This remarkable column by NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard reveals the depths to which the once great news network has sunk in its efforts to curry favor from the right wing.
Shepard is responding to the criticism from NPR listeners over the network’s refusal to use the term “torture” when referring to Bush-era interrogation techniques. Glenn Greenwald is masterful, as usual, in disecting Shepard’s argument and demonstrating the emptiness of her defense, so I won’t go over the ground he’s covered, but I’d like to make two points.
The entire structure of the NPR position is revealed to be corrupt and defenseless throughout the column, but is summed up nicely in Shepard’s closing paragraph, where she quotes NPR’s managing editor, David Sweeney:
“We understand that no matter what language we use, we risk taking one side or another in this debate,” said Sweeney. “To label techniques as ‘enhanced’ risks minimizing what was done. To call them torture suggests we’ve taken sides in the debate.”
Let’s make this clear. No matter what language they use, NPR will be seen as “taking one side or another in this debate.” So it isn’t a question of appearing partisan, it’s a question of which side of the debate they are willing to appear to side with. Clearly, they’ve chosen to “side” with the right, using Bush administration double-speak instead of the term “torture.” And they do so KNOWING they “risk minimizing what was done.”
In short, NPR is admitting that they are willing to obscure the truth in order to avoid angering the right. And they seem proud of it.
The second point I want to make is that at first I thought Alicia Shepard must be an idiot, or at best a corporate sell-out. After all, she’s the ombudsman and she’s willing to defend this defenseless position. But now I think just the opposite. I think she knows she CAN’T defend NPR’s position, but was ordered to, so she is revealing the mindset of the NPR management in order to demonstrate — without actually saying — how corrupt NPR has become. At least I hope that is the case.
NPR started on this downward spiral when they fired the great Bob Edwards as host of Morning Edition and replaced him with the insipid Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne. Next time your local public radio station asks for a donation, tell them you’re sending your money to Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!