In an article he wrote for the Web site True/Slant, Jerry Lanson - a colleague of mine at Emerson College - took issue with The New York Times for referring to "looting" at a collapsed grocery store in Haiti after the recent earthquake. Lanson questioned whether it counts as looting if you're acting to feed yourself and your family by taking food "that will rot in time from the shelves or floor of a collapsed grocery store." He went on to write, "One man's looter is another's humanitarian or mother or father."
Is it wrong to refer to those who took food from collapsed grocery stores in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake as "looters?" Or does the word accurately describe the action, regardless of the circumstances?
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Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.
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