Monday, April 30, 2012

The shame of 60 Minutes, how CBS hopes to profit from torture, and the people who love them

I winced throughout last night's horrifying edition of 60 Minutes, the geriatric television news magazine, in which correspondent Lesley Stahl granted a fawning interview to unconvicted war criminal Jose Rodriguez, one of the chief perpetrators of the Bush Adminstration's torture program after 9/11.

Rodriguez's lack of repentance for his crimes is not exactly news, of course - nor is the general pro-torture tilt of 60 Minutes.  So I wasn't surprised by the revolting tone of Stahl's questions - she joshed with the defiant old sadist, wondering aloud things like, "But golly, didn't the Nazis do things like this?' while generally treating the torture debate as if it were a kind of genial after-dinner conversation.

Of course Stahl was forced by the facts to leave obvious lacunae in her questioning - otherwise all "civility" would have collapsed, for Rodriguez's positions are hilariously self-contradictory: he destroyed whatever evidence might have exonerated him from charges of torture, for instance - because, of course, said evidence would have condemned, not exonerated, him.  Stahl daintily pirouetted around that.  His other jibes at the sober assessments by outside authorities of his bloody career ("Bullshit!" he exclaims at one point) were largely let stand; it was all a disgusting mockery of "investigative journalism."

Still, the only real news came at the end of the program - Rodriguez's book (for which the 60 Minutes appearance was really a kind of promotional appearance) is being published by - wait for it - Simon & Schuster - a division of CBS.  So all along, Lesley Stahl was essentially interviewing an employee of her own company - or rather, she was doing a puff piece on someone from whom her company hopes to reap a substantial profit (and to whom it has already no doubt paid a hefty advance).

Really, it's all just too sickening - and it's proof positive that the cancer Roger Ailes seeded at Fox News has already metastasized throughout the "legitimate" press.  Somehow this seems even lower than the New York Times's notorious cheerleading of the Iraq War (and yes, I once actually got paychecks from those people, I'm sorry to say). How anyone could at this point be proud of working for CBS News is simply beyond me.

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