I know when referring to people charged with criminal activity, the media must be careful not to use terms prejudicial to the assumption of innocence. This is why news reports always refer to them as “suspects” until a court of law determines their guilt or innocence. To do otherwise not only risks pissing off the government, it also risks pissing off the lawyers for the suspect and the suspect’s family.
This is good, by the way. It’s one of the nicer traditions of our society. While I’m not sure it’s better “that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer,” I am sure that I don’t want any innocent people to be stuck with criminal pasts — and being called something you’re not can do that, even if you’re eventually proved innocent.
But — and this is where I think political correctness is running amuck — is it really necessary to extend this same courtesy to tornadoes?
“Suspected tornado rips apart home,” says a recent Global Winnepeg headline, while CTV.ca reports on an “Ontario town cleaning up after suspected tornado.” The London Free Press claims that a “Suspected tornado slams Leamington,” and Firefighting News announces “Suspected tornado shatters Edgerton fire station.”
What I want to know is, at what point can we just drop the “suspected” and call the damned thing a “tornado”? What kind of forensics do we require to prove its guilt? Are police officers canvassing the neighbourhood for statements?
“Did you see what happened, ma’am?”
“I hope to God, I did! This freakin’ big tornado comes by and drops a house on my sister!”
“I’m sorry ma’am.”
“Only thing left of her was her shoes. Then some little bitch stole those too.”
Are they busy rounding up the “usual suspects” for witness lineups?
“I’m not sure, officer. Could you have Tornado #4 step forward, turn to the left, and throw a cow through the air?”
And so what if a big storm rips away the entire downtown core, and a local newspaper mistakenly calls it a “tornado”? It’s not like they’re going to get sued by pissed-off family members.
Woman sues Tribune for
defaming her husband
“They called him a tornado,”
she weeps, “but he weren’t
nothin’ more than a big old fart.”
I think we’re being overly cautious on this one. If it looks like a tornado, sounds like a tornado, and leaves behind a path of destruction like a tornado, then it’s a freakin’ tornado!
Or Amy Winehouse.
That should always be checked into first.