William Saletan, torture apologist

If you ever wondered why so many liberals and lefties have a visceral loathing for that plague upon humanity known as journalistic contrarianism, you need look no further than the work of Slate’s William Saletan. Contrarianism as we know it was developed and perfected to a fare-thee-well at The New Republic during the 80s and 90s. But currently there is no better outlet for it than Slate (see the Twitter hashtag #slatepitches for some hilarious parodies of this particular bill of fare).

Saletan is the Lord High Contrarian — insufferably smug, writing like a pompous know-it-all even though his knowledge of and thinking about a subject is rarely more than paper-thin, and a nominal liberal writing for a nominally liberal publication who in fact frequently advances reactionary arguments. The latest is this Newsday op-ed, “The Case for Torture.”

Well, at least the headline writer is honest about the underlying argument, even if the rest of the piece is extremely cagey and disingenuous. What gives the game away immediately, though, is that Saletan repeatedly uses the torturers’ preferred term for what they do — they’re not torturing anyone, silly, they’re merely practicing “enhanced interrogation techniques!” Beautifully Orwellian, that.

The rest of the piece consists of Saletan’s lackey-like stenography from a forum at the conservative American Enterprise Institution. It’s quite apparent that no human rights fans were invited to participate on the panel, because apparently all that anyone ever said at this shindig was how helpful torture was, and how no one ever went too far with it, of course. From time to time, Saletan makes a pretense of objectivity, of being just a reporter delivering the facts.

But no reporter with any sense of human decency could sit there, listen to what he heard, and not ask any sharp questions of the participants. Or seek out experts with opposing views to hear a different side of the story. Or at least do some more reading, for gosh sakes.

After reading his piece, I felt sick all over again — not just about our government torturing people, but about the propaganda industry that has developed to justify it, which William Saletan has now joined. Congratulations, Mr. Saletan!

In the event that you are unacquainted with the previous work by this charming and deeply thoughtful journalist, let me present a highlight reel:

— The best way for pro-choicers to make the case for abortion rights is to repeatedly denounce abortion as bad and wrong. And also, to collaborate with anti-choice groups on abortion prevention strategies, such as birth control. As is well known, the Catholic Church and the right-to-life groups are wildly enthusiastic about increased access to birth control!

— Because African-Americans score lower than whites on IQ tests, that virtually proves they are genetically inferior. And any of you liberal hippie scum who raise objections to this are exactly the same as evolution-denying creationists — so there!

— Geeze, cut Roman Polanski some slack, already! Because the average age of menarche is declining, statutory rape is no biggie — at least, not anymore!

— Because the charges that Dominique Strauss-Kahn had raped a hotel housekeeper were dropped, this proves that the government is always able to determine whether or not a rape occurred. Good to know!

Kathleen Geier

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee