I agree that the euphemism treadmill does seem like a perpetual losing prospect, it does seem to be that each euphemism is just a fresh label that will eventually collect the baggage of the previous label.
But I would argue that referring to a person as "a person who has (x characteristic)" or a group of people as "people who have (x characteristic)" is a way of talking about people in the context of the relevant characteristic without removing the crucial context that they are a human being the same as us regardless of that characteristic. I think that sort of terminology introduces some resilience against the treadmill.
I also don't agree with terms that are less accurate, or introduce ambiguity. "people who have immigrated illegally" or "people living in this country illegally", or "a person who entered the country illegally" for instance are no less accurate than "illegal immigrants" or "an illegal immigrant". Another poster on the thread was arguing that it is a way to avoid holding people accountable for their choices, a way of avoiding accusing people of things, but I don't believe that's inherently true. As i suggested to him, in the context of talking about holding people to account, you can add more context such as "people who chose to enter the country illegally" for instance.
Naturally this isn't just about illegal immigration, i think it's a constructive way to approach any social issue, but as you say most of those issues have a practical, logistical problem creating them that needs to be dealt with for the problem to be solved. I think we have a much better chance at finding the correct solution when stay grounded to the humanity of everyone involved.
They're talking about a CHOICE people have made to break the law.
That's what I'm arguing for. Talking about the choice, not talking about a person as if they are nothing but that choice. "People who chose to illegally enter the country" for instance is a term that is explicit, and conveys the facts of the matter accurately, and doesn't blur any lines about what has happened or who is responsible. The term "Illegal Immigrant" while perfectly accurate in terms of categorising the legal status of the individual, omits the reminder that these are people being discussed, not cartoon villains. This might seem infuriatingly mealy mouthed and unnecessary, but the in-group out-group instincts that are the root of every descent into inhumane behaviour are compulsive. Choosing to use more specific language as a means of regulating this instinct is not a counterproductive thing to do. It's just reminding us all collectively, to stay rational and not let our sense of injustice amplify our aggressive instincts.
The real intellectual laziness and moral cowardice comes from trying to blur that distinction in order to avoid the personal discomfort of actually identifying someone's decision to break the law for what it is...., it's because they're too craven to come out and say what they really want: open borders and a generous welfare state for anyone who shows up
This strokes me as an odd conclusion to come to. What do you mean by open borders? Like, no passport control whatsoever and just anyone can come and go as they please? I can't imagine there are very many people at all that would want something that chaotic and unregulated. I can't speak for other people, but I personally believe that people who enter a country illegally obviously should be taken back out of the country and sent back to their home country. There are situations where people are fleeing famine or a warzone where the situation become less simple and I do believe that as human beings, such people deserve some other fate than being sent home to die, which obviously means arriving at some compromise. I certainly don't want open borders and no control over who is able to claim welfare. I can't think anyone liberal/PC that I know that would want that.
And let me be explicit: Just because I believe careful use of language can mitigate some of the counter-productive wiring in the human brain does not mean I think that people should not be held accountable for their choices or that as a society we shouldn't criticise the values people hold or the behaviour they engage in.
First, check your pomposity.
I have no idea what you're talking about. I think you're projecting a tone onto what I'm saying.
Don't want to be called a bank robber? Don't rob a bank.
The trouble is the term "bank robber" possibly carries some unsubstantiated implications, and is a placeholder for subconscious caricatures. For example it conjures up an image of someone who habitually robs banks. If you're an accomplice in a bank robbery when you're 18, but you get caught, reform your character and never rob a bank again, being referred to as "a bank robber" gives an unwarranted impression that you're a career criminal.
On the other hand "man who robbed a bank in his youth" is more factual and precise and carries no inherent implication, other than those that stem from the facts, as would "man who has a history of regularly robbing banks" if that was true.
In both cases, the consideration of this person is contextualised as a human being that should be dealt with appropriately, and not a cartoon villain that can comfortably be disregarded as deserving no opportunity for redemption.
As it said in the summary, referring to illegal immigration rather than illegal immigrants is an effort to avoid labeling people. While it is a technically correct description, there is more to language that technical specificity and precision. When discussing politically and emotionally charged subjects, labeling people as "a something or other", especially when referring to a group of people serves to subconsciously dehumanise them in the minds of the reader. Labelling people enables a cognitive shortcut that prunes any human attributes outside those implied by the label, and transforms them from "a human like me with complex motivitations and someone whom i could empathise with" to "outsiders that aren't like me and could be a threat and doesn't deserve any empathy, because all they are is [whatever label]".
It's important to careful avoid promoting lazy stereotyping, even on as seemingly innocuous a level as carefully avoiding some terminology because we are all chimps with buggy reasoning software installed, and we need to work around the bugs as much as possible.
The possession of a book becomes a substitute for reading it. -- Anthony Burgess