George Graham

Now, Media Conservatives Are Making Fun of Torture

I am indebted to Karl Frisch, a Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America, for enduring the diatribes that pass for conservative commentary in order to keep the rest of us informed. I cannot bring myself to listen to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, G. Gordon Liddy and Mike Huckabee. As Dick Cheney would no doubt say of me, I “don’t have the stomach for it.”

torture 1In this week’s Media Matters roundup, Frisch reports on the response of these commentators to recent disclosures of torture during the Bush Administration. You are probably aware of the horrors approved as “interrogation techniques” by the Bush crowd: “stress positions,” “cramped confinement,” “sleep deprivation,” “water boarding,” banging prisoners’ heads against the wall, shutting them up in a box with terrifying insects – and so on. And I bet you don’t find any of it amusing.

But I gather from Frisch’s account that good ol’ Rush thinks it’s hilarious. “If you look at what we are calling torture, you have to laugh,” Limbaugh is quoted as saying. “If somebody can be water-tortured six times a day, then it isn’t torture.” Then, according to Frisch, Limbaugh claimed that “appeasers” have “watered down” the definition of torture in the same way that “the NOW (National Organization for Women) gang watered down the definition of domestic violence.”torture 2

Frisch reports that radio host Liddy compared the technique of placing a detainee who “appears to have a fear of insects” in “a cramped confinement box with an insect” to an appearance on a game show. “I went through worse on Fear Factor,” Frisch quotes Liddy as saying.

Frisch also quotes Huckabee as making light of the insect-terror technique with this remark: “Look, I’ve been in some hotels where there were more bugs than these guys faced.” Then according to Frisch, the Fox News “personality” went on to suggest that under the Obama administration, “we’re going to talk to them (terror suspects), we’re going to have a nice conversation, we’re going to invite them down for some tea and crumpets.” “Fox & Friends” co-host Gretchen Carlson reportedly replied, “That usually works with your kids, too, right? When they’re in trouble for something, they just tell you everything.” To which her co-host Steve Doocy is said to have chirped mockingly, “Mr. Moussaoui, it’s time for you over in the time-out chair.”torture 3

In unabashed support of torture, Beck reportedly aired a clip from a fictional television show called “24,” in which protagonist Jack Bauer defends his use of torture.

“It’s going to take somebody who sits in front of Congress who is not afraid of them any more and does what Jack Bauer did,” Beck reportedly declared. “And that is, (say) ‘Yes, I did torture, and I’m proud of it.’ And it’s time for these things to come out of the closet.”

Beck’s co-host, Steve Doocy, is then quoted as saying: “In particular, in that clip, you know, the guy (fictional Senator Blaine Mayer) goes, ‘You tortured them.’ And he (the fictional character, Bauer) goes, ‘Well, it probably was torture under your definition. But ask the people whose lives I saved whether or not it was worth me going over the edge.’ …. ‘Is it OK to …. rough somebody up, to save lives?’ You ask the person on the street, they’d say, ‘Yeah, why not?’ ”

Well, I, for one, don’t say, “Why not?” In addition to the fact that it is morally reprehensible and a violation of domestic and international law, experts will tell you that in real life, torture does not produce the kind of reliable information that saves lives.

Research on the ineffectiveness of torture is available at this site:

It does not surprise me that Glenn Beck would turn to fantasy to bolster his argument, though. From what I’ve heard, he lives in a fantasy world, anyway. And as for the tough-talkin’ swagger displayed by Huckabee and his buddies, I would like to see them trapped in a dark box with a couple of poisonous spiders. I bet they wouldn’t find that so funny.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for