Words Matter: NY Times edition

warning: science free content below

Quicky post. NYTimes.com has as its lead article as I write this a piece on Bush’s veto of the anti-torture bill under this headline:

Bush’s Veto of Bill on C.I.A. Tactics Affirms His Legacy

That legacy, according to the Times?

President Bush on Saturday further cemented his legacy of fighting for strong executive powers, using his veto to shut down a Congressional effort to limit the Central Intelligence Agency’s latitude to subject terrorism suspects to harsh interrogation techniques.

Oh–that legacy. Silly me. I thought they meant the legacy that places George Bush in the cohort of moral bankrupts that include the Japanese prison camp staff convicted of war crimes for waterboarding American soldiers, sentenced to up to 25 years imprisonment by US – led courts for their offenses.

I’ll write more over the next day or two about an aspect of this story that does have at least a loose connection to a major theme of this blog, the implications of the science worldview for figuring out something of what goes on in the public square. But every now and then it’s good to just pause and recall the capacity for moral outrage.

And that’s my question: the NY Times reports on a decision by the President that says its OK for our trained professionals to torture — and they see it as a narrative of presidential power? This is a clear sign that reporters and editors alike are way too far into the bubble. You should feel — and write — from a different place. Try outrage. Anger. Shame.

Please, just once, remember why y’all set out to be newspaper people.

Image: Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, “Capricho no. 51,” 1799. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Explore posts in the same categories: Bush follies, Journalism and its discontents, Politics, quis custodiet ipsos custodes, Republican knavery, torture

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2 Comments on “Words Matter: NY Times edition”


  1. Tags: Bush, Disgrace, journalism, Shame, torture, Veto

    BUT: warning: science free content below

    Here’s my problem. I started out as one of those newspaper people. I felt shame and outrage at some of the disgraces that I got to report on. But outing disgraces and shaming torturers didn’t seem to change much. So I became a scientist. Let the facts point up the disgraces. Let the weight of numbers press politicians into righteousness.

    That doesn’t work either. And one of the reasons that it doesn’t work is that as scientists we are supposed not to feel shame or outrage. Certainly we’re not allowed to express it. But I don’t think we should be complicit in this dichotomy. I don’t think we should be apologising for commenting on drawing conclusions from facts. That is what science is all about, even when the facts spring from the petri dish of life not lab, of politics not p-values. I believe implicitly in ensuring that study designs are neutral, that we get as close to the “facts” as our imperfect methods allow. But I will defend with ferocity my right to be outraged by what I find. And I consider it my duty to communicate findings as best I can to the people who perpetuate the outrages, and those who could minimise them.

    Engaging with disgrace, shame and journalism make us better scientists, not worse. In your tag list, the only science-free content is Bush.


  2. […] Press follies update A couple of posts back, I remembered my journalist’s roots (long ago, far away, in a country lost to memory…) to complain of the Great Gray Lady (no longer) of 43rd Street’s peculiar use of the word “legacy.” […]


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