Sunday, December 31, 2006

Torture Isn't Entertainment

except for fascists.

Posted by olvlzl.

he recent strife over Jimmy Carter’s latest book exposed what is apparently a new law of American intellectual life these days. If you want to say something critical of Israeli policy you have to pass trial by Alan Dershowitz. The condition made by Brandeis University that Jimmy Carter, likely the American who has done more to promote the security of Israel than any other, that if he was to speak he would have to appear with Dershowitz wasn’t an attempt to promote intellectual honesty, it was a dare. It was a condition that there was every reason to suspect that Jimmy Carter might not choose to accept, participation in one of The Dersh’s spectacles of what passes, these days, as ‘debate’.

I wrote a short piece at the time saying that a good reason for not “debating” Alan Dershowitz is because he advocates torture as a tool of governmental intelligence. I will say again that, for me, this places him in exactly the same place that David Irving’s Holocaust denial places him in for Deborah Lipstadt. I fully agree with her about Irving for exactly the same reasons and I place proponents of torture in the same category. There are some positions that put people beyond consideration as a responsible participant in a respectable debate.

In this morning’s Boston Globe there is a short article by Martha Bayles about torture which mentions something much more dangerous than the proposed, C-Span ready event dealt with above, it mentions the increasing use of torture by heros in pop entertainment. It doesn’t surprise me to learn that it is Fox TV, “24", which is presenting torture as an heroic endeavor engaged in by sexy men. It also doesn’t surpise me that another cable network seems to be adopting the same entertainment values. The cabloids, both “news” and eye-candy, are the voice of the corportate right. Entertainment has the potential to do the same things that right-wing cabloid ‘news’ does, much faster and more dangerously. It does matter what entertainment shows do because their purpose is to manipulate emotions, that is their entire purpose. If this trend continues you can depend on torture becoming much more widely used and it’s punishment become not only very rare as it is today, but impossible. Torture, like the death penalty, is an essential tool of fascism. It is highly desired by many who would like to be able to use it without the inconvenience of being called to account for its use. Its promotion is the promotion of fascism.

The brain-game played by the proponents of torture, that it is essential to be able to extract information from terrorists that could prevent the imminent deaths of innocent people is the temptation dangled in front of an edgy population. Your decency or your life. But it’s not a bargain that has to be taken.

If, and that is one enormous IF, on some extremely rare occasion, someone is proven, in court, to be guilty of torturing someone and extracts information that does, actually, in real life, prevent the deaths of people in some act of terror, I doubt a conviction would be either obtained or that it would stand. If it did, the pressure for a pardon would be too great for any governor or president to withstand. If I am wrong about that what do we risk? That someday an individual who tortured someone to save lives will linger in jail. If the pro-torture side is wrong, then what do we risk? The answer is found around the world and is fully documented. Torture as a part of the spectrum of allowable consideration seems to always proceed to the worst case scenario.