The elite consensus on torture

Yes, I am a little torture-focused lately, and I think the last post explained exactly why I think this is such an important issue. One of the most disturbing features of all this is how the elite Washington press is all into the "just move on" angle.  Naturally, Glenn Greenwald hits this hard.  I'm just going to copy the end of his long post on the subject (which is basically from some others):

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates posts video of the Peggy Noonan comments and writes

job of journalists is to challenge the government and to challenge
their readers and viewers. What sort of journalist tells his readers
that some things must be mysterious?  What sort of writer tells her
readers, and viewers, essentially, to not ask too many questions? We
have a fine era, when otherwise respected, intelligent, and well-read
people step on a national stage and endorse national ignorance.

There's nothing unusual about Noonan's mentality; it's the dominant mindset of our political and media class.  The American Prospect's Adam Serwer notes a column from The New York Times' Roger Cohen today arguing against prosecutions (of course) and observes:

Cohen's argument simply reflects the consensus among certain journalistic and political elites that the powerful simply shouldn't be held accountable
when they make mistakes, because, after all, we all make mistakes. This
compassionate attitude naturally doesn't extend beyond this small
group. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, fully 1
percent of the population. I'm sure there are millions of people
currently incarcerated who would like it if Cohen's policy of
absolution for crimes was extended to them.

elite-protecting consensus is the central affliction of America's
political culture.  It explains not only how we continuously shield our
elites from the consequences of their crimes, but also explains the
reason such crimes keep happening.  If you constantly announce to a
small group of people that they will be able to break the law with
impunity, you are rendering inevitable future rampant criminality.
That's just obvious.

I actually had to make this argument in class the other day.  Its pretty obviously the case with my 3-year old and even more so with grown-ups.  You tell people they cannot do something, you watch them do it and then just say, oh well, it's alright, you can be pretty sure what will happen in the future.



About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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