The Barbershop has re-located

The proprietor has moved the shop to ChicagoNow, a Chicago Tribune site that showcases some of the best bloggers in the Chicago area. You can logo on to the Barbershop home page here. The ChicagoNow home page is here.

You'll still be able to post comments with the same ease as in this location. The proprietor also will keep this web site alive if you wish to review old posts.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Domestic Stem Cells

No such thing, right? Language ought to be exact, right?

Then, why can’t professional communicators, once called journalists, continue to shortchange the language, and the public, in their “reporting” of two major issues: “domestic spying” and “opposition” to stem cell research?

Take “domestic spying,” which has become a standard media shortcut for describing the Bush administration’s program to gather intelligence about terrorists by listening to their conversations with folks in America, without a warrant. The repetitive use of “domestic spying” has successfully implanted in many minds the idea that the government is engaged in willy-nilly wiretapping of Americans talking with each other. Which it is not.

When you telephone someone in Paris, do you call that a “domestic” call, because you are calling from New York? Do you call the international operator and say, “I’d like to place a domestic call?” No, you call it an international call. Only a moron would call it an international call. By the same token, if reporters want to brand the program “spying,” then shouldn’t they more properly call it international spying?

Some reporters are guilty of the same mindless misuse of the language when they talk about the Bush administration’s (or conservatives’ or Republicans’) opposition to “stem cell research.” In fact, reporters would be hard pressed to find anyone, including the aforementioned troglodytes, who actually opposes all stem cell research. Their opposition is to one form of stem cell research, involving the use of embryonic cells. Their opposition is based on ethical, moral or religious principles, and the recognition that stem cells from other sources—such as “adult” stem cells harvested from bone marrow or umbilical cords—show greater promise.

Everyone should be capable of understanding the difference between “stem cell research” and “embryonic stem cell research.” So, you can only conclude that reporters who continue to misapply the terms “domestic spying” and “stem cell research” are either incredibly ignorant or biased. Or more terrifying, both.

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