledged that the two photos were from two different news agencies, and described the racial bias here not as explicitly operating within a single person or Yahoo itself, but as a much more subtle and insidious bias that permeates the whole culture.

Given how much controversy these captions have stirred up, there's a very good chance that the photographer who wrote "finding" made up the story to protect himself. It may not even have been conscious: cognitive dissonance is a very powerful thing - if you're under a great deal of emotional stress, it's hard to remember clearly, and if you add on top of that very strong social and psychological pressure to justify your word choice, it's very easy to see how you would actually convince yourself (and, indeed, genuinely believe) that the two white people really "found" the bread.

Anyway, at this point it's not really possible to know either way, though it's true that we may as well give the photographers the benefit of the doubt. Just don't be so confident in saying this "has nothing to do with race."

9/02/2005 11:17:00 PM  
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