Back in those ancient days when teletypes gave us the sound effects for news, the Associated Press was esteemed as the gold standard of objective news coverage. Inside a liberal media bubble, that pretense continues. But for decades now, AP has tacked hard to port along with the rest of the media establishment. They’ll deny it, of course, because that’s what they do.
But the evidence is there, emblazoned in the AP Stylebook, which sets the rules for the language of news reporting. It also sets the tone of the media elite’s daily composition in every format — print, online or broadcast. They say it “defines clear news writing” and call it “the journalist’s bible,” which is a fairly damning phrase, since it rejects the Bible.
In the biblical account, we are created by God and assigned our sex. But the term “gender,” AP’s gurus now instruct, is “not synonymous with sex.” Rather, the term “refers to a person’s social identity while sex refers to biological characteristics.” The “objective” reporter is required to set biology aside and describe people as they “identify” themselves socially.
AP doubles down, exploiting the authority of “medical organizations” to bend biology. It says, “Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations, so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people.”
The AP Stylebook rejects the principle of marriage, lecturing reporters to not call the children of unmarried parents “illegitimate,” and to always avoid referring to a homosexual “preference” or “lifestyle.”
Labels have power. In the abortion debate, there are the preferred labels, “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” But when it comes to killing unborn children, AP insists you should not use the term “pro-life.” It instructs reporters to say “anti-abortion,” in keeping with the constant desire to define conservatives in the negative — anti-tax, anti-immigrant and so on. And the other side? The stylebook has that covered: It is “pro-abortion rights.”
Let’s go international. There, too, AP bows to left-wing pressure. It discourages the use of “Islamist,” along with that it now says are its negative connotations, “Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.” Terrorists should be defined as “militants.” We may rout the Islamic State on the battlefield, but the Stylebook waves a white flag on the language.
Years ago, we were told to stop using the phrase “illegal alien.” They’re “immigrants,” we were instructed. Bizarrely, AP is now discouraging the plain words “migrant” or “refugee” as Syrians flee to Europe. Instead, the experts tell reporters to call them (and we’re not making this up) “people struggling to enter Europe.” We might struggle with our luggage when arriving at the airport in Venice, Italy. Does that make us “refugees”?
In the climate debate, the left wants conservatives labeled “deniers,” “denialists” or worse. AP pushes back, but only a bit. It says, “To describe those who don’t accept climate science or dispute that the world is warming from man-made forces, use climate change doubters” — oh, if only it had stopped there — “or those who reject mainstream climate science.”
Perhaps next it will instruct that critics of the AP Stylebook must be described as “those who reject mainstream media political correctness.”
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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