A study by Neil Desai and several other Harvard University students shows that newspapers stopped calling waterboarding torture after the Abu Ghraib scandal. The quick numbers of how often their news articles called waterboarding torture:
|Before 2004||After 2004|
|New York Times||81.5%||1.4%|
|Los Angeles Times||96.3%||4.8%|
|Wall Street Journal||no data||1.6%|
|USA Today||no data||0.0%|
This data shows the newspapers encouraging the worst type of misbehaviour by the state which newspapers are supposed to be outraged by. It is worse because support for torture became a partisan issue when the Republican Party launched a full campaign in support of it. By implying that there is nothing wrong with torture, mainstream U.S. newspapers actively worked to protect the image of the George W. Bush administration and the Republican Party during one of the worst scandals in U.S. history and during an election year.
It would be interesting to know the decision-making process inside the papers of who decided torture should not be called torture and how they justified it. It would be a good news story. If only there were people and organizations whose job it is to report information in the public interest...