Friday, July 10, 2009

Good and Bad I Define These Terms Quite Clear No Doubt Somehow

(BTW, title comes from Bob Dylan)

If you've been following events recently, you know that NPR listeners are a bit pissed off at the assist NPR and its ombudsman have given to US torturers by refusing to call their actions that cause "severe physical or mental pain or suffering" torture. In her bumbling explanation of why torture is not torture, Ombudsman Shepard stated that she was against "using loaded language."

Of late I've noticed a descriptor that has become part of the working vocabulary of NPR staff. Can you spot it in these recent stories?

  • Morning Edition, June 19, 2009 NPR's macho war guy, Tom Bowman is interviewing Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who is in charge of nearly 90,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, says, "Your experience is in the area of special operations. You're basically a hunter-killer. You've hunted down bad guys like Saddam Hussein...."
  • Weekend Edition Sunday, July 5, 2009 Liane Hansen is interviewing RAND "expert" Christine Fair about the US Marine offensive in Afghanistan. Fair is talking about all the players involved in the poppy/narcotics trafficking and says "so you've got quite a mix of bad guys in this part of Afghanistan....a counterinsurgency approach is really not about killing the bad guys as much as it is about securing the population...."
  • Morning Edition, July 6, 2009 Tom Gjelten is reporting on the CIA's recruitment of Wall Street "pros" and hands the microphone to a recent recruit whose pseudonym is Alex. With no irony - and of course no comment from Gjelten - Alex brags, "There's no question that an understanding of the global financial system and how money moves from place to place and sort of the economic motivations of the bad guys that we look at are all important skills that I've been able to transfer from investment banking."
I realize in comic strip superhero world it's often a simple case of good guys versus bad guys, such as, well, Uncle Sam and his All Star Squadron saving the world -

or Captain America against the commies -

or Captain America, leader of US warnography in general

but, I think we all know where this stupid good guy versus bad guy crap leads, don't we [hurl alert!]-

After all just who are the "good guys" when it comes to handing over the Treasury to Goldman Sachs and friends, or to pulverizing Afghan civilians, or to the CIA and US military working some of its non-torture "harsh interrogation" magic on detainees?

I have a modest suggestion for NPR: every time one of its reporters or newsreaders uses the phrase "bad guys" or features a guest using it without any comment from the reporter, that person gets fined $1000 and has to give it to either Amnesty International, the ACLU, the Center For Constitutional Rights - or some other bunch of [hee, hee] good guys...


Kevan Smith said...

Very nice observation.

I don't think NPR grasps that it's not who you are that makes you a "bad guy," but what you do. The label "bad guy" can just as easily fit the person who bombs weddings from a U.S. drone as a person who sets I.E.D.s to kill soldiers. That thought would send Inskeep et alia into conniptions!

geoff said...

Is Karzai a good guy? Obvious Agency apparatchnik and NPR reporter Michelle Keleman blows smoke at the issue last 5/9/9:

MK: [] Karzai says his message is simple: money can't buy you love and force can't buy you obedience.

Karzai: [] We require a much higher platform on which we should stand as better people than the terrorists. As a lot more better human beings than the bad guys who come and affect us all.

MK: One particularly deadly incident in Western Afghanistan this past week clouded Karzai's visit here. He was pleased that both [] Obama and [] Clinton expressed their sorrow and regret for the high civilian death toll. Even though US Military personnel sought to blame insurgents for some of that.

[more unbelievable nonsense from senators]

State department spokesman Robert Wood says Karzai and Zardari now know how much skepticism they face from lawmakers.

RW: Pakistan and Afghanistan are going to have to do more and take the steps that are necessary to deal with these threats to alleviate some of these concerns that exist on Capital Hill. That's just the reality of our Democracy.

I think they must be trying to induce cognitive whiplash. They want the audience to capitulate. To believe anything or nothing or whatever CNIPAR wants..."that's it, right! What you said! Anything, just stop f%$@king with my head!"

JayV said...

After all the criticism and hundreds of comments thrown at the NPR Ombud, does it really make that much of a difference? Will NPR change? Will NPR end up giving the sack to Shepard? Hmmm.... no.

I tell my friends who are avid listeners of Vermont Public Radio about this stuff and they think I'm off my rocker.

Anonymous said...

"Good guys and bad guys"

That's the world of my 4 year old nephew.

Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg identified six "stages" of Moral development

Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)

1. Obedience and punishment orientation (How can I avoid punishment?)

2. Self-interest orientation (What's in it for me?)

Level 2 (Conventional)

3. Interpersonal accord and conformity(Social norms)
(The good boy/good girl attitude)

4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation (Law and order morality)

Level 3 (Post-Conventional)

5. Social contract orientation
6. Universal ethical principles
(Principled conscience)

By my reckoning, Bush, Cheney and their ilk never made it to the good guy bad guy stage but got stuck at the Pre-conventional (essentially "baby") level at either stage 1 or 2

1. Obedience and punishment orientation (How can I avoid punishment?)

2. Self-interest orientation (What's in it for me?)

Most of those at NPR seem to be stuck at stage 3, same as my 4 year old nephew.

I'd bet there is not a single person at NPR who has reached stages 5 ( Social contract orientation) or
6. Universal ethical principles
(Principled conscience)

If they had, they would have long since quit.

Anonymous said...

You know Bush/Cheney have NOT reached Kohlberg stage 3 (Law and order morality) because they have break laws like they were made to be broken.

I think Alicia Shepard is at Kohlberg stage 2: what's in it for me?

We will get confirmation of this if she is offered another position at NPR after her ombot gig is over.

If I had to speculate, I'd say Vivian Schiller has already offered her a job.

That's the only other explanation that makes any sense (to me) when it comes to her continuing to make a fool of herself for NPR over the torture thing.

but then again, some people are just not rational.

Anonymous said...

should be "have broken" above.

Anonymous said...

Bad Guys isn't just some cartoonish slang, Dexter Filkins. war correspondent for the New York Times, and now an -- are you ready -- Human Rights Fellow at Harvard. uses the term all the time when covering his own narcissistic battlefield antics. But that's just it, these aren't real wars because there is no real battlefield, there are no opposing armies They have to call Iraqis or Afghans and now even Pakistanis such names because we are involved in violent conflicts -- of such dubious legality and necessity -- among innocent uncomprehending, and frightened populations and increasingly homeless refugees. And be patient because Filkins titled one of his books "The Forever War"

big!pink!floydian!bunny! said...

"Us... us... us... us... us... us... us...


Them... them... them... them... them... them...them... them..." etc.

(and I haven't been moved to play that one in ages!)

geoff said...

I gotta say - Rummy and Spidey and Mr Am with a star upon hars is perfect for the NPRs. Simon should be made to watch this with the eyelid pincers stretching wide.

Anonymous said...

He's bad , he's bad , you know it.

farmer John said...

Captain America actually imitates American Indian art. I'm not sure from what era. See the Native American Museum in DC. I don't know why but seeing that was somehow comforting to me.

Porter Melmoth said...

Suggestion for NPR:

Fast-forward to 'hunter/killer' terminology. Just call 'em MOTHERF-----S.