Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Winston Smith, call your office...

...it seems the Newspeak dictionary is being updated yet again:
The Associated Press, the largest news-gathering outlet in the world, will no longer use the term "illegal immigrant."

The news came in the form of a blog entry authored by Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll on Tuesday afternoon, explaining that the decision is part of the company's on-going attempt to rid their Stylebook of labels. ...

"The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term 'illegal immigrant' or the use of 'illegal' to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that 'illegal' should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally," Carroll wrote. ...

Kathleen Carroll also noted in the Tuesday blog post that the AP prefers to label "behavior" rather than "people," writing that instead of using the term "schizophrenic," the AP now prefers saying that one is "diagnosed with schizophrenia."
"And that discussion about labeling people, instead of behavior, led us back to 'illegal immigrant' again. We concluded that to be consistent, we needed to change our guidance," Carroll wrote. "So we have."
Well, then.  Doesn't that make everyone feel better?  But to be consistent, as Carroll seeks, we'd need to make some other adjustments as well:

- "Murderer" would become "person convicted of murder" (focus on "behavior, not labeling people")
- "Thief" would become "person known to have taken other peoples' stuff"
- "Traitor" would become "person with alternative national loyalties"

Just as Newspeak was designed to prevent the expression of heretical viewpoints (or "thoughtcrime" as it was called in 1984), the accumulated changes to the Associated Press Stylebook in recent decades constrain the ability to have candid, honest discussions on a range of issues.  Examples:
abortion
Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice. Avoid abortionist, which connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions; use a term such as abortion doctor or abortion practitioner.

party affiliation
Let relevance be the guide in determining whether to include a political figure's party affiliation in a story.
In the first instance, one faction is automatically cast in a negative light simply by affixing "anti-" to the preferred terminology for them.  And in the second there is so much latitude, leading to partisan abuse, that bloggers now have fun with the game "name that party." 

The Stylebook is supposed to help journalists with the A-B-Cs: Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity.  Changes such as the one to "illegal immigrant" fail on all three counts: the new narrative is wordier, clouded and less-than-forthright.

Given this, I would suggest one more change, consistent with Carroll's focus labeling behaviors:
- "Idiots" would become "leftist control freaks who compile the AP stylebook"

***
Update:  Jay Leno had a little appropriate fun with this development...

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