Subduing Americans’ Free Speech
By Rachel Ehrenfeld
Saturday, August 3rd, 2013 @ 2:15PM
“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Subduing free speech is best done by subtly. Often induced by the government, the media elite introduces new speech codes that limit public debate while advancing the political agenda of the administration.
Most of us recognize that renaming things is often a way to make bad things seem better than they sound and good things better or worse than they are. It is one thing when commercial entities do this sort of thing; but it is quite another when our government and the media covering it proceed in similar fashion.
Government spokesmen adopt politically adjusted terminology to suit the administration’s political agenda, and, these days, the media not only repeat the altered terminology, but also issues guidelines regarding the politically correct vocabulary we should use.
Recently, new restrictions to our free speech have been effectively introduced by the United States’ largest news agency, the Associated Press. With 243 news bureaus in 120 countries, Associated Press news reports are published by between 1,400 and 1,700 newspapers and presented by more than 5,000 television and radio stations. The reliability and impartiality of AP is rarely questioned. However, the U.S.-based group seems eager to manipulate the English language, change the meaning of long-established legal definitions, and define down, or up, behavior and status according to the political and social preferences of the groups’ chief editors. And it is no accident that all this lines up nicely with the Obama administration’s agenda.
Following AP’s recent proscribing of the terms “illegal immigrants” and “illegal aliens” among its affiliates, Jay Leno aptly remarked that the proper new label for these terms is now “undocumented Democrats.” He might have noted that, as previously used by AP and most other media outlets, “illegal immigrant” is a contradiction in terms. “Immigrant” connotes legality, defining the status of a person who legally obtained the right to become a citizen in a country other than his native land. Although now banned by AP, “illegal immigrant” was coined to substitute for the proper definition of “illegal aliens”–foreigners who unlawfully entered and remained in the country.
Here’s what AP had to say in changing its Stylebook back in April:
“Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer
to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission…Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented..
Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution.
“Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?
If all this sounds like “administration think,” it should.
The AP’s Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll’s explanation of why this is happening is worth a read. If you find this at odds with common sense, we can’t blame you.
Carroll says that the AP is always trying to avoid the use of “labels,” but her chief argument rests on the premise that the English-language is ever-evolving and, therewith, always offering us better, more exact choices of words. Never mind if a word or phrase has been well understood and gone unaltered since, say, Shakespeare’s time. The future-and “future think”-is what counts so that we can “progress.”
AP decided to change “illegal immigrant” because “many people” were uncomfortable with the term. This they set out to rectify by adopting another twist to the already contradictory terms. AP claims this is simply a natural evolution of the language. However, as widely understood until now, a “natural” process is not induced, and natural evolutions occur over time, not by order, or change of a stylebook.
“The discussions on this topic have been wide-ranging and include many people from many walks of life. (Earlier, they led us to reject descriptions such as “undocumented,” despite ardent support from some quarters, because it is not precise. A person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence.)”
Who were those people? It’s clear that the ones listened to by AP were the ones who wished to push the envelope on political correctness-and, no doubt, they listened very carefully to what the White House and government agencies were saying. The debate at AP seems to have been swung by the citation of a Fox News poll of Latinos that reported a majority regarded “illegal immigrant” offensive. One can’t blame them if they don’t like being called so, but there’s nothing in the term that’s inherently offensive. And if “undocumented” is used to describe an “illegal alien,” or “non -citizen”, one knows that means he or she didn’t have to apply and often wait for years to receive the proper papers required for legal residence.
Equally lame-brained and telling is ABC News “analysis” of the AP changes. Christina Costantini tells us that ABC has been unhappy with “illegal immigrant” for years. She is more forthright than AP’s Carroll regarding political motivation: “Fusion, the ABC-Univision joint venture, does not use ‘illegal immigrant’ because we believe it dehumanizes those it describes and we find it to be linguistically inaccurate.” “Linguistically inaccurate” is not elaborated upon, nor is “dehumanizing.” The use of the latter term here ultimately implies that categorizing people in any way, shape, or form is an offense to any human being. Of course, this doesn’t imply that all categories and labels are dehumanizing. Just certain ones.
ABC also says that “A coalition of linguists also came together last year to pressure media companies to drop ‘illegal immigrant,’ calling it ‘neither neutral nor accurate.’ And some critics of the term, like journalist Maria Hinojosa, argue that those newsrooms that have continued to classify people as ‘illegal’ lack diversity.” Was this “coalition of linguists” linguistically or politically motivated?
Costantini points to another motivation on the part of AP. She says that last fall the press service said it would restrict the usage of “illegal immigrant” “to certain circumstances due to the complexity of the immigration experience.” Is an illegal alien not an illegal alien any longer because of the “complexity of the immigration experience”?
Again, all of the foregoing points to the fact that something “political” is going on here in the guise of pursuing “more correct” or “better” language usage. The stylistic concerns of AP and ABC are in the service of telling us how to think, socially and politically, not how to think clearly or freely. What better way to damp down concern about “illegal immigrants” than to stop using the term? If the current administration has its way, there will soon be no more “illegal immigration,” certainly no more foreign aliens, or non-citizens — even visitors from Mars are likely to be called neighbors. What better way to make this come to pass than to treat illegal aliens as no different than citizens of the U.S. already in official speeches and in the media?
The evidence regarding the spread of political correctness and the service to which the Obama administration has put it is usually not as subtle as all this. However, it makes a difference all the same. How the media chooses to portray things is not just a matter of emphasizing this and ignoring that. Its use of language, over time, influences how the majority thinks and dulls our senses. We lose our freedom to speak freely and to call attention to illegal immigration and other threats to our nation because we have failed to recognize that we were ever so subtly brainwashed.
The terms we use in thinking have been a great concern of the Obama administration. Thus, there are no more “Muslim terrorists” but only “terrorists.” The media follows suit, describing jihadist attacks on American citizens at home as “work-related accidents” and, elsewhere, as militant attacks.
While Asserting their independence, our media outlets have been appallingly lining up to not only to the take the “official line”, but to provide us, ignorant readers, with so-called “objective” reasons for enforcing limitations to our rights to freely and accurately describe the threats to our individual and national security.
Luckily, not all Americans are “good team players.” Some, resenting the infringement on their free expression are taking to rock the boat and demand their First Amendment rights. More should.
NOTE: There are news reports about the city of Seattle’s latest out of control behavior. Employees of the city will no longer be allowed to call citizens of Seattle “citizens,” as the term differentiates between classes of residents and, into the bargain, is offensive to residents of Seattle who are not U.S. citizens. It seems not to have occurred to the Seattle city fathers that banishing the use of “citizens” belittles citizenship. Seattle is one of the primary seats of political correctness. Expect the local papers to go along with this craziness.