Examining the four newspapers with the highest daily circulation in the country, we found a significant and sudden shift in how newspapers characterized waterboarding. From the early 1930s until the modern story broke in 2004, the newspapers that covered waterboarding almost uniformly called the practice torture or implied it was torture: The New York Times characterized it thus in 81.5% (44 of 54) of articles on the subject and The Los Angeles Times did so in 96.3% of articles (26 of 27). By contrast, from 2002-2008, the studied newspapers almost never referred to waterboarding as torture. The New York Times called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture in just 2 of 143 articles (1.4%). The Los Angeles Times did so in 4.8% of articles (3 of 63). The Wall Street Journal characterized the practice as torture in just 1 of 63 articles (1.6%). USA Today never called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture. In addition, the newspapers are much more likely to call waterboarding torture if a country other than the United States is the perpetrator. In The New York Times, 85.8% of articles (28 of 33) that dealt with a country other than the United States using waterboarding called it torture or implied it was torture while only 7.69% (16 of 208) did so when the United States was responsible. The Los Angeles Times characterized the practice as torture in 91.3% of articles (21 of 23) when another country was the violator, but in only 11.4% of articles (9 of 79) when the United States was the perpetrator.
I wonder whether the US government needed to apply pressure to the newspapers, or if it was a matter of a natural inclination towards compliance, or if it was something in between.
Link thanks to Thoreau at Unqualified Offerings.
And from Jim Henley at the same blog:
Compare also the standard neocon “U SUCK LOL” directed against nonviolent resistance – Hitler would totally have just killed Gandhi hahaha! We accept that successful violent resistance might take years or decades to achieve victory – Mao, Castro – and that guerrilla movements might suffer casualties to ranks and leaders but keep on. But we can’t imagine that nonviolent resistances might achieve the same. The war on drugs will surely work at some point – we’ve only been at it for 90-odd years, trillions of dollars and countless deaths and humiliations. But should anyone anywhere decriminalize anything, a single death or inconvenience in the first week would condemn the entire effort. It takes time to get an animal to do what you want with positive reinforcement. It takes time to get an animal to do what you want with negative reinforcement. But taking the former time is simpering weakness while taking the latter is manly resolve.
I've framed the concept as people who are very much more afraid of being too kind than of being too harsh, or in a worse mood, that a great many Americans are in love with punishment. It seems to me that this has gotten much worse since 9/11.
Post title thanks to bradhicks.