Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Shadow of the Torturer

You may be familiar with Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer. The book takes place in a world where torture is not forbidden, not even an exception, but is a fully integrated, normal part of the culture, politics, and society. The story and its sequels follow Severian, an apprentice in the torturers' guild. In the habit of good science fiction, it forces us to rethink our assumptions of good and evil, starting with the Spanish Inquisition and working forward from there.

You may also be familiar with 24, the TV show in which self-flagellating protagonist Jack Bauer must, a few episodes into each season, resort to torture (or the threat of torture) to retrieve information vital to keep the show from grinding to a halt before 24 hours is up. It's something like a video game (after all, he must go through this routine every level, er, season), only with more angst.

I foolishly thought the U.S.-as-torture-supporter question was closed well before this blog even started, but I forgot who I was dealing with. Thanks to the latest idiot terrorist attempt to blow up a plane, the usual attack dogs are back on the job-- crusty old out-of-power Republicans, fading neocons, blowsy over-rouged pundicrats who resemble the real-estate agents you duck around corners to avoid, and all their progeny. They seem determined to ensure that America's global reputation never gets any better, thereby perpetuating the threat and guaranteeing new crops of people who don't like us.

Here's an example:

The setup, the groundwork for resurrecting and justifying the Jack Bauer approach starts at 3:15 in this video from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. The actual references to torture as acceptable kick in at about 6:15.

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