Friday, August 18, 2017

Alt-right? Alt-left? Antifa? An Associated Press style guide to new, touchy political terms

Any journalist worth his or her salt tries to avoid biased terminology when writing stories, but the recent protests over Confederate monuments have brought the issue into sharp focus. What is the best way to describe the groups who protest to keep the statues up? What are the nuances that make one term more appropriate than another? "The events in Charlottesville are an opportunity to take another look at our terminology around 'alt-right' and the way that we describe the various racist, neo-Nazi, white nationalist and white supremacist groups out there," writes John Daniszewski, vice president for standards at The Associated Press. He outlines common-sense style guidelines and recent changes to AP style such as the following:
  • Avoid the term "alt-right," because it's an euphemism for groups with racist aims. It should be used only when quoting someone or when describing "what the movement says about itself." If you have to use the term by itself, put it in quotations, or call it the so-called alt-right or self-described alt-right.
  • "Alt-left" is a phrase recently created to describe the actions of some far-left factions. Avoid using it, and follow the same rules as when using "alt-right" when you have to use it.
  • The terms "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" are often used interchangeably, but the difference is that white nationalists say that "white people are a distinct nation deserving of protection, and therefore they demand special political, legal and territorial guarantees for whites." White supremacists, on the other hand, believe that white people are better than other races and should dominate them. Sometimes one term may be more appropriate than the other, though the groups heavily overlap.
  • "Antifa" is short for "anti-fascist" and is a popular new term for the far-left militant groups that often oppose white supremacists at public events. The movement consciously emulates anti-fascists in Europe going back to the 1930s. Because the term is not yet well-known or clearly defined, use a definition of antifa close to your first reference.
See Daniszewski's column for a more comprehensive list of related definitions and style changes.

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