Monday, April 28, 2008

Rove was right

Rove was right when he said that they are not part of the "reality-based" community anymore, that they shape and create history (i don't know of anymore definitive Orwellian statement than that). the problem is that WE have to live in the world that THEY shape, so we ARE in the reality-based community, but it is not one of OUR making.

on the efficacy of propaganda.
well, okay, i actually had more to say

another colleague suggested that torture depended on motives (paraphrasing); my response:

no; this is the current Bush argument -- "all that we do is justified due to national security" -- no different than the arguments used by the powerful for centuries to excuse mass murder, torture, etc (on other and on THEIR OWN populations). Bush, et al are too cowardly to state what they are actually doing -- torturing people; instead, they obfuscate by using the euphemisms (harsh interrogations, rough interrogations, etc.) to maintain the appearance of morality. "The US does NOT torture people" -- we just waterboard them, electrocute them, hang them by their wrists for hours at a time, subject them to extreme temperatures, etc. Since these techniques are not torture (by THEIR definition), we can continue to strut and beat our national chest about how "moral" we are.


the very least that they could do is be honest about the fact that they intentionally harm people because they can and because they like to. as noted previously, torture doesn't work and they know this. why do they continue to do it then? because they are sadists, because they are vengeful, because no one has the power nor the will to stop them. it is the naked abuse of power, pure and simple.

how can we condemn torture in all instances? easy, it serves no purpose other than the ones i just listed, so why do it?

again, i am clear on my humanistic orientation and am committed to same. situational/relativistic morality is scary and dangerous, as evidenced by all that is happening today.

IMO, if there is anything frightening about this thread, it is that the use of torture is even being debated.
i conclude...

actually, what i have been trying to argue (apparently unsuccessfully) is that there are certain behaviors that result in pain regardless of whether there is an audience, regardless of how the behavior is defined. the things that the U.S. has been doing result in pain; the people who have been doing them KNOW this, that is why they are doing them. it doesn't matter what they are called, they will always result in pain.

worrying about what to call the behavior obfuscates the impact to the victim; this is what is astonishing to me, that people are actually concerned about what to call hanging someone from their arms for hours at a time. what the !#$%??? does it matter what we call it? isn't it outrageous and abhorrent in and of itself, regardless of how it is defined?

while in graduate school, i took a family violence course. the prof told us about a survey she had conducted several years before about sexual assault. one of the questions was, "have you ever been raped?" there was little response. the question was changed to "have you ever had sex against your will?" the response was greater. the wording issue doesn't change the fact that the behavior occurred. it does demonstrate how definitions can be used by the powerful to control and harm the less powerful...

my challenge stands...those who are in favor of torture should undergo it; if it only exists by definition, then what's the problem? no one is afraid of a little pain, are they?

in other words, it if is not defined as torture, it's not torture, right? that's the argument, yes? that hypothesis should be easy to test...get those who advocate for its contextual properties as the ONLY ontological reality to stand in the middle of ten people outside in freezing temperatures and then allow the onlookers to slap them, strip them naked, insult their religion, poor water over their heads, force them into stress positions, for at least an hour. at the end of the hour, the onlookers declare that what just occurred wasn't torture, it was just good fun.

voila! no torture occurred.

RE: the Spartans...of course it wasn't considered brutal or immoral by the Spartans -- it was THOSE WHO LIVED THAT DEFINED IT AS ANYTHING BUT THAT!!! Those who possibly could have called it immoral or brutal were dead! The "collateral damage" casualties can't challenge the definition of collateral damage as the cause of their death because they are dead! Forced sterilization was not considered immoral, slavery was not considered immoral, honor killings are not considered immoral, gassing Jews was not considered immoral -- do i need to go on?

wow, this has been a most revealing exchange. i honestly never thought i would hear an argument for might makes right on a sociology list.
mutter, mutter...

if you want more evidence of the complicity of our "trusted servants" in DC in the authorization of torture, watch this segment from ABC News.

the absolute stupidity of these yahoos even debating the use of torture is characteristic of the administration's entire approach -- defiant ignorance. from what i have read, it is quite well established that torture doesn't work. the Nuremberg interrogators didn't use it. they simply sat down with the accused, gave them cigarettes, talked with them and managed, through the use of non-"enhanced interrogation" techniques, to get these guys to disclose all kinds of atrocities.

my speculation as to why the "principals" authorized the use of torture has more to do with revenge, sadism, and power than any serious attempts to get information. the waterboarding incident (discussed in the above video) involving Zabaydah (sp) is inaccurate; he had already disclosed the information to the FBI, PRIOR to being waterboarded. the CIA learned little, if anything of value by waterboarding (which, BTW, we condemned when used by the Japanese) yet they claimed that he only disclosed this info AFTER he had been waterboarded; not true.

but hey, why let the facts get in the way of behavior influenced by a sadistic ideology?

IMO, they should all be charged with crimes against humanity; i guess we will know if there really is a God, when/if anyone out of this administration gets indicted for the same.
and the debate continued...

you're kidding, right? this needs a definition? it is not patently obvious? like pornography, do we not know it when we see it? the downside to context is it presumes that at some point in time/location some behavior is going to be acceptable by a group of observers. when it comes to:

hitting, "simulated" drowning, electrocution, slapping, sonic assault, microsecond burning by microwave transmission, exposure to extreme heat and cold, etc., no definition is going to change the impact of these behaviors, regardless of what any observer says, thinks or defines what is happening. i think it is pretty clear that virtually all biological organisms with a nervous system would experience any/all of the above as painful.

if you (or others) would like empirical evidence of the impact of these behaviors on human beings, read this.

calling the death of people due to the impact of a bomb "collateral damage" does nothing to alter the absolute outcome of the bomb on the people -- they remain dead.
and the debate started

a colleague suggested that torture depends on the audience...i, of course disagreed.

no, it does not. intentional infliction of pain on another human being is beyond definition, it is NOT in the eye of the beholder. it is the debate about the definition of what constitutes torture that muddies the water, blurs the lines, etc. this is why the debate is morally bankrupt.

not unlike the Wizard of Oz..."pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" -- stuffing a man's head in a bucket of water and striking him in the stomach so he will involuntarily inhale is not torture, it is just:

rough interrogation
harsh interrogation
aggressive interrogation
coercive interrogation

bullshit, it is freaking torture and all of the media yahoos (and anyone else who equivocates on the issue) that fail to call it such are complicit in its practice.

history will indeed by the judge and i pray that it judges us harshly. we deserve it since we have allowed this to happen; ignorance is no defense at all in this case because we are absolutely clear on what is and has been happening. hopefully history will un-equivocally condemn what has happened in the last seven years.
then it started getting weird...

i DON'T say this in my class, but it seems to me that the simplest way to resolve this issue of whether or not any method constitutes tortures is to have those unsure of its effects undergo it. if all that the U.S. is doing is NOT torture, why has (to my knowledge) only one non-military person actually undergone water-boarding? one yahoo said that you swallow more water when swimming; of course HE did not volunteer to be waterboarded. just like Rummy thought that standing as an interrogation practice should not be limited to just 4 hours a day because he stands 8 - 9 hours a day. fine, Rummy, you spend a few months at Gitmo, in the role of enemy combatant and see why standing for ONLY 4 hours in those conditions is just a bit discomforting.

as you know you and i fundamentally disagree on these issues -- it has always been clear to me what hunger, suffering, pain, thirst, torture are -- i don't really care what anyone else thinks they are, not do i really need to discuss how each is defined. i am clear about my humanist orientation. i do not suffer from the morally bankrupt, privileged, academic position of worrying about definitions or social constructions. this latter point is the main reason why i left the AACS -- 20 years after the establishment of the CSA and members are STILL trying to define WHAT clinical, applied sociology/sociological practice is.

the luxury of the privileged...fiddling with definitions while world burns...
i posted some other, relevant info

i heard Doug Feith on NPR this morning, attempting to wiggle his way out of any responsibility for Iraq. Really embarrassing that this man had ANY position of authority in our government; but again, not surprising. no one seems willing to hold any of these people accountable which is just maddening, IMO. Bush keeps talking about his legacy as if it is going to be positive. first, it would be nice to have a Prez that is more concerned about the devastation he has wrought and trying to rectify it than basking in the glow of his "legacy fantasy" and second, it would be nice to have a Congress that is not bowed by DC pressure to not impeach. but, alas, we do live in America after all, where despite all of the propaganda, dreams really don't come true.

(rant over)

The UCS is documenting all of the "interference" in science by this administration; it is a sad list of events:

It all seemed so simple...

it all started when i submitted a link to a video clip on the issue of torture to a sociology list as an example of how power plays a role in defining deviant behavior; it went somewhere i never would have imagined. the initial post:

as you might suspect, whenever i introduce the concept of deviance in my classes, i talk about not only how deviance is defined, but WHO gets to do the defining.

this week's topic in my Intro class is deviance, and i happened upon this link to a preview of a 60 Minutes story to be aired this coming Sunday. i thought it was a perfect for a discussion of deviance, defining, deviance and labeling.

"Docke says the police report was sent to the Americans. And Kurnaz claims his interrogations at Kandahar turned to torture. He told 60 Minutes that American troops held his head underwater. They used to beat me when my head is underwater. They beat me into my stomach and everything," he says. "