With the Senate Intelligence Committee’s vote to declassify part of the 6000+ word report on the Bush torture regime, the media is once again reporting on the issue — and once again almost entirely refusing to call it torture. All they want to use are euphemisms:
What’s not new is the media’s persistent dance around the word at the heart of the entire story: “torture.”
Much has been made in the past decade or so about the news business’ sudden conversion to euphemism when it came to describing techniques that had been previously universally recognized as torture. One study, for instance, found that major outlets abruptly stopped defining waterboarding as torture when the Bush administration began using it.
That tendency has not abated in recent years, and a look through recent newspaper and television coverage shows that many outlets are still hesitant to use “torture.”
McClatchy, which published the leaked findings from the Senate report, called them “harsh interrogation techniques,” even as it provided a gruesome description of what those techniques were…An examination of monitoring service TV Eyes over the last couple of weeks shows that television news is—with some exceptions—equally reluctant to use “torture.”
In one discussion of the report, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinki referred to “interrogation tactics used by the CIA.”
“CBS This Morning” used the term “extreme interrogation techniques.”
NBC’s David Gregory asked Obama administration adviser Dan Pfeiffer about “past interrogation techniques.”
On CNN, Candy Crowley hedged her bets by saying that the CIA had used “torture depending on who’s describing it.”
One network where “torture” seems more acceptable is, surprisingly, Fox News. Viewers tuning into that channel could hear Shep Smith say that the term “enhanced interrogation techniques” “means torture in English.” They could watch anchor Shannon Bream read news copy that said that the Senate had concluded that the CIA “tortured suspects and gained little evidence.”
This is language used to obscure rather than communicate, to hide the gruesome reality of what the government did in our name while also lying about it.