political labels

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

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?

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Short test for journalists: Label the cultural point of view in this commentary

Short test for journalists: Label the cultural point of view in this commentary

One of the big ideas here at GetReligion is that we live in an age in which many of our comfortable journalistic labels are becoming more and more irrelevant. They simply don't tell readers anything.

For example, there is this puzzle that I have mentioned before. What do you call people who are weak in their defense of free speech, weak in their defense of freedom of association and weak in their defense of religious liberty (in other words, basic First Amendment rights)? The answer: I don't know, but it would be totally inaccurate -- considering the history of American political thought -- to call these people "liberals."

There are other religious and moral puzzles out there on the religion beat, these days. What to do? When in doubt, don't label people. You ask them very specific questions, especially when dealing with religious issues, and you quote what they say.

With this in mind, consider the following slice or two of a short think piece. My question, for journalists who read this: What is the proper cultural label for the speaker? I will ID the speaker at the end.

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