Ideas and Consequentialism

Digby examines why conservatives like the United States to torture people.  Because we’re good and They are bad, we should torture them, it turns out.

When politicians and their enablers come out in public to advocate legalization of torture, it’s always based on the “ticking time bomb” scenario.

That, of course, has never happened in all the history of the world.

If that situation ever arose for the first time, and I personally were in a position to torture someone to extract information that would prevent an attack that would kill thousands, I would do it, and hope for a pardon, prosecutorial discretion, or jury nullification.  Failing that, I’d have to accept punishment for it.

But this debate, for conservatives, is not about responsible policy.  They support the legalization, and the consequent regularization, of torture as a means of expressing their hatred for people who might, or might not, be terrorists.  And their love of themselves.  Morality and effectiveness are not part of the calculus.

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2 Responses to “Ideas and Consequentialism”

  1. empiricus Says:

    close (and my answer to the ticking time bomb hypothetical is the same as yours) –

    though I don’t really think self-love plays _that_ big a role, you might be right that mainstream conservatives are responding to narcissistic injury to their ‘Murrican exceptionalism (I’d exempt some of the paleos, especially of course those paleos who’ve made strong anti-torture stands, notwithstanding that those stands are primarily deontological rather than consequentialist) .

    I think the torture also has a very strong, maybe even dominant security theater aspect. Do you disagree?

  2. Elvis Elvisberg Says:

    First off, thanks for reading and commenting.

    As to the issue, well, what’s at the root of security theater?

    Sometimes, it’s wanting to do something for the sake of doing something.

    Sometimes it’s out of a genuine, but misguided, belief that it’s helpful.

    But if it’s clearly unhelpful in the views of all the relevant experts, and against the weight of all the country’s history, doesn’t there have to be something else underlying it?

    Torture advocates rarely make fact-based arguments, instead relying on their favorite screenplays. And military professionals hate torture. Plus, torturing hurts our efforts to combat terrorism, and cripples our image in the rest of the world.

    Given this wildly irresponsible course of behavior, I think that in this instance, the desire to engage in security theater is, predominantly, an outgrowth of conservatives’ love of Us and hatred of Them.

    You’re quite right about the paleos. I’m talking about movement conservatives and the GOP, here. Burkeans are less than enthused about government torture.

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