Media Blog

Thanksgiving Reader Survey: Responses

Response to the Media Blog Thanksgiving Survey was fantastic. I asked, “What labels for conservatives and conservative policies would you be thankful to see the media stop using?” Jon S. expressed the most popular complaint:

An oldie but still a good one – the medias habit of labeling conservative people or institutions as “conservative”, while not labeling liberals in the same fashion. Examples:
From the May 22, 2004 Washington Post:

“They had all posted their resumes at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank.”
From the April 21, 2005 Washington Post:
”The Brookings Institution, one of Washington’s prestigious think tanks, issued a study the other day on solving the nation’s budget problems…”

Jeff C. nominated the use of the term “budget cut,” when in fact “the budget of some social program went up, just by a lower percentage increase from one year to the next.”


Many of you criticized the media’s habit of labeling moderately conservative public figures as “staunch,” “ultra” or “arch” conservatives, while liberal Republicans get the label “moderate.”


T. Grass wrote in with this humorous note:

Fetus: I know this is technically the correct term for an unborn child, and that’s fine for scientists and doctors, but it is being used with increasing frequency in media and everyday parlance — every utterance further reducing the miracle of life to a sterile and wonderless process — all to make cloning, abortion, and embryonic stem-cell research more palatable to us unsophisticated hayseeds. I rue the day we routinely ask, “So when is your fetus due?”  Or say, “She’s having a fetus!”

A lot of people e-mailed with the opinion that the media has so consistently misapplied the term “neoconservative” that it no longer means anything, and that its use should be discontinued.
Todd J. submitted: “Diversity: Replaces Affirmative Action, still means Racial Preferences.”
Several readers submitted names of individuals who are consistently labeled “conservative” in the mainstream media — even though they are not — so that their criticism of conservatives carries more weight. Most prominent nominees were David Gergen, Andrew Sullivan and Chuck Hagel. David R. also complained that Hagel is referred to as “leading Republican senator” when he’s criticizing other Republicans. What is he a leader of, exactly?
Janice G. nailed a media meme that really annoys me: “Please add to your list, ‘domestic’ wiretapping  (whenever the media or pundits are referring to the NSA surveillance of ‘international’ communications). 
Everybody hates the term “activist” – particularly when proceeded by “peace” or “civil rights,” as in “Peace activist Cindy Sheehan” or “Civil rights activist Al Sharpton.” Joe D. expanded on this:

“Activist” is exclusively used for promoters of left-wing causes. There are no conservative or right- wing “activists” — they are “operatives” or ”opponents” of various things – like clean air and water or feeding the hungry. ”Community activists” are never publicly tied to their organizations, which may reveal their political biases on a given issue.  Conservative “operatives” are always connected to their groups, and are never presented as neutral or objective commentators on any issue.  Thus a “Woman’s Rights Activist” may be paired with an “A representative from an anti-abortion organization” or a “Muslim community leader” (whose organization has ties to Hamas or al-Qaeda) with a “middle east analyst from the conservative Heritage Foundation”. 

Les H. evidently spoke for a lot of Media Blog readers when he wrote:

Here’s a big peeve of mine: the reflexive use of the term “fundamentalist” Christian. I’m pretty sure my religious faith would be described as fundamentalist by the MSM, but why isn’t plain old “Christian” adequate?  I would like to think that the only real meaning of the term fundamentalist, when attached to the term Christian, is the desire to describe someone who’s serious about their faith, but that would be charitable.  My suspicion is that “fundamentalist” has achieved a pejorative status through its association with radical or “fundamentalist” Muslims, and those who use the term with “Christian” are engaging in a style of moral equivalency.

Robert M. eloquently unpacked the term “redeployment”:

What really ticks me off is the use of the term “redeployment” to describe withdrawal from Iraq. This obfuscation is typical of the left, but in this particular instance, not enough is done to expose this term as euphemism for surrender. It is another clear case of the left not wanting to describe in a precise way what it is that they actually want to do.

Finally, I was surprised at how relatively few readers wrote in about the media’s – specifically Reuters’s and the BBC’s – refusal to label those who detonate themselves in crowds of civilians or otherwise commit acts of terror as “terrorists.” Instead, Reuters and the BBC (as a matter of policy) and other media outlets (habitually) employ the term “militants.” Perhaps this has been annoying us for so long, it just goes without saying.
That said, response to the survey was fantastic. Thanks to all of you who wrote in with suggestions. And thanks to the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus for starting a great conversation, although perhaps not the one she intended.