Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

While "waterboarding the right man 83 times in 1 month" would of course be a very honorable occupation.



"Justified" is the word you're looking for.

We want it to be justified, not honorable. Nobody gives two shits about honor as soon as it is about "them" (whoever fits that definition currently).


I'm not sure this kind of disgusting behaviour can ever be justified.


"Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe torture can be justified to extract information from suspected terrorists, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll ... Only 15 percent said torture should never be used ... The Reuters/Ipsos poll included 1,976 people. It has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 2.5 percentage points for the entire group" http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-torture-exclu...


We can see physical or psychological torture used effectively in many TV series. I have read that in real life, torture was very ineffective to make people tell something they want to hide. Generally people die without speaking or do not know any valuable secret.

Remember at school. When one child get punished, all the other childs of the class become quiet. The main desired effect of torture is manipulation of population. They do not care if the tortured guy speaks or dies, they want to inspire fear.

I think it is the only way to understand how something so barbare and so ineffective (in its direct purpose) is still used. TV series should stop disinformation (pretending torture works and presenting torture as acceptable).

Torture is unacceptable.


> We can see physical or psychological torture used effectively in many TV series.

Almost exclusively by the heroes, and it always works almost instantly. It says something about the people writing them.

I can't wait for the episode of Daredevil where he spends a month and a half torturing someone for information.

Remember all of those scenes in movies from the 70s and earlier when halfway through the rape, the woman starts to get into it, and when we cut to the morning after she's like "never leave me," and now the viewer is expected to sympathise with the rapist and his victim against the world?

It's a snapshot of the mindset of elites.

> Remember at school. When one child get punished, all the other childs of the class become quiet. The main desired effect of torture is manipulation of population. They do not care if the tortured guy speaks or dies, they want to inspire fear.

This is only way torture is effective. Except, in this context, the more accurate term for it is terrorism.


>Remember all of those scenes in movies from the 70s and earlier when halfway through the rape, the woman starts to get into it, and when we cut to the morning after and she's like "never leave me," and now the viewer is expected to sympathise with the rapist and his victim against the world?

Actually, no. I've seen plenty of old movies, but I don't recall many rape scenes, much less such rape scenes where the rapist is meant to be sympathized with, or where the rape victim takes pleasure in it.


They were common, and they still happen, rarely. Game of Thrones got in trouble for one last year: http://time.com/70829/game-of-thrones-rape/

edit: http://www.ifc.com/2011/09/straw-dogs-sex-the-remake-of-a-ra...


Old James Bond movies at the very least come close to that. I was rather shocked watching over on a plane recently.


James Bond and Pussy Galore - is this rape?

http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/am_i_being_unreasonable/1570613-...


Maybe we have Jack Bauer to blame, he always seems to get information within seconds using fear of violence and torture.


We like to think that propaganda was something the Soviets and Fascists did decades ago and doesn't happen in the modern world. But 24/Jack Bauer and films like Zero Dark Thirty are straight propaganda. The first step in fighting it is identifying it.


Zizek on Zero Dark Thirty was a pretty good take along these lines (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/25/zero-da...)


I wonder if that had been worded as American citizen, instead of suspected terrorist, if the results would have been any different. Even so that is still too high of a number of people who are ok with torture.


Two thirds of Americans are overweight, but the president and his wife somehow managed to muster up the courage to denounce that fact and take action.


It is coneviable that circumstances could exist where the use of torture would prevent some greater evil. But the only proper place to make such an argument is in court as a defense against prosecution. The act would still be illegal and should still be illegal. The disgusting thing is trying to pre-approve illegal acts ahead of time and using that as a defence.


Such circumstances exist in three places: movies, TV shows, and fiction books. In non-fiction contexts the victim simply makes an answer up to get the pain to stop. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effectiveness_of_torture_for_i...


> It is coneviable that circumstances could exist where the use of torture would prevent some greater evil.

Sure, but this is just a thought experiment.

In real life, these kind of tactics simply don't work.


Problem is that it doesn't even give all that much actionable information in the first place.


Yes and no. In the case of somebody who has information waterboarding is generally an 'efficient' strategy. i.e. you have the guy you know hid the bomb somewhere in manhattan.

It's just very hard to tell when somebody doesn't know anything. And they will start making up information to make it stop. i.e. 10 guys and you have reason to believe one of them may have hidden a bomb somewhere.


An example of when the information is fabricated: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1...


Although that guy has a massive incentive to not tell you anything. They just have to hold out for a few hours.


I'm alright with it, as long as we know the person is a threat to our national security.

The people who commit acts like the Boston Marathon Bombings, the Brussels Bombings, 9/11, etc. - these people are not our friends. If given the opportunity, they would kill every single one of us.

So if the people who are on our side feel they need to use torture on these people to keep us safe, I'm not going to argue with them.


The German jurist Carl Schmitt essentially made the same argument: the power of the executive is the power to divide the world into enemies, and to declare a "state of exception" that allows the unfettered pursuit of those enemies. Such enemies need not be foreign, but may be domestic; not only criminal, but political.

The Bush administration said that Abu Zubaydah was al-Qai'da; he was not. They said he helped bin Laden escape Afghanistan; he did not. They said he had intelligence justifying the invasion of Iraq; he had none. Every justification they gave for his imprisonment and torture was either disproved or a simple lie, and yet they continued. In the end, their justification was simply, "He hates us, and we hate him."

This is a troubling basis on which to exercise military power. And once the executive arrogates for himself the power to place persons beyond the pale of domestic and international customary law, it's very hard to keep that demon in the box where you want him. To paraphrase, when all the laws lay flat, what will hide us from unjust power?


Without advocating Carl Schmitt, I think you are misrepresenting his views there. His concept of the 'Ausnahmezustand' (state of exception) is broader than just executive orders. He basically meant to describe the powers of a particular executive in a constitutional system by looking at the "not normal" case. This is similar to security in computers - you are not interested in the case where the computer behaves nicely. You want to know what you can do when things go wrong. So he described the power of the state as defined by what it can possibly do if they abuse them as the constitution enables it to do: "Sovereign is he who decides on the exception."


When I read Schmitt (and it's been many years!), I can't disentangle the concept of the state of exception from his insistence that politics are fundamentally about the friend-enemy distinction, and that, as he says, the qualitative element of that distinction is its ability to flare into violence.

So it's hard for me to see Schmitt's theory as anything other than the normalization of the diktat to resolve political conflicts; if the state demands orthodoxy amongst its "friends," and the executive is empowered to punish deviant "enemies," and the executive's decision to impose an exception is unreviewable (which is a Schmittian prerequisite for executive power), then the state of exception essentially never ends -- as Germany found out with the Reichstag emergency.

What are your thoughts -- am I taking him too far? Can he be read a bit more kindly, perhaps as a more formal and rigid version of the old saw, "the Constitution is not a suicide pact?" Or was he, like Machiavelli, more descriptive than prescriptive in his assessments?

As I said, it's been years since I read Schmitt, but I found him to be, ah, bracing as a thinker, a kind of prebuttal to the concept of a negotiated society that would later preoccupy thinkers like Habermas. I'd just rather live in a Rawlsian or Habermasian world than one in which political disagreements are treated as a flashpoint for war.


I think you are right in your perception of his thinking, and I didn't mean to interpret his views in a friendly way - I just wanted to note that there is a more academic dimension to the way how he meant this. I think you are exactly right in your view that he is basically thinking the opposite of a "negotiated society", this is what I got from his "Constitutional Theory" of 1928 as well. It is very instructive though because he is probably the most literate and well-spoken opponent of the liberal constitutional society - that's what I meant when I compared it with software security testing, he's basically looking for all the loopholes and small inconsistencies in liberal societes. I think his notion of these extreme powers of government is an example of that, and history has shown (with the further development of the Weimar Republic) that he was right there. I am not sure if he meant it in a normative way, as addition to the idea of politics as a fight between enemies.

Having said that, this mix of academic, positive right thinking, in the context of the abolishment of a state of law and civil society probably makes this all even more evil.


That's interesting -- I generally think of Schmitt as constructing a theory of dictatorship, but you're right: he's also black-hat hacking the constitutional order at the same time. That's a fantastic insight, I think, because you're really crystallizing him as a practitioner as well as a theorist.


You may be interested in a recent revival of his thinking from the left - [1][2] - the idea there is that he doesn't mean "enemies" in the sense of a mortal fight, but rather "agonists". This is explicitly directed against the Habermas type of discourse that is directed towards achieving a consensus, and advocating not to bury conflicts. Basically in response to a "mainstreaming" of political parties (probably not so much in the US, but in many European countries you will find that the major established parties seem to agree fundamentally with very little differences, with the rise of extreme right and left parties at the same time as a reaction). Not a view I share, but I find it interesting that they are now going back to Schmitt for that.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Agonistics-Thinking-Politically-Chanta... [2] http://www.amazon.com/Political-Thinking-Action-Chantal-Mouf...


I think Mouffe's "agonistic democracy" to be provocative and maybe even a more powerful description of politics than, say, Habermas (I retain affection for Rawls) but, like you, I don't think I can buy her efforts to claim Schmitt. Her argument that social media tends to work against agonism by enforcing epistomological closure (to use the trendy term) and thus leading people to a totalistic worldview is, I think, an unconscious rebuke of the extent of Schmitt's own friend/enemy distinction. But I haven't read her major texts, just the collections she's edited and contributed to, so I probably should spend some time on that.


I'm alright with it, as long as we know the person is a threat to our national security.

As the article illustrates, we don't know the person is a threat to our national security. We'll never know with 100% accuracy. The only available options are to accept occasionally torturing people who are innocent or disagreeing with torture and not using it. Most of the civilised world has agreed that the danger of mistakenly torturing innocent people isn't worth it.


Ah I see how this site works


It's something that also bother me about HN. People downvote when disagree. I think that downvoting should be used for uncivil comments, not related comments, spam.. Otherwise we will finish in an echo-chamber.

When we disagree we should answer. This is what I'm going try to do.

First, you say "If given the opportunity, they would kill every single one of us". That's not true. Those terrorist acts have politic goals.

Then, you say "So if the people who are on our side feel they need.." Here you assume that those people is in your side, and that they shouldn't be under control. Two assumptions that I recommend you to give more consideration.


I don't entirely agree with either side, but I will say that:

> First, you say "If given the opportunity, they would kill every single one of us". That's not true. Those terrorist acts have politic goals.

Certain segments of the western Political scene very much want to believe this, but I'm skeptical. They said that Hitler wasn't serious about his rhetoric either, that it was all politics. In fact, he meant it all, and indeed went on to start the biggest war in history and slaughter millions.

They downplayed the extremism of the ISIS types, and look what we have there. Just what we've seen so far is quite bad enough, and we haven't even gotten a full look at the situation.

Do we not at least owe the enemy the respect of believing they really intend to do exactly what they say they want to do? And they most certainly are the enemy of everything that we in the West hold dear.


I assume you are talking about ISIS here. This is my current understanding.

The explicit goal of ISIS is the creation of a caliphate. A caliphate is an area governed by a caliph that enforce their strict interpretation of the quran in their limits.

The terrorist acts that we suffer in the west have mainly two aims: terrorize the civil population so they force the governments to stop acting in the area and attract fighters to their cause.

If something, their ideal world is not one where they kill us all but where they convert us all.

Can you tell me where you heard/read that they want "to kill us all"? Is in the same place where they say that they just "hate our freedoms"?


> People downvote when they disagree.

And of course they do, because the implementation encourages it. Downvoting has no consequence, it allows people to express disagreement with zero effort, and they even get a chance to hide posts they don't like. If I were designing a site to be an echo chamber, reddit-style voting is the killer feature I'd want to have.


yeah, isn't democracy grand? Its' a microcosm of the MSM.... and you thought this was a republic? Outrage-on-demand.

EVERY opinion is protected, unless it doesn't agree with the "masses"...


You have freedom of speech, but that doesn't mean everyone should agree or respect your opinion.


Agree, no; Respect, yes (that I have an opinion). Its called being civil. I've been dinged for "not being civil" based on someone's subjective opinion (BS), but the way HN does things, its "Mob Rules". Down-vote all you want, but people who do without stating why are cowards.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: