Coda On The NYT And Torture.

Bill Keller's response to that study noting that American newspapers described waterboarding as torture when done in other countries but as something else when done by Americans is bizarre:

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said the newspaper had written so much about the issue of waterboarding that “I think this Kennedy School study — by focusing on whether we have embraced the politically correct term of art in our news stories — is somewhat misleading and tendentious.”


“When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves,” Mr. Keller wrote. “Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and human rights advocates as a form of torture. Nobody reading the Times’s coverage could be ignorant of the extent of the practice (much of that from information we broke) or mistake it for something benign (we usually use the word ‘brutal.’)"

It's a good rule of thumb that anyone responding to a criticism by accusing someone else of enforcing "political correctness" is factually incorrect. That's because if the actual facts of the criticism were in dispute, they'd dispute them.

Employing a misleading euphemism in order to avoid offending a side in a political dispute is the definition of "tendentious political correctness." The terms "enhanced interrogation" or "harsh techniques" are politically correct "terms of art" for waterboarding, while "torture," by Keller's own admission, is the correct term. Keller, having already admitted that his paper opted to use milder terms to describe waterboarding in its news section once conservatives registered complaints about describing the practice as torture, cannot plausibly accuse anyone else of "tendentious political correctness."

The Times deserves credit for addressing this issue, but this, again, is exactly the problem with political journalism today. All you need to do to get reporters to avoid reporting facts as facts is to dispute them. It won't always work, but on the big stuff, it works often enough.

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