Just Trying to Relate This Message

By My blog. Originally published at My blog.

The Scourge of “Relatability”

Rebecca Mead establishes many different opinions on how we use “relatability” to judge literature and works of art. Mead uses her article “The Scourge of ‘Relatability’” to articulate the history of the word, the different meanings behind ‘relatability,’ the surge in the use of this word, the qualities that constitute ‘relatability,’ the difference between ‘identifying’ and ‘relating’ to a work of art, and the consequences of demanding “relatability.” I agree with Mead, when she states that the value of literature or a work of art should not be judged solely on how easily the audience can relate to the story or character, but I do not agree with how Mead places all the responsibility on the reader or audience to find ways to establish connections with the artist.

While relatability is a tool that can be used to measure the effectiveness of communication in artwork, it should not be the only means used to determine something’s value. In contrast to Mead’s belief that it is the responsibility of the audience to interpret artwork, I believe the responsibility should be evenly split between the author and audience when making connections and establishing understandings through works of art. Although I saw how important the use of tools other than “relatability” actually were in measuring the value of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I also believe that the way Charlotte Perkins Gilman reflected on the experiences of women in the 1800s to help women relate to the narrator was crucial in getting her message across.

Although there are many points in “The Scourge of ‘Relatability’” that I can agree with, the major point that can be supported by “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the idea that the value of literature and films should be based on more than just “relatability.” When Mead talks about how relatability is wrongfully being used as the main tool to assess value, I can’t help but agree that art can still be very valuable without being relatable. “Relatability—a logism so neo that it’s not even recognized by the 2008 iteration of Microsoft Word with which these words are being written—has become widely and unthinkingly accepted as a criterion of value, even by people who might be expected to have more sophisticated critical tools at their disposal.” When reading “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I found that I could relate to the narrator due to the fact that we are both female, but could not really relate to this narrator on any other basis because of our different historical context and ethnic identities. Although I could not relate to the narrator on a cultural and historical front, I was able to use other tools like clarity and creativity to assess the overall value of “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

While I understand why Mead believes “relatability” should not be our only criterion for judging whether or not a film or piece of literature is any good, I don’t agree with the emphasis that Mead places on leaving “relatability” completely up to the audience as opposed to both the audience and the artist. According to Mead, “To reject any work because we feel that it does not reflect us in a shape that we can easily recognize—because it does not exempt us from the active exercise of imagination or the effortful summoning of empathy—is our own failure.” In order for a film or work of literature to successfully reach the reader or viewer, I think that the author must provide some sort of framework that a good majority of people can relate with through direct or indirect experiences. As the author provides the opportunity for the majority to relate to the piece, the audience must use this opportunity to dig into their life experiences to solidify this potential connection. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Gilman establishes a plot in which an individual is oppressed. Although men may not be able to identify with the gendered oppression faced by the narrator and women across the globe, it is their responsibility to look into their life experiences for a time when they were oppressed for perhaps another reason.

Although Mead makes a lot of claims in “The Scourge of ‘Relatability’” that I don’t particularly agree with based on my reading of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I think she also makes many claims that effectively capture the importance of reflecting on the way we “identify” and “relate” with different texts. In many ways, artwork can be used as a mode of communication. While it is incredibly important for artists to relay their messages in ways that the audience can try to understand, the ability of the audience to make their own personal connections to a piece of art is what ultimately leads to a sense of value and appreciation.

Should We Relish Relatability?

By Hannah. Originally published at Wonders of the World of Writing.

I challenge you to think about your favorite book or movie. What are some characteristics that make it your favorite? How would you describe it to your friends? Is it funny, intense, intriguing? What would you say about the character development? Are the characters easy to connect with? Relatable?

In reading “The Scourge of ‘Relatability’” by Rebecca Mead, many interesting points are brought up about reliability in films and novels. According to the article, many would agree that one defining characteristic of a “good” verses a “bad” movie or book is how relatable it is. For example, critics will rave about movies that are easy to connect with, that tug on our heartstrings, such as those with romance. The article uses the example of movies based off of John Green books. Which the overall theme of young love is always present. An example from class is the movie, The Breakfast Club. Many of us have been through high school, and have seen the different groups with their specific interests. Maybe we haven’t met people from other groups while sitting in detention, but we can relate to the students and their personal stories. Many of the themes within the movie we can connect with, such as the pressure of social acceptance, the high expectations of authority figures, or the task of trying to define yourself. This movie has stood the test of time, and personally I think it is due to the relatability of the characters and their situations. Personally, I agree that many of the books and movies I enjoy are those that are in someway relatable to my life. In being able to, not only be sympathetic with the characters, but also empathetic you as the reader or viewer are able to establish a deep relationship with the characters.

This being said, Mead does present an interesting point. The characteristic of “relatability” is relatively new. The word “relate” has changed meanings over the years. Specifically, Mead brings up how during “Shakespearean time” relate meant “something that could be told” or “connected to another thing”. Recently, the meaning has been transformed into more of a personal definition. We say things are relatable when the reader or viewer can see themselves and empathize with the character or situation.

As much as we enjoy the feeling of connectedness through movies and books, aren’t there some times when we enjoy ones we don’t connect with, just as much? Mead argues that fabricating “relatability” as a criteria for some work to be “good” is very limiting. To an extent I disagree, however I do also agree with this. As an audience, we can’t always connect to the situation, but rather the circumstances may provoke us to see something in a different light, or to learn about a new experience. An illustration of this is Incidence in the Life of a Slave Girl. Jacobs writes this book with the correct notion that her audience would not be able to directly connect with her experiences. Sure, to an extent we can sympathize with her, but we will never truly know the horrendous predicaments she describes. We cannot say we have been treated maliciously as a slave, whipped, beaten, sexually abused. Despite not being able to directly relate with Jacobs, many (including myself) found this book to be “good”. Although it wasn’t “relatable” it was very thought provoking and eye opening.

Mead’s article looks at “relatability” in a completely negative way. I agree with her point, that sometimes relatability isn’t everything and that we cannot always judge the quality of a work by how much we connect with it. However, relatability is not a negative thing either. In saying this, we should be wary of how quick we are to judge a work and shouldn’t base our opinions on merely the “relatability” of it.

Time: An Implication

By Knowledge is Power. Originally published at Knowledge is Power.

During my senior year of high school I took a course called “World Religions”. Over the four months in which the course ran, we studied five religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Out of all the things that I learned during the semester, the thing that resonated with me the most was the Hindu concept of time. In Hinduism, with each cycle of life we move closer to enlightenment. The number of cycles that you must pass through is dependent on karma. Once you have overcome karma, your body doesn’t need to pass onto another form and you are free to reach the kingdom of God. In this kingdom, time doesn’t exist. Time is a cyclical function of life and death; without the life and death cycle; there is no need for time.

In his book Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut establishes the possibility of being “unstuck in time”. His protagonist, Billy Pilgrim is known for becoming “unstuck” and time traveling at random to different points in his life. Billy has no control over this and seems to accept his fate. The concept of time falls under a theme that is applied to many aspects of life in the novel: letting things be. Vonnegut shows us that death is inevitable, being abducted by aliens certainly is inevitable, and time is not something that can be controlled. Billy understands that the events of his life are unchangeable and decides to buckle up and enjoy the ride.

This concept of time relates to the Hindu conception in that they both are cyclical to some extent. In Vonnegut’s book, there is no linear pattern to Billy’s life, just events that he visits like places on a map. In Hinduism, the events of one life are insignificant; it’s about the cycle. You could move forward or backward on the cycle of time depending on karma. The key difference between these two ideas is that for Vonnegut, although time changes, the facts will always remain the same. You will always die in the same way, you’ll always marry the same person, and there’s no reason to waste energy trying to change things that are set in stone. In Hinduism, you can manipulate aspects of your cycle depending on behavior. With good behavior, you can make your journey to enlightenment shorter or you may be reborn into a better life. With bad behavior, you can move backwards in the cycle.

In both of these understandings, time is fluid. It does not follow the linear model that we are so accustomed to. Vonnegut and Hindu scholars aren’t the only ones who reject this strict idea of time. It’s very much a Western idea that each day will pass by with 24 hours, each week with 7 days, and nothing in the universe will change it. The truth of the matter is, time is imaginary. Someone had to sit down and make up how long a second was or how many hours to put in a day. The restrictions that we feel based on time are all societal constructions. “There’s just not enough time in the day” is a common saying in Western culture, but in reality there’s as much time as you want. In Hinduism, God is the only one that is truly timeless. Once you’ve come to understand the nature of the universe, you will also be freed from the restrictions of time. In Slaughterhouse Five, the Talmadorians, the aliens that abduct Billy, are also free from the barriers of time. They experience everything simultaneously and in many dimensions. What both of these concepts seem to be telling us is that time is merely a human fantasy. Once we see past ourselves and are aware of the bigger picture, time will cease to exist.

 

 

Beauty in the Real World

By My Corner of the Internet. Originally published at My Corner of the Internet.

 

In school we are taught that those who work the hardest will become the most successful, yet some sociologists suggest that a person’s physical beauty can influence how far they get in life. Over the years, many researchers have studied the correlation between beauty and evolution, and how populations perpetuate the most beautiful and desirable genes that increase reproductive success. However, I want to take this a step further by investigating how genetics can effect economics and predetermine certain outcomes. I want to study what sociologists consider “beautiful” and to define what we categorize as “successful.” I will then analyze how people determine which candidates to elect into leadership positions and how certain media stars in Hollywood have achieved worldwide fame.

To accomplish the first part of this study, I will analyze the book “Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful” by Daniel S. Hamermesh. Hamermesh is a well-respected economics professor at the University of Texas-Austin, and has spent twenty years studying how physical appearances affect economic standing. I will determine if there is enough solid evidence to support the idea that those who are more attractive earn more.

Then, I will tie this into how people vote for our politicians and organization leaders. With the presidential elections looming around the corner, we would like to think that we will elect the person who is most qualified to lead our country. However, I will do a critical reading of the literary article, “The Looks of a Winner: Beauty and Electoral Success” to see if that is truly the case. I am curious to know if I can determine the winner based on how humans tend to vote in the polls.

Finally, I will look into the Hollywood industry, which famously shuns the perfectly normal woman and praises unattainable beauty. I will draw from Mindy Kailing’s memoir, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and Other Concerns,” which details the impossibly funny life of a not-so-typical actress who makes it big in the TV industry. From humble beginnings, to international fame, I will see if looks are the main quality that makes humans attractive

 

 

Bibliography

 

Hamermesh, Daniel S. Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2011. Web.

 

Berggren, Niclas, Henrik Jordahl, and Panu Poutvaara. “The Looks of a Winner: Beauty and Electoral Success.” Journal of Public Economics 94.1-2 (2010): 8-15. Web.

 

Kaling, Mindy. Is Everyone Hanging out without Me?: (and Other Concerns). N.p.: Ebury, 2013. Print.

But does Juno even help?

By My blog. Originally published at My blog.

Conference paper proposal

How accurately is abortion really portrayed in Juno? I saw this film as one that articulated the unequal reproductive options available to different women from a pro-choice perspective.

Through my analysis of this film I am investigating whether or not the pros outweigh the cons in terms of shedding light on abortion and fertility options available to privileged women through this pro-choice perspective. Although this film advocates for women having autonomy over their own bodies, perhaps Juno’s failure to acknowledge the effect that socioeconomic class and race have on accessibility has weakened the pro-choice argument they are trying to convey..

Unlike the pro-choice movement, the pro-life movement does very little to help minorities escape cycles of perpetuated poverty. How much can minority women benefit take away from this movie on the choices of privileged women?

 

 

 

Although abortion and the use of contraceptives are legal in the United States that does not mean that they are accessible or even considered options for everyone. Scarcity of abortion clinics in low income areas, the prices of different contraceptives, policies like the Hyde amendment, and the overall racism and classism that surround reproductive politics contribute to the different priorities of pregnant women. Minorities are not given access to the same resources that white women have and are therefore more limited in the control they have over their bodies and futures. While it is one thing for the government to provide reproductive rights through legislation, this legislation cannot be justified if it doesn’t ensure accessibility as well. By not providing the same accessibility to white and nonwhite pregnant women, the government is not only supporting divisions based on race and class differences, it is also perpetuating a cycle of poverty in low- income communities. In order to break this continuous cycle of poverty in low income communities, minorities need to be given reproductive rights as well as reproductive justice so that they too can take advantage of the opportunities that will further them in this society. While the government has passed laws to protect reproductive rights, they have not done nearly enough to make sure U.S citizens have access to the resources that allow them to exercise these rights.

 

An Alien In The American Life: Revised

By Urmi Chatterjee. Originally published at Insights and Musings.

Today I had a chance to listen to the life of an American through an episode of The American Life, and I’m so fascinated! I come from a background seethed in a multitude of differing cultures, traditions, and customs that very on a spectrum of restriction and celebration. There are so many vast, yet subtle, differences between the lives f these Americans and mine. Some are quite frightening, some interestingly relatable to me, and others just so incredibly endearing.

What first caught me eye was the concept behind “Swap and Shop” in the act narrated by Susan Dury. Though I was already exposed to this concept, the saying “the attitude is your business is your business” was relatively new to hear. Where I live, most people are unable to grasp this, which can honestly be both good and bad. You see, my society is extremely tight knit. We absolutely love knowing about what goes on in the lives of others, whether it’s to help in a time of need or for the occasional gossip during our evening tea sessions. In many ways I wish this attitude existed in my culture, just to avoid all the irrelevant judgments passed on other people’s lives, making them feel so embarrassed in return. I would love to feel no shame in tough times, just like Dury said. Although, at the same time, I was trying to wrap my head around this in utter confusion. In spite of being judged from time to time, I still have so many people around me for support in times of need. But in America, if everyone follows this “your business is your business” attitude, whom do they go to for comfort? To get things off their chest? For just a little help? If I had to constantly keep my business to myself, I’d be so lonely! And I know that no one can possibly enjoy being lonely. Patty Martin’s story, frightened me a little too. From a very young age there were certain values, like helping those in need and respecting the elders, my parents and my society instilled in me. If two middle aged women were waving frantically in the middle of the ocean, my first instinct would be to fetch help. The fact that no one really noticed them in that crisis was quite terrifying to hear. But what was worse was probably listening to their friend being ignorant about the fact that they were in danger and assuming that they were waving to show her that they were surfing with a nineteen year old man. The story of the babysitters in Act thirteen got me disappointed too, mostly because just like these other values, I was taught to be extremely hospitable if there were guests in my home by providing snacks and drinks. I was quite surprised that the couple didn’t offer any food while they babysat for them, especially since the babysitters were kids too!

Some of the other stories were so pleasing to hear, though! One of them was the story of Valion and Paris Loetz as I could relate to it so well. It was quite exciting to know that some values, especially when it comes to parenting, are the same in differing societies. Their mother stepping in and finally naming the dog ‘Pasta Batman’ reminded me of that value my parents taught me as a child about compromise. I have been through times where my sibling and I had disagreements over several tiny things, but our parents stepped in to make sure we compromised. From their story, I assumed that parents in America work just as hard as parents in my society to teach their children these basic life norms about compromise, sharing, caring, and respecting other’s opinions. But, while I happily related to some of these stories, I infuriatingly related to others. The story of Joey in Act seven, for example. The vicious cycle of blaming one another and not being able to accept a mistake is something I’m definitely not oblivious to in my culture. And I can see this is existent in the American culture as well. Perhaps, this exists everywhere?

Honestly, what I was most amazed with was Act 10, when Elaine said her husband’s neck was the same size as her dogs, and actually put a collar around him. I had to listen to it twice! You see, when it comes to women in certain sects of my society, they’ve always been restricted in certain ways. A woman being that dominating over a man is almost unthinkable. It was just so refreshing to hear that in America, a woman had a collar around a man for a change!

I love my society for what it is, but America certainly seems like a versatile place. Just from this episode, I inferred that it has its ups and downs. Yes, the “business being their business” is frightening and perhaps they are a bit too caught up with their own lives. But we have our downs just as much as they do. I mean we’re not as fast paced as they are or even that professional. Moreover, they’re empowering to women! And that is something I’d really love to see in my own culture.

Yellow Rain Revision

By My blog. Originally published at My blog.

3/18 Blog Post Revision

 

Getting to the bottom of a situation and relying on facts to support ideas is crucial in any given situation. Without concrete facts, not only will we fail to learn from our past, but we will also fail to educate those who will determine our future. When listening to a Radiolab podcast where the hosts discussed the controversial chemical warfare that allegedly took place in Southeast Asia with educated Hmong individuals, I found myself very unsure of which side’s perception I found more legitimate.

When I heard the podcast the first time, I was not sure what to think and what exactly had unfolded in front of me. However, once I took a few notes and really let the material sink in, I realized that we were dealing with a case of two Hmong individuals who were very sensitive about their history and a very insensitive radio show host who went a bit too far in his questioning of an innocent elderly man and his niece. I did not take the side of one party over the other because I originally thought the radio show was a mess on both the sides of the hosts and the guests.

Once I looked further into the issue and read Kao Yang’s response to the Radiolab segment, my eyes were opened to the biases that were present before the segment even began. In Yang’s response she pointed out the use of titles for everyone except her and her uncle, whom were instead portrayed as uneducated foreigners. According to Yang, Radiolab omitted a crucial portion of the segment where Yang and her uncle talked about the Hmong’s knowledge of bees and Laos. Yang also explained how she was lead to believe the interview would be centered on her uncle’s experience rather than the controversy surrounding chemical weapons. In Yang’s response to this podcast, she used emails to support the idea that she was mislead by Radiolab, “Pat wrote, ‘I’d love to speak with your uncle. And no, I don’t have a single specific question; I’d be delighted to hear him speak at length.’ There were two New Yorker stories on Yellow Rain, and neither of them contained a Hmong voice, so Radiolab wanted to do better, to include Hmong experience . . .Before the date of the interview with Pat and Robert Krulwich, one of the show’s main hosts, I wrote Pat to ensure that the Radiolab team would respect my uncle’s story, his perspective, and the Hmong experience. I asked for questions. Pat submitted questions about Yellow Rain.” After I read Kao Yang’s response, I sided with Yang and her uncle against the inaccurate depiction the radio show managed to pin to the Hmong people. Through Yang’s reflection on Radiolab’s segment, I saw that the radio show was racist and only edited segments of their show to unprofessionally alter the ideas of their guests.

Just when I thought I had established a position against Radiolab, I decided to read Krulwich’s apology to Yang and her Uncle and had my opinion changed once again. After reading Krulwich’s apology, I found that it was much harder to be against the radio show and their strong desire for the truth. Krulwich’s account of the conversations leading up to the interview happened to be very different from Yang’s account. While Yang claimed that Krulwich never gave any indication that they were interested in discussing the controversy surrounding chemical warfare, Krulwich claimed that he was actually very clear in their intentions to explore the validity of Eng Yang’s personal accounts with “Yellow Rain.” In Krulwich’s response to the Radiolab segment, he included the list of questions that he sent to Yang, which were clear precursors to the line of questioning that followed on the radio show. According to Krulwich, “Many commenters have suggested that we ‘ambushed’ Mr. Yang and Ms. Yang, but I feel that it’s important for you to know that was not the case. Mr. Yang and Ms. Yang were informed about what we were looking for: our goal was to find out if President Reagan’s statement was true or false.” Krulwich also used his apology to explain that his persistent questioning of Yang’s experience was solely to get to the facts, and nothing more personal. “I forcefully questioned Mr. Yang to find out if he had actually seen the source of the ‘Yellow Rain’ because I was trying to understand if the scientists had considered all the evidence. I care deeply about getting the facts right.” After looking at Krulwich apology, I noticed that he used this platform to justify the position he took during the interview rather than genuinely apologize to the guests of his show. Although Krulwich’s apology may have helped the viewers see the “method to the madness” that may have unfolded on Radiolab, the apology did very little for Yang and her uncle. If I were to take a stance on this podcast based on Krulwich’s apology, I would in no way see Krulwich as a genuine and respectful host, but I would feel inclined to take him seriously as a reporter searching for the truth.

After I finished analyzing this confusing interaction from the different perspectives of Yang, Krulwich, Abumrad, the situation’s cultural context, and the podcast itself, I arrived at the conclusion that there really is no reliable evidence that I can base my opinions on. All of the statements managed to counter one another and the podcast was clearly manipulated on more than one occasion. The only sources that I found I can somewhat rely on to take a stance in this situation were the parts of the podcast that I actually heard, and even these segments had to be taken with a grain of salt. From what I did hear in the podcast, Krulwich and Abumrad should have been more considerate to Yang and her uncle based on the sole fact that Yang and her uncle volunteered to share their story as guests on this Radiolab segment. Once the hosts of this Radiolab saw that their guests were uncomfortable with their line of questioning, they should have changed the tone of the discussion.

 

American Life-Traditions – Revised

By Ruth. Originally published at Expressions » English 181.

In 2003, the radio show, This American Life, hosted a segment called “20 Acts in 60 Minutes,” in which twenty stories from people across the country are told in just sixty minutes. In the span of sixty minutes, this segment succeeds in revealing the essence of American life, and anyone who is completely unfamiliar with American life can form a solid depiction of it.

In Act Three of the segment, Susan Drury recounts a time in 1997 after she and her husband relocated to rural Tennessee, during which they grew attached to the local radio station. Each night they tuned in to hear obituaries, weather updates, and their favorite show – a show where people call in to advertise and sell the things that they wished to get rid of. The host never commented on the callers and the things they sold – he understood that everyone goes through tough times and that “your business is your business.” This reveals that everyone has his or her own life with his or her own story and background. However, despite this, everyone is connected as well, whether it’s through work or school or the neighborhood grocery store. In this act, everyone is connected through the local radio show and through this system of commerce. Through this system, the people of this town are forming a community in which they are united by selling and buying their belongings to each other. They are connected in the fact that everyone through tough times – we all have that in common. These people are also united in this simple tradition of sitting around the radio every night with their families. Thus from this act, anyone who is unfamiliar with American life can conclude that Americans each lead their own lives but are united in certain aspects of their lives. They also place value in simple traditions like listening to the radio every night with their family.

In Act Fifteen of the segment, David Rakoff recounts the time he moved to Japan for a job at an advertising agency. At this job, his colleagues were using a “network” on computers to which someone could post a newsletter and others could log on and comment or talk to each other, as well as do research. David never believed this “network” would take off or become anything in the future. In fact, he never believed that Madonna would make it in the music business or that the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus would become a best-seller. Contrary to David’s beliefs, the “network” soon became the Internet, and Madonna and the novel both became chart-toppers. This shows the fast pace, progressive nature of American life, and progression was always something that Americans strived for. American life is always changing, and people are always looking for new and better ways of doing things and of thinking.

However, Act Fourteen of this segment reveals one contradiction to this. This act is about a Chicago based sausage company that built a new factory in 1970 that was meant to replace an older facility. However, the sausages that were produced at the new factory lacked a certain quality that the old sausages at the previous facility had. After trying and trying to find the source of that quality, the owner concluded that it came from a single man named Irving at the old factory who had this elaborate pre-cooking preparation process for the sausages. Irving never transferred to the new facility, and the quality that gave the sausages their “snap” and color was lost. Thus, in a way, old was better. This story demonstrates that although American life is fast moving and progressive, Americans still have value in the old and outdated way of doing things – in traditions. Americans move forward at a fast pace, but everyone once in a while we pause to appreciate the classic, the traditions, the way things were.

 

Yellow Rain, Yellow Journalism (Revision)

By Jose Medina. Originally published at Word Generator.

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered. The point is to discover them.” Galileo Galilei

Galilei’s words embody one of the greatest predicaments of human nature. That same predicament can be expressed with the following example:  Pretend that you are watching television one morning. The local news comes on and states that last night a local man you knew, John Doe, unfortunately passed away after suffering a heart attack. You turn off the television and leave for work without looking at the news again. However, later that day your local news station airs a segment saying they received some incorrect information that morning causing them to mislead the public to believe John Doe had died that night when he was simply admitted to the hospital. Because of this situation, you think you “know” that Mr. Doe died that morning, however, the truth remains that you simply don’t have the facts to determine what is true. How could you possibly be aware that your “truth” is incorrect?

The problem with truth is the premise of knowledge. In this case the lack thereof is what causes major issues. We can neither be sure we have all the facts, nor can we be sure that all the information presented are indeed facts. Because of situations such as this one, many debates simply cannot be solved. Such is the case of Eng Yang and his niece Kao Kalia Yang.

Kao Kalia Yang was contacted in the spring of 2012 by Radiolab for an interview involving her Uncle Yang and her on the subject of yellow rain that occurred in Laos in the 1980’s. To their disappointment, Radiolab did not attempt to obtain what both Mr. and Ms. Yang believed to be the truth. The interview ended on harsh terms after the interviewers, Pat Walters and Robert Krulwich, seemingly used the interview as a medium to inform the public of a political scandal. At the time, the public was not informed that the controversial yellow rain the Hmong people believed to be the cause of illness turned out to be nothing more than bee droppings and that this situation was simply a way for President Raegan to justify the development of chemical weapons. The Yang family, warranted by the fact that Radiolab left out crucial information, was displeased with the segment. Due to her issues with the lack of truth-seeking done by those at Radiolab and Mr. Krulwich, Mrs. Yang wrote a response published in Hyphen Magazine enlightening the public on the deplorable acts of unprofessionalism that only make it clear that the story published by Radiolab can hardly be called a truth-seeking segment.

While it is clear that the segment released by Radiolab was missing several pieces of key information and it is also evident that the Yang’s sentiment may have gotten in the way of objective science, it is much easier to realize that both sides may be to blame. Radiolab claims that it wanted to give “The Fact(s) of the Matter” and the Yang family claims they want to offer a story as first-hand experience in order that the truth might be discovered. Nevertheless, the fact still remains that Radiolab did ignore pertinent information which Mrs. Yang offered while the Yang’s refused to acknowledge that several scientific groups did refute the data originally stating that the yellow rain was a biological weapon. Mrs. Yang, also argues in the letter published by Hyphen that the act of offering everyone else’s affiliation and accomplishments except for her’s is an act of racism which ultimately leads to a lack of credibility towards her from the audience of Radiolab when compared to the credibility of the “privileged”  Mr. Krulwich. However, I fail to see how the fact that she is an award winning writer is relevant. The only reason affiliations should be presented is when they are relevant to the matter at hand, but that does not necessarily leave Radiolab without fault. According to ABC News, Robert Krulwich has degrees in economics and law, but not science, which happens to be the subject causing disagreement . While Radiolab claims that Robert Krulwich is its science correspondent, it is difficult to believe he is more qualified to objectively analyze the situation at hand. Ultimately, after all of the data and assumptions made by both sides of the interview, all we are left with is doubt and more questions.

After personally listening to the segment and reading Mrs. Yang and her uncle’s response to the segment, one thing is clear: neither side came to a conclusive truth. Both the Radiolab crew and the Yang’s were warranted in believing their own side of the argument. As of now, it is unclear what the solution truly is when it comes to this yellow rain.  Due to the lack of truth-seeking performed we don’t know what really happened and we may not discover the truth. Thankfully, all of the time spent did have one positive outcome. We have learned that the least we can do to prepare for the discovery of what is true is gain all of the facts at hand.

[1] Robert Krulwich.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 01 Oct. 2004. Web. 02 Apr. 2015.