October 25, 2013

Our ABC Insists on Maintaining Partisan Inaccuracy

The ABC has banned its journalists from using the term “illegal arrivals”, while acknowledging Scott Morrison’s preferred term for asylum-seekers who arrive by boat is factually correct.
Note that Packham himself refers to unlawful non-citizens seeking illegal entry as “asylum-seekers”—perhaps unwillingly, since he reveals that the policy of The Australian so insists—without first ascertaining whether they are indeed genuine asylum-seekers.
In an email to all staff yesterday, the ABC's head of editorial policy Alan Sunderland said the Immigration Minister’s decision to use the term raised the question of whether the ABC would change its own language.  “The short answer is no,” he said.
Mr Morrison recently ordered his department to use the term “illegal arrival” when referring to asylum-seekers who arrived by boat.
No, the term “illegal arrival” is for when unlawful non-citizens have arrived by boat; a few of them, perhaps, may be assessed later as genuine asylum-seekers.  It is silly to assume that, since a small number of people who arrive by boat may be genuinely seeking asylum we must refer to all of them as “asylum seekers”.  These fellows at The Australian seem almost as thick as the ABC’s officials and alleged reporters.  Perhaps, similarly, since a small number of athletes competing will win races, it would be insulting to refer to them merely as “athletes”, and we might instead refer to all athletes, winners and losers alike, generously if not proleptically as “winners”.
But Mr Sunderland said the term “asylum-seeker” would continue to be used by the taxpayer-funded broadcaster, as it is by The Australian.
He referred staff to the ABC's style guide, which notes that “under international law anyone can apply for asylum”.
Under international law anyone can apply to international courts of justice as well; perhaps we should refer to those people who arrive illegally by boat as “prospective plaintiffs”.
While rejecting the now official terminology, Mr Sunderland endorsed Mr Morrison’s use.
“It is worth examining the minister’s words a little more closely, though, to understand the precise point he is making,” he said.  “In September, ABC Fact Check pointed out that references to ‘'illegal entry’ and‘ illegal arrival’ are not wrong.  In essence, ‘illegal’ can be used to refer to a mode of entry to a country, and either ‘illegal’ or ‘irregular’ is often used in official documentation here and overseas.
“But that does not mean the person is ‘illegal’.”
No, of course not; if you or I were found guilty of committing a crime, that wouldn’t make us criminals; and if we robbed someone, that wouldn’t makes us robbers; oh, wait—.
Mr Morrison refused to comment yesterday on the ABC’s editorial directive.  But he defended his own language, saying he was “calling a spade a spade”.
He said the term “illegal arrival” was based on the language used in the UN Convention on Refugees.
“I’m not going to make any apologies for not using politically correct language to describe something that I’m trying to stop,” Mr Morrison said.
“Let me be clear.  I’m trying to stop people illegally entering Australia by boat.  That’s our objective.
“I've never claimed that it’s illegal to claim asylum.  That’s not what the term refers to.  It refers to their mode of entry.”
The Australian Press Council has adjudicated a number of complaints in recent years over the use of the term “illegal” in relation to asylum-seekers.
In response, News Corp Australia, publisher of The Australian, advised editors:  “The most accurate term to describe people arriving aboard unauthorised boats is ‘asylum-seekers’.”
No; the most accurate term to describe unlawful non-citizens who arrive illegally is “unlawful non-citizens who arrive illegally” or, in short, “illegal arrivals”.

UPDATE (26 October):  see “The minister for debasing the language” by a hypocritical debaser of language, Warwick McFadyen:
Compare the two phrases: “asylum seekers” versus “illegal maritime arrivals”.
The conjoining of “asylum” and “seeker” is evocative.  Who seeks asylum?  A human in danger, distress and despair; someone who is hoping to survive on the lee shore of kindness.  “Illegal” + “maritime” + “arrivals” = the draining of the human.  It is using language to drive and empower ideology.  Language shapes public policy and discourse.
By changing the terms of reference, Morrison is trying to control the debate.  Kon Karapanagiotidis, chief executive of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, believes the change in terms is “profound” and that Morrison is “deliberately trying to dehumanise asylum seekers by making them less than human”.
In truth, McFadyen and Karapanagiotidis, as well as too many others, are deliberately misusing language to drive and empower their foolish ideology that every person who who seeks to enter our country illegally must be a poor, deperate refugee deserving of our generous sympathy; by such wilful misuse of terminology, the bigoted McFadyen and the self-serving Karapanagiotidis are hoping to control the debate.