Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 23, 2009

A LIVELY NIGHT ON FOX NEWS.... It's not a news network, it has no ethical standards, it makes a mockery of modern journalism, it lies to its audience, and it's largely responsible for the confusion of millions of Americans about current events. On the other hand, once in a while Fox News can be lively.

First up was an unusual moment with Shep Smith, who was hosting a discussion about torture. The "discussion" (I use the word loosely) turned to the efficacy of illegal abuse of detainees in American custody. Naturally, a Fox News analyst defended torture, saying, "This stuff helped."

Smith, fuming, couldn't take it anymore. Banging his hand against the table, Smith shouted, "We are America! I don't give a rat's ass if it helps! We are America! We do not f***ing torture! We don't do it!" (Please note: there was no "bleeping" in the broadcast, so the clip is probably not safe for work.) When the FNC analyst once again said the debate is over the effectiveness of torture, Smith once again argued, "Doesn't matter; we don't do it."

Thank you, Shep Smith. Sorry about the inevitable FCC fine.

A few hours later, Sean Hannity hosted a chat with actor Charles Grodin, who pressed Hannity on his support for torture.

"Would you consent to be waterboarded?" Grodin asked. Hannity said he would. Grodin followed up, "Are you busy on Sunday?" Hannity replied, "I'll do it for charity. I'll let you do it. I'll do it for the troops' families." Grodin explained he wouldn't take part in such an exercise, presumably because it's morally repugnant and sadistic.

I rather doubt that Hannity was serious about this, and even if he were, there's a rather dramatic difference between being tortured at a secret CIA prison and a television personality being waterboarded for charity, knowing full well that those around him don't mean to do him harm.

For the record, I don't want to see anyone tortured, whether it's a detainee at Guantanamo or a blow-hard on Fox News.

Steve Benen 8:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (60)

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Comments

Even though he is usually a smarmy buffoon, Shephard Smith sometimes surprises me with his stance on particular issues, often 'going off the reservation' of approved talking points.

I wonder why Faux News keeps him around, occasionally talking sense and all?

Posted by: terraformer on April 23, 2009 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Being waterboarded for charity wouldn't be torture. At least first 30 or 40 times.

Posted by: Mr. Stuck on April 23, 2009 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I think it would be an excellent idea of Hannity allowed himself to be waterboarded. It sure changed Christopher Hitchen's mind about it!!

Posted by: winddancer on April 23, 2009 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Um, would it be wrong if Sean Hannity was "accidentally" waterboarded to death for charity?

If people complain, we can just say it was a "prank" that "got out of hand" from "a few bad apples."

Posted by: rob! on April 23, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

A fair test of this torture technique would be to kidnap Hannity and then make the torture an open-ended event. He wouldn't be able to see his captors, know when or if he would be released and death would be a more than distinct option. Grab him and hold him indefinitely, while waterboarding him several times a day. Maybe slam his face into a wall for a change-up. Then let's see if he thinks it's torture.

Posted by: Darsan54 on April 23, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, the Hitchens video is revelatory. He's in a safe and controlled environment, a supporter of torture and knows he's being videotaped for publication. He still cracks after about 10 seconds and went on to declare that waterboarding was torture.

Convincing a bunch of TV blowhards to get waterboarded on camera would be both a teaching moment for them and endless entertainment for us.

Posted by: Will on April 23, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

I'll waterboard Sean Hannity.

Posted by: tom on April 23, 2009 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Shep Smith is getting lauded all over the left blogosphere, demonstrating just how low our standards have fallen. He didn't denounce specific torture techniques in which we know for a fact the U.S. has repeatedly engaged; he said he didn't know "what is and isn't torture," and vowed to "get off the train" should we ever cross that line. Gosh, I sure hope we don't, don't you?!

I frankly don't see the difference between Bush averring, "We do not torture" and Shep "My Plastic Surgeon Got Way Carried Away Around the Eyes" Smith huffing that he's totally against the idea of torture theoretically. But because he's not actively promoting and defending torture, people are congratulating him. How did we get to this point?

Posted by: shortstop on April 23, 2009 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Who knew Charles Grodin was so funny? That was awesome. I particularly loved the "how many years were you in the service? oh, none? Oh, you're FATHER served. Well I served 8 years." Also telling Hannity that he has a "fascist mentality" was truly lovely, even lovlier is that all Hannity could do was awkwardly laugh at it.

How long can Shepherd Smith keep working at FauxNews? How many common sense, rational outburts are they going to allow him to have before they give him his walking papers? He's piercing the bubble with comments like that and they cannot like that.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on April 23, 2009 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Do people in the "torture works" crowd understand that the torture techniques we learned from the Germans, Russians and Chinese Communists were never designed or intended to obtain truth. They were designed to solicit false confessions.

If you want to find out the truth, take a little time and develop a relationship with the subject. Humans want to talk. Eventually they will tell you everything they know. And don't give me any crap about not having enough time for regular techniques to work. The guys we waterboarded were waterboarded over a period of months.

Unlike a lot of boobs defending torture right now, Cheney isn't stupid. He knew exactly what torture could accomplish. I believe the techniques were employed by Cheney and his henchmen to obtain false confessions to gin up support for the invasion of Iraq.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 23, 2009 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Uhmm actually I DO want Hannity and Joe Scarborough to get waterboarded just like Chris Hitchens did but here is the caveat, for every time they say waterboarding isn't torture the people get to waterboard them again up to 5 times. I want to see if they will continue to say it isn't torture knowing that it would mean they would get another session. If they are so sure it isn't torture then they shouldn't have a problem with it.

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla on April 23, 2009 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Waterboard Hannity for charity???
Where do I sign up,
There would be so much money donated they could cure cancer if they made that the cause

Posted by: John R on April 23, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

If Hitch could man up and do it, I'm sure that Hannity should be given the same chance. The catch: just when he thinks the stunt is over, do it again. And then do it again. And then one more time just to make sure. Do it to the point where he realizes he has no control over what's happening, and then see how he feels about torture. The fucker.

Posted by: Meanderthal on April 23, 2009 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Water torture Hannity using Soda Pop it will Enhance
his interview.

Posted by: apeman on April 23, 2009 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

@ sgwhiteinfla... Mourning Joe Scarborough!!! Splendid Idea

Posted by: John R on April 23, 2009 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Here's an idea: waterboard Hannity until he admits that he is the Craigslist killer.

Then maybe he might get the idea that it is unreliable as an information source.

Posted by: Ahcuah on April 23, 2009 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Who knew Charles Grodin was so funny?

Rent Midnight Run with Grodin and De Niro. After that someone gave him a talk-show and he bombed. He was hilarious then, and looks like he's on the comeback trail. Go Charlie!

Posted by: MissMudd on April 23, 2009 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Hannity should be waterboarded everytime he says something that's untrue. No problem, right Sean "Well, my FATHER served in the military" Sham-ity? Well, my niece served, and my great Uncle, and my wife's brother's uncle's cousin, so it's just like I served! What a PUTZ! Answer this Sham-ity: If waterboarding is not torture, then WHY did we prosecute Japanese servicemen for the WARCRIME of waterboarding Americans? C'mon. Get Real.

Posted by: Get Real on April 23, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Here's another thing that occurred to me. I believe most conservatives in this country believe in American Exceptionalism. This typically means we have done a bunch of great stuff, and we indeed have a nice list of accomplishments, especially in the area of freeing and rebuilding other countries. It also means we do things the right way - we decry when the Chinese and North Koreans suppress free speech violently, when Germans do this and when the Russians do that, when the Japanese rape and pillage, and when the Vietnamese tortured our troops.

Well, it appears we're no longer the exception. A good third of the country still believes torture is okay. Those third don't understand what it is to be an American, if being American is exceptional.

This is where Shep is coming from and he's right.

Posted by: Franklin on April 23, 2009 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Yay Sheppard Smith.

(And if you didn't click through and watch the click, do so to hear his little "oops" afterthought.)

Posted by: Robert Earle on April 23, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

I'm certain Cheney is the antichrist (desired result). Waterboard him to find out (method to achieve desired result). Either this demo is torture and produces fallacious results or not (sound of wingnut's heads exploding).

Posted by: Chopin on April 23, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Do it to the point where he realizes he has no control over what's happening, and then see how he feels about torture.

You could probably get most of this effect by the interrogators just telling Hannity's producer and cameraman that that is exactly what will happen (once he is handcuffed on the board). Then make all observers leave the room, with the camera running, angled to catch Hannity's face. The camera runs until the interrogators are done. No safe words, no release until they get the information they are looking for. You, me, or Hannity might to start struggle against the handcuffs at this point.

Waterboarding itself might not even be required in this demonstration; just the threat might be sufficient.

Posted by: Wapiti on April 23, 2009 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

I'll donate to have Joe Lieberman publicly waterboarded. He also knows that it's not torture, so he has nothing to be afraid of.

Posted by: Nothing But the Ruth on April 23, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

As people point out, it isn't real torture if you can make it stop. Have Hannity, Limbaugh and Beck (that's the one worth watching, folks!) be waterboarded by DU fanatics (our freepers, with higher IQs) with no restraints except "you can't kill them." Well-deserved and worth it in many ways. Beckbaughnity would never be the same.

PS: My spell-checker actually flagged "Linmbaugh" as "Limbaugh"! Is he that important?! But "waterboarded" was flagged with no suggestion.)

Posted by: Neil B ↕ on April 23, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

No, Sean, you can't do it once for charity. You need to be waterboarded 183 times to make your point, with psych evals from before, during, and after.

Posted by: jimmy on April 23, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Bildo did not look too sharp also last night ranting about how he would torture if it would save a another American's life. What a true patriot.

Posted by: SteveA on April 23, 2009 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Torture good, swearing bad. Bad man, very bad man.

Posted by: Conservatroll on April 23, 2009 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Unless this was on broadcast TV, there aren't any fines. The FCC only issues fines for over-the-air broadcasts.

Posted by: DR on April 23, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

FAUX keeps Shep around so O'Arrogantone can use him as an example of how "Fair and Balanced" FAUX is and not a RNC mouthpiece. Whenever, anyone brings up that point, BillO hauls out Shep, along with Hume and Van (Where is the Courthouse and what is it?) Shusteren as counterpoints.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 23, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Shep's ear bud said "take it up a notch".

Posted by: apeman on April 23, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

America does not fucking torture, but Sheppard Smith Fucksnews.

Posted by: Winkandanod on April 23, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

a television personality being waterboarded for charity, knowing full well that those around him don't mean to do him harm.

Are you so sure about that? For charity presumably means they will auction off the right to do the waterboarding to the highest bidder. There must be some torture opponent with money who wouldn't mind putting up a few thousand dollars for charity in return for the right to put the fear of God into Hannity.

Posted by: Shalimar on April 23, 2009 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

I don't want to see anyone tortured, whether it's a detainee at Guantanamo or blow-hard on Fox News.
===============

I wish I were as nice a person as you are. I know it's wrong, I wouldn't do it, and I wouldn't go see it if it were done, but when I come across one of these psychopaths advocating torture on national television, I will confess that I share Lincoln's "strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."

Posted by: Not nice on April 23, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Hannity should be waterboarded, but agree that he will not know when it will end. It could be once, it could be 83 times. That's the going rate for someone with mental illness.

The criteria should be that he must be waterboarded until he confesses to something bad and gives up valuable intelligence. It will not stop until he confesses to loving boys, cheating on his wife (I don't know if he's married), cheating on his taxes and hating America. Plus, he must provide information about a terrorist plot he knew about as a journalist but wouldn't tell anyone because he would not reveal his source(s) because he is such a good journalist.

And all his confessions can be played on youtube.

Posted by: coltergeist on April 23, 2009 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Knowledge that they'll survive the process is more than the torturers offered.

Posted by: BruceK on April 23, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK
the inevitable FCC fine

Unless you're, say, a cable channel rather than a broadcast outlet. Then it's eminently evitable.

Posted by: nonc on April 23, 2009 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK
If people complain, we can just say it was a "prank" that "got out of hand" from "a few bad apples."

After all, you just have to blow off a little steam from time to time.

Posted by: nonc on April 23, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Mythbusters tried some torture (Chinese water torture) on their members. Restrained, with water dripping on their head. Even though they were doing this voluntarily, as an experiment, and could ask to stop at any time, it was obviously a horrible experience.

Something tells me that even for charity, he wouldn't find it bearable.

Posted by: Sue on April 23, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

I will allow myself to be waterboarded on live TV for $10,000

Posted by: citizen_pain on April 23, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

As people point out, it isn't real torture if you can make it stop.

You'd be surprised. They tested Chinese Water Torture on "Mythbusters" one time, which was just dripping water on someone's forehead while she was restrained, and it took about 15 minutes for her to get to the point where she had to be released RIGHT NOW! She tried to restrain her reaction because she knew she was on camera, but it was very clear that she was seriously upset by it.

That was done under completely controlled conditions by her co-workers, knowing that she would be released immediately as soon as she asked. And yet she still panicked. You can watch it here, if you're curious.

(As always, don't bother reading the YouTube comments, since apparently they all know that she only got upset because she's a chick and they're all manly manly men who wouldn't mind. Which, ironically, is what Christopher Hitchens thought, too.)

Posted by: Mnemosyne on April 23, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Nonc is right. FNC is a cable channel. No FCC fine for him or the network unless it was being simulcast on a Fox affiliate broadcast station.

Posted by: Schultz on April 23, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Can we waterboard Hannity 183 times for charity???

Posted by: redrover on April 23, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Let's have a "Waterboard Hannity for Charity" Telethon. Hannity undergoes a 1-minute waterboarding session for each $1000 pledged. This will introduce the needed element of uncertainty for him. We could raise enough money to pay off the national debt. (I myself don't have $1000 to pledge, but I'd buy a 1/10 share. In fact, we could securitize the whole thing and sell shares on the NYSE.)

Posted by: Tim H on April 23, 2009 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

This is liking watching youtube videos of Rowdy Roddy Piper and the Piper's Pit. When does the Iron Shiek come and smash a chair on Grodin's head?

Staged talk show gets heated with staged and mock outrage. Big surprise.

Posted by: grinning cat on April 23, 2009 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

I, like some others on here, and unlike Steve, would very much like to see Sean Hannity waterboarded, whether or not for charity. In fact, I would donate a substantial sum to any charity that would waterboard Hannity against his will. Instead of a t-shirt over his face though, can we use a dirty pair of George Wendt's underwear?

Posted by: Justin on April 23, 2009 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Waterboarding Hannity and televising the results would be a useful exercise. The catch is that the waterboarding will continue until he reveals details about his anti-American terrorist activities. As soon as he admits he hates America and has plotted numerous bombings, the guys will stop shoving his head under water. We can then replay the tapes for him to show how much of a traitor he really is.

The point is that waterboarding doesn't leave any long-term injuries. Properly supervised, it isn't life threatening. Like sleep deprivation, however, the point isn't to maim or cause excruciating pain. The point is to break you and get the confession. The Gestapo knew it. The KGB knew it. The Chinese knew it. You will confess anything after 36 hours of no sleep in a cold, damp room. You will confess to anything to avoid being suffocated yet again.

So let's do this thing, Sean. Let's see how many dunks it takes for you to start blubbering and asking what it will take to make them stop. "Just admit you were the bomber" the men in balacavas will say as they force you under the water again.

Posted by: jonas on April 23, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Who knew Charles Grodin was so funny?

Grodin can be wickedly funny - "Midnight Run" with DeNiro is a great example.

Posted by: Kilgore Trout on April 23, 2009 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

What is needed with waterboarding a celebrity is for someone to actually DIE from the process, and have that death recorded. If the person being waterboarded does not KNOW that it has been fatal to another may not be as affected as otherwise. I know, having almost drowned as a child, the terror of the process, but add the actual proof to the mix and see what happens. Maybe letting Hannity drown to death(accidently, of course) would precede submitting O'Reilly to the test.

Any takers?

Posted by: st john on April 23, 2009 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. I just watched the Christ Hitchens video (how did I miss that?) and he got all of 40 seconds in before he tagged out.

Posted by: doubtful on April 23, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Helluva typo in there, me.

Posted by: doubtful on April 23, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Like sleep deprivation, however, the point isn't to maim or cause excruciating pain. The point is to break you and get the confession. The Gestapo knew it. The KGB knew it. The Chinese knew it. You will confess anything after 36 hours of no sleep in a cold, damp room. You will confess to anything to avoid being suffocated yet again.

We've had several people in the comments who've gone through SERE training (ie US military training to help you resist torture) and it sounds like the real purpose of the training is to make people understand that they will break under torture, it's only a matter of time. It doesn't matter how tough or strong-willed they are, they will break eventually. The training helps them get past that macho BS and focus on what their actual personal limits are instead of what they think they "should" be able to stand.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on April 23, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

From a report I read from a guy who self-administered waterboarding to see how bad it could be, it doesn't much matter if the person doing it to you is friend or foe.

You will do anything to make it stop.

He did it once. He couldn't think of anythign taht would make him do it again.

I'd be curious what would happen if Hannity was told he would be waterboarded four times unless he denounced the United States and hailed Hugo Chavez.

My guess is he'd crack after one time and explain that he didn't believe it for a second but waterboarding IS gawd-awful and it'll make you say anything. John McCain said as much and who here thinks Hannity is a tougher nut than John McCain?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 23, 2009 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

"Thank you, Shep Smith. Sorry about the inevitable FCC fine."

Sorry, but this was broadcast on Foxnews.com in a segment called "The Situation Room." It's their way to continue the debate, off-air, and drive traffic to the website. You should probably research a little bit before regurgitating the talking points.

Posted by: Grimm on April 23, 2009 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Agreed with shortstop. (Hi shortie!)

The Leftoblogosphere continues to be obsessed with wingnuttia, one manifestation of that being to hyperscrutinize wingnuts for any sign of defection.

You need to stop being obsessed with the wingnuts and start participating in the debate of how to clean up GWB's mess and run the country moving forward.

Posted by: Disputo on April 23, 2009 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Mnemosyne, you are correct. Not only does SERE train you to learn your own limits and how to hold out as long as possible, it emphasizes the "escape and evade as long as possible" part because, again, EVERYONE breaks eventually. The idea is to get and stay away before you get to your breaking point.

Posted by: Keori on April 23, 2009 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

There's a bright young right-winger at work who defends torture, and I came back at him (mostly about the "It doesn't kill anybody" line he takes...as if it were something like binge-drinking or some other form of recreational self-abuse) telling him that there's a new ride at Disneyworld, Waterboard World, where conservatives can prove their macho chops by being waterboarded. Think of a rarely bad-and-gone roller-coaster ride that leaves you scared and dizzy afterwards. And there would be variations, up to including the Sheikh Mohammed where you are water boarded many. many times in succession and, if you don't break, you get a citation from George Bush or.....

Posted by: sdean on April 23, 2009 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

I don't want to see Hannity waterboarded; I want to see someone actually drown him.
I want to witness the thrashing, the gargling screams, and the sudden, trembling stillness overcome him, just as he draws his last breath of wasted air.

Posted by: labradog on April 23, 2009 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

HA! KO has offered $1000 per second that the Manity can deal with being waterboarded. Awesome.

Posted by: Lee on April 24, 2009 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

(mostly about the "It doesn't kill anybody" line he takes...as if it were something like binge-drinking or some other form of recreational self-abuse)

Yes, because it's not like anyone ever dies after binge drinking.
/eyeroll, not for you, but for your co-worker

Posted by: Mnemosyne on April 24, 2009 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

Nope. I'd settle for torturing this particular blowhard

Posted by: Polaris on April 24, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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