Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why Torture Matters | George W. Bush, Abu Ghraib, and the Responsibility of the America Citizenry

For the past couple years we have been trying to make sense of how the American people have understood the role of torture in the war on terror. From our unscientific polls of friends and acquaintance, we have come to the conclusion that Americans are in favor of anything they think will make them safe. We have heard FORMER! presidential candidate Mitt Romney profess that he would return to the Bush torture paradigm and we have watched as Fox news pundits have advocated the use of torture on suspected terrorists. What we have missed in this dialogue is that the actions of our government and our military have profound consequences on our long term security as well as the security of our troops.

For those of you interested in the subject, we would like to offer just a small snippet of the research we have been working on. We offer an analysis of the media, the president, and public opinion in an attempt to understand the role that "we the people" play in the actions of our government. Hopefully, we are able, in plain language, able to present the multiple layers involved in this dilemma (Click on this link: Framing Abu Ghraib). 

Now that the election is over and we have spent so much time thinking about what makes the best government, maybe we can start thinking about what the best way to operate that government is. This is just one issue but it cuts to the core of who we are as citizens and what our responsibility is as actors on the world stage.

We the People,

Here is a snippet of the conclusion of the our paper. 

If we spark an interest, you can find further readings at the end of the paper.

Two debates emerged in the months following the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs: (1) whether the abuse revealed through the photos was limited to a few bad apples or more widespread and (2) whether the Bush Administration’s authorization of enhanced interrogation methods contributed to the abuse at Abu Ghraib. What I have done in this paper is examine the simple, coherent, and consistent nature of Bush’s framing, the media’s disconnected and inconsistent support and opposition of the Bush frames, and the public’s acceptance of the Bush frames. To do this, I developed a new theory about the culture industry’s cycle of assumptions and explored which frames were selected, emphasized, and excluded by ABC, CBS, and NBC. Finally, I have attempted to make sense of how the public selected, retained, and interpreted the three frames presented by the Bush administration. The culture industry’s cycle of assumptions theory argues that meaning is made in the interaction between the president, the news media, and the public. In May 2004, Bush spoke publicly about Abu Ghraib 15 times and framed the abuse by arguing that the abuse was limited to a few bad apples, the administration would conduct a transparent investigation, and minimized the impact of the administrations enhanced interrogation techniques by contrasting it to the practice of torture by tyrants and terrorists like Saddam Hussein. Throughout May 2004, ABC, CBS, and NBC selected frames that supported and contradicted the Bush frames, emphasized frames that supported the Bush frames, and excluded crucial details during broadcasts that refuted the scapegoat frame. The majority of the public agreed with the Bush frames while an overwhelming majority of Republicans identified with the Bush frames. Future research should analyze how Bush and the media further developed frames about Abu Ghraib and the Bush torture policies throughout the rest of 2004, how the frames change throughout the remainder of Bush’s presidency, how public opinion changes over the same time periods, and cable news and newspaper framing of Abu Ghraib.
The culture industry’s cycle of assumptions, the interaction between the post-rhetorical practices of the Bush administration, the media’s selection, emphasis, and exclusion, and the public’s selective exposure, perception, and retention of information, led to the public’s acceptance of the Bush scapegoat frame. This theory helps to explain how the public has interpreted information about Abu Ghraib. If the American public filters the frames of the news media one-dimensionally through their existing beliefs instead of critically, they enable the president to avoid explanation of his policies. 
As Emile Durkheim wrote in 1893, “an act – no matter how heinous – that is not punished by the collective conscious is not a crime.”107 
Therefore, the public, by not yielding to the evidence of the Bush administration’s war crimes, have in fact legitimized its policies. Before we indict the American public as complicit in the Bush torture policies, we must first determine to what extent the American public can form an informed opinion. To this point I have reviewed the reports that contradicted the administration’s assertions that Abu Ghraib was isolated to a few bad apples at Abu Ghraib and that the administrations policies were legal.
As Agger explains in critical theory terms: “Domination is discourse, produced and reproduced in culture and everyday life.”108 
The America Public may be confused because it has been lost in the media torrent of the culture industry and lacks the semantic contents109 to critically filter the news media’s framing of the Abu Ghraib scandal. Evaluating the Abu Ghraib controversy through the culture industry’s cycle of assumptions helps us to understand how we have lost our ability to critically evaluate the frames we consume and, hopefully, create new opportunities to construct political discourse and act out our personal lives on the public political sphere. 

But, the consequences of inaction are great, for when we support oppressive policies; we support resistance to the United States.110

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