Late last night I was surfing the early editions of the UK and Irish print media, ranging from The Irish Times to The Independent, and I came across this headline in The Guardian: ‘Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina endorses torture’.
So I clicked on the link and found the article which had been written by one Ben Jacobs, only to read the following opening sentence: “Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has endorsed waterboarding, the controversial interrogation method that has been called torture….”
The heart sank, not just because of the rank chickenheartedness that leaped out of that sentence but of all the woeful memories it re-awoke of covering the Troubles in Ireland when fellow reporters would take refuge in similarly shifty wording.
Like: “Last night British soldiers responded to Catholic rioters in Ballymurphy with what some locals described as barbaric levels of violence”.
The qualifying adverb “some” is there to indicate that not all the people of Ballymurphy felt that way (begging the obvious questions: how does the reporter know?) while the absence of a first-hand account is indicative either of an unwillingness to report what the reporter actually saw or to disguise the fact that while the riot was underway he/she was relaxing in the first floor bar of the Europa hotel.
Invariably it was the former.
And so with Ben Jacobs, the insertion of the phrase “….that has been called torture….” is there to indicate that Mr Jacobs has no opinion on waterboarding, one way or the other.
Some call it torture, others do not.
But not Mr Jacobs.
He belongs to the school of journalism which reports the insistence of flat-earthers that the world is not round but flat thus: “Opinions on shape of earth differ.”
Now, that’s what I call responsible, balanced journalism!