The Horror

I’m catching up with two months of magazines that didn’t get forward to Vermont like I nicely asked the post office to do (damn you, US Postal Service!). In Harper’s I came across an article called The Poison Stream: Sacrificing India’s poor on the altar of modernity. It focuses on the poisoning via pesticides of villagers near cashew plantations in Kerala, in the context of the modernization of India. The most horrifying fact was relayed in a footnote to the article:

It was just after midnight, December 13, 1984, when an explostion at a Union Carbide pesticide plant adjacent to the station sent a cloud of vaporized methyl isocynate, heavier than air, billowing across this very platform. Hundreds died within the station, hundreds more on an express that had pulled in to meet the cloud. Rescuers found them piled like trees felled by a hurricane…Fifteen thousand were left dead, half a million blind, mad, crippled.”

I did a Google search on bhopal union carbide, and the first result, http://www.bhopal.com, takes you to a site owned and maintained by Dow Chemicals, who now own Union Carbide. Unless you’re looking for the copyright info at the bottom of the page, it very much looks like a Bhopal info site. According to an informational page on the History Channel website,

The Indian government, famous for its corruption, has yet to distribute roughly half of Union Carbide’s original settlement. Union Carbide, which shut down its Bhopal plant after the disaster, has failed to clean up the site completely, and the rusty, deserted complex continues to leak various poisonous substances into the water and soil of Bhopal.

This sort of thing makes me mad. The web is a powerful medium for communication and, lest we forget, misinformation, and it can be manipulated just like anything else. For me, this sort of thing screams out the need for some sort of critical approach to web surfing and living on the web.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Horror

  1. gus

    Yes. I absolutely agree. Can we work on something about this, you and me? Some sort of curriculum for critical information intake? I’ve really wanted to do this for a while now. I feel like a set of broad guidelines should be developed for every medium. Like, know how to identify who is presenting the information and what their angle might be; know how the information presenter’s relationship to the media provider (cable channel, web portal, newswire) in question may color the message; know how to identify elisions in the information; etc. Coming into TC I think I was setting out to present this kind of curriculum through non-traditional teaching means (tv? video games?) and somehow I feel like the current is dragging me away from this goal… frustrating. People absolutely need these skills these days.

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