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'Pro-family', 'pro-marriage' are PR labels. Here's an FRC Senior Fellow admitting it

by Jeremy Hooper

Sometimes practitioners of the "pro-family" side show their movement's hand. Here's the Family Research Council's Senior Fellow For Policy Studies, Robert Morrison, unwittingly doing just that:

"Public relations experts will tell you it is better to be pro- than anti-. That’s why Ronald Reagan, described in the 1960s as a “former General Electric pitchman,” understood the power of pro-life, not anti-abortion. He was the first political candidate to describe himself as pro-life. Even today, the Washington Post—when they cannot avoid it—puts “pro-life” in scare quotes. As they never do with Hamas, al Qaeda, or Hezbollah.

When they call us the Taliban wing, they don’t even put Taliban in scare quotes. Pretty scary.
How did the “I Do” People Become “I Don’ts?” [FRC Blog]

Okay, let's break this down.

Starting with the "pro- rather than anti-" as a PR strategy thing: This is something I've long known and have publicly stated, but it's not something the far-right usually admits. It's long been obvious why the folks on the conservative side use labels like "pro-family" and "pro-marriage" when describing their cause against things like marriage equality: It's because they want to take the considerable weight of discrimination off of their words and actions. We all know this. But again, I didn't think I'd ever hear them admitting that this whole thing is essentially a public relations campaign. A Ronald-crafted ruse, if you will.

Moving on to WaPo and their supposed choices in regards to punctuation: Well it's plainly obvious why mainstream media outlets put "pro-life" in quotes and not things like al Qaeda or Hamas. Or at least it should be obvious. The reason: Because Hamas and al Qaeda are real and tangible things, regardless of one's personal agreement, whereas "pro-life" is a contrived act of public relations (as Morrison himself admits). So of course "pro-life" is presented as a charged, abstract label rather than a fact that accuses large swaths of the population of being anti-mortality. But the punctuation isn't "scare quoting": It's reality quoting.

It's actually quite telling that Mr. Morrison would use the phrase "scare quotes" or lob such allegations against WaPo, since fear quotes are precisely the kinds of quotes that litter most any far-right piece pertaining to LGBT people, where concretes like marriage are routinely placed between the "____". By feigning confusion/tarring the supposedly liberal media with an assumption of "scare quoting" practices that exist most fully within his own political movement, Mr. Morrison is again giving us unwitting insight into his (and by extension FRC's) own view.

And finally: "The Taliban wing" charge. In a ten year search of WaPo, I found exactly one use of that phrase: A 7/01 quote from Julian Bond. So as a statement made by an other, well yes, the phrase was in fact in quotes.

But that being said: The Taliban, like Hamas or al Qaeda, is a tangible thing. So anyone wanting to make such a rhetorical charge about his or her political opposition (not a charge I'd be likely to make, btw) would be perfectly within the bounds of accuracy when he or she refrains from putting the word or even the whole phrase in quotes. Agreement doesn't matter in this case, only actuality does. The gay wing, the Christian wing, the right-handed wing, the pacifist wing, the Taliban wing: All are concrete labels, like any of them or not. All can exist without flying " " marks. And I say this when the hyperbole is directed towards the GOP, or when conservative columnists like Cal Thomas write entire pieces about "the capture of the Democratic Party by its Taliban wing" (*Hey, at least he said "Democratic" rather than the right-preferred "Democrat").

So yeah, thanks Mr. Morrison, for this handy thought exercise. Now a little suggestion: If you realize, as you do, that "it's better to be pro- than anti-," then please STOP BEING ANTI-!!!!! Punctually.

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