Sign of the Times

Posted: June 20, 2010 in Culture, Ethics, Idle Nonsense, Politics, Torture

A coworker directed me to a quote by Don Cherry, a Canadian hockey commentator, and said succinctly, “I love this guy.” Here is the subject quote:

If hooking up one rag-head terrorist prisoner’s testicles to a car battery to get the truth out of the lying little camel-shagger will save just one Canadian life, then I have only three things to say: red is positive, black is negative, and make sure his nuts are wet!!!

No doubt this is inflammatory and provocative, as color commentators and shock jocks are wont to be. What is disheartening is not that some high-profile media fool has no compunction about expressing something so bigoted and barbaric but that so many others agree with him and cheer him on. My coworker evidently thought it was very funny to joke about torturing people. In contrast, I’m repulsed by the idea of torture, which I’ve blogged before about being a taboo.

Not to parse Cherry’s statement too finely, but there’s a big, glaring if at the start, though with all the other loaded language, the overall intent is still pretty clear. Whereas some might hang on that if, I rather doubt that Cherry or those who agree with him, such as my coworker, are really all that concerned about saving just one Canadian (or American) life. Truth be told, anecdotal, historical, and scientific evidence is mounting that torture doesn’t work for its stated goal.

Their real interest, if I’m allowed to make the obvious mistake of the intentional fallacy, is callous, capricious use of force against others for the sheer fun of it (which is what many of those Abu Ghraib pics look like they were up to — cruel, inhumane fun). If Cherry and my coworker weren’t merely talking about torture in the hypothetical sense, I’d like to believe that being torturers themselves or at least first-hand witnesses would cause them to feel some shame and horror. However, the human empathetic response is so muted these days that I have little faith this is just posturing. I take it as a sign of the times that some of the most brutal, inhumane treatments of others we can imagine pose no problem for lots of people.

  1. grasshopper says:

    What contemporary people boast about doing with car batteries, ancient Roman supposedly did with lions.
    Does it make a difference that torture is no longer a favorite spectator sport? Who knows.
    Possibly, there exists a secret initiate of torturers that sits in the grandstand whenever a suspect is electrocuted.
    Even in Rome only noble people signaled thumbs up or thumbs down.
    Either way, my imagination hits a limit and the grisly procedures become unthinkable.

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