May
15
2009

Impoverished Papers Can't Afford Truth

Hearing "the whining retreat of a whipped pup instead of the toothy growl of a watchdog," the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic (5/11/09) quotes Washington Post reporter Paul Kane answering an online question with a new excuse for refusing to "call waterboarding people and slamming them into walls torture"–"because [the Post] fears a lawsuit for libel":

New York, N.Y.: What's the difference between the "harsh interrogations" I keep reading about in the Post and actual "torture"? If it's the same thing, then why not just call it "torture"? I don't get it. Aren't you guys continuing to catapult Bush-era propaganda when you use such Newspeak euphemisms for what we all (finally) know was clearly torture, based on U.S. and International law?

Paul Kane: You can't call someone a convicted murderer until he/she has actually been convicted. Understand? Get it? The reason we say "alleged" murder and things like that is for our own legal protection. So we can't be sued for libel. Take a look at financial reports on the newspaper business. We're not going to do anything that leads to us losing any more money these days.

Tomasic fantasizes about "journalists standing up for themselves against the Bush administration, albeit belatedly, and asserting their right to speak truth to power," but instead has to read "absurd stories like this one last week from Post reporter Carrie Johnson":

Former Bush administration officials have launched a behind-the-scenes campaign to urge Justice Department leaders to soften an ethics report criticizing lawyers who blessed harsh detainee interrogation tactics, according to two sources familiar with the efforts…. The memos offered support for waterboarding, slamming prisoners against a flexible wall and other techniques that critics have likened to torture.

Listen to the FAIR radio program CounterSpin: "Glenn Greenwald on Torture" (4/24/09)