FEMA’S use of term ‘federal family’ for government expands under Obama

Thursday, September 1, 2011
By Paul Martin

By GEORGE BENNETT
Palm Beach Post
Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011

Don’t think of it as the federal government but as your “federal family.”

In a Category 4 torrent of official communications during the approach and aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has repeatedly used the phrase “federal family” when describing the Obama administration’s response to the storm.

The Obama administration didn’t invent the phrase but has taken it to new heights.

“Under the direction of President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano, the entire federal family is leaning forward to support our state, tribal and territorial partners along the East Coast,” a FEMA news release declared Friday as Irene churned toward landfall.

The G-word — “government” — has been nearly banished, with FEMA instead referring to federal, state and local “partners” as well as “offices” and “personnel.”

“’Government’ is such a dirty word right now,” says Florida State University communication professor Davis Houck. “Part of what the federal government does and any elected official does is change the terms of the language game into terms that are favorable to them.”

“Family” can evoke favorable thoughts of motherhood and security. But it can also conjure images of Big Brother and organized crime.

The phrase “federal family” has been used in connection with FEMA at least as far back as 1999.

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