The short answer is: A lot.
Everyone knows that the context of a statement can be more powerful than the actual statement itself, and no one is more aware of this than the media. Where this is glaringly obvious is in the whole Abortion debate.
First, let’s get some basic terms which we can use to make the point. For the moment I’ll be glossing over some nuance (the reasons which I’ll explain as we journey forward) and so we’ll use the following:
- Position A: These people believe that abortion is wrong in all cases because abortion ends a life.
- Position B: These people believe that abortion is a viable option for a woman to have in choosing what happens with her pregnancy.
Position A’s Terminology
Position A originally started out as “Anti-Abortion”. The problem with this term is that it’s a negative. Any negative is harder to sell than a positive, and always gets the negative portrayal (especially when juxtaposed with a positive.
So, then Position A created the term “Pro-Life”. Much better, in terms of a positive, and is hard to actually come out against. Who wants to be known as the person that’s not for life?
Position B’s Terminology
Position B has actually gone through two names as well. Originally, they were “Pro-Abortion”. They had the positive term, but as the truth came out about exactly what abortion did to the unborn, and the realization that there were many that would not personally have an abortion but did not want to impose their preference on someone else.
That’s when they came up with the term “Pro-Choice”. This term is extremely positive– it keys into the individualist mind-set of Americans and is empowering. But in its shift in perspective and the masking of its original name, it has muddied the argument.
Pro-Choice = Pro-Abortion
You see, there are many people that would actually grab onto the name “Pro-Choice” but would not get anywhere near the term “Pro-Abortion”. However, it’s a logical fallacy.
First, you have to ask yourself the question: “What choice or choices are Position B in favor?”
- Birth Control
And that’s all fine. However, the term is implying (and herein lies the fallacy) that the Position A side are not in favor of choices. Ask the same question of those in Position A:
- Birth Control (though this varies depending on the person)
In fact, the only difference between the two is Abortion– one is for it another is against it.
And This is a Problem Because?
The major media outlets have decided to let you hear the massaged name of Position B, but have decided to use Position A’s less desirable name. Pro-Life is much more on target with Anti-Abortion than Pro-Choice is with Pro-Abortion, but knowing the power of names the media have revealed where their thoughts lie.
In the middle of a discussion about whether or not to call Iraq a Civil War, there’s a discussion about what Brian Williams thought of the change. Check out this sentence:
They often made changes to the network stylebook — and had long ago stopped using phrases like “homosexual lifestyle” and “pro-life” — without any fanfare.
Notice the phrases. Both of these statements reflect a world-view– one that NBC decided they will not support.
The question we have to ask ourselves is whether our news people should be allowed to load words to support a point of view while continuing to pretend that they are unbiased.