Expressive Individualism, The Associated Press, Reality, And Lunacy

The AP Stylebook was, until recent years, one of the most respected and influential authorities for American journalists. Undergraduate journalism students are regularly directed to the AP Style as the “bible” for journalists. It functions similarly to the way the Chicago Manual of Style functions for writers and editors generally. So, when the AP issues style guidelines, it is worthy of note since it will influence the editorial decisions made by most journalists and broadcasters. Their recent update regarding how to speak about transgender issues is worth observing.

The AP decrees:

Journalists on all beats must be able to write about and interview transgender people using accurate, sensitive, unbiased language. . . Avoid false balance—giving a platform to unqualified claims or sources in the guise of balancing a story by including all views. For instance, do not quote people speaking about biology or athletic regulations unless they have the proper background. If you do need to use the quotes, fact-check them within the story. Ensure that organizations offering data or other factual information in a story are using sound methodology grounded in valid science.

One of the very first warnings is to “avoid false balance,” which, prior to our current madness, would have counted as balance. As far as “giving a platform to unqualified claims” by people without “the proper background”—who decides what counts as “proper background”? The AP does not say. Must one have an MD to decide whether another human being is male or female? I took human physiology in high school, and I have decades of experience being a human and observing other humans. I was there when my children were born. The physician did not “assign” a biological sex to my children. He recognized to which sex they belonged. I am just guessing here, but I am reasonably sure that he could have made that judgment even before medical school. Even without advanced medical training, I was able to see what sex my children were.

Reporters are to “fact-check” those whom they quote when those quoted lack the appropriate credentials. “Fact-check” is code for “contradict in order to maintain the politically correct narrative.” Reporters are being given their marching orders. Ironically, the AP, who doubts the veracity of all but the credentialed proceeds to license all reporters, who may or may not have any higher education in science or medicine, to “ensure that organizations. . . are using sound methodology grounded in valid science.” I was briefly a student in the College of Journalism at the University of Nebraska. I was unaware that a journalism major qualifies one to decide who is and is not using “sound methodology grounded in valid science.” I did have a couple of courses in journalism before college and I worked as a professional broadcaster, who regularly trained journalism majors in the realities of actual broadcasting, including as a news gatherer and newscaster. In the old days, we were taught that our job was to report the facts as accurately and quickly as we could—not to determine who was using the correct scientific methodology.

The Stylebook only gets weirder as the AP is apparently only getting warmed up. It distinguishes between gender and sex:

Gender refers to internal and social identity and often corresponds with but is not synonymous with sex. Experts from organizations including the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association say gender is a spectrum, not a binary structure consisting of only males and females.

Again, “experts” are definitive—not one’s generally reliable sense perception of the world or universal sense perception, or history, but “experts.” This is a kind of Gnosticism. The experts alone have secret knowledge (γνῶσις) which they have obtained mystically by climbing the ladder of aeons. This is a significant shift in the ethos of journalists. They used to be empiricists, interested in this world, in what could be known from sense experience. There has, at the AP at least, been an epistemological (and religious) revolution. Gnosis from “experts” has replaced sense experience.

They give a relatively straightforward account of what most of us mean by sex including “chromosomes, hormones and reproductive anatomy” but then, in defiance of universal human sense experience:

Since not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender—as in the cases of nonbinary and intersex people—avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders.

Since when have human beings not fallen under “one of the two categories for sex”? Has a third human sex evolved right before our eyes? If so, why has the AP not reported that fact? After all, the AP itself acknowledges what constitutes a biological sex. Is there a new set of chromosomes about which only the AP knows? Which Gnostic expert told them about these new chromosomes?

The point of this exercise is to alert you, dear reader, to the fact that significant authorities in the world of journalism have lost their ever-loving minds. The AP Stylebook does not drop out of the sky. It emerges from a context. It means that journalism professors have taught journalism students this nonsense, and now some of those students are attempting codify said nonsense for journalists, newspapers, and broadcasters everywhere.

Younger readers may not remember, but there was a time when journalists, and even broadcasters, were known for their skepticism—for being hard-bitten, for being independent thinkers. At least some of those ink-stained wretches of yore would not have taken kindly to this sort of bossy, ill-considered, high-handed, and stupid guidance. There was a time when an AP Stylebook with this sort of advice would have been removed from the newsroom to the bathroom.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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2 comments

  1. Actually you need to admit that us docs ARE pretty good at “assigning gender at birth.”. Seriously, if simply by looking st external physical characteristics we can assign >90% (even allowing the statistics of the crazies) CORRECTLY, acknowledge our brilliance! Statistically this is far beyond random guessing, there is obvious brilliance at work 😉

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