38 thoughts on “NPR mandates additional syllables for clarity

  1. “Pro-life” is particularly absurd. They are pro-life only until a child is born. Then he or she is on her own. Significantly – the same people who are “Pro-life” are the most supportive of the death penalty.

  2. 108 says:

    How long you been using that line? Are people sort of awed, nod their heads, when you unleash that one at a cocktail mixer? Are you dissapointed when some other fellow says it first?

  3. 108 says:


    The topic of the thread is pejorative labels vs. neutral labels, and NPRs related stylebook and editorial position.

    Your statement is an impulsive non-sequitur, but moreover pejorative (bigoted) and insipid.

    So I find it ironic.

    The statement is also untrue, but no matter what I think – we can test it. You have insight into grantmaking and charity. I’d take some comparison of charitable giving among groups to impoverished single mothers – say, ProLife Catholics vs. urban enclave Democrats – as evidence that Prolifer’s concern ends at birth.

    I think anecdotes are useful too. In the absence of statistical evidence, I’d still be interested in just how this piece of wisdom comes to you.

  4. The statement is true. The most people who are anti-abortion are conservative and mostly Republican. That is the party responsible for hurting poor people, people of color, and other out groups such as Gays. Republicans are the first to withdraw the social safety net. Republicans are also for the death penalty. There are plenty of studies and polls to show the congruence of anti-abortion and pro-death penalty views among conservatives.

  5. It’s interesting, too, 108, that you have to deny the connection between anti-abortionism, right wing politics, and the death penalty with vituperative and false attacks on me as bigoted and impulsive.

    1. 108 says:

      Why is it interesting?

      Which attack was false?

      Where did I deny a “connection” (squishiest of terms). Is that what I’m challenging you on?

      We’re talking language and pejoratives here. You contributed an oft-used trope (it’s a slur) there in post 1 (and must think it’s fresh and insightful).

      Prove it. Data or meaningful anecdotes would be useful.

  6. Joe Loveland says:

    I’ve never liked when the media adopts the “choice” and “life” terms that were designed by advocates to spin, rather than describe accurately.

    I know this is clunky, but it seems like the most accurate terms might be something like:

    Abortion SAMERS. Supporters of current abortion law
    Abortion BANNERS. Supporters of an abortion ban
    Abortion RESTRICTERS. Supporters of tighter abortion restrictions.
    Abortion LIBERALIZERS. Supporters of fewer abortion restrictions
    Abortion LIBERTARIANS. Supporters of no abortion restrictions

    Something like that, with more layers…because that is what fits an issue that is not truly black-or-white in nature.

    That would tell me a lot more. Right now there are a lot of people labeled as “Lifers” who are actually Restricters not Banners, as well as “Choicers” who are Samers not Liberalizers. But that’s more complexity than news anchors and ideologues can tolerate. This is maybe the least enlightening and productive of any debate we have in America.

  7. Mike Kennedy says:


    Good to see you posting again with sweeping generalizations.

    So let me just say that most people who vote for Green Party candidates are warmed over lefty hippies who like heating up some Ganja.

    No generalization there — huh?

    Why don’t you back up what you say with something more than just hyperbole and your own biases? You seem to traffic in the same vitriol you say you oppose.

    Just how did Republicans harm the poor? Or hurt people of color? Can you ever debate with anyone about anything without resorting to name calling and generalizing?

  8. How do Republicans hurt the poor? There’s a good example from just recently – Governor Pawlenty kicking like 50,000 people off of Minnesota Care and GAMC, while passing tax cuts for businesses.

    1. Mike Kennedy says:

      So, in your world view, businesses don’t help anyone by employing people? That’s your logic?

      The whole point of welfare reform back in 1996 (which was bipartisan by the way), was to empower and encourage people to work instead of becoming dependent on a system that was obviously broken.

      I hear people babble about jobs, jobs, jobs and then in the next breath talk about how tax cuts for businesses are evil.

      Just where do the jobs come from? As of now, the private sector provides a majority, though government employment is making a run at that.

      “Friends of the Poor” is an amorphous descriptor. My kids — on their own — are poor. The businesses that employ and pay them are every bit as much their friends as the government that provides them with benefits if they cannot find a job.

      Yes, I know many Republicans who are pro-abortion rights and do not support the death penalty. And most Republicans I know support a social safety net — it’s the size and scope that many debate.

    2. Newt says:

      How do liberals help the poor? By bankrupting our government(s), maintaining 10% unemployment, passing laws that do nothing to lower healthcare costs, scaring away business investment, propping up failing schools…

      Oh, but liberals “care.” They out care the rest of us.

      We’re close to the tipping point where the dependency class outnumbers those of us in the productive sector. At that point, liberalism will have achieved its goal of total societal implosion.

      It’s horrifying to read of Levine’s economic and social illiteracy.

  9. Just curious – 108 and Mike – are you saying that conservatives and Republicans are pro-abortion rights, against the death penalty, and friends of the poor?

    1. 108 says:

      No I’m not.

      I’m asking what your insight is that allows you to make the claim you do in post 1 as if its keen insight.

  10. As a devotee of spin and positioning, I bow in awe to whoever came up with the “pro-life” label. It’s damned near perfect. “Pro-choice” is also pretty good, but in the March Madness brackets of sloganeering, “life” whips “choice” every time.

    I can live with “pro-abortion” and “anti-abortion” nomenclature because the action involved is abortion; you’re either for it or against it. I one could argue “pro-birth” is the same position as “anti-abortion” but it’s clunky and the word has already been claimed by the “birthers”.

    The whole question of labels is fun to think about. Would the folks who called themselves the “Tea Party” movement been so keen to claim the name if they realized that they were opening themselves up to being called “Tea Baggers” (I had to look it up too – ewwww).

    – Austin

  11. 7th & Mass says:

    Those terms definitely won’t be flowing off of Carl Kassell’s tongue.

    He retired from NPR News at the end of last year.

  12. Not to put too fine a point on it, but no one is “pro abortion” ! That would mean they advocate people having abortions, which is not what the pro-abortion-rights position is. The traditional “pro choice” position is just that – women should have the *choice* of having an abortion – not that they should abort every fetus.

    1. Ellen Mrja says:

      Thank you, Rob, for remembering to use the word “women” in your answer. I’m serious.

      These debates always turn political, abstract, linguistic, religious, scientific, etc. etc. That’s why I get frustrated with them. Not to sound sexist, but I really get frustrated when men lead the charge.

      Woman. Body. Life. Death. Irrevocable.These are the words that matter.

      And I don’t think a man can understand the depth of the decision. It’s far more than an argument.

      1. That’s an important distinction — the difference between pro-abortion and pro-abortion-rights.

        Ellen, I have to take issue with the “men can’t understand the depth” bit. How is that different from saying a man can’t love his son because the man isn’t the one with the birth canal? I agree that it’s a different perspective on the issue, but to suggest that men don’t have a stake in the matter seems wrong.

  13. This is why I love, love, love the Internet. I might actually have been a decent student in college if we’d had one back then.

    The flame war between Rob and 108 (what’s the origin of the nom de guerre, by the way?) caught my attention and made me think, “There’s probably some data on this.” And, turns out there is (there’s probably even more out there but I’m not REALLY that interested). A 2006 Gallup survey reports the following:

    82% of Republican say the death penalty is morally acceptable; 63% of Democrats feel the same way.

    53% of Democrats say abortion is morally acceptable; 30% of Republicans agree.

    In other words, Republicans are much more likely to oppose abortion and favor the death penalty than Democrats. Democrats are more likely to oppose the death penalty and support abortion. If we assume that party affiliation is a rough indicator of political philosophy, then the same statements apply to conservatives and liberals. And, I’ll posit that this dichotomy has grown in the last four years along with the overall polarization of the body politic.

    There’s more data from the survey which can be found at:


    There is still some common ground, though (or at least there was four years ago): only 3 percent of Republicans and 5 percent of Dems think adultery is morally acceptable. The parties feel similarly about polygamy – 4 percent of Dems think it’s OK, 5 percent of GOPers. Cloning humans is a big no-no for both parties as well (just 8 percent approve in either party).

    – Austin

    1. Mike Kennedy says:

      That data sounds about right to me, though as I point out, there is a significant chunk of pro choice people who are Republican.

      It’s the other assertions like “hurting the poor and people of color” that seems a little wild eyed to me.

      1. Exactly. You can’t deny the pattern of more Republicans supporting the death penalty or more Democrats supporting abortion rights. My problem is with the lazy shorthand that results in statements like “Republicans are for the death penalty” or “liberals are baby-killers.”

        The speaker of those words might mean “Republicans are more likely to favor the death penalty than are Democrats,” but in a discussion like the one around this issue, specificity makes a difference — and the shorthand does more harm than good.

    2. 108 says:

      I have a very run of the mill Americanized Scandinavian surname. There are 108 stitches on a baseball. I like baseball.

      Again, I make no arguments about the positive correlation between being Pro-Life and Republicanism.

      I dispute that pro-lifers only support life up to birth. It’s a very snide piece of liberal conventional wisdom, and it’s bullshit to boo (as I said, we can define some meaningful metrics to test this). The death penalty is not in conflict with Pro-life, for people who hold both views, because they are not analogous.

  14. //The death penalty is not in conflict with Pro-life, for people who hold both views, because they are not analogous.

    Then, of course, they are NOT “pro-life,” unless you somehow can construe being in favor of killing some people pro-life. Then again, maybe in your world somehow killing=pro-life.

    1. Mike Kennedy says:

      Well, then Rob, by your definition, pro choice means you choose to allow fetuses to be aborted but you choose not to support murderers facing the death penalty. This is all justified by saying a fetus is not a human being but a person who commits a savage crime (raping and murdering a child, for example), is a human being and is a life worth protecting. Makes sense to me………not.

      Personally, I’m pro choice and I’m pro death penalty. Is there a conflict with my views? Just checking.

      1. We’re talking about *words* here – Mike. I personally see a contradiction about being anti-abortion and pro-life, but that’s not what I’m talking about – nor is it what this post is about. The post is about what do you call people who are against legal abortion? “Pro-life” would be descriptive if they supported ALL human life; but that is not what people who call themselves “pro-life” are about: Many are FOR the killing of people with the death penalty.

        In contrast, the actual words, “pro-choice” don’t say anything about one’s attitude towards the death penalty – you are projecting, again.

        If you want to adopt the label “pro-life” then, in my mind, you cannot be FOR killing others. Proclaiming to love all life while advocating the state murder of some is a contradiction, to say the least.

        As for as the “pro-choice” label – that at least describes the basic idea. Of course, “pro-abortion rights” would be much more descriptive.

  15. In most caricatures there has to be an element of accuracy. We’ve seen those elements in this discussion:

    – It’s common to find people who support the death penalty and oppose abortion, more so on the conservative end of the spectrum
    – Conservatives more than liberals favor less of a government safety net for people in need
    – Liberals tend to be more supportive of abortion rights and less so of the death penalty. They also tend to support a more expansive government role in the provision of support for those in need (and a broader definition of “need”)

    These truths make it easy to caricature conservatives as heartless dogmatists and liberals as soft-headed confiscators. Both caricatures are wrong in the details, but the broad brush strokes are accurate enough to provoke easy laughter or quick anger depending on which end of the one-liner you stand.

    Abortion and the death penalty are two aspects of the same question: when is it permissible to kill a human being (though abortion is mostly debated in and around the definition of what constitutes a human being). I’ve never met anyone who believes there’s an absolute answer (“Never!” or “Any time!”) to that question. I’m pretty sure I never will.

    – Austin

  16. Mike – the term “pro-choice” IS an amorphous phrase. In the whole, taken as a paradigm makes no sense – I freely acknowledge that. As I said – a better term would be “pro-abortion rights”. The term “pro-life” makes even less sense. It implies that its adherents really do value life above all else. The fact that the “pro-life” position, in practice encompasses people who generally support in-utereo life while sanctioning state sponsored murder, is utterly absurd.

    1. The fact that the “pro-choice” position, in practice, encompasses people who generally support the right to choose on the issue of abortion while, say, also generally supporting the removal of my choice as a property owner to allow smoking in my bar or my choice as an income earner to save (or not) for retirement as I see fit is no less absurd.

      That’s why accepting the extension of one phrase beyond the issue of abortion but not the other doesn’t work for me. And that’s why the terms are being replaced, a change we seem to agree on.

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