Patterico's Pontifications


Leo Laurence Demands Dishonesty in Coverage of Illegal Immigration (Major Update)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 1:20 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; please send any tips here.]

Major update: I first opened the SPJ page a day or two ago, and only now managed to get around to blogging about it. Because I didn’t hit “refresh” in that time, I missed an important clarification at the beginning of Leo Laurence’s piece:

CLARIFICATION: The following article is an opinion piece and does not reflect the views of SPJ, its membership or its Diversity Committee. The committee itself has taken no official initiative on the use of the phrase “illegal immigrant.”

So it turns out this is the statements of one moron who managed to write fairly unclearly, which was then misinterpreted by the Daily Caller, and I followed suit. So this is actually a piece about one moron, not the entire SPJ, which is a relief.

I apologize for the error.


A few months back at my very neglected blog, I wrote a post entitled When Political Correctness Distorts the Story.

I was talking about Nannygate, involving Meg Whitmann and her illegal immigrant ex-nanny, and I wrote:

But I want to point out to you this hilarious blog entry from the LA times: “Union ad to highlight Whitman’s undocumented former employee.”  Of course we all know that the left has taken to calling an illegal immigrant as an “undocumented immigrant” because it sounds better.  Only there is a problem.  As Whitman has shown, her maid was very well documented.  She had a social security card, and a driver’s license.  The problem was these documents were fraudulent.

So by using the euphemism “undocumented” they are implying that Whitman hired her without proof that she was here legally and eligible to work.  That is simply not true.  I am sure this implication is an oversight, but it shows you just what happens when you start using bullsh– euphemisms, instead of just telling it like it is.  She is an illegal immigrant.  You might not like the laws that declare her to be one, but she broke the law by coming and working here.  And it is actually dishonest to call her anything else.

As Michelle Malkin has pointed out, these supposedly undocumented immigrants actually very often have tons of documents, only fraudulent.

And to be fair, the LA Times is far from alone in committing this sin.

Well, now the Society of Professional Journalists Leo Laurence has demanded that we do exactly that—use the term “undocumented immigrant” and thus sow confusion in our news.  First, the author demonstrates his command of the facts with this little passage:

Some believe the phrase illegal alien originated with fiery, anti-immigrant groups along the U.S.-Mexico border, such as the Minutemen. Gradually, the phrase — along with illegal immigrant — seeped into common usage. It is now even used by some network TV newscasters.

Right, no one ever said the term illegal alien before the minutemen came along…

Yes, I see where he only says that “some believe” this preposterous claim to be true, but still, that is no excuse for repeating it unchallenged. Would he equally report that “some believe that Obama was not born in America” or that “some believe that 9-11 was a controlled demolition”? Seems kind of unprofessional to me.

Anyway, besides the usual kumbaya crap about how hurtful it is to Hispanic Americans, supposedly, he adds a new argument to this discussion: it’s demanded by the constitution!

Oh, dear reader, you think I am kidding?  Nope:

One of the most basic of our constitutional rights is that everyone (including non-citizens) is innocent of anycrime until proven guilty in a court of law. That’s guaranteed under the Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution, as I learned during four-year post-doctoral studies in appellate law at the California Court of Appeal in San Diego…

Simply put, only a judge, not a journalist, can say that someone is an illegal.

Jesus that is so stupid, I don’t know where to begin.

Well, let’s start with this.  OJ Simpson murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and Ron Goldman.  And I don’t feel the slightest amount of fear of a defamation suit in writing that.  Why?  Because although OJ was acquitted in the murder trial, he was later found civilly liable for their deaths.  There was never any serious doubt that someone had murdered them, the only issue was who did the deed.  And the civil system answered the question: OJ did.

The point I am making is that there are different standards for civil and criminal liability, and there is yet another standard for what counts as defamation.  In a criminal case, the fact that a person committed a crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  In an ordinary defamation case, the standard of proof is the preponderance of the evidence—that is, which side has the greater weight of the evidence behind it?  And of course when you defame a celebrity like Simpson, the burden of proof becomes even more favorable to the defendant.

And indeed the whole idea that you can only declare a fact to be a fact if it is adjudicated as such is a bit much.  Certainly journalists have not been deferential to the findings of criminal liability.   They don’t hesitate to question a criminal conviction.  In the case of Roman Polanski, this site has repeatedly shown where journalists treated the crime that he was convicted of as merely a set of allegations, as though he didn’t plead guilty to them.

Indeed, nothing could be more servile and noxious to our system than the attitude that the courts are never wrong in either declaring a person a criminal or declaring a person to be not guilty.  The founders of our constitution protected the right to question authority, and exercised that right freely.  People have in our history gotten away with murder, and not just Heisman winners, either.

Indeed, people are very frequently found in a court of law to be an illegal immigrant, but he still doesn’t want us to talk about them as illegal immigrants, I suppose, or to talk about an illegal immigration problem.  You can go to the border on any night of the week and see people coming across without passing through the checkpoints, but hey, reserve judgment, right?  By his logic, then, we could never say that this nation, and particularly the South, had a problem with the murder of African Americans known as lynching.  After all, the vast majority of people who participated in lynchings were never convicted, right?  And lord knows, we cannot dare declare a person lynched unless convicted.

I mean for decades black people rightfully declared that “we cannot get justice.”  They meant that the criminal laws applied only when they broke them (and frequently applied to them even when they didn’t break the law).  But according to this brain surgeon, we can’t mention that because the courts adjudicated differently.

And I wonder if that applies in other countries too.  Would he equally defer to the rulings of China’s judiciary?  How about Iran’s?

And the dumbest part about all of this?  It doesn’t even address the concern to change the term to “undocumented.”  After all, they haven’t been adjudicated to be undocumented in a court of law, have they?  Indeed, as noted above, many illegal immigrants are anything but documentless.

And the truth is that this deviates significantly from every other situation where we feel we cannot yet declare a person guilty of an illegal act.  When we are not sure if a person murdered another, we don’t call it an undocumented killing.  Instead, we throw in the word “alleged” a few times.  So if we are talking about whether a single person is an illegal immigrant and you want to defer to the courts, then call that person an alleged illegal immigrant.  I don’t like journalists over-using the term “allegedly” but at least there is no effort to deceive.  But just because there are some specific people you are not ready to declare illegal, doesn’t mean we can’t talk about illegal immigrants generally, and drop the word “allegedly.”

Of course you know what will happen next, right?  The networks that aren’t already calling them undocumented immigrants, will fall in line.  Except Fox, which will then be accused of bias for refusing to go along with this bullsh–.

By the way, speaking of (a) Fox, Megyn Kelly weighed in on this issue, too:

I think if anything she held back on the sheer stupidity of all of this.

Hat tip: The Daily Caller.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing]

32 Responses to “Leo Laurence Demands Dishonesty in Coverage of Illegal Immigration (Major Update)”

  1. narcisco

    every time i think our discourse can’t get dumber…

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  2. False. The article you cited represents one member’s opinion. Read the clarification at the article’s beginning.

    BTW, I am on the SPJ board in San Diego.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (fb9e90)

  3. Read the clarification at the article’s beginning.

    Oh, dear. Is A.W. being mendacious mendouchous again?

    Or just too lazy to read his own links?

    Kman (d30fc3)

  4. Brother

    my apologies. i had opened the page more than a day ago and meant to blog about it immediately and only got to it now. so that clarification went up in the meantime, apparently after this firestorm kicked up.

    although now it is really muddled. for instance the guy writes:

    > SPJ’s Diversity Committee met during the 2010 convention in Las Vegas and decided to engage in a yearlong educational campaign designed to inform and sensitize journalists as to the best language to use when writing and reporting on people of different cultures and backgrounds.

    So maybe what they really mean is that he doesn’t “speak for them” but he is correctly describing their policy.

    Or he is a crappy and really unclear writer.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  5. Heh, Aaron. No worries. A lot of people have been confused by that piece. The disclaimer should have been there from the beginning.

    And as you probably know, I think illegal immigrant is just fine. It is precisely descriptive. People who don’t want the word “illegal” used are acting out of their political agenda, not a journalistic one.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (fb9e90)

  6. “One of the most basic of our constitutional rights is that everyone (including non-citizens) is innocent of any crime until proven guilty in a court of law. That’s guaranteed under the Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution, as I learned during four-year post-doctoral studies in appellate law at the California Court of Appeal in San Diego…”

    No, it isn’t a “constitutional right”. Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat is a common law principle that isn’t codified in the amendments mentioned, or anywhere else in the Constitution, for that matter.

    There’s no such thing as presumption of innocence in the United States Constitution.

    Get back to school.

    As far as stating that a specific individual is an illegal alien goes, you might want to watch that, because you could get sued for slander, but, it’s perfectly o.k. to talk about a class of people as illegal aliens. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just like talking about the class of murderers, rapists, jaywalkers, whatever.

    God save us from the idiocy of journalists.

    Dave Surls (4ffc7b)

  7. Brother

    yeah, reading it and rereading it, i am convinced that its a case of this laurence guy being a really sh-tty author.

    i have appropriately updated the post, including the title.

    I originally thought the SPJ had become a gaggle of idiots. but the fact that they have not yet adopted this approach is strong evidence they are not, as well as the fact that you are a member.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  8. Aaron,
    Thank you for the vote of confidence! Now I have to get the word out to the Washington Times, which had an editorial . . .

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (fb9e90)

  9. “Simply put, only a judge, not a journalist, can say that someone is an illegal.”

    Btw, the author might not be aware of this, but we employ a trial by jury system in this country, so it’s usually a jury that decides whether someone is guilty of a crime or not.

    I’m pretty sure that all 57 states employ this system.

    Dave Surls (4ffc7b)

  10. Re: the claim that everyone is required to consider anyone accused of a crime “innocent until proven guilty:”

    There are exactly 13 people in the United States required by the Constitution to consider a person “innocent until proven guilty” – one is the judge at his trial, and the jury are the other 12.

    Journalists tend to use the word “alleged” a lot, but nothing in the Constitution requires it – libel laws are the only reason.

    Sorry,a pet peeve of mine.

    Redhawke (a89303)

  11. This whole “innocent until proven guilty” is merely a legal construct. In reality, a person is “guilty” the moment they commit the crime. Just because investigators can’t figure out who murdered someone doesn’t mean that the person is actually still alive or that the person who murdered him isn’t “guilty” of murder.

    Hank Archer (17792e)

  12. Undocumented worker is simply the non-judgmental non-racist way to speak of these noble peoples.

    William Yelverton (07faa1)

  13. Why can’t we just call them “foreign invaders“?

    Both words are accurate and appropriate descriptors, and do not require an adjudication of guilt to be true.

    Murgatroyd (fd5fcd)

  14. Noble people always sneak into a country, accuse the country’s citizenry of stealing their ancestor’s land, use forged documemts to displace legal residents of work and demand social services. Happens all the time, ask Mexico. Viva la revolucion!

    vote for pedro (e7577d)

  15. Other countries typically welcome poor undocumented aliens with few marketable skills illegally crossing their borders with open arms. Just check around.
    Why is the U.S. such a racist country?

    daleyrocks (a82d72)

  16. How could Polansky have been convicted of anything if there has never been a trial? That’s precisely the problem: he ran away from the trial. Amazing mindlessness on your part.

    Passerby (6b436c)

  17. Passerby, no need to demonstrate your ignorance of the issue on which you opine, we guessed.

    The answer? He pled guilty.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  18. “Passerby” approves of Polanski drugging and assraping underage girls.

    JD (b98cae)

  19. I don’t know that, JD. But certainly Passerby either is, or wants to pretend, ignorance of the facts of the case.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  20. All ignorance is yours. One can’t be convicted w/o a trial.

    Btw, I haven’t said a word in defence of him. But he hasn’t been convicted of anything. Accused, yes.

    Passerby (6b436c)

  21. He pled guilty, and fled prior to sentencing. If you plead “guilty”, you are admitting to your guilt, no? If you admit to your guilt, the accusation is verified.

    Wee Willie Yelverton (e7577d)

  22. Damn, sock begone!

    vote for pedro (e7577d)

  23. I’m tired to repeat what I said initially: you state that he was convicted. He was not. This is not a matter of opinion, or something that allows a lot of word-twisting. You need a trial to convict. Ask a lawyer to explain that to you if you’re not sure.

    Also, pleading is not a conviction. Btw, to plead anything you also need a trial. You can plea-bargain prior to that, agreeing (non-bindingly, btw) how you will plead during the trial. Polanski absconded precisely because he believed that the judge will not stick to his side of whatever plea-bargaining they achieved earlier – and, btw, there would be nothing wrong about it; the judge isn’t obligated to stick to anything. Neither is the accused. Everything is decided during the trial. No trial, no nothing. That’s why P absconded. You’ve no idea what you’re talking about, but you keep running your mouth. Learn the facts and settle down already: No trial, no conviction. This is a fact; we don’t need to argue about it.

    Passerby (6b436c)

  24. Actually, I was wrong about pleading in trial: what happens here actually is the agree plea needs to be approved by the court (no jury). Which amounts to the same thing: since he ran away, this coudn’t be done: no formal pleading, no approval, no sentencing took place. The long and the short of it is, he has never been convicted of anyting, which you say he was. Not true.

    Passerby (6b436c)

  25. I never said he was convicted. You said he was “only” accused. Every article I can find states he pled guilty. If he pled guilty it’s no longer an accusation since he admitted to the charge.

    vote for pedro (e7577d)

  26. We have seen this child assrape apologiest before. Prolly one of Ritter’s buddies.

    JD (0d2ffc)

  27. Passerby must be one smart fellah’.
    So smart that he’s able to school our learned host on what a pleading means in a criminal trial.
    As for me, I’ll stick to Vinny if I need a lawyer.

    AD-RtR/OS! (b6ebc8)

  28. Pedro, I was speaking about the author of the article, not you. But that doesn’t matter: I’m actually wrong on all counts. He was indeed convicted, not in trial, but by virtue of accepting the plea bargain. Sorry for wasting everyone’s time and thank you for an opportunity to learn some detail I did not understand.

    Passerby (6b436c)

  29. Not a problem. I hope you agree that what he did was despicable, and not some ridiculous equivocating definition of rape, as opposed to rape-rape.

    vote for pedro (e7577d)

  30. On behalf of the Society of Professional Journalists national headquarters, we want to thank you for including an update in your article to help bring clarity to this matter. It is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you, sincerely!

    Society of Professional Journalists (f6702c)

  31. SPJ – What is the official position of your leadership and our organization on is topic?

    JD (6fed24)

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.1438 secs.