Fox News Host: Why Don't We Call Rapists "Unconsensual Sex Partners"?

Today on Fox, Megyn Kellybemoanedthe plight of "journalists" like herself who can't do their jobs because of right-wing directives from Fox management they're no longer allowed to say the word "midget." "You know, we did a segment earlier in the year on how little people find the term midget offensive, and so you can't say that anymore ... There's so many words that are suddenly becoming hurtful, and part of the group thinks it's hurtful, and the other group doesn't, and you're left as a journalist saying, I don't know what to do" she said.

What set Kelly off was a campaign by the Society of Professional Journalists to persuade reporters to refer to undocumented immigrants as ... undocumented immigrants, instead of the creepy, dehumanizing and completely bizarre terms "Illegal" and "illegal alien." But if reporters stopped talking about immigrants as if they were dangerous space intruders, wouldn't that degrade the public discourse, wonders the Fox News employee?

You could say that a burglar is an unauthorized visitor. You know, you could say that a rapist is a non-consensual sex partner which, obviously, would be considered offensive to the victims of those crimes ... So how far could you take this?


What if there was a push by the criminal defense... bar to re-brand the use of the word rapist to nonconsensual sex partner?

That would be pretty unfortunate, since unlike an undocumented worker, a rapist is guilty of a horrific, violent crime -- one reporters shouldn't trivialize with absurd comparisons to illustrate their poor arguments. 

Here are a few points from the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists about why the terms "Illegal" and "Illegal alien" are so screwed up:

1. From the Society of Professional Journalists: "The presumption of innocence is an ancient tenet of criminal law. That legal doctrine is basic to our common-law system of jurisprudence...Simply put, only a judge, not a journalist, can say that someone is an illegal. "

2. From the National Association of Hispanic Journalists: 

NAHJ is particularly troubled with the growing trend of the news media to use the word “illegals” as a noun, shorthand for "illegal aliens". Using the word in this way is grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed. NAHJ calls on the media to never use “illegals” in headlines.

Shortening the term in this way also stereotypes undocumented people who are in the United States as having committed a crime. Under current U.S. immigration law, being an undocumented immigrant is not a crime, it is a civil violation. Furthermore, an estimated 40 percent of all undocumented people living in the U.S. are visa overstayers, meaning they did not illegally cross the U.S. border.

In addition, the association has always denounced the use of the degrading terms “alien” and “illegal alien” to describe undocumented immigrants because it casts them as adverse, strange beings, inhuman outsiders who come to the U.S. with questionable motivations. “Aliens” is a bureaucratic term that should be avoided unless used in a quote.


Read more at TPM.

AlterNet / By Tana Ganeva

Posted at December 29, 2010, 11:48am

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