Regular GetReligion readers are familiar with the concept of scare quotes.
For those new to the term, Dictionary.com defines scare quotes as “marks used around a term or phrase to indicate that the writer does not think it is being used appropriately or that the writer is using it in a specialized sense.”
A recent New York Times story on the controversy over the anti-abortion movie “Unplanned” doesn’t rely on scare quotes. But in quoting anti-abortion sources, the piece repeatedly employs what might be characterized as a similar tool.
I’m talking about the Times’ repeated use of qualifiers in the indirect quotations. I’ll elaborate on what I mean in a moment. But first, here’s the top of the story with a few crucial details:
CLIFTON, N.J. — It was a rare packed house for a weeknight in the suburbs, and when the movie was over, the sold-out crowd of about 100 last Wednesday spilled haltingly into the light.
A few — a gaggle of nuns in their habits, at least one collared priest — wore their dispositions on their sleeves. Others communicated in muted gestures, dabbed at tears, or lingered for long stretches in the popcorn-strewn vestibule at the AMC multiplex here, as if still processing the deliberately provocative movie they had just seen.
Since March 29, similar scenes have played out across the country as faith-based groups and many others have gathered en masse to see “Unplanned,” a new movie that paints a scathing portrait of abortion rights in general, and Planned Parenthood in particular.
A few paragraphs later comes the first instance of a qualifier: