Mar 01 2009

When ‘We’ All Supported Torture

Amidst the many calls for Barack Obama to abandon campaign promises and move to the right, one set stood out for its ghoulishness: the media pleas for Obama to keep torturing (e.g., Washington Post, 1/10/09; Newsweek, 1/19/09; Wall Street Journal, 1/29/09). News accounts of the new administration’s intelligence plans have tended to leap hopefully on any sign, real or imagined, that Obama didn’t really mean it when he promised to abide by laws and treaties banning torture (CounterSpin, 1/30/09). Why does torture have such appeal for so many in corporate media? A Washington Post column by Richard Cohen (1/27/09) provided […]

Jan 30 2009

Dean Baker on stimulus package, Michael Ratner on torture ‘loopholes’


Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: After several weeks of media debate, the House passed a nearly 900 billion dollar economic stimulus package. White House efforts to reach out to Republicans resulted in exactly zero GOP voters, leaving some in the media to wonder if Obama was failing to deliver on his promises of bipartisanship. But what about the stimulus debate was entirely off-the-mark? We’ll talk to economist Dean Baker. Also on CounterSpin today: President Obama’s executive order said to ban torture, hasn’t settled the issue for many commentators. Some on the right and in the corporate media seem to […]

Jan 16 2009

Phyllis Bennis on Gaza & the law, Charles Kaiser on Bush-era torture


Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Listeners have likely seen some horrific and affecting images from Gaza, where the death toll has exceeded an estimated 1,000 overwhelmingly Palestinian people as, as the New York Times had it, “the Israeli military operation continued apace.” We’ll hear from author and journalist Phyllis Bennis about part of the story that should be central but in the U.S. press is often ignored or gotten wrong, namely international law. Also on the show: Should we be taking a hard look at Bush era crimes like torture? No, say many journalists. Look forward, not back. Indeed […]

Jun 01 2008

Failing to Use the 1st Amendment to Defend the Bill of Rights

Media don’t probe candidates on civil liberties

The striking new midtown Manhattan tower of the New York Times seats all of the writers and editors together in one giant dual-story open plan. But this, it seems, is not enough to forge story conversations between neighboring desks when it comes to the central issues of Americans’ civil liberties and the presidential campaign. In a March 6 editorial, “What We’d Like to Hear,” the Times editorial writers spoke poignantly about the need for serious candidate discussion of topics that go to the heart of our democracy. “After eight damaging and divisive years, there is certainly a lot that needs […]

Jun 01 2008

From Water Torture to ‘Waterboarding’

Media rehabilitate torture as aquatic sport

On May 13, 2004, a novel euphemism was delivered into the public lexicon by anonymous “counterintelligence official” sources cited in a New York Times article. The piece reported the CIA had been using “a technique known as ‘water boarding,’ in which a prisoner is strapped down, forcibly pushed under water and made to believe he might drown.” The technique was described by the Times as one of several “methods [that] simulate torture.” Before long, Alan Dershowitz (Boston Globe, 5/15/04)—the Harvard law professor who advocates for a system of “torture warrants” (San Francisco Chonicle, 1/22/04)–had coined a brand new catchphrase by […]

Jan 01 2008

Hollywood’s Media–and Washington’s

Rendition highlights the limits of torture discussion

“Guantánamo, a prison in no way ready to close, is at the heart of a conversation that almost no one seems willing to open.” Since September 27, 2007, when Karen Greenberg closed an article on with that observation, a media conversation about torture has unexpectedly taken off. The New York Times (10/4/07) published a lengthy exposé about the long turmoil at the Department of Justice caused by the Bush White House’s insistence that “enhanced interrogation” was key to fighting its “war on terror.” PBS’s Frontline (10/16/07) explored how Dick Cheney’s office secretly pushed the idea that the president could […]

Dec 21 2007

Josh Silver on FCC ruling, John Conroy on Chicago police torture


Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: The FCC voted recently to eliminate the cross-ownership ban that was intended to prevent the same company from controlling tv stations and newspapers in the same market. Pretty par for the course for the industry-friendly agency, but this time, after years of activism, there’s more pushback than perhaps was expected. What exactly happened and what happens next? We’ll hear from Josh Silver, executive director of the media reform group Free Press. Also this week: The particulars of the cases are the kinds of things you might wish weren’t true—the explicit torture of suspects by […]

Dec 01 2007

Tortured Justifications for Bad Journalism

NPR Baghdad correspondent Anne Garrels (Morning Edition, 10/26/07) presented listeners with an unusual exclusive: the results of an interrogation conducted by a Shiite militia. Garrels described being escorted by Mahdi Army members to hear the accounts of three prisoners–supposedly renegade members of the militia. While Garrels acknowledged that “the three detainees had clearly been tortured,” she went on to describe the contents of their confessions as though they contained credible information: They were trained in roadside bombs and car bombings in Iran. They say they worked for money and that their orders were to attack Americans and sow suspicion and […]