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Friday, October 20, 2006
AIM's Game of Semantics, Cont'd
Topic: Accuracy in Media

An Oct. 19 Accuracy in Media column by Cliff Kincaid lashed CBS' Bob Schiffer for failing to "get his facts straight." What was Schieffer's sin? Running afoul of Kincaid's game of semantics over the CIA's secret prisons.

Continuing the war of parsed words he has been waging for months, Kincaid claimed that Schieffer "accused President Bush of operating CIA 'secret prisons' when no evidence of them has been produced by anyone. What President Bush has acknowledged is that the CIA held them in its 'custody.' " He continued:

A more accurate description of where they were held would be secret "sites." That's the term Matt Lauer used when he interviewed Bush. Perhaps they could be termed "detention" facilities of some kind. Clearly, the terrorists were held somewhere. But "prisons" is a loaded term that implies something like an Alcatraz or Sing-Sing, with guards and towers and hundreds of inmates. There's no evidence of that. In fact, only a few terrorists were ever held at any one point by the CIA.

As we've noted, Kincaid and his AIM buddies didn't demand such precision when its target was President Clinton, freely tossing around the term "perjury" when he was never charged, let alone convicted, of it -- which makes Kincaid's claim that "For us, it's a matter of factual journalism" a tad hollow. And insisting that a euphemistic term like "sites" is "more accurate" betrays his documented history of railing against euphemisms.

But ultimately, Kincaid lets the truth slip out: "How can we win the battle for the hearts and minds of people around the world when we are saddled with a media that exaggerate the nature of a secret program in order to make the U.S. look bad?"

And that's really his problem: It's not accuracy, it's image. He doesn't want Bush to "look bad." He doesn't seem to understand that a prison doesn't have to look like Alcatraz to be a prison.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:54 AM EDT

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