Published on 15 Dec 2014

It is not ‘enhanced interrogation’. It is torture

Sometimes it takes a rebel with a cause. Sometimes it needs the genuine outsider to step up and shatter the cosy established orders. Sometimes it takes a special kind of someone to tell it like it is.

And also sometimes it takes Malcolm Rifkind.

You see Malcolm sees a spade for what it is. In demanding answers for what Britain’s secret services may have been doing in our name, the veteran politician, notably, has no problem calling torture torture.

In so doing he has shown up a curious reluctance in some quarters to use the word torture: to call the spade a spade a la Rifkind.

The Ceremonial Funeral Of Former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the Commons intelligence and security committee (Getty Images)

How many times have we heard nonsense like “enhanced interrogation techniques” spouted in recent days, quite without any attribution at all?

How often – even more common, this – has the word “rendition” been used, again without attribution?

The language really matters because otherwise we can stray – perhaps unwittingly – into propaganda when using the language of the propagandist without qualification or attribution.

And propaganda is nothing more than a brand of deceit, of lying, of spin for political purposes.

These terms – “enhanced interrogation” and “rendition” – are obviously designed to convey a wholly false sense of reality, a denial of the truth. Journalism is about exposing truth.

I recall very well journalists using the term “collateral damage” during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm, and again without attribution. The truthful phrase should have been “civilian deaths” or similar.

Since then, of course, we have had “shock and awe” for civilian casualties all over again – along the painful road to “rendition” via “enhanced interrogation”, no doubt.

So it is that “rendition” is seldom used with any attribution, indeed any sign at all that anything is amiss. Almost never do you hear “abduction” or “kidnapping”.

This ugly neologism “rendition” is, in my view, deliberately designed to hide the fact of the state criminality, of the act, of abduction and kidnapping.

Any journalist using it without attribution is thus lying – in effect, if not intention. The unwitting peddler of propaganda is a propagandist, whether aware of it or not.

Ask yourself how many people you out there in the street  would even know what “rendition” means? Then ask the same good people what kidnapping or abduction mean.

Most will be befuddled by the first question, lucid on the second. The Pentagon learned this lesson years ago, as did governments around the world who wish to deny or hide their actions from scrutiny.

The difference between the two responses on the street proves the power of Pentagon-speak deception. Journalism dies the moment journalists accept their terms, their lies.

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3 reader comments

  1. Alan says:

    Therefore why does the press in general continue to support what we understand to be wrong?

  2. G says:

    The Gestapo were the first to use the term ‘enhanced interrogation’ to give respectability to torture.
    It is surely encumbent upon all journalists to avoid giving unwitting succour to unethical and inhumane practices.
    Of late we have also been treated to ‘redaction’, which is simply censureship and in the banking sector ‘financial mismanagement’ AKA ”fraud’.
    George Orwell must be turning in his grave.

  3. Philip says:

    Very true Alex. But too much of the media are driven not by truth or accuracy, but to portray the world in the way their owners wish it to be seen by us.

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