Thursday, 3 January 2013

Discomfort at "Zero Dark Thirty"

I haven't watched the film Zero Dark Thirty. I don't know that I will. But I note that, already, there is controversy. John McCain, who had himself been tortured while a prisoner of war, objects that the film is inaccurate, because it shows torture as having helped to locate bin Laden. A Senate Committee, on the other hand, is being formed to investigate claims that secret CIA information had been given to the film-makers. Presumably, they are upset that the film is too accurate.

Whatever its level of accuracy, and whether or not it shows torture as being effective, is beside the point. George Bush and his government denied strenuously that the United States used torture at all. The euphemism used was "enhanced interrogation techniques." I welcome the fact that Senators and Congressmen and film reviewers and the general public will see exactly what was done in the name of the American people, and the term they will use to discuss it will be "torture." The term "enhanced interrogation technique" cannot survive.

T.S. Eliot asked the question that will then plague the American people: "After such knowledge, what forgiveness?"


  1. That is the optimistic point of view. If Chomsky and Orwell are accurate in their observations of how truths are couched within historical memory, the 'real' question may be How soon ere 'tis forgotten?

  2. I am, at heart, an optimist about some things. Where good and bad outcomes are equally possible, I must ask myself which outcome would make me happier to anticipate.

    BTW, did you like the lengthy economics posting that preceded this one?


  3. I did. So much so that I am formulating how to use it in one of my economic courses (or one I'm planning to write) and in the book I've begun writing. When I have put the how and when together I will be approaching you for your permission and will give full credit.

    Most amazingly enough, it supports the economic thesis I teach, which is that our economic choices and practices are fundamentally the enforcement of who deserves and who doesn't. If you are bored in February, you may find my economic courses interesting and entertaining.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Guy. As for "who deserves and who doesn't," have you read Shaw's "Pygmalion" recently?

    "I'm one of the undeserving poor: that's what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that he's up agen middle class morality all the time. If there's anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it's always the same story: 'You're undeserving; so you can't have it.' But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow's that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don't eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I'm a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything."

  5. I haven't recently, but I remember this because not only did I re-read it about five years ago, I have this exact passage cited in preparation for my book. And Shaw makes the same kinds of comments in Major Barbara, I seem to remember. It looks like it's time to re-read that, too.