Just stop with the flood metaphors for refugees.

This week, the NY Times published an op-ed from the editorial board entitled “Putin Knows What He’s Doing With Ukraine’s Refugees.” Beyond the whiplash of seeing a western newspaper give credit to Putin for knowing anything about anything, the article struck me by its copious use of flood metaphors. Flooding as a metaphor for refugees is all too common, lazily so, in the news media. Refugees “flood,” “flow,” “fill” and “spill.” They “pour” and “swell.” This is not only lazy, but wrong. Refugees are not rivers, but people. They don’t “flood,” they walk. They don’t “flow,” they start businesses and write books. I’m hardly the first person to point this out, yet nothing seems to be able to drive a stake through the heart of this bad metaphor.

Floods are scary. Putin doesn’t need to stoke fear of refugees when the Times is happy to do it for him.



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