On Cable News, ‘Torture’ Is a Dirty Word

By Alex Weprin Comment

When George Carlin revealed his “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television,” the word  “Torture” was not on the list. In a post-9/11 cable news world however, it may as well have been one.

A survey of media coverage from the organization “Covering Torture  suggests that cable news channels are far more likely to avoid the word torture in their coverage of world events, and instead use less offensive euphemisms for the practice, at least when applied to the U.S. government.

Over 72% of cable news coverage of torture used a euphemism for the practice, compared to 28% that used the word itself. By comparison a majority of coverage in print outlets and wire reports referred to “torture” specifically.

Fox News and CNN were more likely to use euphemisms for torture than MSNBC. CNN and FNC used euphemisms 78% and 79% of the time, respectively, while MSNBC was split evenly 50/50.

You can see the full report, with more data, here.