This past week, I happened to notice a headline for a blog post about a black baseball player that included the phrase “legal lynching.” Appalled, I argued — unsuccessfully — for its immediate revision. Unless the story is about a literal hanging, you do not use that term. Or at least I don’t, and I condemn all those who do. If the baseball player were Jewish, would it be acceptable to call it a “legal gassing” or a “decade in Auschwitz?” Of course it wouldn’t. Think before you type.
I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this. Back in my newspaper days, that term wouldn’t have gotten past the slot editor. Not in a million years! Anyone who thinks copy editors don’t make a valuable difference should consider this little anecdote.