Recently unclassified documents from the CIA have set the news on fire with reports of heinous torture used on suspects after the 9/11 terrorism attacks. As an experiment, I investigated three different news sites to see what sorts of articles were being published on the recent news craze. I looked at Washington Post, Fox News, and Russia Today. I’ll just tackle these one at a time for the sake of organization.
The majority of the articles on Washington Post were statistical graphs. One was “The Senate report renews an old debate: When is torture not ‘torture’?“, another was “Americans have no idea what they really think about torture“, and one more that I looked at was “Let’s not kid ourselves: Most Americans are fine with torture, even when you call it “torture”.” Almost all of Washington Post’s articles on the topic focused on bashing the American public about the issue. Even if the data is true, which suggests that at least 70% of United States citizens support torture in at least some circumstances, the tone was generally pandering and demeaning. One article asserted that Americans are “addicted” to torture – something that I felt didn’t really ring entirely true.
Fox News took a slightly different approach overall. Its articles were much more focused on appealing to American dignity rather than American stupidity. However, the articles also seemed to get somewhat defensive. For instance, in the article “Why CIA interrogations report matters: Torture doesn’t work and Americans need to know“, the author does not condemn torture on any higher moral basis, nor does it say that the CIA was inherently immoral for using these tactics. Rather, it claims that torture is merely ineffective, and as such, has no place in professional interrogation. However, most of the articles – as I mentioned earlier – appeal to American dignity. One titled “Feinstein says torture report is troubling record of CIA tactics but a step to restore values” was a more positive message that these reports can actually lead us to recover American values. “Will: CIA interrogation techniques ‘not worthy’ of American society” took a similar approach. Basically, Fox News would seem to support the idea that Americans are better than this, and we can do better.
Russia Today has taken a very dispassionate view towards the topic, and would seem to focus more on the international implications of the reports rather than drawing specific conclusions about the CIA or America itself. In their article “‘No one at the top of food chain to be accountable for CIA torture’“, they detail how the UK actually has made measures to cover up the story because they were involved with much of the CIA torture. “US to face global protests over CIA torture report” talks about how the reports will change international views of the United States and the CIA, but doesn’t really bring the hammer down on anybody – a trend that seems to permeate both articles.