Monday, June 22, 2009

NPR and the T-Word

Glenn Greenwald, a new addition to my blogroll, has been one of the best voices online in regards to the torture issue. Here he is, slamming NPR hard for its decision to not call "torture" torture.

Here’s the nub of the matter – the crux of journalistic decay in America. Who cares if NPR is "seen" as siding with the White House or its critics? How it is perceived -- and who it angers -- should have nothing to do with how it reports. Its reporting should be guided by the truth, by verifiable facts, and by the objective meaning of words [notably, NPR's excuse -- "the Right will get angry at us if we call it 'torture'" -- is identical to The Washington Post's excuse for why they stopped calling Dan Froomkin a reporter (it angers the Right); it's amazing how much The Liberal Media makes editorial decisions based on a desire to please the Right].

Also, note that Shepard explicitly admits that, with its language choice, NPR has opted to be "seen siding with the White House and the language that some U.S. officials, particularly in the Bush administration, prefer." That, too, is an odd choice for a supposedly Liberal Media outlet. And note her snide and revealing assumption -- conventional wisdom among the establishment media -- that the only people who want these tactics to be called "torture" are those "who are particularly and visibly still angry at the previous administration" (or, as David Ignatius put it, "liberal score-settlers"). It doesn’t seem to occur to her that something other than base vindictiveness – such as a desire to maintain the universal taboo against torture, or allegiance to accuracy in language – might motivate those who want NPR to call torture "torture," rather than prettify it with banality-of-evil euphemisms invented by the very people who perpetrated it.

This is one of the things that has really baffled me over the past few years. Why are media outlets so afraid of what the message machine on the Right says? I think one of the reasons people so dislike the mainstream news media is that they always seem to be pandering. They don't want to lose access to politicians, so they don't want to ask tough questions. They don't want to make people on the Right mad, so they change what they write.

It's the media's job to investigate and report facts. That might make people mad. That's all right, though, 'cause it means the media is doing its job. The inability to call a spade a spade is positively Orwellian.