National Public Radio's been getting some serious flak for its policy of not using the word "torture" to describe when the United States uses—well, how to be polite about this?—torture. As Kevin Drum noted the other day, the explanations and clarifications coming from NPR's ombudsman, Alicia C. Shepard, have been pretty weak. The crux of her argument, as detailed here and here, is that the word "torture" is too loaded for a fair-minded news organization to use. Plus, she adds, the word's very meaning is debatable, so NPR can't take sides; after all, what if Dick Cheney et al. really are right that the waterboarding they authorized wasn't torture? It's kind of like the ongoing debate over those loaded, subjective terms "climate change" and "global warming." Oh wait—it looks like NPR sided with the crazy enviros on that one.
Now the ombudsman has waded into another thorny semantic debate: What words should responsible journalists use to describe parents beating their kids? Child abuse? Or perhaps the more neutral-sounding "enhanced parenting techniques"? What about "vigorous love taps"? Let the debate begin. (Preemptive parody warning.)