NPR has taken some sharp criticism recently about a news policy against the use of the word “torture” relative to Bush administration policy regarding techniques employed during interrogation of suspected terrorists. I find Salon’s Glen Greenwald’s point of view pretty persuasive, as he critiques one version of journalistic balance (emphasis in the excerpt below is his):
“There are two sides and only two sides to every “debate” — the Beltway Democratic establishment and the Beltway Republican establishment. If those two sides agree on X, then X is deemed true, no matter how false it actually is. If one side disputes X, then X cannot be asserted as fact, no matter how indisputably true it is. The mere fact that another country’s behavior is described as X doesn’t mean that this is how identical behavior by the U.S. should be described. They do everything except investigate and state what is true. In their view, that — stating what is and is not true — is not their role.”
At SoF we had a similar editorial conversation with a different outcome when we recently produced a program with Darius Rejali on torture. In a world where there is a plurality of views on whether water-boarding, for example, constitutes torture, should journalists be prevented from calling it torture? Or, does that mean journalists are caving in to Orwellian “double-speak?” What do you think?
BTW, I should point out that while Speaking of Faith is heard on many NPR stations across the country, we are actually produced and distributed by American Public Media, and therefore not part of NPR itself.