Roughly Speaking podcast: Halloween special: Best of horror movie music (episode 168)

Don't sic Lou Dobbs on me

Mr. Rational , who commented on the previous post on illegal immigrants, has also sent a courteous and civil note for further discussion. Courtesy and civility demand a response. First, his note:

I posted in yesterdays feckless twit flame fest. (You're a good sport on that btw.)

The subject phrasing had me turn to some dictionary sources for objective definitions noting that HOW the issue is described is just as important in expressing raw information as it is intent (PC or otherwise).

I would love to see my anti-PC distaste for the phrase "illegal-immigrant" more strongly supported by the objective definitions but I also see equally valid term choices that have my lesser PC quotient.

The terms of interest being immigrant, alien, and illegal.

While on most social issues I am far to the left, there are a few where I find myself in support of other views and find it intellectually distasteful when the media accepts, and supports by repeating them, the phrasing preferred and promulgated by advocates actively in support of illegal acts.

The point I'm making is this transcends whether immigrant status should be reported on (I believe it should) but that the terms used to describe this illegal status should be even more emphatic and even contemptuous toward those who so blatantly flaunt the law.

A reverse corollary to this is the use of "dead-broke" vs "deadbeat" when referring to child support issues.

In the case of the issue at hand, I am suggesting that "illegal alien" is both more factually accurate but is also less inflammatory to those citizens who support a legal and orderly immigration process. Even "foreign national" is a better choice.

Back to your original blog subject, not reporting on something that is in almost all instances literally obvious is akin to muzzling reporters with a "don't ask don't tell" policy. Surely you appreciate the absurdity of such a restraint on reporters.

Keep fighting the good fight.

The Sun’s use of illegal immigrant follows Associated Press style, but I don’t propose to hide behind a rulebook. It is a reasoned choice, though Mr. Rational and others may not find the reasoning persuasive.

I’ve heard people object to alien because it is a term also used for entities from outer space. I don’t expect that many people, even Representative Tancredo, imagine that illegal aliens are streaming in through Roswell, N.M. But the word has overtones that can’t be ignored. Alien means not only foreign, but also strange, utterly unlike. But illegal immigrants aren’t utterly unlike us. They may be harvesting the produce we eat, cleaning our workplaces and motel rooms, mowing our lawns, encountering us daily.

Besides, it’s not their being aliens, in the purely legal sense, that distinguishes them. It is their having immigrated, moved in and set up residence, brought their families along when possible.

We don’t use undocumented worker, because it’s such an obvious euphemism. Despite what some of the all-caps commenters may think, we do understand that illegal immigration is a violation of the law, and we don’t treat it as being the equivalent of having left one’s driver’s license on the bureau at home.

Illegal immigrant is technically accurate and a middle term between the most inflammatory and the most euphemistic.

As to the reporting, there is no “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy. All reporting and editing involve choices of what to include and what to exclude, judgments of what is relevant. A person’s sexual orientation and conduct become relevant when a story is about a sex crime. A person’s race becomes relevant in the context of a race crime or as part of a description of a suspect detailed enough to help the public make an identification. A person’s immigration status becomes relevant when that impinges directly on some violation.



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