Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Despite D.C. Media Reticence, Huge Majority Says Waterboarding Is “Torture”

Clark Hoyt has a very good opinion piece in the New York Times talking about that papers reluctance to call torture by it's name.

A linguistic shift took place in this newspaper as it reported the details of how the Central Intelligence Agency was allowed to strip Al Qaeda prisoners naked, bash them against walls, keep them awake for up to 11 straight days, sometimes with their arms chained to the ceiling, confine them in dark boxes and make them feel as if they were drowning.

Until this month, what the Bush administration called “enhanced” interrogation techniques were “harsh” techniques in the news pages of The Times. Increasingly, they are “brutal.” (On the editorial page, they long ago added up to “torture.”)

The choice of a single word involved separate deliberations in New York and the Washington bureau and demonstrated the linguistic minefields that journalists navigate every day in the quest to describe the world accurately and fairly. In a polarized atmosphere in which many Americans believe the nation betrayed its most fundamental ideals in the name of fighting terror and others believe extreme measures were necessary to save lives, The Times is displeasing some who think “brutal” is just a timid euphemism for torture and their opponents who think “brutal” is too loaded.
However, as Who Runs The Gov have pointed out, the New York Times have also released a poll which shows a vast majority of Americans are way out in front of them when it comes to this issue and they don't share the New York Times' reticence to look at a duck and call it a duck.

But now the Times has just released a poll finding that a surprisingly large majority has reached the opposite conclusion.

The relevant numbers are buried in the poll’s internals: Seventy one percent think waterboarding is torture, while only 26% say it isn’t.

Intriguingly, the paper’s article about the poll doesn’t mention this finding, perhaps because that might have necessitated using the word “torture.”

The Times have given their reason for not calling waterboarding torture:
Times Washington editor Douglas Jehl told Hoyt that the current administration describes waterboarding as torture, but the Bush administration doesn’t. “On what basis should a newspaper render its own verdict, short of charges being filed or a legal judgment rendered?” Jehl asked.
Let's think. Perhaps on the basis that the US has previously charged and executed people who carried out this practice? Or perhaps simply on the basis that the entire world has considered this practice torture since the days of the Spanish Inquisition?

The New York Times, by even having this debate at all, is showing the exact same level of spinelessness which they displayed prior to the Iraq war, where it is somehow improper to question the word of the administration; and the role of reporters is reduced to that of stenographers, whose job is to dutifully write down what people in power tell them and do little else. It is apparently not their job to render a verdict on what they are being told, even when the facts surrounding the history of waterboarding are readily available to anyone with the ability to Google.

Thankfully, the vast majority of Americans do not share the New York Times' reticence and know torture when it is described to them.

Click title for full article.

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