The NYT's nationalistic double standard

The Paper of Record's willingness to use the word "torture" depends exclusively on which state is doing it

Published July 16, 2010 10:17PM (EDT)

Here's a particularly illustrative example of how The New York Times' editorial policy -- it cannot be "torture" if the United States does it -- obfuscates the truth and actively bolsters government propaganda.  There are countless examples like this, but this one is unusually stark, especially since these two episodes occur within one day of each other:

From today's article on how the CIA used tactics never authorized by the DOJ:

A former Bush Justice Department official who approved brutal interrogation methods by the C.I.A. has told Congress that he never authorized several other rough tactics reportedly inflicted on terrorism suspects -- including prolonged shackling to a ceiling and repeated beatings.

So in NYT World, even shackling helpless detainees to the ceiling for prolonged periods and repeatedly beating them is not "torture," but are rather merely "rough tactics" or "brutal interrogation methods" . . . if it's high-level U.S. government officials who have authorized them.  But, from a NYT article yesterday:

[A] federal appeals court last week ordered the United States to provide a haven for a woman facing the likelihood of torture in China. . . . Others named in the same warrant and caught by the Chinese police had described beatings, suffocation, electric shocks, sleep deprivation and other forms of torture to get them to disclose details about the human rights group to which they all belonged.

Many of the same tactics used by the U.S. are magically transformed into unambiguous "torture" when used by China, notwithstanding the categorical denials by the Chinese Government that the tactics they use ever rise to the level of "torture".  Torture, by definition, is something U.S. officials do not authorize; it's only what those Evil Other Governments do.  That's the propagandistic message delivered over and over to Americans not only by the government officials who did it, but by The New York Times as well.  Meanwhile, Bill Keller -- the editor responsible for these nationalistic editorial double standards, as well as for the strained, government-pleasing euphemisms he forces on his reporters ("rough tactics") -- accuses anyone who objects (rather than himself) of "tendentious political correctness."  Isn't it classic propaganda to use one set of words for what Other Countries do, but completely different words for what your own country does?

By Glenn Greenwald

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