There was no AP Style book when I was in journalism school, but there was an AP satellite office built into the city’s Greyhound Bus station not far from City Hall.
With floor-to-ceiling windows sans blinds or curtains, passersby had a good view into the workings of what was then an outpost for mainstream breaking news: mostly men (with their shirt sleeves rolled up) standing around a battery of small teletype machines and typewriters. Whizzing by during my frequent trips downtown, I’d survey this fishbowl of journalism and wonder why it was located just a few feet from the bus terminal men’s room.
The royal flush – in other words the connection between the AP and the Left’s rewrite of the English language – would become more than apparent years later after the first AP Stylebook in 1977.
In those days, the AP Stylebook was known primarily as a grammatical and punctuation guide, the journalism equivalent to the Chicago Manual of Style.
The Stylebook did not tell you how to think and then write in a politically correct “Orwellian” way. That would come later, long after that little AP office by the Greyhound men’s room was converted into a women’s cheap wig shop, a change that somehow makes me think of the mask and wig activist horror show that journalism has become today.
While AP’s Stylebook may have been “the Bible” for big mainstream newspapers, it was never taken all that seriously by the nation’s alternative newspapers. These papers were popular in the 1970s and ‘80s, including the early Village Voice, where writers like dance critic Jill Johnston wrote in Joycean stream of consciousness sentences, aka run-on sentences that often came across as psychobabble.
It was understood that some writers eschewed conventional writing styles for their own inventions just to get the extra attention of readers.
Hemingway may have sat at the feet of Gertrude Stein, but their writing styles and audiences were as different as night and day.
The question remains: So when did the AP Stylebook go from style-control to high voltage thought-control?
I first caught wind of the change in the mid-2000’s when I wrote a column for an editor who objected to my use of the term “police paddy wagon.” He insisted that I change “paddy wagon” to “police van” because the word “paddy” had roots in anti-Irish sentiment going back to the time when the Irish were seen as undesirables “who were often drunk and thrown into police vans for public misbehavior.”
Being half Irish, I nevertheless did not feel the sting of this stereotype (the editor was fully Italian), yet because I wanted to stay in his good graces I struck “paddy wagon” from my vocabulary.
Similarly, when I wrote about my time among the gypsies in Baltimore and Boston, this same editor informed me that “gypsy” was offensive and that the correct term was “Roma.”
But Roma, I said to him, is a city. “It is also the name of a 1972 film by Federico Fellini. Besides, a gypsy refers to someone who is free spirited, doesn’t live in one place, is unconventional. It’s not a pejorative.“
He would not budge because he had just acquired the AP Stylebook, which told him in no uncertain terms that “gypsy” was a pejorative even though most Romani people do not consider “gypsy” a slur at all but embrace the use of the word – embrace, as in hold tight and celebrate.
But there’s no room for this kind of nuance in the woke world.
The AP Stylebook has gone off the charts since those relatively quiet “police paddy wagon” and “gypsy” language days.
In 2023, the AP Stylebook has in many ways lost all credibility given its recent edict that labels used in phrases like “the poor,” “the disabled,” “the mentally ill,” “the college-educated,” and even “the French,” are no longer acceptable because they are “too general” and “dehumanizing.”
“College educated” is especially ironic since in order to get a job at AP one must have a college education. Isn’t this requirement elitist and racist? Doesn’t it leave out large groups of people who may otherwise be qualified?
When “the French,” i.e., the French government, read AP’s suggestion that the phrase “the French” be canned, the French embassy in the U.S. reacted by tweeting in high satirical style that it was changing its name from “French Embassy U.S.” to “Embassy of Frenchness in the U.S.”
The debacle even caught the eye of Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who then asked, “So then why do you call yourself ‘The Associated Press?’”
In the end, after widespread mockery and disbelief, AP changed its mind about its new reference to French people, calling it “inappropriate” and then admitting that it “did not intend to offend.”
But one small apology will not stop the AP from continued efforts to rewrite the English language to suit progressive ideologies, and to transform journalism into activism.
The Hill, for instance, recently reported that AP wants journalists to “try to avoid describing political leanings,” but as we all know this always falls on deaf liberal ears when Republicans are constantly referred to as “right-wing,” while Democrats are never described as “left-wing.”
The Hill asserts that “style writers have been more interested in censoring conservative words while promoting language that liberals tend to favor.”
Here’s a sample of AP’s language casualty list:
- Urges writers to change ‘pro-life’ to ‘anti-abortion’ and to avoid the word ‘abortionist’ because it suggests “clandestine abortions.”
- Do not use Islamist. ‘Terrorist’ is also unacceptable. Use ‘attacker(s).’
- Do not use ‘migrant’ or ‘refugee.’ Use ‘People trying to reach Europe.’ Using ‘Illegal immigrant’ or ‘illegal alien’ has been classified as a high crime and misdemeanor.
- Do not use the word ‘mistress’ because there is no male equivalent. The use of “mistress” also assigns blame to women.
- Capitalize ‘Black’ but do not capitalize ‘white.’
Because the AP has lost all credibility, it’s time to put journalism’s “Bible” away forever or, barring that, at least to strip it down to what it was before: a simple style guide minus the activist language.
That is easier said than done, of course, since all levels of society are being bombarded with AP-like language activism.
Consider the 2022 language wrecko-vation at the Merriam-Webster Dictionary where the definition of the word “female” was altered because transgender activists insisted that the biological definition of the word was not inclusive enough.
At this change every woman on the planet – Republican, Democrat, apolitical, Honduran refugee or cloistered nun – should have risen up and created a stir in the style of “the Frenchness” AP protests. Instead, what we got was apathetic compliance to the new agenda, with even feminists adopting the new definition of a woman (Dylan Mulvaney, Inc.) as something that cannot be defined.
This non-reaction was as if a mad woke scientist had put Jonestown-style Flavor Aid into a number of mass market women’s products in order to transform users into docile, obedient stooges for the new world order.