Killing the Messenger…or, What Would Jack Bauer Do?
Often the” tattle-tale” gets in more trouble than the actual culprit. The kid that breaks the vase while showing off baseball prowess in the living room gets less flack than the sibling who tells on him. The gang-banger who reports a robbery to police will be permanently ostracized by peers, while the robber gets off with a slap on the wrist. This is one of the truisms of childhood, and honor-among-thieves is often admired, at least secretly.
So in the current news circus–particularly the round-the-clock “spinning of yarns” news channel CNN–the cry of “kill the messenger” screeched onto the television screens immediately upon the bomb-shell reading of the Senate report on the use of torture by the CIA following the attack on the World Trade Center on 9-11.
We may have been softened up or prepared for the report by the fictitious Jack Bauer. of 24 fame…who was on the television series the primary “interrogator” of enemies, and when he was forced to resort to torture techniques he “reluctantly” rose to the occasion and performed his talents for the good of the agency. Unfortunately, sometimes the people Jack Bauer was forced to torture were not always guilty of anything. Darn! Jack always felt appropriately bad when that happened.
So now there are the inevitable cries of “political propaganda,” and a scramble to soft-peddle or excuse terrible occurrences that we, as a nation under God, are not supposed to do. Shock and awe!
Hopefully the fall-out of this revelation of disaster will reach back into the time of the Central American wars…Nicaragua and El Salvador, and throughout South America. Iran-Contra is a good place to start. As a historian of Latin American History, the familiarities of our government involvement “down there” are understood. Of course then it was the Soviet Union that was the big enemy and any illicit activity was excused by Washington as “anti-Communism.”
The same loud voices against the “tattle-tales” who are revealing the information about torture in the new Senate report are from those who would be in the front lines denouncing such atrocities committed by leaders in other countries.
Killing the messenger is not productive. Sometimes telling the public what is really going on in our name is not anti-American or political propaganda–it’s just the right thing to do.