Hate groups, far-right conservatives and other labels: Can we guess why journalists rely on certain terms?

Readers of a certain age no doubt recall commercials for "Libby's! Libby's! Libby's!"

Today, though, I want to talk about "Labels! Labels! Labels!"

Before I refer to the label that caught my attention while reading my morning newspapers, let's play the mirror image game made famous (and perhaps trademarked) by our own tmatt: When was the last time you saw a mainstream news report refer to, say, a gay-rights organization as a "far-left liberal group?"

Not recently?

OK, let's ask the question in reverse: When was the last time you saw an organization that stands for traditional religious beliefs characterized — in a mainstream news report — as a "far-right conservative group?"

If you, like me, subscribe to the Dallas Morning News, you don't have to go back too far. This is a sentence at the end of the Dallas paper's story today on oil and gas companies opposing Texas' proposed bathroom bill:

The bill's supporters say they want to protect the privacy of women and girls in intimate spaces. It has the support of far-right conservative groups like the Texas Pastors Council and Texas Values.

My question when reading that label: What makes those groups "far-right" conservatives? Why not simply describe them as conservative groups (assuming a label is required at all)? What does the "far-right" add?

Is the paper intentionally trying to cast the groups as extremists?

The Texas Pastor Council (I believe that's the correct name of the organization without the plural "Pastors") says on its Twitter profile that it "is the only culturally and politically active organization from a Biblically-grounded perspective." I'm not sure that's the best wording I've ever seen, but what is "far-right" about it? 

On its Twitter profile, Texas Values says it is "dedicated to preserving and advancing faith, family, and freedom in the great state of Texas." Again, I ask: What is "far-right" about that?

I tweeted the groups to ask if they consider the "far-right conservative group" label fair and accurate? As of now, I have not received a response. One reader did weigh in:

I believe the reader is on to something.

Speaking of labels, I posted recently on ABC News describing the Alliance Defending Freedom as "an alleged hate group" based on a list compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (not an unbiased source):

Readers might be interested to know that Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford sent a letter to ABC News' president this week voicing concern about the report:

My journalistic point today is one that GetReligion has made a few dozen or a million times: News organizations need to be extremely careful about how they apply labels. Especially if they want their coverage to be seen as fair and impartial.

That's really not such a difficult concept, is it?

Then why do so many journalists seem to have such a difficult time grasping it?

Image via Pixabay.com

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