24 And Torture

24 torture

Matt Bai has discussed the “24 Effect” on how terrorism is viewed:

In a sense, “24” became a kind of virtual universe in which all of us could role-play — even if we happened to know more about the roles than the actors did. I recall a conversation with Bill Clinton in 2007 during which he brought up the show and spent the better part of a half hour dissecting the strengths and flaws in its portrayal of real-time decisions.

There was something comforting, too, about the portrayal of intelligence agencies in “24.” Even with the insipid station chiefs who cycled in and out of the show, CTU itself remained amazingly high-functioning and high-tech. State-of-the-art computers gleamed in brilliant new offices of steel and glass. Satellites saw everything, everywhere, and beamed it all flawlessly to Jack’s phone during the commercial break.

That false portrayal of our counterterrorism agencies was demolished by the 9/11 commission report in 2004, with its accounts of missed clues and outdated technology. And what we now also know, thanks to the new Senate report, is that it wasn’t the bureaucrats back in Washington who were balking at torture while the real Jack Bauers jettisoned the rules, but often the other way around entirely.

In truth, a lot of the operatives were apparently sickened by immoral tactics they knew weren’t working, but their bosses insisted on believing that the world was like TV, and the bad guys would break just as they did for Jack, if only our agents would do what they had to do. If the Senate’s investigators can be believed, those bosses were wrong — both morally and tactically.

Another view  from Jonathan Freedland at The Guardian:

This week the writer Matt Bai made the intriguing argument that the success of 24 might have shaped America’s whatever-it-takes approach to terrorism, at the very least allowing policymakers to believe that a US public that was cheering on Jack Bauer would have little objection to US agents engaging in similar behaviour in real life. It’s a thought I had – and worried about – at the time. But it misses something crucial.

It’s true that 24 struck a chord in that post-9/11 period. It channelled our collective id, ourdeepest, darkest urges. Caught up in the story, we wanted Bauer to, say, sever the head of the villain with a hacksaw. But that is not necessarily what we wanted from our governments. The state cannot be the sum of our collective impulses and instincts, no matter how base. It has to be better than that. It has to listen to cooler demands: the rule of law, basic rights and common human decency. Reality may outstrip fiction, but it has to behave better too. The alternative is the horror laid bare this week — and whose legacy we live with still.

I had also made a recent comparison to 24, and another source of fantasy as opposed to the reality of torture:


  1. 1
    David Duff says:

    Anglo-American liberals, like you, Ron, leave me unable to decide whether to weep or howl with laughter.  One thing is sure about EIT, it is not designed to kill anyone.  Accidents might happen but the object of the exercise is to keep the prisoner alive – and talking.  Even so, you and your comrades raise an almighty screech of outrage when sundry terrorists who would murder you and yours with alacrity are treated harshly. 
    Equally you raise howls of anguish against what you see as a deliberate police policy, backed by the judicial system, to shoot dead any blacks who resist arrest.  White on black racism, you call it.
    And yet … and yet … you remain utterly quiescent as some 12,000 Americans are butchered – I use the term deliberately – every year and the vast majority of them are black!  I refer, of course, to the torture and killing of unborn babies over 20 months.  And it is torture because they can feel pain:
    “Such late-term abortions are done in one of two ways:
    1) Dilation and evacuation (D&E): Where the unborn child is literally hacked to pieces without anesthetic
    2) Saline abortion: Where a saline solution is injected into the womb, and the unborn child is poisoned.  Death can take as long as 24 hours, and the solution gives the unborn child burns over his or her entire body.  No anesthetic is used.
    3) Digoxin injection: Where a massive heart attack is induced in the unborn child via the misuse of the drug Digoxin.
    4) Partial-birth abortion: While this is illegal, it’s not possible to be sure it’s not being used due to the lax enforcement of laws related to abortion in America.  In this case, the baby is delivered, but when only the baby’s head remains in the womb, a tool is used to mush up the unborn baby’s brain.  Then the skull is crushed.”
    http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2014/12/the_real_torture_scandal_in_america.html#ixzz3LoOYrILt Follow us: @AmericanThinker on Twitter | AmericanThinker on Facebook
    In Britain this sort of thing is known as ‘the Nelson technique’, that is, putting your telescope to your blind eye to ensure you see nothing!

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    To equate abortion with killings of people, often based upon race, who in the controversial incidents are usually not resisting arrest, shows a shocking lack of understanding of both morality and biology. The right wing’s obsession with abortion would be more understandable if the right didn’t show such a lack of respect for human life and human rights.

  3. 3
    David Duff says:

    But in the case of the black man ‘choked’ to death, a huge number of Right-wing commentators came out alongside their Left-wing colleagues.

    In the meantime, 12,000 American babies a year a year, most of them black, are not just killed, they are tortured to death.  Are you telling me that the techniques I quoted above are not true and that even if they are the babies feel no pain?

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Right wing commentators came out against the choking in this particular case because the video made it impossible for them to engage in their usual tactic of denying the actual facts of the situation to justify killings.

    Zero babies are aborted. Fetuses are not babies. The descriptions of abortion techniques you gave are inaccurate as conservatives distort the facts for dramatic effect. More importantly, right wing claims of fetal pain are yet another example of conservatives denying the facts. Despite conservative pseudo-science, perceiving pain is not possible without the development of the cerebral cortex.

    There is also a major difference between abortion performed out of respect for a woman’s right to control her own body and killings by police of other people.

  5. 5
    David Duff says:

    No, Right-wing commentators, or some of them, looked at the video, did not like what they saw and said so – which they didn’t need to do.  Unlike Left-wing commentators who swallowed whole the lies offered up on behalf of a 20-stone robber-with-violence who resisted arrest and then, in their open-minded way, screeched at the jury which heard all the facts.

    OK, so foetuses are not babies by which I assume that, in your definition, they are not human.  Fair enough, it’s an opinion, so please tell me, *exactly and precisely*, when does a foetus become human? And I do mean ‘exactly and precisely because being out by an hour or a day is the difference between an abortion and a murder.  Also, on what basis, scientific or philosophical, do you decide that at this moment it is not human but at this moment it is?  I raise all this because I believe you ‘quacks’ live by your mantra – ‘do no harm’!

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    The lies have come from right-wing commentators in the bulk of the other cases. The video kept them more honest in this particular case.

    I never said that a fetus is not human. You certainly have difficulty with the biology here, based upon the typical right wing pseudo-science which lead to your rather confused questions which only lead to obfuscate the issue.

  7. 7
    David Duff says:

    Ah yes, detailed specific questions require detailed specific answers – never easy for liberals with lazy assumptions!
    Anyway, from your answer I assume you are in favour of killing humans after 20 weeks in the womb using the methods described above.

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    Do you still beat your wife?

    “Ah yes, detailed specific questions require detailed specific answers”

    You asked nothing of that type. You asked a question based upon right wing pseudo-science which is used by right wingers in a dishonest manner to distort the issue. Embryology is a continuous process. The conservative question of when life begins is a fallacious question which ignores the science.

    “I assume you are in favour of killing humans after 20 weeks”

    So many fallacious, scientifically untrue, and dishonest assumptions built into this

    Abortion is not the killing of humans in the manner you imply.

    Even at 20 weeks, the cerebral cortex is not yet developed and a fetus has no consciousness and cannot feel pain. Abortions are extremely rare beyond the point where the cerebral cortex is developed, and in these cases are done due to risk to the life of the mother.

    Of course no where do you show any interest in the rights or health of the mother, whose body we are discussing here, and is the only one who can legitimately make these decisions (with the advice of her physician). Neither you nor I, as well as the government, have any right to intrude in such decisions.

    Conservatives are opposing abortion before the development of the cerebral cortex, as well as before twenty weeks. Conservative are opposing abortion, and forms of birth control, when we are speaking of a microscopic group of cells. Obstacles to abortion are resulting in deaths of women, but conservatives show no concern over this. Outlawing of abortion would lead to a far greater increase in the death of women if we return to the era of coat hanger abortions.

    “using the methods described above”
    I already pointed out that your descriptions are inaccurate. More conservative misinformation. For example, digoxin works as a negative inotrope, interfering with atrio-ventricular conduction. It does not cause a “massive heart attack.” Such false descriptions are used to give the impression of someone with severe chest pain as can occur with occlusion of the coronary arteries.

    Very few people accept your warped morality of imposing your views upon a woman and preventing her from controlling her own body. Realizing this, conservatives spread misinformation such as distorting abortion techniques, claiming that a fetus can feel pain at twenty weeks and even before this point, ignoring how rare late term abortions are and the medical need for them to protect the life of the mother at times, raising bogus questions of when life begins, and confusing a fetus for a fully developed person.

    You claim “lazy assumptions” but it is you who are basing your view on multiple lazy assumptions and outright falsehoods. If the anti-abortion argument made any moral sense, there would be no need to engage in such distortions of science and the facts.

  9. 9
    David Duff says:

    You say ‘A’, she says ‘B’ so obviously, er, to quote a phrase, “The science is not yet settled!”:

    “One of the more eloquent of the experts who testified on behalf of the bill was Dr. Maureen Condic, an associate professor of neurobiology and adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Condic agrees that the psychological aspects of pain are important but counters that “we can measure certain physical, neurological, and endocrine responses to painful stimuli.” She then outlines the developmental process of a fetal nervous system including the “most primitive response to pain, the spinal reflex,” which is in place by 8 weeks. By 18 weeks, nerve connections between the spinal cord and thalamus in the developing brain are completed. The thalamus is generally considered to be the part of the brain that relays sensory data to the cortex, which is the outer layer of the brain generally associated with higher mental functions such as thought and action. Condic does acknowledge that the “long-range connections within the cortex that some believe to be required for consciousness do not arise until much later, around 22-24 weeks.” But she believes that the fetal neural structures needed to detect noxious stimuli are in place by 8 to 10 weeks of development. She further asserts: “There is universal agreement that pain is detected by the fetus in the first trimester. The debate concerns how pain is experienced, i.e., whether a fetus has the same pain experience as a newborn or an adult would have.” As evidence that it is possible to feel pain without a cortex Condic cites the fact that children born without a cortex and animals whose cortices have been removed will withdraw from pinches, burns, and so forth. As further evidence for fetal pain, Condic cites studies showing that various medical treatments applied to fetuses in the womb boost their stress hormone levels.”

    I am not discussing abortion in general, I’m talking about the 12,000 babies/foetuses killed every year in America post-20 weeks.  Are you seriously suggesting that there is anywhere near that number of women likely to die if such abortions were stopped?  And, as it happens, yes, I do think there is a case for abortion when the mother’s life is at risk.

    And your ‘shlock-horror’ at the thought that society might impose its will on its citizens makes me wonder on which planet you reside?  Society insists that if you rob a store and attack the store owner you will be required to stop and allow a policeman to arrest you.  If you resist arrest, you might well get shot dead.  And a jury of your peers will support the policeman!  To quote but one example that society can and will lay down the rules of behaviour.

    Oh, and by the way, don’t keep painting me with the colours of various American conservative organisations.  I have my own opinion and I will express it and defend it.

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    Conservative blogs quite frequently lie about such testimony. There have been many times in which scientists “quoted” by opponents of abortion have pointed out that they were being misquoted. In other cases they find someone who is sympathetic to them ideologically who twists the science in their favor. Condic’s testimony actually just looked reflexes to withdraw from noxious stimuli during the first trimester, which is pretty universally considered to be totally different from experiencing pain. You can’t change the science, or deny it, just because it doesn’t support your views.

    As I said, the 20 week figure used by conservatives is also bogus, with a fetus not experiencing pain at this point and with abortions done after this point being both rare and to protect the mother.

    Robbing someone else’s store is in no way analogous to a mother’s right to control her own body. The controversial cases of police shooting are frequently not over cases of resisting arrest, and even when resisting arrest deadly force should be avoided. Most people do not support the death penalty for robbing a store, and there are non-deadly ways to apprehend people. Many of the killings defended by conservatives are in cases of people attempting to surrender or already in custody.

    I acknowledge that you might not agree with everything American conservatives say. Your protest would be more credible if you did’t repeat the same misinformation they use to spread their views. It just shows how weak the conservative case against abortion is ethically when then engage in such considerable efforts to distort the science to support their views.

  11. 11
    Ron Chusid says:

    In my last response I left out the important fact that your figure of 12,000 is way off–roughly ten times the actual number in the United States. Many, but not all, are due to health risks to the mother. Another reason for abortions at around 20-24 weeks is lack of access to abortion earlier. So, if you are concerned about the number of abortions post 20 weeks as opposed to earlier you can thank those American conservatives who have made it more difficult for women to obtain abortions, along with supporting restrictions on birth control.

Leave a comment