Critics have applauded the realism of the film Zero Dark Thirty, an Oscar favorite that claims to re-create the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But some have protested an early scene in which intelligence officers torture a man, then use the threat of further torture to persuade him to reveal a crucial bit of evidence. The New York Times called the controversy "a national Rorschach test on the divisive subject of torture."
In 2009, two Harvard psychologists, Kurt Gray and Daniel Wegner, published the results of a more scientific test. The researchers seemed to cause a subject pain (by dipping her hand in ice water), then asked volunteers if she was answering a series of questions truthfully. In fact, the "subject" was acting, and the questions and answers were scripted. What Gray and Wegner really wanted to know was whether the volunteers (the "audience," so to speak) would judge guilt differently according to their distance from the person being tortured. They found that, on balance, people listening in the room next door thought the actor was guilty, but those listening to a recording of the interrogation assumed she was innocent.
I asked Gray, now at the University of North Carolina, what accounted for the reactions of the people who were closer. "It's just cognitive dissonance," he said. When you're up close, "you feel really terrible about this person's suffering, and you think there must be a reason for it." When you listen to the tape, however, you're more likely to engage in "moral typecasting," linking suffering to innocence. "Put a little physical distance in there and you get a complete reversal of the effects."
Gray's research suggests that torture's very repugnancy is what causes some of us to defend its use—we feel terrible about it, so we think there must be a reason for it. In movies the effect may be more pronounced: The giant screen brings us even "closer" to
an interrogation. We condone the torture because the cinematic intimacy causes us, the audience, to feel complicit. This proximity bias—a variation of confirmation bias we might call the Zero Effect—is relevant for scientists engaged in all kinds of observational research. It is also a crucial consideration for those of us watching interrogators at work, onscreen or in life.
Luke Mitchell covers constraint and creativity each issue. Reach him here.
"cognitive dissonance,” ... people who are so upset that water was splashed up the noses of terrorists(who remain alive) when Bush was president -- but don't even bat an eyelash when Obama uses drones to kill terrorist suspects and any civilians along with them.
unfortunately what most people don't understand is that you can consciously counteract both forces described above as long as you know what they are, what they do, and how they affect you.
as for obama, well, he's just messed up in the head with delusions of grandeur. unfortunately he's also the president of the united states and possibly one of the most powerful people in the world.
to mars or bust!
Its a simple matter really. Just set a penalty for torture like we do for any other crime.
Then if someone feels strongly enough that torture is warranted they can go ahead and do it, and be judged accordingly later. Just like any other crime.
The real problem is those advocating torture are mostly cowards, and are actually trying to avoid taking responsibility by making it "OK" to torture.
Well it will never be ok.
So make a commitment already, like any decent criminal.
Strange that people are still squeamish about the use of waterboarding to get information that saved lives from high value murderers. The CIA claims it was only used on 3 terrorists: Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in 2002 and 2003. Though much of what they said was useless, some of what they revealed directly and indirectly helped to decimate Al Qaeda and disrupt their plans to murder more people.
Waterboarding was performed on thousands of U.S. servicemen as part of their SERE training without any harm coming to them. Whether or not it's "torture" is a matter of semantics. Christopher Hitchens, after volunteering to be waterboarded, said afterward, "Believe me, it's torture." That sounds accurate to me.
However, the issue isn't whether it can be called torture or not. The moral question is was it justified? Balancing the number of lives saved and the disruption of one of the most destructive terrorist networks of our time against the temporary suffering of 3 malicious murderers, I think that's an easy yes. It was justified.
"[It is] alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view."
So take responsibility already 'president Nobel peace prize,' like any decent criminal.
Glad to see this board isn't flooded by the lunatic leftists screaming about how wrong it is to dribble some water down the nose of mass-murdering terrorists in order to extract vital intel that could save many lives. Maybe a little common sense has sunken in or perhaps they know they can't win this argument.
Either ways what we do to these terrorists is nothing compared to what they would do to us and have done to people who they see as their enemies and had the terrible misfortune of being kidnapped/captured by them. You think we're bad, check out Al Qaeda's torture training manual.
In a perfect world, no one would torture anyone but in the real world, it happens and studies have shown that torture, primarily psychological (physical to a lesser degree) is effective in getting the truth out of people. If it wasn't then no one would ever use it.
Are you telling me that if a psychopath kidnapped your daughter and hid her in some hovel somewhere that you wouldn't do anything possible to find her, including torturing the psycho? If no, then the life of a scumbag matters more to you than your own daughter.
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Let's "dribble some" CIA bs up the noses of Americans and study their reaction and perception. First let's do it on the nightly news and then in print and finally Hollywood movies.
The guy that made Colin Powell a world renowned sucker was Michael J. Morell. This champion CIA liar coordinated the "intel" that Powell used in his Feb 2003 speech before the UN and the world. The speech that greased the track for the US to illegally invade Iraq to find WMD that weren't even there.
Michael J. Morell made suckers of Powell and the people of this country but it didn't hurt his career at the CIA. Espionage and manipulating people is what he gets paid to do.
Michael J. Morell would later publically resurface as the CIA bigwig in charge of the Bin Laden team.
So let's see how much people trust Morell now. Did people learn anything about who to trust?
They threw the body overboard mafia-style to the bottom of the ocean. They are not releasing the photos of the body. They wanted no one talking to the Navy SEALS. The helmet-mounted cameras "never existed". The DNA samples passed through the espionage hands of the CIA.
So, who do you trust? The CIA guy in charge of the event - Michael J. Morell? The evidence they have shown you? (WHAT evidence have they shown you?) All you have is a proven CIA manipulator and propagandist and evidence that they have demonstrated they are unwilling to show you.
And none of that makes you gag?
Not likely. They can tell you anything and you will take it without even flinching.
Gollmaar's "argument" is based solely on the "principle" of pragmatics, which essentially says, "Whatever serves your purpose is okay. If someone else uses the same to serve their purpose, it's wrong." That's hypocrisy, but, of course, pragmatics also says, "Hypocrisy is okay if it serves your interests." Basically, this advocates a literal dog-eat-dog world in which everybody is literally at each others' throats, all looking only for their own selfish ends. Of course, those who espouse doctrines like Gollmaar have not problem advocating that kind of existence. And, to the extent that it can lead to one person in the end kiling everyone else and owning all, if that is your definition of "worthy", you can accept it.
And, unfortunately, that kind of definition is what many debased individuals do promote. One person being alive owning all is a very "sustainable" situation, using that new "scientific" code word for "desirable". To see that as less than pleasant, even if you are that one person, is a characteristic of the sentiment that sees the entire pragmatic viewpoint as, at best, questionable.
But, too, it is useful, if not critical, to look at it from another point of view. Not whether pragmatism is "sustainably" feasible, but, literally, what kind of mind would come up with this?
And the answer is in the solution. The kind of mind that craves being the only person in existence, owning everything! And that is the greedy! Craven and greedy malingerers endorse pragmatism, contempt for and abuse of everyone who doesn't have the power to strike back! In these times of the New World Order so near total power, thanks to the dim witted complicity of the gullible and the dull, it's not surprising that such as Gollmaar would promote such sociopathic views.
It's not just whether something works, but whether it works in a decent way.