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The Associated Press Offends "the French"

The Associated Press recently found itself in an awkward situation when it suggested that journalists should avoid using the label “the” to describe groups of people. The intention was to be sensitive, but many saw this as a sign of censorship and derided the AP for its suggestion.

The AP quickly deleted their tweet and reworked their guidance, affirming that they did not intend to offend. They reminded journalists of the importance of using phrases like “people with mental illnesses” or “wealthy people” instead of terms like “the mentally ill” or “the wealthy,” as the latter can sound dehumanizing and imply a monolith rather than diverse individuals.

The mocking of this suggestion did not end there though, with Indiana Republican Congressman Jim Banks writing "THE woke!" and video game journalist Giovanni Colantonio chiming in with "An inappropriate reference to French people' is somehow even funnier than anything in the first tweet."

What this incident reveals is how dangerous it can be when language is used to alter a national narrative. In an effort to create a more inclusive society, there may be a temptation to control and manipulate language to suit the current situation. While this may provide short-term wins, it ultimately undermines freedom of speech and creates further divisions instead of healing them. It is for this reason that even when well-intentioned attempts to control language must be avoided in a free society.

At the end of the day, everyone should be able to openly discuss issues without fear or favor. This includes using offensive language that may dehumanize, belittle, or generalize groups of people. Freedom of expression is an important cornerstone of a healthy society, and we should be doing more to encourage free thought rather than defaulting to oppressing it.

The controversy surrounding the Associated Press’ tweet serves as a reminder that altering the English language to fit a narrative can have unintended consequences. If we continue to use language as a tool of censorship, then our ability to communicate openly, exchange ideas freely, and reach meaningful solutions will be limited.

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