ONTD Political

AP nixes 'homophobia', 'ethnic cleansing'

1:00 pm - 11/28/2012
By DYLAN BYERS |
11/26/12 3:16 PM EST

The Associated Press has nixed "homophobia," "ethnic cleansing," and a number of other terms from its Style Book in recent months.

The online Style Book now says that "-phobia," "an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness" should not be used "in political or social contexts," including "homophobia" and "Islamophobia." It also calls "ethnic cleansing" a "euphemism," and says the AP "does not use 'ethnic cleansing' on its own. It must be enclosed in quotes, attributed and explained."

"Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for pretty violent activities, a phobia is a psychiatric or medical term for a severe mental disorder. Those terms have been used quite a bit in the past, and we don't feel that's quite accurate," AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told POLITICO.

"When you break down 'ethnic cleansing,' it's a cover for terrible violent activities. It's a term we certainly don't want to propgate," Minthorn continued. "Homophobia especially -- it's just off the mark. It's ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don't have. It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case."

"We want to be precise and accurate and neutral in our phrasing," he said.

The changes made to the online Style Book will appear in next year's printed edition.

source
ahria 28th-Nov-2012 11:56 pm (UTC)
I've always thought "homophobia" was a bullshit term. You're not afraid, you're just a biggot.
redstar826 29th-Nov-2012 12:18 am (UTC)
does 'phobic' always mean fear though? I mean, when we say that a substance is hydrophobic, we don't mean that it is afraid of water.
kitanabychoice 29th-Nov-2012 12:02 am (UTC)
I'm pretty on board with the nixing of homophobia, it's a misnomer.
toxic_glory 29th-Nov-2012 12:03 am (UTC)
The ethnic cleansing thing makes sense

but I don't understand why homophobia and Islamophobia shouldn't be used simply because they aren't "phobias" in the traditional sense; language changes and words are created, and since we already have these two concise words that are used frequently to describe two types of prejudiced thinking, it doesn't make much sense to just stop using them because of a little technical thing like this. The words are already in our vocabularies, you know?

although I would argue that people who hate Muslims and people who hate queer people are often doing it because of an irrational fear (ex: they think all Muslims are terrorists, they think gay marriage will ~destroy American society~)

well, actually, I guess I see why those words could be problematic, because "phobia" tends to imply an involuntary fear, so perhaps calling someone's hatred for other people a "phobia" could imply that they are not responsible for their prejudices. I'm kind of all over the place with this comment, I apologize.
eames 29th-Nov-2012 12:09 am (UTC)
I kinda get what you're saying here, and my thoughts are similary mixed, I think. While I'm all for calling a bigot a bigot, the very definition of a phobia is that it is irrational, and if the term is changed to something neutral like 'anti-gay', I'd be concerned it could give a more valid (in the eyes of some) voice to those who espouse such opinions, but at the same time I can see why the absolution of responsibility implied in the 'phobia' part is also a problem. I don't quite know how to phrase exactly what I want to say, but that's about as much as I can manage right now. I'm absolutely all for calling a spade a spade, but something about this needles at me. Hmm. Words.
art_house_queen 29th-Nov-2012 12:14 am (UTC)
I actually agree with this.
maynardsong 29th-Nov-2012 12:49 am (UTC)
I hope they'll quit saying "sex" when they mean "rape". When will that happen?
sfrlz 29th-Nov-2012 12:56 am (UTC)
God, I so wish. Sick of hearing about older men "having sex" with underage girls or whatever.
sfrlz 29th-Nov-2012 12:54 am (UTC)
Honestly, I don't mind scrapping the word "homophobia." We should call it what it is - hatred, bigotry, discrimination, ignorance, whatever, instead of "fear." But I can also understand why some might be side-eyeing this.
robintheshrew 29th-Nov-2012 01:01 am (UTC)
Photobucket
wrestlingdog 29th-Nov-2012 03:07 am (UTC)
LMFAO
squeeful 29th-Nov-2012 01:03 am (UTC)
:-/

Imagine that, a colloquial term that doesn't mean exactly the same as its technical/medical/scientific meaning or its root words. Is the AP going to nix "theory" except for its precise scientific meaning too? Ooh, how about "awesome" because that means something different in post-1960s America than it did before or what it means in other English-speaking countries. I know when I say something is "awesome" I don't mean it fills me with awe akin to a deep religious experience at the omnipotence of God.

Words change. They mean things more than just their roots indicate.
jettakd 29th-Nov-2012 01:32 am (UTC)
Thank you.
jimmyblue 29th-Nov-2012 01:05 am (UTC)
I agree that "homophobia" is a bit of a misnomer, but there really isn't a sufficient replacement for it.
jettakd 29th-Nov-2012 01:34 am (UTC)
Oh yay, the AP prescriptively telling people that their commonly used language isn't good enough again.

I can understand the problems with both terms, but eliminating the words isn't really going to help anything. And someone tell me how "anti-gay" is supposedly more neutral than homophobia?
skellington1 29th-Nov-2012 02:13 am (UTC)
I think eliminating or scare-quoting "ethnic cleansing" is a good journalistic move, because it's too easy for stories to be twisted by using the approved language (see: how Faux news frames almost anything, ever) -- and since it's only the AP style guide, the prescriptivism doesn't bother me that much.

Homophobia, though, is a much more loaded discussion, as can be seen anywhere on this thread.
kaizopp 29th-Nov-2012 01:56 am (UTC)
Well, good on the "ethnic cleansing" part at least. I could think of a few more of those euphimistic expressions that need to DIAF.

"Homophobia", though, isn't a stupid journalistic euphimism, it's a word which meaning has evolved beyond its roots... Different matter, really.
yeats 29th-Nov-2012 02:08 am (UTC)
hm. the only issue i have with the removal of "ethnic cleansing" is that i'm not sure that there's a good, succinct term for the forcible expulsion of people from their territory based on narrowly religious, linguistic or other "ethnic" categories. i agree that it's problematic how mainstream language has accepted what was a euphemism created by its perpetrators, but the term itself has a lot of valid, important scholarship attached to it by now. also, from a simply utilitarian perspective, i worry that not labeling things that we would classify "ethnic cleansing" as such will make it harder for future scholars to locate them in the record.
fluteaphrael 29th-Nov-2012 10:45 am (UTC)
I do get the scholarship issue, but from a news standpoint there is a difference between "killed all the persons of x identity," and "forcibly removed them from their homeland," and "attacked and injured and imprisoned them," and "denied them x rights whilst others had them." They are all evil acts, but they are actually different evil acts. And in most cases require different intervention (if anyone is intending to intervene.)

And in that case the people who are reading the news and electing and supporting (or choosing not to support) the intervenors, need to know what's actually happening.
sandvich 29th-Nov-2012 02:14 am (UTC)
Honestly, these don't bother me too much. The AP stylebook is a set of rules meant to foster good journalism, and good journalism usually depends on the use of precise, direct language to convey information as simply as possible. This decision doesn't mean that anyone's saying homophobia and Islamophobia are bad or illegitimate terms in general, just that equivalent phrases like anti-gay, anti-Muslim, etc. beat around the bush a little less when it comes to reporting the news.

/journo
hinoema 29th-Nov-2012 03:15 am (UTC)
If they want to foster good journalism, they need to spend less time on this kind of thing and more time collectively hitting Faux upside the head with aforementioned stylebook, while repeating "Telling lies is bad journalism! No making shit up!"
quixotic_coffee 29th-Nov-2012 02:36 am (UTC)
The homophobia thing kind of annoys me because it's not like we use hydrophobic to mean a substance is literally afraid of water. But I think anti-gay and anti-Muslim are more to the point, so I'm all for using them instead.
thenakedcat 29th-Nov-2012 05:27 pm (UTC)
I think the real crux of the argument against using "homophobia" is that it's offensive to people with literal mental illnesses, who aren't simply being ignorant and bigoted.
brittlesmile 29th-Nov-2012 02:45 am (UTC)
tbh, I'm kind of bothered that they'll stop using homophobia. Although it's not the term I would choose if I was naming things originally, there isn't really a word for it now that is recognized and has the same cultural weight. If, for example, I say that something is heterosexist, or anti-gay, for example, I don't think folks understand what I mean the way they do when I say something is homophobic. And the asshats who'll argue that they aren't afraid of gay people are the kind of asshats who will find a pendantic and boring objection to any term.
hinoema 29th-Nov-2012 03:09 am (UTC)
The online Style Book now says that "-phobia," "an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness" should not be used "in political or social contexts," including "homophobia" and "Islamophobia."

So you shouldn't discuss irrational fears or mental illnesses in political or social contexts why exactly? That only stigmatizes them, leads to misunderstanding and, in this case, allows people using it as a screen for hatred to justify that hateful, CONTROLLABLE behavior.

Sorry, but no.

Edited at 2012-11-29 03:16 am (UTC)
bellonia 29th-Nov-2012 04:27 am (UTC)
I don't think that's where they were going with it? I think it's that it shouldn't be applied to political or social contexts.
operatic_diva 29th-Nov-2012 03:24 am (UTC)
Can we also have "pro-life" dropped and replaced with "anti-choice"? And how about educating journalists that pro-choice doesn't always mean pro-abortion?

I like the idea of dropping homophobic (and similar) for anti-gay, because that's straight up what it is- you're not scared of them, you hate them. That's makes you anti-gay- not beating around the bush.
mirhanda 29th-Nov-2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
+1
ceruleanst 29th-Nov-2012 03:25 am (UTC)
While this move may be unnecessarily prescriptive, I think a lot could be gained if our language would draw more distinction, in general, between fear and hatred.

A toothless term like "anti-gay", however, strips away the implication of hatred as well, and presents it as nothing more than an opinion about a divided issue. I think that's inadequate.

I propose "hostile" as a suffix, e.g. "Savage has said a lot of bi-hostile and trans-hostile things."
rkt 29th-Nov-2012 06:41 am (UTC)
journalistic writing requires a certain degree of prescription...

ilu tho for savage shade.
meran_flash 29th-Nov-2012 04:09 am (UTC)
Uggghh I hate this shit because -phobia can mean HAVING AN AVERSION TO. HOMOPHOBIA IS AN ACCURATE TERM FOR THE HATRED OF QUEER PEOPLE.
bowl_of_glow 29th-Nov-2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
+1
rkt 29th-Nov-2012 06:39 am (UTC)

considering journalists still ignore the AP style guide when it comes to simple things like pronouns, i'm not exactly expecting change anytime soon
ebay313 29th-Nov-2012 07:12 am (UTC)
I do prefer heterosexism in most contexts over homophobia because of the fear connotation of "phobia" and usually I think the issue is not really fear. I don't like "anti-gay" as a complete replacement though- to me it sounds less bad. Like anti-gay to me puts it outside the category of oppression ("isms") and makes it seem more like just a negative feeling or attitude.

Though on the other hand I don't have as much issue with "Islamophobia" as I think that does seem to be often based in fear (fear of terrorists by conflating terrorism with Islam.) But then if I think about it, there are prejudices and such there that are not really fear based IMO, but then what do you call it?
meran_flash 29th-Nov-2012 09:46 am (UTC)
"Heterosexism" doesn't have the same meaning as "homophobia," though. The two terms have a relationship similar to the one between the terms "sexism" and "misogyny." One describes the system of oppression against a minority group, while the other more specifically describes hatred of/aversions to that group.
bnmc2005 29th-Nov-2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
I wonder if they will remove the word "Hysterical" as well ,
poetic_pixie_13 29th-Nov-2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
Unless AP wants to replace 'homophobe' with 'bigoted asshole' I'm not buying it.

The ethnic cleansing change is fantastic, tho.
crossfire 29th-Nov-2012 05:52 pm (UTC)
Ordinarily I'd roll my eyes and go "lol prescriptivism" but I get that this is about establishing a proper journalistic style.

One thing, though:

It's ascribing a mental disability to someone

I never thought of that before. More to the point, I never thought about the potential harm of equating bigotry with a mental disability, not only in terms of accuracy but also of hurting people who have real phobias.

Or am I over-thinking that?
caterfree10 29th-Nov-2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
No, not over-thinking the latter at all. 'S why I prefer "heterosexism" myself - and "cissexism" to transphobia and "monosexism" to "biphobia." I've yet to come across a good substitute for Islamophobia that isn't as wordy as "anti-Islamic bigotry" though :S

Not only that, but comparing their bigotry to a mental disability basically says their shitty behavior is uncontrollable when they most certainly can control it.
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