Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It ain't rocket science

Yesterday on the Radio Factor (or maybe the day before, I forget), Bill O'Reilly explained that he doesn't consider water boarding torture because it doesn't leave a mark. Hold on to this, I'll return to it in a moment.

During last night's episode of the O'Reilly Factor I watched as some Democratic strategist feebly attempted to answer Bill's question of whether or not she would use water boarding if it would save the lives of her children I became frustrated. Frustrated because it ain't that hard to punch a hole in the reasoning of the cartoon character that is O'Reilly.

Let's walk through this.

The strategist answered yes, as a mother she would do anything in her power to save her kids lives, but as president a decision made in a specific moment might have implications for lives in the future. At this point O'Reilly cut her off and said she's talking theory, and theory walks when lives are at stake. She might have pointed out the incoherance of saying that to her after asking hypothetically about using waterboarding to save her kids.

But a more appopriate response would have started with pointing out that the Gestapo shared O'Reilly's reasoning for not calling waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation" torture. Then she could have pointed out that the claim that waterboarding generated actionable intelligence is dubious. Finally, she might have rebutted O'Reilly's "it saves lives" line of reasoning by reminding him that hundreds of thousand of people are dead in Iraq partly as a result of the United States goverment acting on faulty intelligence it obtained via torture.


Now, in fairness to the strategist, O'Reilly isn't really giving her much room to make the points I raised. As you can see in the video, he asked her if she would waterboard to save her children and then demanded a yes or no answer. This is where you have to in return demand to be allowed to explain your position or walk from the show. Otherwise, O'Reilly will do what he always does - he will treat you like a prop. The purpose of the question is to not to discuss or debate, but to set up a gotcha moment: if she says yes then O'Reilly will use that as a vehicle to project his opinion; if she says no O'Reilly will use that as a vehicle to project his opinion. In neither case does the guest get an opportunity to actually put forth and defend a position.

Realistically speaking, this is illustrative of why no one should go on O'Reilly's program in the first place. He has removed himself from the realm of reasoned discourse. He is not going to provide a fair forum and he behaves unprofessionally.

If the guest were actually given the space to respond to the question she could raise all kind of questions like where would the line be drawn? You'd be willing to cut someone's fingers off with scissors to save your kids lives, right? Then why isn't that an option? Or why isn't it an option for the police to use waterboarding? If it saves lives why shouldn't they use it? Why is it that people who are vastly more informed on the subject than Bill O'Reilly are opposed to its use.

Having to respond to these sorts of questions would mean O'Reilly would actually have to think and to defend and explain his own position, however. It would mean an honest an open discussion. And that's something Bill's ego won't let him do.

Update 2: Racists used to waterboard confessions out of blacks in the South. Good company Mr. O'Reilly has there.

1 comment:

Mike said...

What about this simple question:

What's the difference between waterboarding and Chinese Water Torture?

I'd like to hear people ask that frequently.