Thursday, June 03, 2004

Critiquing Amnesty International

I realize I'm of two minds about international human rights organizations. I cite them when it's useful, but often as not, I find something to criticize about their reporting.

Take the latest AI report on Guatemala. Right there in the second paragraph, they write:

It was widely believed that a major contributory factor in the upsurge in political violence and repression that characterized President Alfonso Portillo's administration (2000-2003) was the control exercised by General Efraín Ríos Montt behind the scenes.
In Spanish they translate that as "la opinión generalizada."

Since when do such amorphous ideas, stated in the passive voice, pass as legitimate human rights analysis? They might even be right about Rios Montt, but they've got to find a better way to discuss these ideas. After all, it's also "widely believed" in many parts of the world that 9/11 was a CIA plot. So what?

As far as I'm concerned, this kind of reporting doesn't pass basic social-science muster....

Grade: C-

1 comment:

Desi said...

Hmmm - I spent some time with Amnesty International's site.... I'd give them a C- too, IF I were focusing on each individual country and site - and clearly there are experts for each country who can fill in the gaps. I guess I'd grade them differently depending on what I was looking for. AI's website is a broad brush stroke sort of endeavor, seems to me. For example, when I read the USA site I was appalled to see what is MISSING there (e.g. human rights violations in the United States against women and children - e.g. child labor, sex trade, sweatshops, etc - for starters). However, I give them an A for effort regarding comprehensiveness. They're trying to keep track of human rights offenses across the whole globe.

It wouldn't be fair to critique a survey course, like History 101, for not going into enough depth about a certain Spanish-American War battle, but in a master's program seminar course on the Spanish-American War I'd expect a lot more. This website is clearly History 101, but foundations are good things to have.

My two cents - Desi