Media Self-Censorship: Ban “Illegal Immigrant”
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A few weeks after one of the world’s largest news organizations banned the term “illegal immigrants,” one of the biggest and most renowned papers in the U.S. is following the lead by encouraging reporters and editors to “consider alternatives when appropriate.”
It’s political correctness on steroids, actions by the powerful mainstream media that will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the masses. We’ve already seen this sort of political correctness gone amok involving this issue in local governments as well as the judicial system, both at the state and federal levels.
In 2008 Judicial Watch reported that Arizona’s Supreme Court chief justice (Ruth McGregor) began enforcing the Hispanic Bar Association’s demands of banning the terms “illegal” and “aliens” in all of the state’s courtrooms. The chief judge agreed with the group, known as “Los Abogados,” that the terms are inflammatory and using them in trails or hearings creates perceptions of judicial bias. Acceptable terms to describe illegal immigrants in Arizona courts include “foreign nationals” and “unauthorized workers.”
About a year later, Obama’s first Supreme Court appointee, Sonia Sotomayor, made her debut on the nation’s highest court by introducing a pair of new terms aimed at describing illegal immigrants in a more friendly and politically correct way. Sotomayor used “undocumented immigrant” and “undocumented worker” in lieu of illegal immigrant in her first opinion (Mohawk Industries, Inc. vs. Carpenter) as a Supreme Court Justice. The Supreme Court had never before used the phrase “undocumented immigrant” though “illegal immigrant” has appeared in a dozen decisions.
Last year lawmakers in Somerville, a Massachusetts town of 76,000, passed a resolution forbidding the word “illegal” for all human beings. The city’s mayor and alderman passed the measure after hearing from a team of youths who urged officials to give immigrants who live in the city the respect they deserve as human beings by not using terms like “illegals” to describe undocumented people. The word “illegal” is demeaning, discriminatory and unfair, according to a Colombian youth who addressed Somerville legislators.
This month two of the nation’s most influential media outlets—the Associated Press (AP) and the New York Times—have joined the bandwagon, adding illegal immigrant to a list of taboo phrases. The AP acted first by rewriting its stylebook, which is widely followed by many mainstream newspapers, to prohibit the use of “illegal” to describe a person. The word is to be used only to describe an action, according to the AP’s bulletin titled “Illegal immigrant no more.”
The AP attributes the change to the “always-evolving English language” which “might soon yield a different choice” to describe illegal immigrants in stories. The taboo words can be included in a direct quote, however, but it must be essential to the story with one blanket exception; those brought to the country as children cannot be described as having immigrated illegally.
The New York Times makes it a point to say it did “not go as far as the Associated Press” in banning illegal immigrant in its coverage, but the paper “encourages reporters and editors to consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions.” This means it’s highly unlikely that the paper will publish any piece that contains illegal immigrant in it.
Does this mean the media should treat all lawbreakers in the same way to avoid hurting their feelings? That would be utterly ridiculous, according to a political news site that compares it to calling drug dealers unlicensed pharmacists, shoplifters nonpaying customers and robbers community wealth redistributors. Here’s another good one; people who run Ponzi and money laundering schemes are really undocumented bankers!