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Thread: Kathryn Bigelow - Torture Apologist?

  1. #21

    Re: Kathryn Bigelow - Torture Apologist?

    I was really hoping the thread title was the name of an unfortunate direct to DVD spinoff of Duece Bigelow

  2. #22
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    Re: Kathryn Bigelow - Torture Apologist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Astonishing X-Fan View Post
    I was really hoping the thread title was the name of an unfortunate direct to DVD spinoff of Duece Bigelow
    Ha!

    Deuce Bigelow: Torture Apologist might actually go over better with people than European Gigolo did.

  3. #23

    Re: Kathryn Bigelow - Torture Apologist?

    Quote Originally Posted by EmarAndZeb View Post
    It's true he signed that order, and good on him for that; however, the standards that said order holds interrogators to leave a disturbing amount of wiggle room for continuing "*nudge*wink*Don't torture, guys!" type of operations. You'll also note that no one will be prosecuted for their involvement in the "harsh tactics" employed under the Bush administration. It's understandable why a president wouldn't want to open the door to prosecution of underlings following the orders of a previous administration, but let's be real, here: it's still an instance of Realpolitik trumping morality, and arguably the rule of law.

    Be aware, too, that even the fairly timid and "don't rock the boat"-y PolitiFact lists his position on "extreme rendition"* as one of "compromise." For one, no matter what the stated policy is, the extreme secrecy surrounding anything and everything to do with counterterrorism makes it nigh impossible to verify if said policy is being followed. And, as always, there are apparently loopholes:
    That's fair, and I'm not saying Obama's human rights record is spotless (Gitmo is still open, for one, regardless of where one wants to apportion blame for it). But--and I don't want to come across as an Obama apologist, here--it seems like the major roadblock there is the resistance of the CIA itself and the necessity of keeping a working spy program. That is, really cleaning out the CIA would cripple it, if for no other reason that simple number of personnel lost; and on top of that, the international cooperation we depend on carries certain demands. Even if we know that, say, Egypt is going to torture any suspects we send their way, Egypt still wants to get their hands on suspects and we need Egypt's continuing cooperation.

    But that's substantively different from holding out torture as an option to use when it's needed. What failures exist in the Obama administration's efforts to end torture can't, I think, be chalked up to any desire within the administration to reserve the use of torture; it seems more that winking at a certain level of torture is a cost of doing business.

  4. #24
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    Re: Kathryn Bigelow - Torture Apologist?

    Here is another article where Bigelow and Boal respond to the criticism. As I said earlier, I still don't entirely buy this, in part for the "good cop/bad cop" dynamic I mentioned earlier, in part because this use of torture apparently never happened in the particular set of events/use of informers that led to the actual discovery of Bin Laden.

    http://www.salon.com/2012/12/11/zero...laden_capture/

    Still, it's good to see that they are explicitly saying that they are not endorsing torture or even arguing that its use is part of the "ambivalence" around the issue.

  5. #25
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    Re: Kathryn Bigelow - Torture Apologist?

    Quote Originally Posted by motorfirebox View Post
    That's fair, and I'm not saying Obama's human rights record is spotless (Gitmo is still open, for one, regardless of where one wants to apportion blame for it). But--and I don't want to come across as an Obama apologist, here--it seems like the major roadblock there is the resistance of the CIA itself and the necessity of keeping a working spy program. That is, really cleaning out the CIA would cripple it, if for no other reason that simple number of personnel lost; and on top of that, the international cooperation we depend on carries certain demands. Even if we know that, say, Egypt is going to torture any suspects we send their way, Egypt still wants to get their hands on suspects and we need Egypt's continuing cooperation.

    But that's substantively different from holding out torture as an option to use when it's needed. What failures exist in the Obama administration's efforts to end torture can't, I think, be chalked up to any desire within the administration to reserve the use of torture; it seems more that winking at a certain level of torture is a cost of doing business.
    I pretty much agree with this. And I don't want to give the impression that I'm part of the "Obama is the reincarnation of (genocidal 20th century dictator of your preference goes here) and can do no right!" crowd, either. I think there are some signs of progress on this issue. I just don't want to lose sight of the fact that our country is still involved in a lot of dubious shit, and probably will continue to be - regardless of who the President is - unless we as citizens actually call it on this sort of thing.




    Also, as far as the Bigelow/Zero Dark Thirty thing goes: I agree with everyone who has said that the evidence to date suggests torture doesn't produce reliable information. However, I also don't think a fictional narrative in which a character obtains actionable intel through torture is, in itself, proof that said narrative is a "defense of torture" as such.

    One issue I have with the continued emphasis on the ineffectiveness of torture is that - while probably true - it is in a certain sense a way of sidestepping the need to take a more hardline moral stance, which is: Even if torture did work, it would still be an immoral and vile method for gaining information. Perhaps an appeal to the likely uselessness of torture is necessary when confronted with the sort of elaborate "ticking time-bomb" scenario that 24 and those sorts of shows run on. Said scenario is an annoying bit of sophistry wrapped in an appeal to fear and improbable premises (You "know" this individual can give you the location of the bomb, do you? How do you know that?). It's probably better to just diffuse that sort of pseudo-utilitarian bullshit with contrary evidence from the real world, given that we're talking about immediate real-world plans of action (i.e. contemporary government policy). No point worrying about victory on absolute moral grounds when we can easily have one in the purely practical realm.

    BUT, in the realm of fiction, I think it's possible for us to be presented with scenarios where torture does lead to "useful" information and still have the narrative make the case that it's immoral. I don't know if that's how it will actually play out in Zero Dark Thirty. Indeed, from what some of you are saying, it looks like torture won't lead directly to information allowing the capture of Bin Laden. Even if it does, though, I don't think that would necessarily make it a "defense of torture" on the same level as your average 24 ep; Jack Bauer going "I will hurt you until you tell me where the bomb is! Tell me! Innocent lives are at stake!!1!" is a lot more seductive and morally dangerous than some CIA guy saying "I will hurt you until you tell me where the bad man who hurt us is! Tell me! We want to hurt him back waaaaah!!1!" One invokes the "ends justify the means" mentality of the aforementioned ticking time-bomb. The other is just hurting one dude so that you can learn from him how to hurt another dude to slake your thirst for revenge. The former pretends to "justify" the torture by having it "save" a whole bunch of innocents, while in the latter the torture is used simply to enable the killing of someone the torturers don't like.

    Of course, maybe my not thinking "getting Bin Laden!" is as "good" a justification "stopping the time-bomb!" puts me out of step with most of the American movie-going public. Who knows how other viewers will interpret whatever-it-is that we actually get.

  6. #26

    Re: Kathryn Bigelow - Torture Apologist?

    If you haven't watched the Carrie-Ann Moss / Samuel L. Jackon movie Unthinkable, you really ought to. It directly address the "useful torture" issue.

  7. #27
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    Re: Kathryn Bigelow - Torture Apologist?

    Here's another article in the NYT about this controversy and a Senate report that has just been written that investigates US torture. The report notes that torture was much more systematic and widespread than many people realized. The article also discusses how the film approaches the torture issue. Some of it suggests to me that the film muddies the water on this more than it needed to. Also, the article concludes by noting how many Americans became positively disposed towards torture after "24", and the impact of entertainment on public attitudes.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/us...ted=1&_r=0&hpw

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    Re: Kathryn Bigelow - Torture Apologist?

    Quote Originally Posted by ShaunN View Post
    Here's another article in the NYT about this controversy and a Senate report that has just been written that investigates US torture. The report notes that torture was much more systematic and widespread than many people realized. The article also discusses how the film approaches the torture issue. Some of it suggests to me that the film muddies the water on this more than it needed to. Also, the article concludes by noting how many Americans became positively disposed towards torture after "24", and the impact of entertainment on public attitudes.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/us...ted=1&_r=0&hpw
    Yeah, I read that. And I know that Ms. Zegart is an academic and I'm far from it. But I sort of question her conclusion that these shows actually effect people's true feelings. I believe that they just make people more comfortable with expressing those views, because they believe they are part of the public zeitgeist.

    But again, that's just my uneducated hypothesis.

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    Re: Kathryn Bigelow - Torture Apologist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Morrison_Lad View Post
    Yeah, I read that. And I know that Ms. Zegart is an academic and I'm far from it. But I sort of question her conclusion that these shows actually effect people's true feelings. I believe that they just make people more comfortable with expressing those views, because they believe they are part of the public zeitgeist.

    But again, that's just my uneducated hypothesis.
    You raise a good point. But I do think that there was some substantial evidence that "24" really did define how many people understood torture. Many people just had not thought about the subject, beyond having a very general impression that it was "bad." Then "24" came along and continually presented all kinds of "plausible" scenarios for when torture was justifiable and peoples' opinions solidified around that. As I mentioned earlier, Kiefer Sutherland and the producers of "24" actually had to go to West Point and tell graduates that torture was wrong because so many of the soldiers being trained there had come to think of it as acceptable, specifically because of their exposure to "24". If I remember correctly, WP called in the "24" people because the cadets were rejecting what their instructors were telling them in class, i.e., that torture was illegal and counterproductive. If that can happen in a military school where the subject is actually being addressed, imagine the impact in a less structured environment.

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    Re: Kathryn Bigelow - Torture Apologist?

    Quote Originally Posted by ShaunN View Post
    You raise a good point. But I do think that there was some substantial evidence that "24" really did define how many people understood torture. Many people just had not thought about the subject, beyond having a very general impression that it was "bad." Then "24" came along and continually presented all kinds of "plausible" scenarios for when torture was justifiable and peoples' opinions solidified around that. As I mentioned earlier, Kiefer Sutherland and the producers of "24" actually had to go to West Point and tell graduates that torture was wrong because so many of the soldiers being trained there had come to think of it as acceptable, specifically because of their exposure to "24". If I remember correctly, WP called in the "24" people because the cadets were rejecting what their instructors were telling them in class, i.e., that torture was illegal and counterproductive. If that can happen in a military school where the subject is actually being addressed, imagine the impact in a less structured environment.
    True. That makes sense. If West Point felt the need to do that, that really does say something about how viewed things.

    It always surprises me, I guess, when people's views actually are effected by things in popular culture. I feel like almost all the views I have concerning serious issues like that were pretty much settled at a very young age. The idea that a television show could impact what how I feel about something like this is ... just weird. But obviously it happens.

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