Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 29, 2010

QUOTE OF THE DAY.... When Fox News personalities start tackling political correctness on the air, they're bound to get into trouble.

Take today, for example. The Society of Professional Journalists is encouraging media organizations to steer clear of phrases like "illegal aliens" in favor of "undocumented immigrant." Fox News anchor/activist Megyn Kelly hosted a segment on the issue, and headed straight for the slippery slope.

"How far could you take this?" Kelly asked. "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."

Obviously.

Yes, in Megyn Kelly's mind, there's a reasonable comparison to be drawn between "alien" immigrants and "non-consensual sex partner" rapists.

And lest anyone think the Fox News personality just got caught up in the moment and said something she didn't mean to say, Kelly then pressed a representative of the Women's Media Center on this point, asking, "What if there was a push by the criminal defense... bar to re-brand the use of the word rapist to nonconsensual sex partner?"

In other words, she clearly considered this a fair rhetorical comparison.

Kelly, one of the Republican network's more cringe-worthy figures, went on to lament political correctness in general: "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."

Here's a tip, Megyn: call people whatever they want to be called. It's really not that complicated; even Fox News personalities should be able to keep it straight.

Steve Benen 4:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

What a retard ...and that ain't no politically correct term either . She needs along with Alisyn Camerota on Fux and Friends learn who to spell their first names without the middle school "y's".

Posted by: John R on December 29, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe someone should ask Megan this question: "What if there was a push by many in the public... bar to re-brand the use of the phrase 'Merry Christmas' to 'Happy Holidays?'"

Posted by: Miki on December 29, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Megyn: Is that short for Megynocologist? Or should I just call her a c*nt?

Posted by: DAY on December 29, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Actually we don't call people rapists, burglars, etc., until/unless they've been convicted. Unless we work for Fox "News".

Posted by: kth on December 29, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

How about relabeling "torture" as "enhanced interrogation technique".

Oh, wait.

Posted by: Jon B. on December 29, 2010 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, a rapist is indeed a non-consensual sex partner. It's just a more complicated, less-loaded roundabout way of meaning the same thing. But in any case I think we can sometimes find our own words and not necessarily what the group wants to be called. It is indeed illegal to cross our border without applying, that should be OK to refer to.

Posted by: neil b on December 29, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Truer words by Ms Kelly were never spoken: "you're left as a journalist saying, I don't know what to do." She's never known.

Posted by: Peter G on December 29, 2010 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a tip, Megyn: call people whatever they want to be called.

Um, except if that is the rule then Megyn Kelly's hypothetical isn't absurd. Following Benen's logic, if rapists want to be called "nonconsensual sex partners" then we should use that term.

I have a better idea. Let's just use words that are as descriptive and precise as possible.

I get why the term "illegal alien" is controversial. First, the term isn't defined anywhere. Are Canadians who enter legally but decide to stay "illegal aliens?" What about a British citizen who comes to the U.S. on a student visa but gets a job instead of going to school? Or an Asian immigrant who is hired by a company tht misrepresents the employee's skills on a H1-B application? What if you had a green card, still intend to return to your country, but have stayed temporarily after the Green Card expired?

Second, the term "illegal alien" conveys a connotation of criminality when immigration violations are civil violations.

But the terms "undocumented immigrant" or the also popular "undocumented worker" are really no better. They suggest that the person hasn't definitively broken the law. They've just fallen into an immigration probability cloud and we don't know for sure whether or not they have violated immigration laws. We just know that they don't have the documents to prove their lawful presence in the country. Whatever.

My sense is that both terms are willfully misdescriptive. Even if Kelly's examples were over the top, a good argument can be made that "undocumented" is a product of excessive political correctness.

Posted by: square1 on December 29, 2010 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Now now DAY...you made me spit coffee on my keyboard...the problem with Ms. Kelly is she calls herself a JOURNALIST. Let me clue you sweetcheeks...if you want information from a person you call them whatever THEY want...it's called 'quid pro quo'...other than that you just make s#$t up and work for Fox NEWS...

Posted by: SYSPROG on December 29, 2010 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

The word "misogynist" also used the letter y as a vowel. Coincidynce? I thynk not ...

Why are conservatives such whiny babies? This shrill outrage-of-the-day routine is just pathetic -- but we're supposed to see them as the tough guys? Tough guys say "sticks and stones" I would expect. Seems to me they just have never gotten over having the N-word taken out of polite conversation.

Posted by: ManOutOfTime on December 29, 2010 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

As kth noted above, the news media used to preface "alleged" when reporting on someone accused of a crime. I don't think it's only Fox News that has abandoned that. At least on a local level here in the Phoenix area, reporting has pretty much given up on using alleged when referring to the accused. They'll also use more pejorative terms like "thug" instead of "assailant".

Posted by: gaardvark on December 29, 2010 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe, rather than call Megyn a FoxNews on-air personality, we should just toss the PC wording and state the facts: she's an on-air angry bimbo.

Posted by: Kimbrulee on December 29, 2010 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Yesterday Ms. Megyn said Pres. O was encouraging dog fighting by speaking with Michael Vick. She said what if he had raped a women would he still encourage him?
Actually Mike would be in jail for 20 yrs.
It was on at the gym. I didn't watch it on purpose.
I promise.

Posted by: hornblower on December 29, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK
Second, the term "illegal alien" conveys a connotation of criminality when immigration violations are civil violations.

Civil violations are illegal, too, so I'm not sure that is accurate. Anyhow, being present in the US without appropriate documentation isn't a civil violation, either. "Unlawful presence" is an administrative matter.

Its possible that civil and/or criminal violations occurred in the course of acheiving or protecting that presence, but that's a different issue.

But the terms "undocumented immigrant" or the also popular "undocumented worker" are really no better. They suggest that the person hasn't definitively broken the law.

A person who was smuggled into the United States as an infant without appropriate papers probably hasn't "broken the law" in any meaningful sense; in fact, under principles generally applicable in civil and criminal law, they would be incapable of being found liable under either civil or criminal law.

Nevertheless, they are still potentially subject to administrative removal.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 29, 2010 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

How far could you take this? You could say a Fox News TV personality was a journalist! And that would clearly be absurd. Where will it stop?!

Posted by: biggerbox on December 29, 2010 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

square1, you make a lot of good points. But we are disgusted by rapists and murderers not because they have done something illegal. Rather, those acts are illegal because they are wrong and disgusting. But being within our borders without permission doesn't have that (im)moral dimension.

On the narrower point, it seems to me that "unauthorized" is the mot juste, not as shrill as "illegal", but not as willfully naive as "undocumented". "Unauthorized" would also point up the (necessarily) arbitrary nature of our immigration laws, and avoid giving those laws a moral status they don't deserve. But unauthorized what? Resident, immigrant? We can't assume they intend to stay; indeed, unauthorized egress was a two-way street, seasonal, a generation or so ago.

Posted by: kth on December 29, 2010 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

If we have to refer to Megyn Kelly as a "Fox News personality" instead of as a "stupid bimbo," the least she could do is stop whining about "re-branding."

Posted by: Okie on December 29, 2010 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't Fox News specifically circulate memos requiring their on-air personalities to refer to particular topics with particular terminology? For example, "government takeover"?

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on December 29, 2010 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

I agree totally with alleged journalist Megyn Kelly. If we don't stop this sort of nonsense immediately we'll be sliding right down the slippery slope and the next thing you know we'll be saying stuff like "Fox News", as if it actually contained real news. I can't abide such silliness.

Posted by: nwells on December 29, 2010 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

And yet somehow I don't think that the term "enhanced interrogation techniques" for "torture" bothers her at all. In fact, it's probably the non-euphemistic term that would get her going.

Posted by: T-Rex on December 29, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Civil violations are illegal, too, so I'm not sure that is accurate.

This is true. My point was that in common colloquial usage, most people use the term "illegal" to refer to criminal activity. It carries a connotation of criminality in lay usage even if the term may be legally accurate.

A person who was smuggled into the United States as an infant without appropriate papers probably hasn't "broken the law" in any meaningful sense; in fact, under principles generally applicable in civil and criminal law, they would be incapable of being found liable under either civil or criminal law.

This isn't quite right. A civil immigration law is still a law. If you are "unlawfully present" you are present in violation of a civil law.

Debating whether a child can have the intent necessary to be "unlawfully present" under the applicable statute strikes me as dodging the question.

Posted by: square1 on December 29, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

following on from DAY...megyn looks more like a doctor's twitter tag than a real name...

i'd call megyn an "idiot." pretty sure the pc police won't bust me for that.....

Posted by: dj spellchecka on December 29, 2010 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

I just sat through a Fox News blitz at the DMV on one of those "no changing channels allowed" waiting areas. It pissed me off big time. Ever notice how this "no changing" the channel thing always involves Fox News? Sons of Bitches all.

And they had the passionate former head of Shell Oil decrying the lack of a national energy policy. The irony was lost on the 100 or so guests of the DMV. His actual complaint was that we were not producing and using an extra 3 million barrels of oil from American sources if you can believe it. Ah yeah.


And calling people non-offensive things should be what I like to call common sense. But Beck appropriated that phrase too. . .

Posted by: Sparko on December 29, 2010 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Kelly: "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."
There's the problem right there. Kelly thinks that little people are "suddenly" offended by being called midgets. It would never occur to her — or any of her colleagues — that a group of people who have long suffered the insult of callous nomenclature might ultimately find their collective voices and ask the rest of us for a little respect.

What an insufferable douchebag she is. And I say that with all due respect.

Posted by: chrenson on December 29, 2010 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Is it politically incorrect to call Kelly a Fox News Whore?

Posted by: wab on December 29, 2010 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Not sure what the problem is here, and I agree with her. Plus she's hot, but I digress.

That's what get's me about this whole argument....illegal is defined. So, why is it tolerated or argued about? Redefine the people thru legislation and allow them to work here, etc. and the problem is solved.

You guys direct your venom in the wrong direction.

Posted by: Chris on December 29, 2010 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

Megyn Kelly at Fox News: ".....and you're left as a journalist saying, I don't know what to do."

I agree, I think your train has left the station. However, you could always try to get a job in an organization that practices real journalism, find some real journalists, dress like them and follow them around. Maybe some of it will rub off on you.

Posted by: max on December 29, 2010 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

I believe there is a certain contingent of people who insist on using the term, Democrat, where its correct use is Democratic. I believe the correct reference to said party is Democratic Party, not Democrat Party. But, since I don't watch Fox News with the sound on(it is often played in gyms) and don't read the text on the screen, I cannot vouch for their taking corrective action whenever Democrat is used as a pejorative.

If they want to call U.S. residents who are here illegally, illegal aliens, what do they call the illegal employers who hire them and withhold taxes from their wages, knowing that these workers may never benefit from their paid taxes? And report them so they can avoid paying them their earned wages? Thieves? Frauds? Republicans?

Posted by: st john on December 29, 2010 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

No, Steve, it's not a matter of just calling people whatever they want to be called. Descriptive labels are powerful propaganda tools. It is obvious that "illegal" vs "undocumented" changes the tone dramatically from law breaker to a sort of administrative shortcoming, just as "rape" vs "non-consensual sex" softens that crime. Shall we let anyone define themselves or their actions as they wish? Do you accept Fox News description of themselves as Fair and Balanced? Would you, as a journalist, have called the Nazis whatever they wanted to be called? Of course not! Kelly has a point.

Posted by: bob on December 29, 2010 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

News organizations generally use a style guide such as the AP Style Book or the New York Times guide.

This argument that sensitivity to certain terms has cropped up ALL OF A SUDDEN is wrong, but it is used chronically by the right wing in a sarcastic attempt to imply that sensitivity is a lefty trait.

Posted by: Bob G on December 30, 2010 at 3:19 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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