Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tortured Logic

According to the L.A. Times, parents in Los Angeles are very upset about these billboards advertising a horror film and have forced them to be taken down. According to Fangoria, The Federal Trade Commission will soon be issuing a report on how violent such media can be.

Would this mean that the government would be in the business of censoring fictional depictions of torture, while slowly legalizing and normalizing the actual use of torture? Or that the public, who seemingly don't really care much about torture in real life, are somehow offended by its existence in the fantasy world?
And, of course, there is a popular show on primetime network television that gets quite a bit of mileage out of positive depictions of torture. Don't get me wrong- 24 is very entertaining. However, it's not subject to the same sorts of attacks from the public bluenoses as these posters have been. Can we therefore just assume that the public is fine with positive and life-affirming torture, but not scary torture? Has the culture been so widely 'bitten by the torture bug' that it's now considered offensive to slander torture?


Hiromi said...

Can we therefore just assume that the public is fine with positive and life-affirming torture, but not scary torture?

I get the impression that many people are at least uncomfortable, if not outright horrified, at what happened at Abu Ghraib.

The problem is that many people excuse torture in that context because it's "necessary." It's amazing what can be excused out of necessity. Japanese soldiers bayoneted Chinese civilians as target practice. Horrifying? Well, wasn't it necessary for the soldiers to learn to kill without hesitation in order to fight effectively and help win battles? The Japanese military coerced women into servicing soldiers -- but wasn't that necessary to avoid widespread rape? and it was also necessary to strip the Jews of their rights, step by step, and when they essentially became non-persons, to put them into camps. All this for the security of the nation.

But I think most people don't draw parallels like that. It scares the crap out of me.

Rufus said...

It is good that people are disturbed, although Abu Ghraib 'aint the half of it!

The strange thing about torture is that people believe it's necessary because they see it on 24, but it's absolutely terrible strategy. The case can be made that the use of torture was the major reason that France lost Algeria, a war that was remarkably similar to this one. Torture loses wars, especially ones in which civilian support is crucial. Of course, it is causing us major damage in this war as well. I think most people would rather not think about it. As long as they think the bully is on their side, they're okay with him.