The Politics Of Semantics

Posted by JRed

I came across this story after reading up on some news items related to yesterday's exciting Super Bowl.

I'm always intrigued by the words and phrases that are chosen in politics as well as for news headlines and stories. Why? Because we all know that words convey meaning and emotions whether we are conscious of them or not.

So, I was interested to read about evangelical magazine Christianity Today using the term "anti-abortion," rather than "pro-life," to refer to a ad, which NBC had refused to air during the Super Bowl.

Did you know that journalists refer to what's known as a Stylebook, which is sort of like the industry's manifesto for how to write appropriately? Yes, it's true! Clearly, this is why there's such a prevalent bias in the mainstream media, and why you can almost pick up any major newspaper in the country (or turn on any of the major TV networks) on any given day, and get the same news almost verbatim!

The term "anti-abortion" isn't used by reporter Sarah Pulliam in the body of her article posted at CTliveblog, but it is used in her January 30 article's headline - -
Anti-Abortion Super Bowl Ad Rejected by NBC - - on the magazine's Twitter page (see screenshot below).

By using "anti-abortion" in its headline, Christianity Today appears to be following the lead of the Associated Press. The AP calls for the term "anti-abortion instead of pro-life and abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice" in its Stylebook. AP goes further and frowns on the term "abortionist," saying it "connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions," so a reporter should "use a term such as abortion doctor or abortion practitioner," it counsels.

While many journalists and news agencies outside the AP follow the Stylebook, they are free to supersede the manual where they see fit.

So, the question remains:
Can media outlets use the term "Pro-Life" instead? Because Anti-Abortion seems like pejorative labeling.

NewsBusters contacted Christianity Today online managing editor Ted Olsen about this and he sent this reply defending the choice of "anti-abortion" as the label for the video in question:

"A two-second search would have shown that we use pro-life quite a bit, Ken. What was the point of the post? To suggest that CT is compromising on abortion? What the heck?The headline is specific. The ad is against abortion. It's not about embryonic stem cells, assisted suicide, emergency "contraception," etc. It's about abortion. And it's against it. It's an anti-abortion ad from a pro-life group.Can you name one mainstream pro-life group that considers anti-abortion pejorative? Proud to be anti-abortion, Ted"

Is this analysis unfair? Do you think that it's much to do about nothing? Should we pay closer attention to the words and phrases we use to report on the news? Personally, I don't believe this analysis or questioning of Christianity Today is harsh or unwarranted. After all, just think about how pro-Abortionists have framed the entire issue by referring to it as "Pro-Choice" instead. Who in their right mind would be against "choice" in general!?! Because I can't think of anyone including myself.

However, when you attach it to an issue (like those in this movement have) then it's a whole other story. Still, this is precisely how politics of semantics works - - it's subtle, but very effective.

Olsen's comments seem to echo a disturbing new trend in Christian circles these days. Let me explain what I mean. A perfect example can be found in my recent visit to Borders last night. If you're not familiar with Borders they're a bookstore chain much like Barnes & Noble. I received a Borders gift card for Christmas, and decided it was time to get a new book to read. Now, I hadn't been to a bookstore in quite some time because normally I just purchase things online instead. Boy was I in for a shock!

I was simply blown away by some of the authors and titles that were found on the "Christian" bookshelves! Many had no place being there at all. Sure, on the surface they might seem "religious" and "spiritual," but anyone who knows their Bible can spot the wolves in sheep's clothing a mile away!

That's my point here. We shouldn't take an attitude that it's "no big deal" because we're fighting an any and a culture that is fiercely opposed to us and our belief system. Do you think they would let up one bit in their style of attacks and approach to fostering more support on the issues they deem worthy? Absolutely not! So, why should we? Give the devil an inch and he'll become your ruler.

Be careful and monitor what is presented to us these days as being "Christian" because in these last days deception truly rules that day.