-By Warner Todd Huston
We often take after the fine folks at the Associated Press for biased “reporting.” But as we criticize when warranted so should we praise when warranted and the AP has done something praiseworthy by telling its correspondents to stop using “Islamophobia” and “homophobia” in their reporting.
On November 26, Politico reported that the AP made some changes to its online style guide, that set of grammatical and language usage rules it requires writers to abide by when writing the news. Out, AP decided, was the phrase “ethnic cleansing” as well as the words “Islamophobia” and “homophobia,” all because they are emotionally tinged words that really have no precise meaning — all are essentially euphemisms, not logical, properly descriptive words.
“Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for pretty violent activities, a phobia is a psychiatric or medical term for a severe mental disorder. Those terms have been used quite a bit in the past, and we don’t feel that’s quite accurate,” AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told POLITICO.
“When you break down ‘ethnic cleansing,’ it’s a cover for terrible violent activities. It’s a term we certainly don’t want to propagate,” Minthorn continued. “Homophobia especially — it’s just off the mark. It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don’t have. It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case.”
These changes are sensible and worthy of praise.
Sticking the suffix “phobia” on a word is little else but an assumption that whatever is being tagged “phobic” is somehow obviously an irrational fear. But the fact is calling someone Islamophobic is not something provable on its face. Standing against Islam does not make one clearly phobic over the religion. Similarly, criticizing homosexuality or homosexuals does not prove an irrational fear of gays any more than criticizing weathermen makes one weatherophobic.
There is a great quote by Jules Henri Poincaré that is apropos here: “To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.”
This is applicable because by affixing “ophobia” onto words dispenses with having to think about the criticism the purported phobic is offering. It is all pure emotionalism meant specifically to denigrate critics and destroy their criticism before any thought is given to their points.
The same is true with “ethnic cleansing.” It has gotten to the point where if there is even a hint of a racial element to the story any crime or conflagration perpetrated by a government is termed ethnic cleansing. It has become over used to the point of meaninglessness and similarly suffers from an overly emotional entomology.
Kudos to AP for elimination these absurd abuses of logic.
Now if only they can stop using phrases like “gun crime” and we’d be golden.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com, BigHollywood.com, and BigJournalism.com, as well as RightWingNews.com, RightPundits.com, CanadaFreePress.com, StoptheACLU.com, AmericanDaily.com, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.
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