Torture in the Eyes of the Beholder?

Just to demonstrate how ludicrous and despicable the debate over the use of the word torture has become, Alicia Shepard, Ombudsman for National Public Radio, has tried to defend the organization’s new policy of not using the word to refer to Bush Administration interrogation tactics. In several interviews last month she explained that the business of journalism is to report the news, not to interpret. “Torture is illegal,” she said, leaving listeners to conclude that “enhanced interrogation techniques” are not. Using the word torture would be “taking sides” in the debate.

When confronted with the fact that NPR had recently reported on the “torture” of a reporter in Gambia, here’s how she justified the lack of consistency:

“In that case, these were strictly tactics to torture him, to punish him, versus in the United States, and the way that it’s used, these are tactics used to get information. The Gambian journalist was in jail for his beliefs.”

Amazing. In other words, other countries’ torture is sadism; ours is noble, since it is used to gather intelligence. Isn’t that a trifle bit “interpretive.” That’s not “taking sides”?

Poor Ms. Shepard. As Ombudsman, her job should be to represent the people to her organization, not to be a spokesperson for NPR’s inane or corrupt policies. But it seems NPR brass has no problem throwing this silly woman to the media lions and using her as a target for the public’s scorn. How cowardly. If she really were a fool rather than a stooge, why hasn’t NPR pulled her plug?


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  1. Ray

    I think that because NPR gets so much flak from the far right for being too liberal, they are going overboard in trying to not be liberal, even if that means calling a spade a hand-propelled soil mover.

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