[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]