Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Will Take This Post Down Within 24 Hours, I'm Posting It Only Because I Need To Answer A Comment And I Don't Have Time To Write It

This is a report by Eric Deggans from NPR from last December.

As the CIA and Senate Intelligence Committee clash over whether so-called enhanced interrogation techniques are considered torture, another question arises: Have depictions of torture on TV and film helped convince us that it works?

Consider this warning that recently greeted viewers of ABC's political soap opera, Scandal:

"The following drama contains adult content. Viewer discretion is advised."

That label was slapped on the episode because of scenes like the moment when trained torturer Huck prepared to ply his trade on colleague (and soon-to-be girlfriend) Quinn Perkins.

"Normally, I'd start with the drill or a scalpel," he told Perkins, who was bound and gagged, looking on in terror. "Peeling off the skin can be beautiful. Or removing fingers, toes; I like the feeling of a toe being separated from a foot. ... I'm so sorry, because I'm going to enjoy this."

Scenes like that have become a regular part of some popular TV shows and movies. People may disagree in real life, but in Hollywood, torture works....

UPDATE:   I decided to leave this much up because the comment made was too good to take down with the post.


  1. When I discussed torture (using an essay in the textbook) with my students, I put interrogation on a spectrum, from questions like 'How are you?" which nobody really expects a true answer to, all the way to cross-examination in the courtroom, to interrogation by a police officer.

    I pointed out the courts were very, VERY interested in the truth, which is why they limit what police officers can ask and how they can ask it (beating it out a suspect is no longer allowed), and that attorneys don't put thumbscrews on the witnesses.

    And then I ask them which is likelier to get an answer from them: if I ask a question politely in class, or if I stand over the student, threatening and screaming at them like the Hollywood version of a drill sergeant.

    They would usually get the point that gentle questioning is far more effective than threats, but they'd cling to their conviction that "torture works" because they'd seen it in movies and on TV for decades (it didn't start with "24"; Dirty Harry was torturing the truth out of suspects in his first movie, and he wasn't the first character to do it, either, nor did anyone at the time really think of it as torture).

    I tried to show them torture was not on a spectrum from polite questions to intense physical pain producing "truth," that torture was simply inflicting pain because you can. It was a depressingly hard sell.

  2. So you never saw any of this stuff?

    Quel surprise.