AP stylebook tweaks language in a political direction

There’s an article at The Hill (a nonpartisan site) by Rachel Alexander (a conservative writer) about the increasing politicization of language in an influential writing guide: “How the AP Stylebook censors ‘pro-life’ and other conservative words.” Her thesis is that the Stylebook is subtly changing its guidelines for journalists so as to favor a liberal agenda–all by using terms favored by the Left.

The stylebook is well known and influential; as Wikipedia notes:

. . . the AP Stylebook, is an English grammar style and usage guide created by American journalists working for or connected with the Associated Press over the last century to standardize mass communications. Although it is sold as a guide for reporters, it has become the leading reference for most forms of public-facing corporate communication over the last half-century. The Stylebook offers a basic reference to grammar, punctuation and principles of reporting, including many definitions and rules for usage as well as styles for capitalization, abbreviation, spelling and numerals.

. . . Writers in broadcasting, magazine publishing, marketing departments and public relations firms traditionally adopt and apply AP grammar and punctuation styles. Over the last 50 years, the AP Stylebook has become a leading style for non-journalistic publishers such as corporate marketing and public relations departments. Its simplified grammar, such as dropping the Oxford comma and using figures for all numbers above nine, saves scarce print and web space.

Here are the areas where, according to Alexander, language has been slanted. Her words are indented, my take is flush left.

Abortion.

A pro-life author who submits a piece taking a position against abortion will see the words “pro-life” changed to “anti-abortion,” because the AP Stylebook instructs, “Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and pro-abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice.” It goes on, “Avoid abortionist,” saying the term “connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions.”

I’ve always disliked the way both sides try to use euphemisms to make their stand more palatable. “Pro-life” irks me because many who oppose abortions also oppose government medical care, making them anti-life. Let’s just be consistent and use “pro-abortion” and “anti-abortion”, or “pro-abortion rights” and “anti-abortion rights.”  The term “abortionist” does sound a bit creepy; I’d prefer “abortion provider.”

Terrorism

Words related to terrorism are sanitized in the AP Stylebook. Militant, lone wolves or attackers are to be used instead of terrorist or Islamist.

I agree with Alexander here. Words like “attackers” or “lone wolves” don’t give as much information as “terrorists”. This is clearly an attempt to sanitize language, probably to draw attention away from Islamist terrorism.

Immigration

Illegal immigrant” and “undocumented” aren’t acceptable anymore either. “Illegals” and “alien” were already forbidden a few years ago. Although “illegal immigration” is still acceptable, it’s not clear what words are supposed to replace the forbidden words. The word “amnesty” contains no reference to illegal immigrants, instead instructing, “See pardon, parole, probation.”

“People struggling to enter Europe” is favored over “migrant” or “refugee.” While it’s true that many struggle to enter Europe, it is accurate to point out that they are, in fact, immigrants or refugees.

It’s surprised me a bit that “illegal immigrant” and its euphemism “undocumented immigrant” are now verboten. The first phrase is a perfectly good description of someone entering a country illegally; the second, which was a euphemism produced to make illegal immigrants seem less illegal, is now off limits as well. What words do we use for someone who enters a country to live or work without legal permission?

And “migrant” or “refugee”, which were perfectly good words, lacking pejorative connotations, and are being sanitized to cater to those who favor immigration but think those words seem pejorative.

Guns

The stylebook also instructs writers to use confusing language about guns in order to create a negative impression about them. Semi-automatic rifles that have add-on parts intended to increase shooting accuracy are to be called “assault weapons,” despite the fact the term has referred to fully automatic weapons used by the military for years. The latter are now referred to as “assault rifles,” and the two are often conflated. Adding even more to the confusion, the phrase “military style” is recommended to describe assault weapons.

I agree that this change has been made not to convey accuracy, but to demonize guns. I’m in favor of stringent gun control, and total banning of these types of weapons in private hands, but let’s at least be consistent in how we describe them.

Climate-change denialism

Separately, the phrase “climate change deniers” is everywhere today in news articles. This is because the stylebook instructs, “To describe those who don’t accept climate science or dispute that the world is warming from man-made forces, use climate change doubters or those who reject mainstream climate science. Avoid use of skeptics or deniers.” The entry includes an extensive discussion with seemingly authoritative evidence of manmade global warming. These words tell the reader that climate change theory is true, or at least “mainstream.”

I don’t quite get it, as the phrase in use is the one the stylebook doesn’t recommend. Yes, climate change theory (i.e., it’s our fault) is mainstream, and anthropogenic global warming can be regarded as provisionally true. But the words “skeptics” or “deniers” seem okay to me, just as we have “evolution skeptics” or “evolution deniers.” I can’t be arsed to worry about this one, except to say that articles on climate change and its “doubters” do need to convey the consensus view of climate scientists and not imply that the views of both sides have equal weight.

I did find it interesting that language is being policed by the AP, and it seems to be a policing pushing language to the Left. I’d prefer simply accurate and consistent usage rather than euphemisms or politically correct language. That was all pointed out, as I’ve mentioned recently, by George Orwell in his famous essay “Politics and the English Language” (1946).

70 Comments

  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    The AP Style Guide by George Orwell.

    When did style guides become political? I used them when I was an editor for how spelling conventions and if I should use the oxford comma.

    • Posted July 14, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Of course the comma should be used in writing, texting, and commenting, but never in tw**ting.

      GO must be metaphorically stomping his own face with a boot.

    • BJ
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Always use the oxford comma. Always 🙂

      • Colin McLachlan
        Posted July 15, 2017 at 5:34 am | Permalink

        But, but, “dropping the Oxford comma […] saves scarce print and web space.

        Who knew print and web space was so restricted?

        Oops, just noticed Gregory is making the same point below.

      • Diane G.
        Posted July 15, 2017 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

        YES!

  2. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    dropping the Oxford comma […] saves scarce print and web space.

    Seriously? I have on my keyring a $10 USB fob capable of holding 16 billion Oxford commas.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Yeah. I’m not dropping the Oxford comma. Leaving it (or any comma) out can change the meaning. There’s a book that’s well known in NZ about this. It’s called ‘Eats, Roots, and Leaves’ (as a description of a Kiwi male, as opposed to a male kiwi).

      Hasn’t there been a court case in the US recently because an Oxford comma wasn’t used and it changed the meaning?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        I am doing a lot of writing in my job for the first time in forever (since I work in IT) so this means I am forcing the Oxford Comma on everyone. Sadly, I was forced out of using it in the world of writing because they are against it somehow so now I must force myself back into what I was taught formally decades ago.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

          I distinctly remember being told it was wrong by my teacher in Std 1 (Year 3). I told her that didn’t make sense. She agreed, but told me not to use it anyway. I didn’t like her, so I kept on using it and have done ever since. It’s not that long since I discovered it was called the Oxford comma. In fact I think it was via this site!

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted July 14, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

            I was taught to write that way when I did my English degree. I don’t know if it was part of a style guide or not but I definitely remember having a hard time accepting not using it when I started doing editing (which I only did for about 3 months and then went into IT).

        • Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

          I sometimes use the Oxford comma when I’m writing a joke based on listing three items, the last of which is entirely incongruous.

          It’s a timing thing. If I was delivering the joke aloud I’d use a slight pause.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted July 14, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            I’d probably go totally rogue & use a sentence fragment for that.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        Regarding the apocryphal book dedication: “For my parents, God and Ayn Rand”?

      • Derek Freyberg
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Yes, there was, and it found that omission of the comma caused the second last and last items of a (fairly short) list to be read as a single entity rather than as alternatives – exactly what you’d expect.
        The language in question was, in a Maine law saying who was not eligible for overtime pay, persons involved in “the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of perishable foods.”
        The man seeking overtime was involved in the distribution of a perishable food – he was a driver for a Maine dairy company, but he didn’t pack the milk; so he won four years’ worth of overtime.

      • BJ
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        Yes, the case, as far as I can remember, is about whether millions of overtime pay from several years is owed to workers in a dairy company’s union. The contract between the two parties lacked an oxford comma where there should have been one, so the sentence could be read differently. The owners are arguing that their intent was clear, while the union is arguing the contract says what it says. If they had just added the oxford comma, it would have been clear as day and this particular overtime would not be an issue.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 14, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

          Thanks. 🙂

      • Colin McLachlan
        Posted July 15, 2017 at 5:47 am | Permalink

        It’s called ‘Eats, Roots, and Leaves’ (as a description of a Kiwi male, as opposed to a male kiwi).

        Sounds like a rip-off of Lynne Truss’s book on punctuation, Eats, Shoots and Leaves

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 15, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

          No idea. It came out when I was in my late teens iirc. That’s late 70s early 80s.

          • Colin McLachlan
            Posted July 15, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

            Perhaps she lifted it from a Kiwi male then.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted July 16, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

              I think ours was written by a woman too.

  3. Steve Zeoli
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    A style guide for an independent business like the Associate Press should be able to direct its editors as it sees fit. Newspaper reading people tend to be more liberal, so if they are leaning that way it is probably a reflection of their audience and not some liberal media conspiracy or Orwellian mind control.

    As for the abortion question, I’d like to point out that you can be pro-choice but not pro-abortion. That is, you can believe women should be free to make decisions about their own health, but still feel that the best idea is birth control so that there are fewer unwanted pregnancies, and, thus, fewer abortions.

    • Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Yes, ‘pro-abortion’ sounds like abortion is a recreational activity rather than a necessity.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        It’s a right-wing trope that millions of wanton sluts routinely engage in unprotected sex so they can enjoy the side-effects of pregnancy for a few months before snuffing out the lives of their unborn babies.

      • jay
        Posted July 15, 2017 at 7:54 am | Permalink

        There are stereotypes on both sides.

        I think it’s mirrored by the left’s absolute obsession with it. Like Lena Dunham’s infamous comment.

        http://www.thedailybeast.com/lena-dunham-wishes-she-had-an-abortion

        The obsession with immediate (no waiting time) free (new Oregon law) for any reason whatsoever (new Oregon law) certainly does not sound like a matter of dealing just with women who’ve gotten into a serious problem.

        NARAL is one of the extreme ones. They went nuts over the humorous Doritos commercial where the dad is teasing the soon to be born baby by chomping on chips. They claimed it ‘humanizes a fetus’. Just wow.

        [Interestingly, ‘liberal’ countries like Germany and Netherlands impose significant waiting periods before performing an abortion–but even those simple restrictions on a decision that is irreversible is a non-starter here]

    • Posted July 14, 2017 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      I think the AP has got it right on abortion. “Pro-life” is obvious nonsense because many anti-abortion supporters have scant regard for the lives of non foetuses. e.g. they often support capital punishment and, as JAC says, are against healthcare for poor people.

      Pro-choice is also problematic, in my opinion. Women don’t have abortions for fun. It probably doesn’t feel much like a choice if the best option available to you is to terminate the life of your baby. Pro abortion rights seems about right to me.

  4. Alric
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    It does seem that in general the AP is still more accurate than what the conservatives want. For example, conservatives want pro-life instead of anti-abortion rights. They also don’t want to be called deniers because, get this, deniers is also use for holocaust deniers. Go figure.

    The assault weapon one is specially onerous because gun advocates will not accept any definition that lumps AR-15-style guns with assault weapons. When in truth the term “assault weapon” is a general definition, but also a list of specific models for regulation purposes that includes the AR-15. Anything designed to kill a lot people quick, even at a distance, should be an assault weapon.

    • BJ
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      “When in truth the term “assault weapon” is a general definition…”

      That wasn’t true until the media made it a general definition.

      If “anything designed to kill a lot [of] people quick, even at a distance, should be an assault weapon,” then all guns should be called assault weapons. As well as knives (you can throw them very quickly and very far), bows and arrows (if you’re proficient), ninja stars, etc.

      • Posted July 14, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        This is a silliness that comes with the territory. A kind of ridiculous formalism always accompanies arguments* about guns. It’s as if words have to be precise to the micrometer for them to have any meaning.

        Fercryinoutloud, in discussions about gun rights “assault weapons” refers to firearms. Firearms are hand held pistols, rifles or other portable guns. Bows and arrows aren’t firearms. Neither are knives or Ninja stars. Nor are howitzers, rocket launchers or cruise missiles.

        The problem comes from even deeper stupidity than mere formalism. Some people claim that unless a firearm is fully automatic it isn’t an assault weapon, while others say for purposes of public policy the term shouldn’t be restricted to fully automatic firearms….and that’s when all the shouting and yelling starts*.

        *it’s like abortion or race relations; there are NEVER discussions about guns – only angry, nasty, low and loud arguments.

        • BJ
          Posted July 14, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

          But I think it is critical to have agreed upon definitions for different types of guns. If, as Alric suggests, “anything designed to kill a lot people quick, even at a distance, should be an assault weapon,” this creates an enormous problem when it comes to policy-making, law enforcement, and judicial process.

          • Posted July 14, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

            Well yeah, sure, if it were possible to regulate guns in the U.S., like any other law, those regulations should use well defined parameters.

            It is not possible to regulate guns in the U.S. This is mostly because of the NRA and their fellows and their interpretation of the 2nd amendment.

            But it is ALSO due to stupid, deliberately obfuscated arguments about what we mean when we say “assault weapons” even though in past attempts at sanity we were able to make a somewhat usable definition for them. But those regulations are gone now. No arguments on this topic move forward because there is a deliberate attempt to misunderstand and confabulate. It’s how we USans pretend to “discuss” gun control; dithering about the meaning of words, as if humans don’t have any control over how we use them. Meanwhile the slaughter continues.

            No worries, though. If you’re a 2nd amendment supporter, your toys are safe. No regulations are coming anytime soon, nor any hindrances to ownership of assault weapons – however you define them (pick your definition, I don’t care a tinker’s fart). It’s no longer an argument that might result in some good.

            • BJ
              Posted July 15, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

              I don’t know why you’re ranting at me, I support more stringent gun regulation, but my point was a sound one, and there are many gun regulations on state level that require precise language.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    The language “pro-abortion-rights” and “anti-abortion-rights” is an improvement over the tendentious euphemisms “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” I think. (I also agree that “abortion provider” is an improvement over “abortionist,” which has a dated, pre-Roe v. Wade feel to it — where “co-eds” disappeared to from the girls dorm when they got “in a family way.”)

    On immigration, “people struggling to enter Europe” is the worst neologism since “weapons of mass destruction related program activities.”

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      “freedom fries” was an awful neologism as well.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

        The first casualty of war is honest usage.

    • Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      There are many returning holiday-makers “struggling to enter Europe” every time the French air-traffic controllers go on strike (which is often).

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        I delivered a sailboat once from Bermuda to Barcelona. Tacking into those prevailing Easterlies was a “struggl[e] to enter Europe” (especially after the crew got into the liquor cabinet).

      • Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure ”struggling to enter Europe” describes migrants entering post-Brexit Britain. Most are coming via other European countries. That was actually part of UKIP’s campaign strategy, if not necessarily the pro-Brexit campaign as a whole.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      I don’t quite buy “anti-abortion-rights”. The people in question are forthright about being opposed to abortion itself, never mind anybody’s rights.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        But “anti-abortion” misses the crucial distinction between those who are personally opposed to abortion and those who wish to deny the opportunity to obtain an abortion to others.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted July 14, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

          If someone thinks abortion ought to be legal but chooses not to have one themself, is “anti-abortion” really the appropriate label for that stance?

          Am I “anti-tattoo” for choosing not to exercise my legal right to body art?

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 14, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

            You might be properly labeled “anti-tattoo” if you counseled close friends and family to desist from body art, and actively promoted dermabrasion and laser removal, but did not seek to make tattoos illegal — just as some people actively advocate for adoption in lieu of abortion, even though they believe abortion should remain safe and legal.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted July 14, 2017 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

              Granting that such people exist, as a practical matter it seems unlikely that “anti-abortion-rights” will supplant “pro-life” anytime soon. Think of all those Oxford commas already going homeless for lack of “scarce web space”.

  6. Kyle B.
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I actually think “illegal immigrant” is a bit misrepresentative. What most people think it should mean is “someone entering a country illegally” as you say. But many of the undocumented immigrants who are considered “illegal immigrants” are people who have overstayed visas; so they legally entered the country, but illegally stayed in the country.

    For example, Wikipedia says DHS for 2015 had 527,127 overstayed visas and estimated 674,000 illegal entries in the US, so that approximately 44% of the undocumented immigrants would not be “illegal immigrants” in the sense of entering the country illegally.

    Maybe this is being nitpicky, but my impression is that when someone says there are about 1,201,000 “illegal immigrants”, people believe that all these immigrants went over the border illegally, rather than a sizeable number just staying in the US when they are supposed to leave.

    I am baffled as to why “undocumented” is no longer allowed. It seems like a more accurate label to me.

    An interesting linguistic take on the adjective “illegal” is on languagelog and touches on these issues: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=31282

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      Speaking of Language Log, it’s worth noting that they take rather a dim view of Orwell’s half-baked usage advice.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        IIRC, the cunning linguists at Language Log pick apart Orwell’s dictums, but grant that he was a master of the mother tongue himself.

    • GM
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      This and the one about climate change are the most infuriating examples.

      To advice against the use of the words “illegal immigrant” is to basically reject the premise that there are legal and illegal things. And that is one of the main pillars of modern societies. There are laws regarding who has the right to be in a country and who does not, and if you violate them, you are an illegally residing there. Objective fact.

      And then denying climate change is a denial of objective physical reality, but somehow you should not be calling it for what it is…

      Can there be any hope for a society that voluntarily decides to disconnect itself from reality in such a way?

      • Zach
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        I think the most infuriating bit is the part pertaining to terrorism. Perfect example of what Maajid Nawaz calls “the Voldemort effect,” which (hint for those like these AP stylists, who didn’t take Harry Potter to heart) only makes “Voldemort” stronger.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted July 15, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      Moreover the situation in Europe is one of many asylum seekers, who are waiting for a decision. They did not enter with the purpose of becoming illegal stayers, they chose later.

    • Posted July 17, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      I think people sometimes want to say that the *act* (overstaying a visa to tunneling in) is illegal, and not the *person*, which “illegal immigrant” sort of suggests. I’m not sure I’m sympathetic to this, but there you go.

  7. Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    “People struggling to enter Europe” is favored over “migrant” or “refugee.” While it’s true that many struggle to enter Europe, it is accurate to point out that they are, in fact, immigrants or refugees.

    A successful euphemism shouldn’t sound like a euphemism. ”People struggling to enter Europe” sounds like someone going to tortuous lengths to avoid saying ‘migrant’. It sounds as awkward as a father explaining to his five year old why his mother has left and that ‘Uncle Brian’ will be living with them from now on.

  8. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Regarding “illegal immigrants”, there have been times and places in living memory where simply being an immigrant of a particular ethnicity made one an illegal person, with no right to exist. It seems worth distinguishing that situation from one in which someone has merely entered the country illegally. “Undocumented” accomplishes that, and follows the pattern of “unregistered vehicles” and “unlicensed drivers”.

  9. BJ
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    This is the clearest example yet that established media is purposefully trying to propagandize the populace to accept the media’s narratives. It’s subtle, but it’s there. It’s also in which stories they choose to report, which stories they choose not to report, and the language they use to report stories. And then they wonder why trust in the media is at an all-time low, why people are being driven to alternative platforms, and why nobody thinks established media has the interests of truth and honesty at heart.

    This new guide is, quite literally, Orwellian.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      This is nothing new under the sun. People have been endeavoring to police language for political purposes since before the Sumerians set down the first cuneiform in Mesopotamia.

      • BJ
        Posted July 15, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        I know, but can’t I pretend that we’re supposed to be better? 🙂

  10. Randy schenck
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    I do not see anything demonizing in the terms for the assault rifle. The long name for such guns could be semi-auto military style assault rifle. Or if in a hurry shorten this leaving something out. They are always semi-automatic unless completely illegal by being full automatic. The common military varieties are also semi Auto if you wish or full automatic with the flip of a switch. Any rifle with a clip that contains 15 bullets or more should certainly be classified as this type of weapon. It is not a hunting rifle by any common definition that I know about. Most hunting rifles are not semi-automatic although a few are. Most hunting rifles are bolt action, multi or single shot weapons. Some are even pump action.

    By my definition – the Assault rifles should certainly be illigal and eliminated because they are used almost exclusively to kill people. If you see actual hunters using these weapons I would have a hard time calling them hunters.

    • mordacious1
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      You don’t get to make up definitions to fit your agenda, or at least you shouldn’t be able to. An assault rifle is a fully automatic rifle. Period. End of story.

      • Posted July 14, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        Says who?

        • mordacious1
          Posted July 14, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

          Groan

  11. GBJames
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    While I agree with many of these complaints I do have to note the irony when they come from conservatives. These are the folk who have spent decades distorting language for political advantage as is seen whenever a controversial subject is addressed in a Congressional bill. Inevitably the bill’s name will be the opposite of its intent and attempts to eliminate protections from pollution will be called “Protect Our Water Act” or some such.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      Frank Luntz, anyone?

    • Zach
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      My favorite is their insistence on calling the estate tax the “death tax.” I mean, something called the “death tax” has to be bad, right?

    • BJ
      Posted July 15, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Both parties have been doing this for a long, long time, but it just became (1) more widely reported and (2) a bit more blatant during the W administration. Neither party has a monopoly on redefining language or using it to obfuscate truth.

  12. Raymond Cox
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    To be honest, “pro-lifer” should be replaced by “forced-birther” to emphasize that they wish to compel women.

    • Leigh
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely. Forced birth is the more objective and accurate description of the aim of the anti-abortion groups, so why mask that with a neutral-sounding euphemism.

  13. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Militant, lone wolves or attackers are to be used instead of terrorist or Islamist.

    Stupid woman needs to be dropped into a time machine and sent into the Falls Road and Ardoyne in about 1975. Plenty of terrorism ; none of it Islamist. And lone-wolf people would have been knee-capped (shot through the knees) by both sides. Good Christians the lot of them.
    Wasn’t there a report a few weeks ago (I’m not wasting much time on American politics, so I wasn’t keeping notes) that every year since 2001, the majority of terrorist mass killings in America was by Christian terrorist groups(*), compared to Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, FSMian, Jedi and Sithrakian terrorists added together.
    (*) includes your survialists, militias, hospital clinic terrorists, doctor shooters, etc, bu not IIRC the run-of-the-mill gun lunatic without some vaguely political programme.

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 15, 2017 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      T’would be surprising were it otherwise given that Christians account for 70.6% of the US religious, Muslims 0.9% (Pew Research Center stats).

  14. Posted July 14, 2017 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid, there is no such thing as a neutral way of language. It always assumes models, and frames which give rise to narratives ultimately making one term or phrase more desirable than another. You can only be more or less aware of it.

    In German, there is what’s called “Deutungshoheit” (~prerogative of interpretation), frequently used by journalists to make it transparent how different sides fight over who gets to decide whether to cut an issue horizontally or vertically.

    It’s perfectly accurate to talk of abortion in the frame of “women’s rights”; or under the headline of “body autonomy” and such things. My guess is that Pro-Lifers sucessfully decided how the mustard is being cut with their framing, and the American Left then came up with a counter-slogan, attempting to change from the “fetus-focus” to “women’s rights” — however failed. They took the same format, and thus formally accepted the opposite view as a worthy alternative, even though it isn’t. It’s not one thing or the other. There is no independent “life” at all. Fail, leftists.

    Life beats Choice, as far as slogans go. The crux is that it is consistent to have a law and order-death-penalty, and authority-driven worldview, including wanting a “small government”, yet at once believe that unborn life is life that needs protection. God needs fodder for wars, after all. And the capitalistic machine must be fed with fresh and cheap labour provided by poor mothers. Even imbeciles can have priorities and think — in their view — babies need protection, but once born, “tough love”.

    I think these views are reprehensible, and Republicans are a party of supervillains (lacking a cool HQ, though) — but not because they are as inconsistent as liberals tell each other.

    Some cursory searching the web shows that the “your views are inconsistent” game was played on the left, i.e. hippies back then, who originally used “pro-life” to describe their anti-war etc attitudes. Conservatives then basically trolled them, and apparently won that one.

  15. chris moffatt
    Posted July 15, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    If only there were still such a thing as “Correct English”, as there allegedly was in my young day, which young journalists could actually learn as the primary tool of their trade, there would be no need of style books. Similarly we would have no need of stylecheckers and spellcheckers. As for the AP Stylebook, what can one say of a wannabe-authoritative document that in its most recent version has approved the singular ‘they’?

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted July 15, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Labeling some particular style of English as “Correct” implies the existence of some standard reference defining that style. I daresay your primary school English teachers taught from such a style book.

      • Posted July 17, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        And this is a *normative* claim with respect to certain dialects of the language.


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