Thursday, April 04, 2013

Mirabile dictu

Did you ever, in your wildest copy-editing dreams, imagine the day when AP style would be the single most important story of the day?

The Associated Press is being accused of trying to influence the immigration debate following a decision to stop using the term "illegal immigrant" in its coverage -- despite the fact it is still being used by U.S. government officials including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

And it wouldn't be the daily outrage story without "some":

... Still, some are wondering why the AP decided to nix the phrase when high-ranking government officials don’t seem to have a problem with it.

The accompanying opinion is distilled nonsense in charred oaken barrels:

George Carlin once observed, “by and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.” He may be giving us that wry head cock right now after the Associated Press has decided to recommend that newsrooms refrain from using the term “illegal immigrant.” Their use of the more precise term “illegal alien” vanished some time ago.
AP recommended no such thing. It made a change to AP style, and newsrooms are free to ignore it as they wish, much as Fox already does with AP's style preferences on "Quran" and "Muhammad" and other such signs of giving into the whims of those scary brown people. As for "more precise" -- George Orwell would be happy to observe that any time two rivals in a style argument describe their choice as "more precise," both are blowing smoke. As the next paragraph makes clear:
Ensuring that moral judgment does not bleed into news reporting is a worthy goal for all free press, but shaping words to fit politically correct molds is simply another form of bias.  Scrapping the term “illegal alien” or “illegal immigrant” in order to placate powerful lobbies surrenders the language to drive an agenda and interjects opinion into the news.

You have to wonder where Fox's concern about agenda-driving was during Benghazigate. Or not.

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