Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Letter to AP: Drowning is Drowning
An email sent to Associated Press today...
To Whom It May Concern,
Today I read an AP news article written by correspondent Randall Chase involving the case of Dr. Melvin Morse, a pediatrician in Delaware who has been charged with practicing torture on his stepdaughter. Specifically, he is alleged to have practiced "waterboarding" on her.
In the story, Mr. Chase described "waterboarding" as a technique of "simulated drowning," which has been a familiar phrase used by many news organizations. It is, however, inaccurate and has the effect of softening the truth. There is nothing "simulated" about it. Waterboarding has the effect of restricting air flow by sealing the cavities through which a human being must breathe. Techniques vary, and in many cases water is actually introduced into the nasal passages, further blocking air flow and causing pain. Waterboarding can cause lung and brain damage the same way drowning in a large body of water would. It might be more accurate to refer to it as "controlled drowning," as the torturer will keep the subject alive by allowing them to breathe for periods of time before resuming the drowning.
Drowning, however, is drowning: whether you do it by holding someone's head underwater, or whether you tie them to a table and pour water on a cloth on their face, or do it some other way, the verb does not need to be obscured: a person is being drowned.
[Image: Look! A torture device! Or, a waterfall at Camp Dynamo in Limestre, Pistoia.]