You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

April 27, 2011

Spade Actually Heart, Says Keller

By: John Caruso

Here's New York Times editor Bill Keller's latest rationalization for why torture isn't torture when the U.S. does it:

Q. The article today says the documents "are largely silent about the use of the harsh interrogation tactics at Guantánamo." Why does The New York Times continue to refuse to call torture by its name?  — Aaron Dome, Chicago

A. Some of the interrogation methods may fit a legal or common-sense definition of torture. Others may not. To refer to the whole range of practices as "torture" would be simply polemical. — Bill Keller

That bit about "some of the interrogation methods" is a new one; apparently the Times is incapable of mentioning "torture" unless it occurs in perfect isolation from any other tactic?  So as long as U.S. interrogators ask one polite question, they can pull out the thumbscrews the rest of the time?  Man, all these rules!

Fortunately the rules are much simpler and the word is no longer "simply polemical" when it's being used to characterize the actions of designated enemies:

The BBC report adds to testimony from Libyan opponents of the Qaddafi government as well as refugees fleeing the country that Libyan security forces have routinely tortured those in their custody.

And it's also perfectly acceptable when describing the excruciating pain of being forced to sip wine for 30 minutes as your friends carry out over-elaborate food presentation, as in a recent Diner's Journal article titled "Our Friends Torture Us with Fancy Plating" (I'm sure we can all sympathize).  Though in fairness, "Our Friends Inflict Harsh Tactics On Us with Fancy Plating" really doesn't scan that well.

I realize some people may criticize Keller and the Times for this, but I for one appreciate them providing us with such a simple and reliable way of determining that they're still boot-licking stenographers of power, since the day I see a Times article that actually calls recent U.S. actions "torture" is the day I'll have to consider subjecting myself to the pain of reading their articles in full (though I'm guessing my bigger concern will be how to dodge all the flying pigs).

— John Caruso

Posted at April 27, 2011 11:05 AM

GITMO, the gift that keeps on keeping on.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 27, 2011 11:52 AM

GITMO, the gift that keeps on keeping on.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 27, 2011 11:52 AM

"the united states does not ONLY engage in torture. we also build some of the world's finest air conditioners."

Posted by: hapa at April 27, 2011 01:24 PM

Note that Keller didn't answer the question. The guy didn't ask why "the whole range of practices" wasn't called torture. He asked why torture was not called by its name. Bill Clinton would have replied that it depends what he means by "name." Torture IS a name so how can it HAVE a name? Bullshit is an art form mastered only by the best politicians.

Posted by: bobs at April 27, 2011 03:34 PM

The meaning of torture is clear enough that it is a crime punishable by death ... or at least it was.

Posted by: Dredd at April 27, 2011 03:36 PM

Yes, Keller acted as though the question was why the exact phrase "the harsh interrogation tactics" wasn't replaced with the solitary word "torture"--as though there were no other possible ways of phrasing it to indicate that some methods might not fit that description, and despite the fact that the question was clearly intended to point out the Times' general refusal to use the word "torture" as a descriptive in its news articles about Guantanamo (its editorials are another story, by the way...I get the impression that Keller likes using the word there to try to excuse his editorial decisions in the actual reporting).

When you don't like the question, answer a different one.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 27, 2011 04:08 PM

As to these sick euphemisms, andy worthington also speaks:

Posted by: N E at April 27, 2011 09:30 PM

Perhaps "beatings, nut shocking, bludgoning, and drowning are a little too sensational for those of US who, "can't handle the TRUTH", as dear Cousin Deadeye pointed.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 29, 2011 03:09 PM