2 jul. 2009

Fuck NPR. This is their ombusman's view:

But no matter how many distinguished groups -- the International Red Cross, the U.N. High Commissioners -- say waterboarding is torture, there are responsible people who say it is not. Former President Bush, former Vice President Cheney, their staff and their supporters obviously believed that waterboarding terrorism suspects was necessary to protect the nation's security.

One can disagree strongly with those beliefs and their actions. But they are due some respect for their views...

No, sorry, they are not due any respect for their despicable views. Since when does the fact that Dick Cheney hold a view make it automatically respectable? Once the debate is framed as a debate between two positions that reasonable people can disagree about, then the Dick Cheney side automatically wins. You can just "teach the controversy." It's the lazy journalistic thinking that there are two sides to every story that must be given equal weight. I'm sure the creationists and holocaust deniers are taking notes. Once a position gets a toehold of respectability then it's basically won.

This is why the Steve Fullers and Alicia Shepards of the world are worse than the Demskis. People who legitimize the illegitimate under the cover of spurious objectivity.

7 comentarios:

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

Waterboarding is an important subject, one that is worth discussing, if only because the US openly used it on its prisoners (or "detainees" or whatever). It follows that those who hold the view that it is justified or otherwise okay need to be offered a respectable position in the national media from which to air it. If the media describes it as "torture" in its regular coverage it is not offering such a position. Cheney said a lot of interesting, and quite outrageous, things from the respectable position the media gave him a while back. We would have been poorer if we had gotten only his silence in the face of the (what he would call "outrageous") charges.

The purpose of freedom of speech, and dignity in discourse more generally, which it is, in part, the responsibility of the national media to provide, is not so much to let those who hold outrageous views express them, but to let those of us who disagree with them hear them. Christopher Hitchens has applied this principle to Holocaust deniers. Steve Fuller applies an epistemological version of it (i.e., one that pertains to scientific inquiry) to creationists. I'm with them on this one.

But I agree with you on torture, and I will always call it that on my own time. As a journalist or a teacher I would think differently about it. I think I would teach the controversy.

Jonathan dijo...

Cheney's freedom to express his opinion is in no danger from the media or any one else. He is the guardian (or not) of his own dignity. On the other hand, the media are to be blamed for letting him move the goalposts of the debate.

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

My point is that he would not use that freedom in a too hostile environment. I'm talking about our freedom to hear his views, not his freedom to express them.

Bob Basil dijo...

Um, there is NO environment so "hostile" that it might make Cheney, his daughter, the Washington Post editorial page, etc., clam up. They have a standing invitation to go on all the network and cable news shows. Moreover, it was Cheney and his minions who sought explicitly to shut up those disagreed with their views: Their opponents were called traitors.

NPR messed up, to use our former VP's phrase, "big time."

Thomas, this sentence gives me pause: "Waterboarding is an important subject, one that is worth discussing, if only because the US openly used it on its prisoners (or "detainees" or whatever)."

"If only"? Waterboarding is not worth discussing otherwise? Yeesh. Sorry you think so.

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

I think we mean different things by "if only". But, thinking about it, it was out of place even in the sense I intended. I should have just said "especially". (What I meant was that the mere fact that the US has openly used it makes it worth discussing. There are, as you suggest, Bob, independent reasons to discuss it.)

Cheney's views are especially important to hear. And he is under no obligation to answer charges that he is a war criminal in the media, just as no alleged criminal is under any obligation to talk to the press. It is therefore the media's task to foster an discussion in which he is willing to participate.

If you disagree (as I do) with the strategy of calling opponents of "enhanced interrogation" "traitors", then you should, on the same principle, disagree with any policy of matter-of-factly labelling Cheney and those who carried out his orders "torturers". Both strategies are attempts to get your opponent to, as you put, shut up.

To use the word "torture" to refer to what Cheney is defending is a standing invitation to stay away from the discussion.

Jonathan dijo...

Waterboarding is torture. Cheney authorized waterboarding. (He's admitted it.) Torture is illegal. Therefore Cheney is a criminal. The only escape clause is if waterboarding somehow is not torture. Nevertheless there is no controversy on this point. Only the criminals themselves and some supporters make this claim, and only when it applies to themselves. In other words, they would call it torture if some other less sympathetic government did it.

Cheney is not only unafraid to go on the media to defend his policy, he is in fact the main public spokesman for this view, on the theory that the best defense is a good offense. (E.g., criticizing Obama for making the nation "less safe" by not torturing.)

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

I agree with every word Jonathan just wrote.

I just don't think it implies that NPR should explicitly call waterboarding "torture" (though it is in fact torture) and, therefore, implicitly call Cheney a criminal.

If the all the major media were as honest as Jonathan, Cheney would be afraid to defend his views on the air. Cheney, that is, would never choose Jonathan's weekly radio program to express himself on.

I will grant, however, that if Jonathan was in charge of the major media, Cheney might also have been afraid to authorize torture. So if we're just discussing whether the major media suck, then, well, of course ...

(At that point, however, the analogy to creationism and Holocaust denial breaks down.. For reasons that I think I'm going to write a post of my own about.)