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Don't sic Lou Dobbs on me

Mr. Rational , who commented on the previous post on illegal immigrants, has also sent a courteous and civil note for further discussion. Courtesy and civility demand a response. First, his note:

I posted in yesterdays feckless twit flame fest. (You're a good sport on that btw.)

The subject phrasing had me turn to some dictionary sources for objective definitions noting that HOW the issue is described is just as important in expressing raw information as it is intent (PC or otherwise).

I would love to see my anti-PC distaste for the phrase "illegal-immigrant" more strongly supported by the objective definitions but I also see equally valid term choices that have my lesser PC quotient.

The terms of interest being immigrant, alien, and illegal.

While on most social issues I am far to the left, there are a few where I find myself in support of other views and find it intellectually distasteful when the media accepts, and supports by repeating them, the phrasing preferred and promulgated by advocates actively in support of illegal acts.

The point I'm making is this transcends whether immigrant status should be reported on (I believe it should) but that the terms used to describe this illegal status should be even more emphatic and even contemptuous toward those who so blatantly flaunt the law.

A reverse corollary to this is the use of "dead-broke" vs "deadbeat" when referring to child support issues.

In the case of the issue at hand, I am suggesting that "illegal alien" is both more factually accurate but is also less inflammatory to those citizens who support a legal and orderly immigration process. Even "foreign national" is a better choice.

Back to your original blog subject, not reporting on something that is in almost all instances literally obvious is akin to muzzling reporters with a "don't ask don't tell" policy. Surely you appreciate the absurdity of such a restraint on reporters.

Keep fighting the good fight.

The Sun’s use of illegal immigrant follows Associated Press style, but I don’t propose to hide behind a rulebook. It is a reasoned choice, though Mr. Rational and others may not find the reasoning persuasive.

I’ve heard people object to alien because it is a term also used for entities from outer space. I don’t expect that many people, even Representative Tancredo, imagine that illegal aliens are streaming in through Roswell, N.M. But the word has overtones that can’t be ignored. Alien means not only foreign, but also strange, utterly unlike. But illegal immigrants aren’t utterly unlike us. They may be harvesting the produce we eat, cleaning our workplaces and motel rooms, mowing our lawns, encountering us daily.

Besides, it’s not their being aliens, in the purely legal sense, that distinguishes them. It is their having immigrated, moved in and set up residence, brought their families along when possible.

We don’t use undocumented worker, because it’s such an obvious euphemism. Despite what some of the all-caps commenters may think, we do understand that illegal immigration is a violation of the law, and we don’t treat it as being the equivalent of having left one’s driver’s license on the bureau at home.

Illegal immigrant is technically accurate and a middle term between the most inflammatory and the most euphemistic.

As to the reporting, there is no “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy. All reporting and editing involve choices of what to include and what to exclude, judgments of what is relevant. A person’s sexual orientation and conduct become relevant when a story is about a sex crime. A person’s race becomes relevant in the context of a race crime or as part of a description of a suspect detailed enough to help the public make an identification. A person’s immigration status becomes relevant when that impinges directly on some violation.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 8:46 AM | | Comments (21)
        

Comments

The important thing to remember about all of this is (I believe) that the paper's duty is to report to you salient facts.

Now, what matters to you and what matters to me may be different things, I grant, but there should be pieces that matter to nearly everyone, and those are the ones that a journalist should report. While some folks may need more fuel for their anti-whatever fire, it's not a newspaper's duty to provide that.

Unless it's an anti-newspaper fire in the most literal sense, I guess. Newspaper DOES burn really well.

Well said!

Immigration Terminology 101

With the vitriolic immigration debate roiling in all parts of our country, it is important to understand terminology. Be prepared to dispel the half-truths and no truths of the way those who are illegally in our country are described by their advocates. Knowledge is power:

ILLEGAL:
1.) Unlawful; illegitimate; illicit; unlicensed.
2.) Illegal, unlawful, illegitimate, illicit, criminal can all describe actions not in accord with law.
3.) Illegal refers most specifically to violations of statutes.
4.) Prohibited by law

ALIEN:
1.) a person who is not a citizen of the country.
2.) in the United States any person born in another country to parents who are not American and who has not become a naturalized citizen. There are resident aliens officially permitted to live in the country and illegal aliens who have sneaked into the country or stayed beyond the time allowed on a visa.

INVADE:
1. to enter like an enemy: Locusts invaded the fields
2. to enter as if to take possession: To invade a neighbor's home
3. to enter and affect injuriously or destructively, as disease: Viruses that invade the bloodstream.
4. to intrude upon: To invade the privacy of a family.
5. to encroach or infringe upon: to invade the rights of citizens.
6. to permeate: The smell of baking invades the house.
7. to penetrate; spread into or over: The population boom has caused city dwellers to invade the suburbs

Those illegally in a country are not "immigrants". There is no such thing as an "illegal immigrant". An immigrant is involved with an established and orderly procedure of immigration (entering a country to which one is not native in order to settle there by legal process).

They are not immigrants, not undocumented immigrants (Kennedy and the PC fan favorite), not undocumented workers, not undocumented Americans (Harry Reid’s favorite), not economic immigrants (Big Business and Wall Street favorite), not immigrants without work papers, not people who are working (Enrique Morone’s favorite), not migrant workers, not entrants, not day laborers and not the “unbanked” (Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite).

The government has defined them as "illegal aliens" and explicitly uses that term in all its laws and statutes. So keep it simple…a spade is a spade…they are illegal aliens. Or, if you’d prefer, another term that would be just as correct to use is "invaders". I would consider the two interchangeable.

One other definition is exceedingly useful since you’ll hear with every piece of amnesty legislation, the open border lobbyists, facilitators and illegal alien advocates declaring that it isn’t amnesty in the hope that you will think so. Here’s the definition of amnesty so you can decide for yourself:

AMNESTY is legislation to forgive the breaking of immigration laws and to make it possible for illegal aliens to live permanently in the United States. Amnesty represents a system of federal rewards and assistance for illegal aliens, and they entice an even greater number of foreign nationals to illegally enter a country. Amnesty is providing the ultimate goal of the perpetrators illegal entry...legalization of their presence.

AMNESTY:
1. A general pardon for offenses against a government
2. An act of forgiveness for past offenses, esp. to a class of persons as a whole
3. Forgetting or overlooking any past offense

There you have it, folks. Knowledge is power…use it wisely.

As the liberal press, illegal alien huggers and advocates all claim that the 'hard-working' illegals stream across our borders to find 'better lives for their familes' and are otherwise 'law abiding people'...I'd say immigration status is very important to report when reporting on a crime.

Not doing so impinges on the right to know of citizens. Covering up and hiding the immigration status paints a false and misleading picture. Is there no 'trught in reporting' anymore by the MSM???

Would it be acceptable usage to refer to someone who is speeding as an "illegal driver"? Probably not, and this points out the problem with "illegal immigrant": it implies that the *person* is somehow "illegal," not just the *act*.

I wince when I read the phrase "illegal immigrant" (though not as much as when I see these people referred to simply as "illegals").

The definitions provided by zeezil are useful; copy editors always pay attention to the dictionary. Copy editors also recognize that dictionary definitions are incomplete, because, a lexicographers freely concede, words carry many connotations that denotation is inadequate to express. Those connotations matter.

As to the ever-bashable "liberal press," I believe that it was not the wicked mainstream media but the incumbent Republican president of the United States who advanced a proposal for comprehensive overhaul of immigration law that was roundly denounced and ultimately thwarted by conservatives.

Zeezil:

Your posts have the resounding
ring of TRUTH!
Left Wing Open Border Liberals can "wince" all day long and cry a river of tears for people who did NOT come here to become Americans,but the USA will
NOT let Mexico continue to create an
Illegal Mexican Nation within
our borders!

numbersusa
grassfire
alipac
saveourstate

Can we assume Mr Rational, in a moment of uncharacteristic inattention to accuracy, meant "flout" when he wrote "flaunt"?

To Zeezil:

Imagine if you will, every crime story with the addition of immigrant status.

While I have not done the research, it's easily imaginable that most stories will say "John Doe, American citizen by birth, was arrested for crime X." That will throw things into a relief that that is neither deserved or helpful to journalistic integrity.

Report the facts, yes... but there are a host of facts that don't matter to a newpaper report.

tell it like it is!!! truth is such a wonderful feeling for one to speak! american way for one to play the game!! like untouchables? truth and nothing but the truth so help me GOD!!! feeling compassion honesty to play the game on the up and up!!! gives one a since of "MEANING" without it we are all lost and helpless" just people with a empty existence " we move but do not express ones talent for truth and understanding" such as a wrong!! when one really looks at our founding fathers wisdom for truth and a honest way for our nation'' this gives one a people a way for which to conduct themselfs" this "SPIRIT" is being taken from us all!!! we follow the leader type existence for which jump is the only conclusion!!! truth will set you free!!! INDEPENDENT michigan little big horn AMEN.

If an illegal invader commits a crime in this country the American people have the right to know.
If someone causes a traffic accident, we naturally ASSUME it's an American citizen, but if it was caused by an illegal invader, the headline should include this information....report the UN-assumed.

AMNESTY:
1. A general pardon for offenses against a government
2. An act of forgiveness for past offenses, esp. to a class of persons as a whole
3. Forgetting or overlooking any past offense

The anti-amnesty people should stop using the term amnesty everytime the congress try to work on a solution for the immigration problem.
If you read the definition provided, if you break the law and a judge forgives your offense it's amnesty, but if a judge find that your offense can be either payed through 1 day jail, 1 year year jail, or $1 fee, $1000 fee, or 1 day probation, 1 year probation, it's no longer amnesty, you may not agree with the judge decision, but an amnesty was not given in this case.

DinTN: Illegal invader? Is that your contribution to the immigration lingo handbook?

While the newspaper is at it, why don't we give more details? Like John Doe, whose forefathers came from Germany but is a second-generation American, was arrested in Pikesville. Or Juan Lopez, whose parents are here illegally but he was born in the U.S., is charged in the robbery.

It may be a newspaper's job to educate, but it is not its job to single out people.


I was just thinking about this, when it's a crime story, but then the ICE agents are mentioned in the story, or ICE becomes involved, then you have to mention why?

While pro-illegal immigrant and anti-illegal alien organizations spit blood at each other. The ominous leadership in the Democratic CARTEL, defrauded the American people of their rights in voting the negative side of AMNESTY.
Today! NOW! The danger is SEVERE! Let me remind you of the stakes in this fight against illegal immigration.
If it passes, this bill will GIVE AN AMNESTY to about 3 MILLION (MORE) Illegal Aliens agricultural workers and their families for five years (at least!). You the taxpayer will be paying for their medical care, schooling and much more; compliments of parasite employers and farmers. We already have 12 to 30 million in America already, that our humble pockets are paying for? Already hundreds of thousands of people have faxed messages of anger and frustration.
TOGETHER Citizens and Permanent residence can defeat this repugnant bill. Call toll-free (202-224-3121) Most newspapers are saying nothing. Read and Fax for free NUMBERSUSA Jam politicians switch boards! Also demand reluctant Democrats sponsor the Federal SAVE ACT (H.R.4088).

Paste and copy and distribute freely.

Flout vs flaunt...
Send me to the woodshed for poor usage. Maybe I need to hire an editor?


"While the newspaper is at it, why don't we give more details? Like John Doe, whose forefathers came from Germany but is a second-generation American, was arrested in Pikesville. Or Juan Lopez, whose parents are here illegally but he was born in the U.S., is charged in the robbery.

It may be a newspaper's job to educate, but it is not its job to single out people."

The way I see it there are certain givens or assumptions that it is the reporters job to correct or just to 'report' if they are not the case.

In the example of a traffic related incident we can reasonably assume the car is registered and insured and driven by the owner, and the car is (or was) in good working order, and that the weather was clear and traffic was light and that the driver is licensed, and that the reported english speaking driver "Pete Martin" is a regular citizen just like "us".

But when ANY aspect of those basic assumptions is not the case, then it is incumbent upon the reporter to note these things and/or to investigate these anomalies... and to work ALL of these observations into their story.

It really is that simple.



In the example of a traffic related incident we can reasonably assume…that the reported english speaking driver "Pete Martin" is a regular citizen just like "us".

But when ANY aspect of those basic assumptions is not the case, then it is incumbent upon the reporter to note these things and/or to investigate these anomalies... and to work ALL of these observations into their story.

To make assumptions and generalizations is not inherently unreasonable. In fact, all of us must make some assumptions each day in our attempt to interact with our environment. I must assume that gravity will continue to operate, that the thing that looks like a door will open when I pull the handle, that an individual I say hello to will say hello to me. These assumptions are based on my previous experience in life, and to re-evaluate them each time I get out of bed would be impractical, to say the least. (The danger, of course, is for the assumptions and generalizations to descend into stereotypes based on false beliefs and misleading data; that, however, is a tangential point to the argument I wish to make here.)

What is unreasonable in your argument is to expect a reporter to anticipate your assumptions and compensate for them accordingly. Your assumptions are yours, based on your experiences. They are not necessarily mine, or the writer’s, or the editor’s. How am I to know exactly what you are assuming as you sit down to read? Even if you believe that they are assumptions made by a majority of people, that, too, is an assumption if you don’t have the data to prove it (and data, as any good scientist or economist knows, can be well-manipulated in the right hands). I would imagine that reporters and their editors have enough to do trying to filter their own bias; I certainly don’t expect them to be responsible for mine.

Finally, to require reporters to include any details that fail to fit the “a regular citizen just like ‘us’” criterion raises the question of who, exactly, is “us”? Does “us” have a particular race? Does it mean “born as a US citizen” only, or “born a US citizen to citizen parents”, or “legal citizen” in general? Does “us” have a sexual orientation? A religion? A level of education? A socioeconomic status? Does it matter to you that the driver is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism? That they haven’t paid their taxes for the last five years? That the city has fined them for having flaking paint on the outside of their house? (I for one would like to know the accident statistics for left-handed versus right-handed people. But that’s just me.) The beauty of society, and of humanity, is that the more you try to define “us”, the more difficult it becomes. In the end, your criterion is impossible to obey.

Absolutely, Abigail! I think news articles should consistently report on handedness so we all finally know which side of the brain is really responsible for the ills of society! And perhaps advertisers could even pay to have their products (or if appropriate, their competitors' products) inserted in a news story: "Joseph Schmoe, a right-handed, basically heterosexual male who has been a regular consumer of KrazyKreemi Muffennes since 2004 and whose paternal grandparents came to the United States legally from Poland in 1924 (the record is unclear about his maternal grandparents), was recently appointed to head the Governor's Commission on Water Fowl Protection..."

Dobbs is a monster. What a sad excuse for a human being: him and racists such as Tancredo, Glen Beck, Senator Sessions from Alabama should be deported back in time to Nazi Germany! Shame on CNN for keeping this guy!

Notably, the one definition that Zeezil failed to plagerize and mangle from dictionary.com is "immigrant."

Dictionary.com, copying (at least honestly), off Random House says this:

1.a person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence.
2.an organism found in a new habitat.

Where as Zeezil says:

"There is no such thing as an "illegal immigrant". An immigrant is involved with an established and orderly procedure of immigration (entering a country to which one is not native in order to settle there by legal process)."
It would seem, as is often the case, that those who are the first to pull out the dictionary when it supports their preferred world view, are the first to ignore it when it doesn't.

Anyone that supports any form of amnesty for illegal aliens is either 1) an illegal alien themself 2) has a friend, love interest or family member who is illegal 3) is hiring or profitting from illegals 4) has loyalties and interests other than to the United States. Why do we have immigration laws? What would happen if we had open borders? Our country would cease to exisit as we know it. We would become the most populace nation on earth in a very short time. We already allow over 2 million legal immigrants and visas annually, more than all other countries combined. Everyone in the world does not have a God given right to immigrate here at the expense of American citizens. Wake up America!

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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