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Ever Heard of Nexis?



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A member of the Diversity Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists . . .

(Do I even need to continue with this post, since from what I wrote you can pretty much guess the rest? Okay, okay, I’ll finish it.)

Anyway, a member of the Diversity Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, who’s also a member of the California Chicano News Media Association, writes about a new campaign to get the SPJ to manipulate the English language:

Frequent use of the phrases “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” by our mainstream media is being questioned in order to remain faithful to the principles of our U.S. Constitution.

SPJ’s Diversity Committee met during the 2010 convention in Las Vegas and decided to engage in a yearlong educational campaign designed to inform and sensitize journalists as to the best language to use when writing and reporting on undocumented immigrants.

Some believe the phrase illegal alien originated with fiery, anti-immigrant groups along the U.S.-Mexico border, such as the Minutemen. Gradually, the phrase — along with illegal immigrant — seeped into common usage. It is now even used by some network TV newscasters.

Yet it remains offensive to many Latinos, and especially Mexicans, and to the fundamentals of Ameri-can jurisprudence.

However, there are some national publications, including The Nation, that regularly use the preferred phrase: undocumented immigrant.

Forget for a second about the question of which term is most appropriate and look at this “professional” journalist’s assertions. This guy obviously can’t do the most elementary news search because if he had, he’d know that “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” date back to as far as Nexis can search major papers, to 1969-1970, and are based on statute. On the other hand, “undocumented,” with reference to immigration, has no legal meaning and exists nowhere in the media until 1977, with the start of the Carter administration, whose INS commissioner, Leonel Castillo, made the term up out of whole cloth, and the mainstream media (the only kind there was back then) picked it right up.

And I can’t pass over the reference by the author (Leo Laurence) to the need to “remain faithful to the principles of our U.S. Constitution.” This is from someone who, as a radical gay activist in the 1960s, called for “‘the Homosexual Revolution of 1969,’ exhorting gay men and lesbians to Join the Black Panthers and other left-wing groups,” and described the police as “pigs.” The Panthers were well-known, of course, for their fidelity to the principles of the Constitution.

Leftist kooks are ordinarily unworthy of notice, but the SPJ is a mainstream organization, and if its “Diversity Committee” succeeds in getting the SPJ to formally declare use of “illegal immigrant” a thoughtcrime, then coverage of the immigration issue will become even more opaque and useless than it is now. (H/t to Alana Goodman of the Culture and Media Institute.)



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