From an article on the Politico website that was published on 26 November 2012:
The Associated Press has nixed “homophobia,” “ethnic cleansing,” and a number of other terms from its Style Book in recent months.
The online Style Book now says that “-phobia,” “an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness” should not be used “in political or social contexts,” including “homophobia” and “Islamophobia.” It also calls “ethnic cleansing” a “euphemism,” and says the AP “does not use ‘ethnic cleansing’ on its own. It must be enclosed in quotes, attributed and explained.”
“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,” AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told POLITICO.
“When you break down ‘ethnic cleansing,’ it’s a cover for terrible violent activities. It’s a term we certainly don’t want to propagate,” Minthorn continued. “Homophobia especially — it’s just off the mark. It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don’t have. It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case.”
Well, with this set of new rules, there appears to be sanity returning to future news articles. Sadly, the comments section was filled with the usual unruly, insulting, and angry crowd who was convinced that the AP is ever so wrong. However, theologically conservative Christians have suffered through decades in which any disagreement with someone’s views have been termed a phobia. But, we are not the only group that has suffered from a misuse of the suffix -phobia. Thus, though I disagree very very strongly with some hyper-conservatives, it is extremely wrong to call some of them Islamophobes simply because they remain convinced that Islam is and has always been a violent religion in a special way.
In fact, it often feeds the ego of the one who holds a particular position to posit a type of mental illness to those who disagree with him/her. Using psychological terminology to judge intellectual disagreement is a particularly nasty technique because it allows the one using the term to dismiss all counter-argument. In the worst case situation, it can even be used to try to silence the person who disagrees and forbid them access to the public discourse. That has been a particularly useful technique for a couple of political groups, but one that hopefully the change in terminology by the AP will help lay to rest.
I hope that other news organizations will follow the lead of the AP.