Brad Jacobson has an incisive take (Media Bloodhound, 4/29/09) on the consequences of mealy-mouthed torture language at the New York Times, where public editor Clark Hoyt provides he said/she said examples to show how the public has reacted. But in doing so, in this context, he turns the very idea of news reporting–that it should be based on fact rather than opinion–on its head and, in effect, concedes that Times editors, on news stories as serious as torture, are allowing public sentiment to color their reports. Robert Ofsevit of Oakland, Calif., asked, "Why canÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Â¢t the New York Times call torture [...]
Sure that Andrew Sullivan "would be horrified" by the idea that he and Cindy Sheehan agree on anything, Jonathan Schwarz nonetheless quotes (A Tiny Revolution, 4/25/09) the Atlantic.com blogger's declaration of "love" for the Internet, because "can you imagine what those thugs would have gotten away with without it?" Sheehan's similar 2005 statement–"Thank God for the Internet, or we wouldn't know anything, and we would already be a fascist state"–spurs Schwarz to celebrate the democratizing power of online media: I'm not sure we'd be a fascist state without the beautiful, beautiful tubes. But the difference they've made is gigantic. Recall [...]
Quoting Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter's strong words on the Keith Olbermann show about how "it's important, historically, to look at the context of" the "effort in these OLC memos to try to dress [torture] up as something else," Hullabaloo blogger digby takes issue (4/24/09) with his statement that "Dick Cheney stands almost alone" in still publicly defending the memos: Yes, Dick Cheney is forlorn and all alone. Many of the people who advocated taking the gloves off are leaving him out there hanging today. And one of them is Jonathan Alter. See, he forgot to mention–and Keith apparently didn't know–that [...]
David Swanson has noted (Consortium News, 4/23/09) that, as "much of elite U.S. punditry is backing away from torture," the Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby is bucking that trend with an April 22 column in which "he both opposes torture under all circumstances and excuses it given the current circumstances." Jacoby's main justification for U.S. torture tactics are "the successes with which they have been credited"–such as "the foiling of Al-Qaeda's planned 'Second Wave'–a 9/11-like plot to crash a hijacked airliner into a Los Angeles skyscraper." Swanson gives the lie to this zombie resurrected from the graveyard of Bush administration propaganda: [...]
Writing at Salon (4/23/09, ad-viewing required) of how the "sheer criminality" of George W. Bush-era torture, "really for the first time, has exploded into mainstream political debates," Glenn Greenwald is thoroughly unsurprised by their behavior as "media stars are forced to address it": Exactly as one would expect, they are closing ranks, demanding (as always) that their big powerful political-official-friends and their elite institutions not be subject to the dirty instruments that are meant only for the masses–things like the rule of law, investigations, prosecutions and accountability when they abuse their power. To Greenwald, This remains the single most notable [...]
Brad Jacobson has a new Media Bloodhound post (4/21/09) lauding CNN anchor Anderson Cooper for his "refreshing" refusal of "a generic phony Devil's advocate stance" when scholar Mark Danner "torpedoed" CNN analyst David Gergen's claim that the number of people who were interrogated [by U.S. personnel] with these harsh and, I think, torturous techniques was fairly limited. It was, of the thousands of people who were captured, it was about some 30 or 35 whom these techniques were used. Instead, Cooper "actually set up Danner's response to Gergen's allegations with…facts and context": Cooper: Do we know how many people died [...]
Blogging from his regular Salon perch (4/20/09, ad-viewing required), Glenn Greenwald notes that the public wants to investigate U.S. torture (that's what the polls tell us), but: These facts about public opinion are virtually always excluded from establishment media discussions, and those who advocate investigations and prosecutions–the view held by large percentages, if not majorities, of Americans–are virtually never heard from. That's because the belief that elites should be exempted from all consequences when they break the law is as close to a trans-partisan religious tenet of Beltway culture as it gets. Consider yesterday's Meet the Press panel discussion of [...]
A Tiny Revolution blogger Jonathan Schwarz (4/18/09) samples the response to Mike Allen of Politico's quote of "a former top official in the administration of President George W. Bush" calling the publishing of U.S. torture memos "damaging because these are techniques that work": This, from Andrew Sullivan, is a representative example of the reaction: Allen is allowing a member of the administration that broke the Geneva Conventions and committed war crimes to attack the current president and claim, without any substantiation, that the torture worked. He then allows that "top official" to proclaim things that are at the very least [...]
Far from holding the feet of the powerful to the fire, "liberal" Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is the very model of the establishment-protecting beltway hack. Glenn Greenwald walks us through CohenÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Â¢s history of cheering for the capital's criminal class, with a focus on the columnistÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Â¢s latest call to sweep torture under the rug.
Looking back on the good old days when we all supported torture, Richard Cohen writes today in the Washington Post (1/27/09): "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." So goes an aphorism that needs to be applied to the current debate over whether those who authorized and used torture should be prosecuted. In the very different country called September 11, 2001, the answer would be a resounding no. Back then, a Post poll gave George W. Bush an approval rating of 92 percent, which meant that almost no one thought he was on the wrong course. [...]
I don't know whether George W. Bush will issue a slew of pardons in his last weekend in the White House, but I would expect such pardons to receive less scrutiny than those issued by his predecessor. And if he attempts to pardon those who committed crimes on his behalf, you can count on large sectors of the media to welcome that self-exculpating behavior as a way of letting bygones be bygones.
Newsweek's Mark Hosenball writes (12/22/08): The head of Obama's intel transition team, John Brennan, was the leading candidate for CIA chief until he was slammed by liberal bloggers for not doing enough while serving as a top CIA and anti-terror official to oppose Bush. Actually, "liberal bloggers" hadn't "slammed" Brennan for "not doing enough…to oppose Bush"; they criticized him for being an ardent public defender of rendition and "enhanced interrogation tactics," which is a euphemism for torture. Since Obama campaigned as an opponent of such policies, Brennan would have been a dubious choice to be his top CIA official. One [...]
The New York Times yesterday (12/3/08) described problems that President-elect Barack Obama faces in managing the transition at the Central Intelligence Agency. CJR's website has an item today (12/4/08) critical of the piece as a "dramatic example" of the Times' slanting its intelligence reporting toward sources who "don't think that anyone who formulated or acquiesced in the current administration's torture policies should be excluded as a candidate for CIA director, or prosecuted for possible violations of criminal law." The CJR piece has some interesting back-and-forth with Times editors. I was struck by this passage in the Times article: Last week, [...]