On ‘Normalized Torture’ and Prosecution as a ‘Cop-Out’

Even though “James Risen, David Johnston and Neil A. Lewis first told the world about waterboarding in May 2004,” Dan Froomkin (, 5/4/09) is having to argue that “that doesn’t mean that the rest of us are as guilty as the people who committed the crimes–or that those who ordered those crimes should avoid accountability.” While Newsweek‘s Jacob Weisberg and the Post‘s own Michael Kinsley are among those “arguing that the nation’s collective guilt for torture is so great that prosecution is a cop-out,” Froomkin has some “big problems with this argument”:

While it’s true that the public’s outrage over torture has been a long time coming, one reason for that is the media’s sporadic and listless coverage of the issue. Yes, there were some extraordinary examples of investigative reporting we can point to, but other news outlets generally didn’t pick up these exclusives. Nobody set up a torture beat, to hammer away daily at what history I think will show was one of the major stories of the decade. Heck, as Weisberg himself points out, some of his colleagues were actually cheerleaders for torture. By failing to return to the story again and again–with palpable outrage–I think the media actually normalized torture.

Looking at journalists’ “obligation to shout this story from the rooftops, day and night,” Froomkin finds that, “instead we lulled the public into complacency.”