Human Exceptionalism

AP Orders Media to Stop Using “Committed Suicide”

I believe that we are in the midst of a broad push, across different sectors of society, to make suicide more palatable and normalized–at least for some categories of people, such as in those who commit assisted suicide because of illness, disability, or advanced age.

If that is too strong–and it may be–at the very least, an effort is underway to remove all moral judgment from the act of killing oneself.

And that is why I think the AP Stylebook–the words and phrases bible for most media–has forbidden the use of the term, “committed suicide.” From the Ragan.com blog:

[Quoting an AP Tweet] A new entry [in the Stylebook] covers suicide in news reports – “committed suicide” should be avoided except in direct quotes from authorities.

[Quoting an AP Tweet] Alternate phrases include killed himself, took her own life or died by suicide.

Minthorn told Poynter the reason for the entry:

“Committed in that context suggests possibly an illegal act, but in fact, laws against suicide have been repealed in the US, at least in certain states, and many other places,” Minthorn said, “so we’re going to avoid using that term on our own, although it’s a term that authorities widely use and we will use it while quoting authorities.

Baloney. Suicide–as opposed to assisted suicide–is not illegal in any state. But there is no right to suicide as authorities can involuntarily hospitalize the suicidal for treatment based on proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

My theory–call it Smith on media bias–is that advocates convinced AP that using the word “committed”–even though accurate, as it means to intentionally perform an act–implied a negative judgment about that act. And that conflicts with the drive to make at least some suicides more palatable generally–or to put it the other way around–that not all suicides are bad or wrong.

In short, this is a political actnot the first by AP in this regard, heck, not even the second–and it won’t be the last. At the very least. this change was not driven by a desire on the part of AP’s Stylebook rulers to improve accuracy in reportage.

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