NPR’s On the Media this week features a discussion with NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard about their news department’s refusal to refer to waterboarding and other — what’s the word? Oh, yes — torture techniques as torture. I urge you to listen to the segment, in which host Bob Garfield rightly poses an utterly logical case for using the word torture, using question after question for which Shepard has absolutely no satisfying answer. The following is the full text of a comment I left, edited for length because there’s some sort of foolishness about using fewer than 2,000 characters in comments. It outlines the case that basically anyone with an ounce of sense and half as much courage would make.
During this week’s discussion of whether or not NPR should use the word torture when referring to waterboarding, Ms. Shepard stated more than once that it was not up to her or to NPR to define what is and is not torture. This is quite correct. In the process, she also mentioned enraged people e-mailing her demanding to know why abortion doctors aren’t called murderers on the air, though she did not follow that up with an explanation.
The answer is the same in both cases: Abortion doctors are not referred to as murderers because the legality of performing is not in question, nor is the proper terminology for referring to them. In other words, it has been determined by our nation’s legal authority that abortion doctors are not murderers. Continue reading