From a somewhat interesting piece in the Woodrow Wilson Quarterly:
The simple and amazing answer is that most Americans assumed that their country has a rich and vibrant “marketplace of ideas” in which all ideas are challenged. Certainly, America has the freest media in the world. No subject is taboo. No sacred cow is immune from criticism. But the paradox here is that the belief that American society allows every idea to be challenged has led Americans to assume that every idea is challenged.
I think that is exactly right. There is a widespread belief that we have a truly open debate over ideas in this country. In fact, our media does indeed pride itself on challenging consensus, but its idea of challenging consensus is bringing in nutters like Peggy Noonan, Patty Patty Buke Buke, and an endless array of supply side “economists” to challenge the “liberal” consensus that magic dolphins don’t exist, that Latin Americans are not scrub stock, and that cutting taxes does not magically increase tax revenue. That’s why the Philadelphia Inquirer’s explanation for hiring torture architect John Yoo is hardly surprising:
“There was a conscious effort on our part to counter some of the criticism of The Inquirer as being a knee-jerk liberal publication,” Mr. Jackson said. “We made a conscious effort to add some conservative voices to our mix.”[….]
“What I liked about John Yoo is he’s a Philadelphian,” Mr. Tierney said. “He went to Episcopal Academy, where I went to school. He’s a very, very bright guy. He’s on the faculty at Berkeley, one of the most liberal universities in the country.”
Greater Philly has a population of 5 million people. That means there are most likely at least 15-20 Philadelphians on the faculty at Berkeley (I’m estimating the faculty size there at a bit over 1000). John Yoo was not chosen because he is the only Philadelphian at “one of the most liberal universities in the country”. He was chosen for his “edgy”, “outside-the-box” view on torture. Why? Because supporting whacked out, barbaric ideas shows that you’re not a typical “media liberal”.
This is where we’re at, in terms of public dialog: hiring torture advocates is a way of promoting intellectual diversity.