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AP Language Tricks



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The Associated Press DC bureau let lose with a glorious piece of journalistic malpractice as its lead item on Kyopenhagen Thursday (reprinted in newspapers and websites around the country). Here are the highlights of the lead:

Stolen e-mails embolden climate skeptics
Dec. 10, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) – At a critical time, the uproar over stolen e-mails suggesting scientists suppressed contrary views about climate change has emboldened skeptics. . . . The e-mail brouhaha dubbed “Climategate” by doubters comes as . . . a group of GOP lawmakers is going to Copenhagen to argue against mandatory greenhouse gas reductions. . . . The climate skeptics gained political momentum when former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Obama should boycott the negotiations. . . Former Vice President Al Gore quickly rebutted Palin and accused the climate deniers in an interview with CNN of “taking things out of context.”

Whew! Four graphs. Three loaded terms to describe global warming critics, including the egregious Holocaust analogy. But, you say, this is AP, the gold standard of objective language. Surely their vaunted style book is at least consistent. Surely in other stories — say, when reporting on evidence in another application of the precautionary principle, the pre-emptive war against Iraq — AP also marginalized those who voiced opposition to the “consensus” on WMD intel as deniers, etc.

Let’s check the record:

Administration says time is short to act against Iraq
Sept. 8, 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bush administration officials, trying to build a case for action against Iraq, are warning that the world can’t afford to wait to see whether Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. . . . Critics have questioned whether military action to achieve the U.S. goal of ousting Saddam is legal under international law.

“Critics?” That’s it? Call me a skeptic, but I think AP is playing tricks with language.



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