Why US media makes torture victims invisible

The release of the torture report has brought out the torture architects, perpetrators, and apologists in full force and they are all over the media explaining why brutalizing people in disgusting ways was good and noble and why just the fact that this report was released somehow absolves America for committing these horrendous crimes and proves how great and noble we are.

What makes this nauseating spectacle of self-justification possible is the almost complete absence of any appearances of the victims of torture, even those who were cleared of any wrongdoing and are easily available to talk about what happened to them. Glenn Greenwald tries to provide some balance.

Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that – despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people. It’s hardly surprising, then, that a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning found that a large majority of Americans believe torture is justified even when you call it “torture.” Not having to think about actual human victims makes it easy to justify any sort of crime.

This self-glorifying ritual can be sustained only by completely suppressing America’s victims. If you don’t hear from the human beings who are tortured, it’s easy to pretend nothing truly terrible happened. That’s how the War on Terror generally has been “reported” for 13 years and counting: by completely silencing those whose lives are destroyed or ended by U.S. crimes. That’s how the illusion gets sustained.

It would be incredibly easy, and incredibly effective, for U.S. television outlets to interview America’s torture victims. There is certainly no shortage of them. Groups such as the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve, and CAGE UK represent many of them. Many are incredibly smart and eloquent, and have spent years contemplating what happened to them and navigating the aftermath on their lives.

What this glaring omission in coverage does more than anything else is conclusively expose the utter fraud of the U.S. media’s claims to “objectivity” and “neutrality.” Outlets like The Washington Post and NPR still justify their refusal to call these torture tactics “torture” by invoking precepts of “neutrality”: we have to show all views, we can’t take sides, etc.

But that’s pure deceit. They don’t show all sides. They systematically and quite deliberately exclude the victims of the very policies of the U.S. Government they pretend to cover. And they do that because including those victims would be too informative, would provide too much information, would be too enlightening. It would, for many people, shatter the myths of American Goodness and the conceit that even when Americans do heinous things, they do it with Goodness and Freedom in their hearts, with a guaranteed and permanent status as superior. At the very least, it would make it impossible for many people to deny to themselves the utter savagery and sadism carried out in their names.

I am really getting sick of NPR carefully avoiding the use of the word torture. Torture is what the US did and there is no excuse for not saying so. Not calling it what it is is a pure act of journalistic cowardice and subservice to government, making them propagandists for the US government.


  1. says

    I would like to see a quiz. Put up descriptions of torture methods and guess what country did it and when. Also mix in there pictures of victims. This is what happened to this person who knew nothing. Who did it?

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