What's a Good Euphemism for "Racist"?
How is it possible two and a half years into Donald Trump’s presidency that media organizations are still agonizing over whether to describe his words as racist?

Trump hauled out his Archie Bunker routine on Sunday, proposing that four liberal congresswomen of color “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” Three of them were born in America.

The New York Times called Trump’s insult “a racist trope.” The Washington Post referred to it as a “racist tweet.” But that just showed, once again, how America’s two most important newspapers have been transformed by the Trump presidency. Not every news organization is as evolved.

The estimable media analyst Brian Stelter noted the widespread use of “the ‘critics’ crutch” in coverage of Trump's comment. ABC called the tweets “racially charged.” NBC took similar steps to avoid the R-word, and CBS explained faintly that Trump “aimed at four progressive lawmakers, all of them women of color.” The New York Post didn’t even bother to quote a critic charging racism – the word wasn't mentioned at all in its coverage.

The debate caused deep divisions at NPR, which used the term in its reporting, only to have Keith Woods, its own Vice President of Newsroom Diversity and Training, write in disagreement. “Journalism may not have come honorably to the conclusion that dispassionate distance is a virtue,” he wrote. “But that's the fragile line that separates the profession from the rancid, institution-debasing cesspool that is today's politics.”

Doris Truong of Poynter wasn’t having it . “If news media continue to tiptoe when language is not even coded enough to be considered a dog whistle, are we any better than a euphemism generator?” she asked.

Trump has clearly been too much to handle for many news organization. “A real problem is that politics in Trump’s era has taken on a moral dimension that news outlets either aren’t equipped to cover, or think it’s their duty to avoid,” the Times’ shrewd James Poniewozik remarked . “And if they avoid it, they avoid their job, which is to accurately represent to their audience what’s happening.”

It's an uncomfortable problem for many in the news business. But there's little use for euphemism generators in this dangerous age.
"They" Are Giving Us a Headache
Who are we, and what are we supposed to call ourselves?

This was the question that greeted us upon our return from vacation recently. Prior to our falling off the grid, the Times breezily reported on the growing availability of sexual identities to our youth (“ I identify as pansexual, nonbinary, demi ”). We learned upon our re-emergence that the lexiconic contagion had floated up the masthead.

“I am your stereotypical, cisgender, middle-aged suburban dad,” newish op-ed columnist Farhad Manjoo sheepishly admitted at the start of his manifesto entitled “It’s Time for ‘They.’” Spurred by observing the “gendered constructs” that were dooming his son and daughter to stereotypical boy/girl behaviors (“they gravitated to boy toys and girl toys, boy colors and girl colors, boy TV shows and girl TV shows”), he argued for abandoning from everyday use the words “him” and “her,” and “he” and “she,” in favor of “they” and “them.”

“Gender is a ubiquitous prison for the mind,” he said. It was time to break free.

The story would have ended there but for the avalanche of responses from his readers – 2,259 at last count. While the columnist had his supporters, many others were appalled at what they viewed as political correctness. Some were amused. Others worried for the very future of liberalism.

  • “Farhad has stepped up his game to be relevant. May they please do it elsewhere.”

  • “There are two genders. Pick one.”

  • “It’s as if a New York Times columnist suddenly declared that the word ‘eight’ is the number of legs a dog has.”

  • “This is akin to debating the interior color scheme on the Boeing 737 Max.”

  • “Imagine having space to write anything you want in the world’s most valuable print real estate, at this moment in time, and deciding this is what you want to say.”
  • This article is not as funny as one several years ago where the Times posited that an ‘artist’s’ dive off a high bridge was ‘performance art’ rather than a suicide.”
  • “Western civilization is coming to an end. The liberal West is becoming a joke.”

  • “File under ‘How Trump Got Elected.’
Here and There
David Barstow leaves his post at the New York Times and moves to the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California Berkeley … Emily Lezner moves from Atlantic Media to MPAA to become executive vice president for global communications and public affairs… Matt Dhati leaves his press secretary position at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to go to Stanford Law School… Sahil Patel moves from Digiday to the Wall Street Journal Daniel Funke moves to cover the 2020 election at PolitiFact … Adrienne Carter takes on a role as senior editor in Hong Kong for the Times Alison Morris joins NBC News Now as anchor after leaving Fox 5.
Quotable
"The whole cocktail party circuit loathes Bill de Blasio, and he takes so much pleasure in that." - Political consultant Rebecca Katz.
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