February 11, 2009 - February 4, 2009
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The Torture Paradox
. Torture is a confused and confusing subject these
days, so I won't try to hide the fact that the thoughts which inspired
this post's title emerged from a series of confused, almost random
responses to the Time Magazine
interview with Stephen
. Here are some excerpts. Read the whole thing if you think the
ellipses might be obscuring King's brilliance.
KING: So who's going to be TIME Person of the Year?
TIME: I really don't know, there's a
very small group of people who make that decision.
I was thinking, I think it should be Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.
Yeah. You know, I just filmed a
segment for Nightline, about [the movie version of his novella] The Mist, and one of the things I
said to them was, you know, "You guys are just covering — what do they
call it — the scream of the peacock, and you're missing the whole fox
hunt." Like waterboarding [or] where all the money went that we poured
You know, this morning, the two big stories on CNN are Kanye West's
mother, who died, apparently, after having some plastic surgery. The
other big thing that's going on is whether or not this cop [Drew
Peterson] killed his... wife. And meanwhile, you've got Pakistan in the
midst of a real crisis, where these people have nuclear weapons that we
helped them develop...
So you've got these things going on... and instead, you see a lot of
this back-fence gossip. So I said something to the Nightline guy about
waterboarding, and if the Bush administration didn't think it was
torture, they ought to do some personal investigation. Someone in the
Bush family should actually be waterboarded so they could report on it
to George. I said, I didn't think he would do it, but I suggested Jenna
be waterboarded and then she could talk about whether or not she
thought it was torture.
And the guy says to me — the Nightline guy — I didn't get the guy's
name.... he said to me, "If we didn't cover cultural things, we
wouldn't be covering you and The Mist, and promoting the movie." And
I'm like, "Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan aren't cultural." They
aren't political. They're economic only in the mildest sense of the
word... Britney Spears is just trailer trash.... And yet, you
know and I know that if you go to those sites that tell you what the
most blogged-about things on the Internet are, it's Britney, it's
Lindsay. So I think it would be terrific [to have them as TIME Persons
of the Year]. There would be such a scream from the American reading
public, sure. But at the same time, it's time for somebody to discuss
the difference between real news and fake news...
...Britney is now famous for being famous. Her sales have gone down
with almost every album, bigger and bigger jumps, so that nobody really
cares about her music anymore. They care about the tabloid headlines
and whether or not she's wearing panties. I mean, is this an issue that
the American public needs to turn its brainpower on? Britney Spears'
lingerie, or lack thereof?
I'll pass your suggestion along. So
you're a news junkie?
I got hooked by my wife. You'd be surprised, or maybe you wouldn't be
surprised, being that I'm around John Mellancamp a lot — he and I are
doing this play. But it's the news 24-7. Always on.
Here are some of the random comments that ran through my mind as I
read, in no particular order:
The first substantive issue he can
think of is waterboarding
"[H]e said to me, "If we didn't cover cultural things, we wouldn't be
covering you and The Mist, and promoting the movie." And I'm like,
"Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan aren't cultural." Huh? This guy has
sold more books than any other living writer and he says, "I'm like..."
He seems to be saying that he only got turned on about politics by his
wife and hanging around with John Mellencamp. And yet he's presumably
"cultural" while Britney is just "entertainment" and "trailer trash."
John Mellenkamp? And this is the guy who has sold more books than any
other living writer? John Mellenkamp?
Yeah, the context suggests that his proposal to waterboard Jenna Bush
is facetious, but this is a guy whose aggregated fictional body count
look like Heidi
. Is there some part of him
that really does want to see the President's daughter waterboarded?
Maybe while staring censoriously at the latest media exploitation photo
? Or in his fantasy is Jenna not wearing Britney's
panties, either? After all, that would make the tableau more
politico-cultural than trailer-trashy, right? Sure it would.
This guy has been fictionally postulating the existence of evil as a
definite living force for 30 years now, and yet he regards
waterboarding as one of the prime issues facing a nation whose enemies
cut off the heads of their own family members for sartorial
. Is all that imagery of evil phony -- pure empty
"entertainment"? Or is evil for him really just a melodramatic symbol
of whatever he happens to disapprove of?
Stephen King has spent his entire creative life thinking up sensational
new ways to kill people and inflict pain upon them. And he's
righteously indignant about waterboarding
I actually don't disagree with Stephen King that Time Magazine
should name Britney
Spears and Lindsey Lohan as their "Persons of the Year." Although I
would also add Paris Hilton. The trio does symbolically embody the
transformation in the body politic
(NSFW) the MSM are working so indefatigably to bring about. The
citizens of the modern progressive state they deem necessary and
desirable are weak, brainless, greedy, corrupt, vulnerable, and somehow
aggressively supine. The government the media elite envision for
us is well equipped to service those who have the animal instinct to
fall on their backs and submit to the sugar daddy who already owns them.
That's why there's such a disconnect between the pyrotechnical outrage
over waterboarding and the comparatively blase treatment of real
torture. King's deliberate mixing of the subjects of torture and
voyeurism forcibly invoked the memory of a photo so awful, and yet so
sickeningly relevant, that I'm posting it only as a link. But I demand
that you go look at it, especially if you're one of the ones who rant
about waterboarding as torture and believe that our media are more
disposed to flaunt sexuality than cover "substantive" matters like
egregious human rights violations.
Here's the link
Here's the story
that documents the facts:
“At first, they kept Ms. Wang in
isolation. Two collaborators monitored her. She was denied sleep and
forced to stand still in the corner of the room. The next day, she had
to sit on a chair with her hands tied behind her back to the back of
the chair. At night, they had her wear a motorcycle helmet.
“The guards kept chopsticks and a basin of cold water ready to use, and
whenever Ms. Wang closed her eyes, they poured water over her and hit
the helmet hard with the chopsticks.
Sound a bit like waterboarding? Unspeakable. Where's Amnesty
International? Where's the New York
? Somebody should do
something. Somebody did. Her guards.
“Two guards from Benxi, holding
electric batons, shouted, “We will see who is tougher!” The two men
tore Ms. Wang’s shirt open and shocked her breasts with two electric
batons for 30 minutes.
“Afterwards, they made her stand still for the entire night. The next
morning, guard Guo Tieying asked Ms. Wang nastily whom she would
follow. Ms. Wang replied, “I will follow the teachings of Falun Gong.”
“Guo Tieying immediately brought in two guards and several
collaborators to torture her. They tore a bed sheet into strips and
tied her legs in a cross-legged position (with legs double-crossed, as
in the ‘full lotus’ position). Next they handcuffed her arms behind her
back and tied her upper body to her legs, making Ms. Wang look like a
ball. Then they suspended her in the air by the handcuffs, with her
hands still behind her back.
“She suffered excruciating pain from this torture for seven hours.
“Afterwards, Ms. Wang could no longer walk with her back straight, but
was bent over, nor could she sit straight. Her breasts were disfigured
by the intense shocks, and eventually developed serious infections.”
So, all you hyper-moral pacifist purists, if you could learn Ms. Wang's
location and save her by waterboarding a captured guard, would you do
it? Or is her permanent crippling and disfigurement a satisfactory
consequence of your own personal interpretation of right and wrong?
That's what you seem to be saying by your absolute opposition to any
form of physical coercion, even if it doesn't maim or kill.
But if that's really your position, then you've entered the paradox
have to explain --
to your own satisfaction -- why it is less moral to commit a lesser
crime in order to prevent a larger crime than it is to enable a larger
crime by refusing to commit a lesser crime. You can't allow the SWAT
sniper to shoot the kidnapper who's holding a knife to your spouse's
throat. You can't acquit the woman who kills her rapist in an act of
self defense. You can't acquit the father who kills a child-molester in
the act of sodomizing his infant daughter. In all these examples the
killers are guilty of the same order of crime you're too moral to
Not the same thing? Well, not quite the same as the media depiction of
such choices. Ordinarily, the comparison is put to us in terms of
individual torture versus mass murder; i.e., would you torture a
terrorist to prevent the nuking of New York? It's a deceptive shift in
perspective, intended to be disorienting. It's so much harder to
imagine death on a vast scale than prolonged, painful suffering on an
individual scale. Your mind isn't wired to imagine a single horrible
death multiplied by five million and further multiplied by five million
varied individual experiences of suffering and loss. There's a subtle
misdirection at work. Most of us fear pain and suffering even more than
we fear death. Here's the better queston: would you commit one act of
torture to prevent five million acts of slow, agonizing, sadistic,
dehumanizing torture? If not, why not?
What's really odd is that the reputedly moral stance against any form
of torture is so often adopted by the so-called progressives who are so
busily insisting on atheism as a superior philosophical stance for the
national culture. The anti-waterboarding lobby probably has more
members in common with Richard
Dawkins's anti-God army
than with the backward Christian soldiers
who are willing to torture a terrorist to
save a city. But it's the Christians who are risking irrational
damnation. The rationalists are defying their own devotion to
mathematics as the ruling principle by refusing to take personal
responsibility for a reprehensible act by one unit on behalf of
millions of other units of their own species. Ironically, such
sacrifices make more empirical sense in a godless universe than in a
divinely judged universe in which death is not the final, fatal end of
The thing is, in reality, all of these philosophical paradoxes are
beside the point. It's all so much simpler than that if we're a nation
of brainless, characterless, spread-legged cows like Britney, Lindsey,
and Paris. All the harping on waterboarding is undertaken in the
certainty that most of us know we couldn't withstand even as mild a
form of torture as this. In fact, waterboarding is about as far as our
individual imaginations can take us. We're better able to envision not
being able to breathe for a few seconds than to comprehend
unanesthetized castration with a dull knife or public limb-by-limb
amputation followed by disembowelment or -- well, something truly
impossible -- like being beheaded live (!) on videotape by a religious
fanatic with a rusty pruning saw.
If we can't imagine surviving it or doing it ourselves, that's supposed
to be the end of the discussion. In the progressive egalitarian model,
all people are basically the same. Regardless of our origins and
cultures, we're no better and no worse than anyone else. If we
couldn't commit acts of
deliberate premeditated cruelty, neither could anyone else. Unless the
evil handful of real oppressors in the world provoked us beyond
endurance. So if ordinary people are committing acts of savage
violence, it must be because of that handful of real oppressors, who are
objectively evil -- because
their crimes, even if they are nominally lesser, are codified and
cold-blooded rather than spontaneous and passionate. The waterboarding
of the oppressors is worse than the beheadings and mutilations of the
universal everyman. There's no basis for comparison at all. Thus, no
But there's a hole in the egalitarian facade that is perfectly
exemplified by Stephen King. Here's a man who has no problem at all
with imagining in vivid detail the very worst things that can be done
to a human being. Yet he still pretends that waterboarding is worse
than any crime committed by the devotedly savage among us. His outrage
about waterboarding has to be a pose. His suggestion that Jenna Bush be
waterboarded for the purpose of humiliating his political nemeses
is both hypocrtical and voyeuristic. And Time Magazine
's willingness to give
him print space without interrogating his lifelong penchant for sadism
is evidence of the phony moralism of those who presume to be our
So: How do you pussies feel about all the MSM's
Britney-Lindsey-Paris crotch shots
(still NSFW) now that you know you're really leering at a portrait of
what you've become? Don't know what to say? I'm sure America's Dickens
would be happy to explain it to you better than I can.
Mellencamp's Political Disciple
I feel better already. How about you?
Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link. If you're enjoying the comments
here, you might also enjoy the reader comments on these posts at Vox
(libertarian-Christian something-or-others) Transterrestrial
(Rand Simberg), and this forum
(sci-fi/horror nerds?) What's most interesting is that those who are
most critical of this post are unanimous in not attempting to answer
the direct questions I asked here. They grab the hot potato and run off
to some favorite ideological corner where they can deal exclusively in
abstractions, statistics, and political/moral rhetoric. There's no
sense that for them a debate of this sort ever passes from the academic
to the reality of bitter choices and bloody consequences. They seem to
think that war itself can be made sanitary if interrogations are
polite. Simberg sums them up well as "morally unserious." I'm
personally surprised at how many of them actually act out the dim,
passive template I drew of them in this post. I'm less surprised at the
additional evidence that many of them can't read, having misunderstood
my argument as "we do it because they do it too." I'm amused that so
few understand that what a fiction writer writes says a great deal
about his psyche and desires. (If you're still not understanding me on
this, try to write a fictional rape-murder scene. See if you can really
do it. The
n lecture me about
why Stephen King's fiction isn't relevant because it's only
fiction.) But go read what the people have to say and see what
Hats off to Eric Scheie at Classical
. Unlike Christian-libertarians
and other pillars of ultimate morality, he experienced a visceral
reaction to the example of Chinese torture
and failed to dismiss it as irrelevant to American foreign policy or
the predictable result of an alien authoritarian government dealing
with a weird cult, but called it out as a shocking illustration of the
difference between torture and severe unpleasantness. Even Reynolds
more affected by Stephen King's provocative Person of the Year
nominations than he was by a demonstration of real torture.
I have a bigger question for all of you who understand Eric's response.
How do you
non-response of so many aelf-avowed moralists to such repulsively
documented facts? For my part, I think the latter generations are chock
full of functional
. They think they're moral, they (many of them) think
they believe in God, but in reality all their thinking is really only
about themselves and the various poses they adopt to appear estimable
in the eyes of those whose admiration they seek.
The first question I asked -- "If you could learn Ms. Wang's
location and save her by waterboarding a captured guard, would you do
it?" -- was an easy one for authentic Christians, as 'Joshua
Chamberlain' explained in his comment. He said: "As a Christian, I
would be happy to stand before God and explain that, if I had a choice
between harming the guilty and seeing harm done to the innocent, I
would choose protecting the innocent every single time. If the Lord
chooses to damn that, so be it."
The Vox Popolis of the world will never understand that faith is not
entirely about unquestioning submission; it's also about conviction in
the spark of goodness we carry as individuals. If it should turn out
that God disapproves of Christian morality, then damnation is
preferable to betrayal of what we hold sacred. If it's wrong to hurt or
kill the malevolent in order to save the innocent, there is no divine
justice worth having. And there's no secular logic that makes
life worth living.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Playing the Gender
Conventional Wisdom should be renamed. Conventional Wishdom
would be better. Some of us
actually watched the Democratic debate last week. We were encouraged to
do so by the reportage that a couple of Democrat presidential
candidates were actually standing up
. Wow. No good can come of that, we thought. But it
might be fun to watch.
In the event, it was as pitiful as we might have expected. Like the
eunuchs of the MSM, we tuned in hoping against hope that some
progressive male might actually stand up to the Medusa and tell her
that being the wife of a hick governor and a corrupt president doesn't
automatically qualify you to rule the world. We should have known
better. Obama's balls repose in a drawer of Michelle's
vanity. Edwards's balls have been missing so long the Discovery Channel
is producing documentaries about them designed to run in tandem with
their latest futile search for the body of Jimmy Hoffa.
Obama and Edwards tried to secrete some testosterone in their encounter
with Hillary, but she just raised her voice and they shrank like high
school boys in a cold shower. Incomprehensibly, Obama couldn't even
answer the one question he had attacked Hillary for not answering. He didn't know what he'd do about drivers
licenses for illegal aliens either
. That's when all the
progressive metrosexuals in the audience reached instinctively for their
crotches, hoping their own jewels weren't sitting in the same jar
with Obama's on Hillary's nightstand.
Well. The conventional wisdom had it that Hillary now "pwned" the
little black boy from Illinois. What the CW of the MSM never took into
account was that Obama has just figured out a new way to play The Card.
The Gender Card. According to today's Drudge
Obama is now beating Hillary in Iowa:
Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) draws support
from 30 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa, compared
with 26 percent for Clinton and 22 percent for former senator John
Progressive men know the score. They know that women always win every
argument. They know that men are hopelessly stupid, inept,
inarticulate, and cowardly in every possible confrontation. And for
that very reason, they're rallying like crazy behind the candidacy of
the guy they can identify with as if he were their own brother. The guy
who's so much like them his own wife can't stop ridiculing him long
enough to make his biggest dream come true. The guy who's so much like
them that with his whole future on the line, he still can't stand up to
a woman even when she's sitting on the checkmate square and all he has
to do is say the word.
I call it dirty politics. No man can be as castrated as Obama seems.
What he's obviously doing is pretending
to be the same kind of gutless emasculated schlub as 90 percent of
technically male Democrats. Sure they have issues. We're all sorry for
them. Sorry as can be. But that doesn't excuse this kind of
cold-blooded pandering to the most pathetic demographic of the
nation's most obnoxiously female party. It's just a disgusting ploy for
What the Republicans need to undo this sinister stratagem is akin to
Watergate. They need to raid Hillary HQ and steal their most secret
evidence of Obama scandal -- the videotape
It will blow the lid off this campaign. Obama nailing Michelle in their
own bedroom, with her shuddering and screaming and weeping in orgasmic
joy. That's Novak's
. If you're a Democrat, it's the end of the road. Especially
the part at the end where Michelle meekly totters off to make her man a
huge and well-earned Dagwood sandwich.
Why can't we have honest politics instead? You know the kind. A
glorious mud wrestling match between Hllary and Michelle Obama. While
Bill and Barack go off to pick up girls at elite colleges.
But it's way past time for the Democratic Party to forbid playing the
Gender Card. It's pure exploitation to remind liberal men that they
have no masculinity. It's cheap, easy, and shallow.
Oh. Never mind.
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