AP Discourages Usage of “Homophobia,” “Ethnic Cleansing”

In an update to their style guide for reporters, the Associated Press officially announced they will cease listing “homophobia,” “ethnic cleansing” and other terms in its Stylebook.

The update reads, in part:

Phobia – An irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness. Examples: acrophobia, a fear of heights, and claustrophobia, a fear of being in small, enclosed spaces.  Do not use in political or social contexts: homophobia, Islamophobia.

“Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for pretty violent activities; a phobia is a psychiatric or medical term for a severe mental disorder.  Those terms have been used quite a bit in the past, and we don’t feel that’s quite accurate,” says AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn.

The AP makes no suggestions for replacement terms.

George Weinberg, who coined the word “homophobia” in his 1972 book, Society and the Healthy Homosexual, does not approve of banning the term.

“I just want to go on record as disagreeing with the AP’s decision not to use ‘homophobia,’ the word.  I am a psychologist and author who coined the word a long time ago.  It made all the difference to City Councils and other people I spoke to.  It encapsulates a whole point of view and of feeling.  It was a hard-won word, as you can imagine.  It brought me some death threats.  Is homophobia always based on fear?  I thought so and still think so.  Maybe envy in some cases.  But that’s a psychological question.  Is every snarling dog afraid?  Probably yes.  But here it shouldn’t matter.  We have no other word for what we’re talking about, and this one is well established.  We use ‘freelance’ for writers who don’t throw lances anymore and who want to get paid for their work.  Fowler even allows us to mix what he called dead metaphors.  It seems curious that this word is getting such scrutiny, while words like triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13) hang around.”

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