This may seem like a small thing, but the language we use matters. The LA Times has a report out about Tucker Carlson’s opinion regarding what should have been done to Michael Vick for killing and torturing his fighting dogs. In describing Carlson’s opinion–which we will get to in a moment–the reporter commits a human exceptionalism faux pas. From the story:
But for the canine homicides, maimings and tortures that Vick sanctioned, promoted and encouraged during his organized dog-fighting activities while playing for the Atlanta Falcons. Vick spent 19 months as a member of a federal penitentiary before being picked up to try to play for the Eagles, where the ex-Virginia Tech player will be a free agent after this season.
Homicide is, by definition, the killing of a human being. Killing a dog doesn’t qualify. Indeed, conflating homicide with what might be called caninicide, subtly elevates the immorality of Vick’s crimes-which were reprehensible–to the level of having done the same thing to human beings. Indeed, had he tortured and murdered humans, he would still be in jail and might have been up for the death penalty.
Speaking of conflating moral worth, here is what Carlson said:
Carlson says Vick should have received the same lethal death sentence the player gave his canine victims. Here’s what Carlson had to say (view video below): “I’m a Christian. I’ve made mistakes myself. I believe fervently in second chances. But Michael Vick killed dogs. And he did so in a heartless and cruel way. And I think, personally, he should’ve been executed for that.”
I don’t want this to become a thread on the death penalty, but surely, if it is to be carried out, the ultimate punishment should be strictly reserved to the worst crimes against people, not animals. Vick deserved prison and popular condemnation. He did not deserve to be killed.
Carlson doubled down on this bad and inaccurate verbiage at his own site, The Daily Caller:
“The idea that the president of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs? Kind of beyond the pale,” Carlson said.
As I said, these matters may seem small. But the language used by the reporter–and the sentiment expressed by Carlson–unintentionally undermined human exceptionalism. In such ways are anti human attitudes quietly and subtly furthered in a society that, I fear, is losing sight of the unique importance of human life.