Or, an alternative title to this post might be The Side Effects of a Successful PR Campaign.
For anyone who follows any level of tech news, liberal politics, or conservative politics, you’ve heard that Apple’s Siri won’t turn up results when asked to find abortion clinics. In one article test, it directed them to pro-life clinics. Women’s groups are pulling out the mandatory outrage, and ACLU is screaming discrimination.
I don’t think I’ve seen any commentary on one possible explanation that could be directly tied to public relations efforts by pro-choice groups. Many have found that classifying abortion as nothing more than a procedure that some women may choose as part of their reproductive health care is one easy way to minimize offending the other nearly 50% who claim pro-life status. I’ve received very different reproductive care services at two different women’s clinics – one a Planned Parenthood – and neither of them made a big deal out of abortion. The posters, decor, and informational brochures most widely available were for other reproductive care issues and public or social service programs available to low-income women. Another common theme in their materials is finding a support network for LBT folks & allies.
On the other hand, pro-life groups and clinics want to highlight themselves as being a resource regarding abortion, even if they aren’t providing them. They want to be at the top of results for women looking to end a pregnancy because they’d like to offer other alternatives. They specifically don’t want to downplay that side of their services because it’s at the core of their mission.
In other words, a likely explanation is that in minimizing the direct issue of abortion to focus on a broader spectrum of women’s reproductive health, clinics that offer them have been highly successful in their PR campaigns. I’m sure there are ways that Apple could change Siri to find more specific results, but I don’t think these groups should be publicly denouncing this new technology when it may simply be responsive to their own PR efforts.
This does relate to guns beyond that fact that finding gun stores via Siri is apparently pretty easy.
When I think about this issue, I consider the changes we’ve witnessed at the Brady Campaign and the style of other gun control groups. The Brady Campaign tried to “moderate” their message a bit by highlighting that total gun confiscation was off the table thanks to Heller. Unfortunately for them, this really appears to have driven at least some of their supporters – even at least one of their own board members who is active with the other groups on social media – to the more extreme groups that maintain Heller was a mistake that must be overturned.
This means that as the media & newcomers into the gun control movement went looking for an extreme opposite of the pro-gun view, Brady was overlooked because of their own shift in language. In that regard, it’s not so different than Siri which may not be able to read between the lines of the pro-choice movement’s adopted PR language about women’s health. When gun banners go looking for a group to represent them, they couldn’t read between the lines on the rhetoric that the Brady Campaign wouldn’t actually ask gun owners to turn every single gun in. The groups would still ask that we turn in all cheap guns, scary-looking guns, “unsafe” guns, big guns, concealable guns, etc. But, without that direct appeal of attacking gun owners and overturning the Supreme Court, it just isn’t a message that allows them to survive.