The Rogue Voice


January 01, 2008

Why torture is OK

In essence, we have an exhibitionistic and voyeuristic culture that likes to spy and be spied on.

Americans now generally disagree with the morality of eaves-dropping on citizens and the torture of suspects, but have become complacent, accepting them as part and parcel of the Bush administration.

How Americans learned to accept the unacceptable

By Max Talley

I was a kid in the 1970s in the midst of Nixon’s Watergate meltdown, but I remember my dad’s anger toward “Tricky Dick” at the time. Historical record reveals that Democrats and Republicans alike were outraged by White House wiretapping of political enemies. It smacked of Kremlin Cold War-era tactics, fascism, totalitarian 1984 Orwellian nightmares—not America, the land of freedom and inalienable rights for the individual.
When teachers discussed World War II, the Korean War or other recent battles in schools in the ‘70s, the countries that abided by the Geneva Convention were held in high regard, while Japan, China, South America and others were condemned for the use of brutality and torture against their prisoners of war. The idea was that America stood for a higher standard, and that if we broke with the Geneva Convention, then other countries would do the same with American prisoners. We may have looked away when Third-World regimes favorable to our leadership tortured rebels or opposition party members, but the U.S. never [OPENLY] promoted or instigated such horrors.
No, the watchdog media, the Congress, who served the will of the people, and the vigilant public who’d protested the Vietnam War, racial bigotry and Nixon’s scandals would not allow such atrocity to occur. Nor would they stand for a government conducting vast wiretapping and “data-mining” operations brokered through the communication and telephone companies.
Flash forward thirty odd years to our “enlightened” present, and things are much different. Nixon’s gang seems like flaming liberals compared to the Bush mob. But sadder, with all the knowledge we have gained from past mistakes, all the sense in our collective conscience that something is very wrong, there seems to be a jaded, apathetic response to the scandals of our current White House and government.
So, when some brainless ass-clown makes fun of the tacky mood- ring, pet rock, disco-era ‘70s, remind them that at least elected Democrats had gonads back then. At least Republicans knew to break with their unpopular president and urge him to resign before he was impeached. At least the public took to the streets in giant numbers when they disagreed with leadership and were not slumbering in a hypnotized stupor from entertainment gadgets.
Americans now generally disagree with the morality of eaves-dropping on citizens and the torture of suspects, but have become complacent, accepting them as part and parcel of the Bush administration.
“It’s all about 2008,” I hear from Democrats who have given up fighting or caring about the latest assault on civil liberties.
“Everything changed after 9/11,” is the mantra of Republicans still scurrying under the skirts of their leader. Actually, plans for wire-tapping U.S. citizens were well in place months before 9/11. It’s just part of the government-by-control that won the 2000 election by a single vote in the Supreme Court.
Why is our populace open or indifferent to this? Perhaps it’s our “everybody’s a star” culture, where you can find out everything about any celebrity in tabloids, on TV, or on the Internet. A culture where people march around in public bellowing into their cell phones about yeast infections and removing polyps, about one-night “hook-ups” and their depression medication. They don’t want privacy, anonymity. No, the world must know all the trivial, boring details of their lives. And if they can’t trumpet it on their cell phones in restaurants, planes and banks, then they write excruciating daily blogs, emails, text messages and fill online dating sites with the blather and minutiae of their existence. Because someday they’ll be a star, a lottery winner, millionaire, a billionaire. Or at least the first jerk to be thrown off Survivor or American Idol.
People obsessed with celebrity, with showing all and telling all, could not possibly be offended by the government listening in. If American exhibitionists shouted their personal secrets any louder, they’d hear them on fucking Mars! Maybe the NSA or FBI or CIA will overhear them and get them an acting gig or a book contract, a screenplay. The more other people know about you, the more you’re a true celebrity, like Paris, Britney, Lindsay and Justin. In essence, we have an exhibitionistic and voyeuristic culture that likes to spy and be spied on: so like what's the big dealio about warrantless wire-tapping, dude?
You’d think torture would be a bigger issue to our God-fearing, moralistic, “what would Jesus do?” populace. I’ve lived in New York and San Francisco, but I never met anyone who wanted to be tortured, and never want to. So why the relaxed attitude to something that even clueless wing-nut John McCain realizes has major consequences for American standing in the world, and for U.S. prisoners in the various wars our government is conducting abroad? Look around. One of the most popular TV series is 24, where torture routinely saves the country, government and president. In movie theaters there have been two Hostel movies and we’re up to Saw 4 with no end in sight for that franchise.
Yes, torture and brutality franchises. You don’t have to be a Michael Medved, morality police kind of guy, to know that when torture is the central theme of movies, TV shows and computer games, and in a country where athlete-sponsored dog-fighting, Ultimate Fighting, cage-fighting for men and now women is all the rage, that something ugly is afoot.
Then there is the terminology: water-boarding. How safe and docile. It could be a new outdoor hobby. It sounds like some new kind of inland surfing. “Hey, bro, I’m going long-boarding up at Half Moon Bay, then I’ll be waterboarding on Lake Tahoe over the weekend.” Righteous…. Yes, simulated drowning doesn’t have the same pleasant ring to it.
But the argument is, if we Americans torture suspected terrorists, or even just suspects, it is essential because 9/11 changed everything and do you want to see more skyscrapers come down? On the other hand, if Middle Eastern countries torture Americans or Europeans, they are inhuman animals who disregard the Geneva Convention, wipe their asses with their bare hands and spit on civilization each waking day when they’re not reading directions to build nuclear bombs out of the Koran.
So unless a draft or an economic panic occurs where Americans put down their iPhones, iPods and latest toys to wake up to what is being done in their name, then torture, wire-tapping, vote-caging and worse will continue until they become as American as mom, home and apple pie. §

Max Talley is a writer and musician in Santa Barbara.


At 12:39 AM, Blogger helrod said...

You're right Mr. Talley, if we weren't so busy playing with our toys and candyass games we might have some social consciousness left in us. Also, terms like waterboarding coverup the real truth that prevails.

At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article!
Well written, good flow, good examples, good use of
anger... and we should be angry about this. Thanks for spreading the word, Talley.
Where can I find this journal in SB?
--from Santa Barbara

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