How the media talks about torture
Glenn Greenwald has an excellent column dissecting the way that media talk about torture. It begins:
Yesterday, The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti, in reporting on John Brennan’s withdrawal from consideration for a top intelligence post, wrote:
The opposition to Mr. Brennan had been largely confined to liberal blogs, and there was not an expectation he would face a particularly difficult confirmation process. Still, the episode shows that the C.I.A.’s secret detention program remains a particularly incendiary issue for the Democratic base, making it difficult for Mr. Obama to select someone for a top intelligence post who has played any role in the agency’s campaign against Al Qaeda since the Sept. 11 attacks.
I quoted that paragraph yesterday to show how the establishment media is acknowledging the role blogs played in this episode, prompting Billmon to materialize in the comment section and make this point:
Glenn should have noted the sly way that asshole Mazzetti slides from “the CIA’s secret detention program remains a particularly incendiary issue for the Democratic base” — because, of course, only those wacko lefties worry about war crimes — to the completely bogus assertion that said concerns have made it “difficult for Mr. Obama to select someone . . . who has played any role in the agency’s campaign against Al Qaeda since 9/11″ (emphasis mine).
So, according to the New Pravda (sometimes known as the New York Times) to criticize crimes against humanity is to oppose the entire campaign against the people responsible for 9/11. Dick Cheney couldn’t have put it better.
Now THAT’S some sleazy journalism we can believe in.
Digby noted the same passage and made a similar point: that to object to someone like Brennan — who advocated and defended the Bush administration’s rendition and “enhanced interrogation tactics” — is hardly the same as objecting to anyone who “played any role in the agency’s campaign against Al Qaeda.” And Andrew Sullivan made a related point about an AP article by Pamela Hess which contains this wretched sentence: “Obama’s advisers had grown increasingly concerned in recent days over Web logs that accused Brennan of condoning harsh interrogation tactics, including waterboarding, which critics call torture.” As Sullivan notes: “no sane person with any knowledge of the subject disputes the fact that waterboarding is and always has been torture. So why cannot the AP tell the truth?”
All of this underscores a crucial fact: a major reason why the Bush administration was able to break numerous laws in general, and subject detainees to illegal torture specifically, is because the media immediately mimicked the Orwellian methods adopted by the administration to speak about and obfuscate these matters. Objective propositions that were never in dispute and cannot be reasonably disputed were denied by the Bush administration, and — for that reason alone (one side says it’s true) — the media immediately depicted these objective facts as subject to reasonable dispute.
Hence: “war crimes” were transformed into “policy disputes” between hawkish defenders of the country and shrill, soft-on-terror liberals. “Torture” became “enhanced interrogation techniques which critics call torture.” And, most of all, flagrant lawbreaking — doing X when the law says: “X is a felony” — became acting “pursuant to robust theories of executive power” or “expansive interpretations of statutes and treaties” or, at worst, “in circumvention of legal frameworks.” …