As Juliet once said: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
How about the titles and descriptions by the media about protesters and activists? Typically, in a newspaper article the person being interviewed or talked about is mentioned by their first and last name, then their title/job description. From then on, in the article, they are referred to by their last name only (though sometimes a title such as Dr. continues to be used). In the last couple of weeks two names have been very prominent in B.C. news reporting and I found it interesting to look at articles and see how the sources that agreed with the point of view of the activist used very specific language when talking about these people.
Suzuki has been a prominent figure in Canada for decades particularly for his work with his foundation and for his popular tv show “The Nature of Things.” It is fair to call him an environmentalist because throughout his career he has looked at many of the problems affecting our environment and has educated many people about them. Some titles such as “Canadian icon” are disputable as is “Canada’s patron saint of the environmental movement.” That is a very lofty title that certainly raises Suzuki above all other environmentalists in Canada.
More often than not the conventional “Suzuki” is used by the media.
In contrast, the media has a much more emotional connection with Alexandra Morton. She graduated with a BSc in the 70’s. She studied whales in the Pacific for many years. One term often used in articles to describe Morton is “biologist” or “marine biologist.” There is some discussion about whether the term biologist is accurate and one article actually calls her “a self-trained biologist”
In 2010 SFU conferred upon Morton the honorary degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa. Because of this honor Morton is sometimes referred to as Dr. Alexandra Morton. This title is questionable though because honorary degrees are only really meant to bestow an honour on someone, not recognize their scientific knowledge and abilities. Putting “Dr.” in front of your name leads people to believe that you have done at least seven years of specialized studies to earn that title.
Honorary doctorates are just that, honors. This year alone, SFU will be handing out nine honorary degrees, and it’s pretty unlikely that any of the people who are to be recognized are going to put “Dr.” on their business cards afterwards.
For example, former B.C. senator Pat Carney received an honourary doctorate on the same day as Ms. Morton. I have never seen Carney call herself “Dr. Carney” anywhere.
Some writers refer to Morton as a wild salmon activist. The term wild salmon advocate has also been used. The problem with these titles is that they imply working for something. The truth is that Morton is against salmon farming. She completely ignores any other possible causes for the problems she has seen in the ocean such as over fishing, climate change or habitat loss. If she were for wild salmon she would be active in fighting every obstacle in their way, not the one pet peeve she has set her sights on.
What has she ever done that was actually “for” wild salmon?
Speaking against something doesn’t count. Words are cheap.
Salmon enhancement projects are not.
I have seen the salmon farming companies year after year support wild salmon enhancement projects with donations of cash, equipment and expertise. But from the lack of attention these donations get, you’d never know it even happens.
Does a rose still smell sweet if we call it by another name? Yes. Do activists become more credible because of fan-boys who hold them on a high pedestal and call them lovely names? No.
Call a spade a spade, a rose a rose and an activist nothing more than an activist.