Torture Study Reveals Appalling Cowardice of America’s Newspapers
A significant new report by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard (you can read it as a PDF file here) notes that waterboarding had constantly been referred to as torture by newspapers when other nations did it, but when the United States did it in the 2000s, it was not torture: (Source)
From the early 1930’s until the modern story broke in 2004, the newspapers that covered waterboarding almost uniformly called the practice torture or implied it was torture:
- The New York Times characterized it thus in 81.5% (44 of 54) of articles on the subject and
- The Los Angeles Times did so in 96.3% of articles (26 of 27).
By contrast, from 2002-2008, the studied newspapers almost never referred to waterboarding as torture:
- The New York Times called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture in just 2 of 143 articles (1.4%).
- The Los Angeles Times did so in 4.8% of articles (3 of 63).
- The Wall Street Journal characterized the practice as torture in just 1 of 63 articles (1.6%).
- USA Today never called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture.
In addition, the newspapers are much more likely to call waterboarding torture if the perpetrator is from a country other than the United States:
- In The New York Times, 85.8% of articles (28 of 33) that dealt with a country other than the United States using waterboarding called it torture or implied it was torture while only 7.69% (16 of 208) did so when the United States was responsible.
- The Los Angeles Times characterized the practice as torture in 91.3% of articles (21 of 23) when another country was the violator, but in only 11.4% of articles (9 of 79) when the United States was the perpetrator.
Increasingly, we’re losing sight of right and wrong. Journalists who won’t call waterboarding “torture” are taking a side–that torture tactics are (supposedly) a public, political disagreement, and not a war crime.
Have we become something other than what we had always been proud of being–a nation that abhors torture and believes in the rule of law?