from the wait,-what?!? dept
We’ve written before about Jay Rosen’s excellent explanation of “the church of the savvy,” in which political reporters seem more focused on describing the “horse race” aspect of politics rather than the truth. It’s the old story in which the press ignores, say, a really good concept because “politicians won’t support it.” A key giveaway for a “savvy” post is to focus on “what the polls say” rather than what reality says. That doesn’t mean that polls are never useful or shouldn’t be reported on — but when they get in the way of the actual story, it can make for ridiculous results.
Take, as a quintessential example, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake giving us the latest on torture’s polling numbers. Apparently, the polls tell us that Americans are okay with torture (even when they believe it’s torture):
A Pew poll shows Americans say, by a two-to-one margin (56-28), say the CIA’s interrogation methods after 9/11 “provided intelligence that helped prevent terrorist attacks.”
Similarly, a CBS News poll shows that 57 percent of Americans think waterboarding and other interrogation techniques practiced by the CIA “provide reliable information that helps prevent terrorist attacks” either “often” or “sometimes.” Just 8 percent say it “never” provides quality information, while 24 percent say it “rarely” does.
And finally, a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday morning shows people say 53-31 that the CIA’s program did “produce important information that could not have been obtained any other way.”
Now, an actual reporter might point out that (1) these Americans are wrong and (2) that it doesn’t fucking matter whether or not torture works — it’s still reprehensible. But, instead, Blake concludes that, boy, this sure is a loss for the Democrats:
And as long as people believe torturing terrorism detainees leads to valuable information, the CIA’s interrogation program ? and torture in general ? are unlikely to face a major public backlash.
This is the unhappy reality being confronted by Democrats who had hoped to make a splash with the CIA report.
So the only “reality” in the article is the fact that the public’s depraved position is bad for one particular party. Apparently, it’s not bad for “humanity” or common sense or human rights or America. It’s just bad for one party? Rather than actually educating the public — which reporters are supposed to be doing — the focus is just on what these polling numbers mean for torture — presented in the same way one might discuss the polling numbers for a regular election.
This isn’t a political horse race we’re talking about here. This is about a fundamental issue of human rights, and the press is acting like all that matters is torture’s polling numbers?