Manifesto Multilinko
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Thursday, April 23, 2009
Torture is always only about power

Everyone knows torture doesn't result in useful information. The leaders know it, the cadres know it, everyone.

The purpose of torture is not getting to the truth, it is controlling the truth. It is inventing and manipulating reality. Torture is about power and the ultimate power to bend someone's reality to your will.

King Canute famously could not command the tides. But if you torture someone, they will eventually say that you can command the tides, or that there are no tides, or that it is high tide when it is low tide. They will say anything.

Garry Wills wrote about lies in Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit, he said lies are an assault on the fabric of reality.

Torture is a systematic effort to create untruth, a systematic assault on reality.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, of all things, showed this very clearly. In a two-part episode about torture echoing 1984, they are easily able to extract all the useful information from Picard using drugs. Yet they still torture him, not to get information, but to prove a point, about state power, and about the power of one individual over another. The goal of the torture is, in the end, to get Picard to say something that is self-evidently untrue, and ultimately, to BELIEVE that it is true, to change his very reality so that he literally no longer believes his own eyes.

THAT is what torture is about. Not some ticking clock fantasy.

Andrew Sullivan has recently written compellingly about this

The assertion of total power through unchecked violence - outside the Constitution, beyond the reach of the law (apart from legal memos from hired hacks instructed to retroactively redefine torture into 'legality') - will be seen in retrospect as the key defining theory of Bush conservatism. It ended with torture. Why? Because reality may differ from ideology; and when it does, it is vital to create reality to support ideology. And so torture creates reality by coercing "facts" from broken bodies and minds.

This is how torture is always a fantastic temptation for those in power, even if they first use it out of what they think is necessity or good intentions: it provides a way for them to coerce reality into the shape they desire. This is also why it is so uniquely dangerous. Because it creates a closed circle of untruth, which is then used to justify more torture, which generates more "truth." This is the Imaginationland some of us have been so concerned about.

The Western anathema on torture began as a way to ensure the survival of truth.

via Jay Rosen - Quote and Comment

I've said it before - I don't use this word lightly. Cheney is evil.

And to me, just as the fact that the citizens didn't march in the streets when it was announced that there were SECRET FUCKING PRISONS, but that it was ok, because they were really useful, just as that lack of action meant democracy is all but dead, the total inaction of citizens when faced with clear, detailed evidence of torture carried out by their government means basically game over. The government can do anything. Maybe it always could.