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Monday, 21 January 2013

Associated Press Bans the Use of "Islamophobia", "Homophobia" and Other Words

The major news agency Associated Press (AP) has recently decided to put an end to the use of "Islamophobia", "homophobia", "ethnic cleansing" and other politically charged words in its highly influential The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, generally called the AP Stylebook.

The book, annually updated, is a guide for style, usage, grammar, punctuation and reporting principles and practices used by reporters, editors and others in the US newspapers, news industry, magazines, broadcasters, public relations firms and so on.

Although not all publications use it, the AP Stylebook is regarded as a newspaper industry standard.

Therefore, the decision of making these changes, which will appear in the next printed edition that usually comes out in June, has particular importance.
The online Style Book now says that "-phobia," "an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness" should not be used "in political or social contexts," including "homophobia" and "Islamophobia." It also calls "ethnic cleansing" a "euphemism," and says the AP "does not use 'ethnic cleansing' on its own. It must be enclosed in quotes, attributed and explained."

"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 propgate," 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."

"We want to be precise and accurate and neutral in our phrasing," he said.
This is an obvious improvement, since"homophobia" and "Islamophobia" are terms coined with the sole purpose of denigrating an opponent in a debate, as ad hominem attacks, and are devoid of any real meaning: they say more about the people who use them than about those they refer to.

Regarding "Islamophobia", David Horowitz and Robert Spencer have written a pamphlet on the word's origins that can be ordered or read for free online, entitled "Islamophobia: Thought Crime of the Totalitarian Future":
The U.S. is slowly but certainly accommodating the view that free speech, when it comes to religious (i.e. Muslim) matters, is suspect. We have come to this point, in large part, because of the growing success of the idea that any criticism of Islam is actually a pathology, rather than a legitimate exercise of free speech. It is, in other words, “Islamophobia.”

In their pamphlet, Islamophobia: Thought Crime of the Totalitarian Future, David Horowitz and Robert Spencer document how the origin of the word “Islamophobia” is a coinage of the Muslim Brotherhood. They show how the Brotherhood launched a campaign, by ginning up “Islamophobia” as a hate crime, to stigmatize mention of such issues as radical Islam’s violence against women and murder of homosexuals, and the constant incitement of many imams to terrorism. The authors make the case that “Islamophobia” is a dagger aimed at the heart of free speech and also at the heart of our national security.
Regarding the political use of the suffix -phobia generally, it is interesting to note, as Peter LaBarbera does, how unequally and uni-directionally it is employed; *-phobes never belong to the dominant orthodoxy, but always to the class of those who dissent from it:
We at Americans For Truth, like our peers in the pro-family, conservative movement who stand in principled and faith-based opposition to the LGBT political and cultural agenda, do not “fear” homosexuals. We simply disagree profoundly with the normalization of homosexual behavior and the elevation of homosexuality and “gay” identity to “civil rights” status.

Of course, there are people who do fear homosexuals, but there are also people who fear conservative Christians. So isn’t it odd that “homophobia” (and “Islamophobia”) became mainstreamed in America’s media-driven lexicon, while “Christian-phobia” did not? (And now transgender activists, piggybacking off the semantic success of their homosexual allies, are pushing the equally dubious “transphobia” to advance their agenda.)

You could easily fill ten large books with examples of abuses of the tendentious term “homophobia” and its derivative, “homophobe,” in the same-sex debate. Advocates of homosexuality and foes of biblical sexual morality would never allow themselves to be categorized and caricatured as “phobes” — our friend John Biver posits the Secular Left as “morality-phobia” HERE — yet they pretend that somehow “homophobia” objectively describes opposition to homosexuality. That’s because to far too many homosexual advocates, the end justifies the means, and the “gay” cause advances when its critics are cynically and falsely cast as hateful and fearful creeps.

We will have more on this story. For now, it is gratifying to see AP make a move toward neutrality, objectivity and fairness in its coverage of homosexuality.
It's extremely telling that Associated Press decided to drop both "Islamophobia" and "homophobia" simultaneously, because their origin and usage as denigratory terms, free-speech attacks and thought-policing instruments are remarkably similar.

It is really good news that someone in a position of influence in the media has started taking notice. And it is not the first time:
First the Associated Press announced that it would continue using “Illegal Alien” instead of “Undocumented American”, “Accidental Border Crosser” or “Beautiful Dreamer” on the grounds that it was well… technically accurate.

...The Associated Press is not taking a conservative position here, but we have reached such a point of cultural decay that fact-based positions that derive their grounds from reason and proof are already innately conservative. Or as George Orwell put it, “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

The left’s counterattack on behalf of homophobia is already irrational, even from the standpoint of their own interests, because it communicates mental problems when the goal is to communicate bigotry.

Slate argues that homophobia is just like arachnophobia. The argument is wrong on a number of levels. The most simple level where it’s wrong is that the subject under discussion is not even fear. It’s dislike. The Guardian and several other media outlets have churned out pieces arguing that dislike of homosexuality is primarily motivated by fear. But that’s an opinion and the very argument testifies to a news media that is hardly able to distinguish fact-based reporting from opinion-mongering.

Finally there is something Orwellian about describing political or religious views in terms usually employed for mental illness. It skips past discussing what people believe or do to claiming intimate knowledge of their motives and passing judgement on their sanity. It’s reasonable for the AP to opt out of such heavily politicized and inaccurate language that claims to report on the state of mental health, rather than the state of events.

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