01 July 2010

Doublespeak

Guess who talks out of both sides of their mouths?

One of the books I paged through over the last month or so was a history set in the post-colonial era of a small newspaper in Philadelphia (then the young nation's capital). That paper sought to publicize the actions of the government, first the Washington administration and then that of Adams. That paper, like that of its cohorts in time, adopted a peculiar and particular political voice (a voice that is presumed to be absent but obviously still exists today). It was, in effect, an advocate for its own visions while it documented the activities of a young nation-state.

What's amusing is that a little paper back then could send a couple of writers/reporters off to cover the government and come back with a pile of factually based complaints about that government and report on it as actually newsworthy material (say, the naval provisions being made with an eye toward war with France at the time). It is then noteworthy to see the state's and the persons working within the state, operate to close down this little shop of horrors, such as they see fit to do so (by for example, arresting and jailing the editor). Naturally some of this was coloured by some peculiar and absurd ideas, but nevertheless, it was journalism and free speech at work.

But in the modern environment, rather than risk such access to government documents and authorities, it's cheaper to simply acquiesce to their talking points than to seek and advance evidence that challenges them. "The government doesn't lie, it engages in disinformation". And so "waterboarding" an act continuously decried as an inhumanity of one of the worst orders, as torture, when conducted by our enemies, and indeed, when conducted by Americans, at least prior to around 2004, became "enhanced interrogation". Unpopular as the notion may be, ideas and especially behaviors are not suddenly enhanced with honorable motivations when we take them up while we deny these same actions with the most sensible and severe acts of suppression we can conceive of when they are conducted on ourselves by our enemies. Torture is still torture. But if the media says something else, because the government says something else, well then, I guess it's not torture any longer.
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