Editor’s note: The following column originally appeared in the Washington Times.
Fake news has become known for being a false story, gossip or even lies promulgated by the legacy media. We know what our news media establishment often delivers is nothing more than opinion masquerading as news. That in itself is a huge problem. We’re all learning about how to recognize it and how seriously to take it, if at all.
But there’s another attack on our freedom to receive real information that is even more insidious than the glut of news actors spewing gossip 24/7: the changing and controlling the language itself, while making sure journalists everywhere conform to a liberal and politically correct version of events. Certain words are banned, while others which are meant to influence readers ideologically, are promoted.
You don’t need to go to George Orwell for this story, you just need to read the annual Associated Press guide called the “Stylebook,” which is ostensibly meant to help journalists with issues concerning basic things like punctuation, grammar and, yes, which words to use.
A red flag should shoot up for you when we consider a media entity directing other journalists on which words to use because, after all, word choice is an inherently personal decision, especially for writers. The left understands that he who controls definition controls the issues, and with political correctness they continue to weaponize language and communication.
Imagine, with the stroke of a pen there are no more “illegal immigrants,” or mass Muslim migration from the Middle East into Europe, only “people struggling” and “seeking new lives...”
In the case of the 2017 “AP Stylebook,” CNS News reports, “journalists [are asked to] refrain from using terms like “pro-life,” “migrant,” “refugee,” “Islamist” and “terrorist” in their writing.”
Consider this section from the “Stylebook” on immigration and migrants:
“Migrants normally are people who move from place to place for temporary work or economic advantage. The term also may be used for those whose reason for leaving is not clear, or to cover people who may also be refugees or asylum-seekers, but other terms are strongly preferred: people struggling to enter Europe, Cubans seeking new lives in the United States,” WJLA reported.
As you might imagine, the AP insists its goal is to make things clearer. Sure. At WJLA, a former AP standards editor insisted, “We don’t see AP’s news report as a tool for social engineering. … But if a suggestion will make our report fairer, more considerate or more balanced, we’re interested.”
But let’s be honest — this is nothing less than an effort to control the debate, and condition readers into believing, well, that the massive wave of economic migrants from the Middle East into Europe isn’t an invasion or even illegal immigration, it’s “people struggling to enter Europe,” as though that’s all that’s happening.
This is the liberal worldview, of course, and has nothing to do with clarity. Quite the opposite, in fact. This is nothing more than a continuation of the liberal effort to control definition, control language and therefore control outcomes.
Imagine, with the stroke of a pen there are no more “illegal immigrants,” or mass Muslim migration from the Middle East into Europe, only “people struggling” and “seeking new lives,” is what we’re allowed to be told, ironically offering the exact value judgment the AP insists it’s working to eliminate.
Yet, words are used to define debate and the media has enjoyed decades of being able to do just that.
In a column at The Hill, Rachel Alexander made note of various political changes over the years in the “Stylebook”:
“Use of ‘anti-abortion’ instead of ‘pro-life’ to describe those who are opposed to abortion. Rejection of ‘Islamist’ as a synonym for Islamic fighters or extremists, on the basis that not all who view the Koran as a political model support violence. Referring to ‘illegal immigration,’ but not saying ‘illegal immigrants’ or ‘undocumented.’ Describing those who dismiss the climate science consensus as ‘climate change doubters.’ “
Ms. Alexander continued, “Even when individual authors do not adhere to the bias of AP Style, it often doesn’t matter. If they submit an article to a mainstream media outlet, they will likely see their words edited to conform. A pro-life author who submits a piece taking a position against abortion will see the words ‘pro-life’ changed to ‘anti-abortion,’ because the “AP Stylebook” instructs, ‘Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and pro-abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice.’ It goes on, ‘Avoid abortionist,’ saying the term ‘connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions.’ “
Let’s see if we’re clear here: When it comes to referring to activists involved with the abortion issue, AP tells reporters to not refer to them or their efforts as “pro-life,” which is how they refer to themselves. Yet, WJLA reported, “In many cases, such as reporting on the LGBTQ community, the AP’s guidance encourages writers to use the term that people prefer to use to describe themselves.”
Sure, no bias there at all.
During the past decade, the internet has been a revelation for consumers of news. We are learning how far the legacy media is willing to go to manipulate and mislead the audience. It takes active reading and listening, but we can now discern the difference between gossip, lies and actual news.
We have an equally important mission of remembering that words, context and truth matter. And just because everyone in media might be saying the same thing, that doesn’t make it true, it may just be a testament to the power of so-called journalists conforming to a “stylebook.”
Tammy Bruce is a radio talk-show host, New York Times best-selling author and Fox News political contributor.