On Pacifica, Leftist Claims Victory in AP Stylebook Change, Hope for Victory on Immigration Next

On the taxpayer-funded radical Pacifica Radio network, the talk program "Democracy Now" celebrated the AP's scrapping the term "illegal immigrant" in news stories. Anchor Juan Gonzalez explained "The move was welcomed by immigrant advocates who argue the term is a dehumanizing slur."

Pacifica's guest was Indian-American activist Rinku Sen of Colorlines.com, who said they've been "calling for news outlets to drop that phraseology for a long time, precisely because of the reason that the Associated Press identified, that it’s an imprecise term that is applied in a blanket way, but discriminatorily really toward people of color, whether they are immigrant, whether they are undocumented or not." On her own Colorlines website, Sen claimed victory in the AP lobbying campaign:

This decision is a victory for immigrant communities. We took a word that has been normalized by anti-immigrant forces and revealed it as unfit to print because it is both inaccurate and dehumanizing. We started Drop the I-Word in 2010 because we could see the harm that it was doing to our readers and community. In the early days, many people told us it didn’t matter, that the policy was all-important. But the word itself has blocked any reasonable discussion of policy issues, and we have been unable to move forward as a nation while its use has remained common.

Naturally, Sen argued this also led to bullying:

For years, immigration restrictionists have been stopping all discussion cold with “what about illegal don’t you understand?” Well, we did understand—that the word hid severe problems in the policy, that it has been applied selectively to people of color (undocumented, green-card holding, and citizens alike), and that it fuels hateful action.

People have lost their lives behind this word. Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadoran immigrant was beaten to death on the streets of Brooklyn by men yelling that he was a “f__ illegal.” That state of affairs could not be allowed to continue and thousands of people just like you took a stand to bring it to an end.

Writer Gabriel Thompson really underlined the leftist search for victory through language in a different Colorlines blog post on "How the Right Made Racism Sound Fair":

Wetback. Alien. Illegal immigrant. These are powerful words, each of which has, at different times in our recent history, been the most popular term used to describe unauthorized immigrants. And while some anti-immigrant activists claim that words like “alien” or “illegal immigrant” are neutral, each conjures up a whole host of associations. [Linguist and NPR "Fresh Air" contributor Geoffrey] Nunberg noted that in 1920 a group of college students was asked to define the word alien, and what they came up with—“a person who is hostile to this country,” “an enemy from a foreign land”—hardly qualified as meeting its legal definition.

The same dynamic occurs today with illegal, especially when used to define a person rather than an action, such as working in the U.S. without authorization. “When two things bear the same name, there is a sense that they belong to the same category,” Nunberg told me. “So when you say ‘illegal,’ it makes you think of people that break into your garage and steal your things.”

“These are not small questions,” agreed Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a prominent immigrant advocacy group that has been a key player in Washington, D.C.’s word games. “The language, and who wins the framing of the language, likely will win the debate.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis