Sunday, April 26, 2009

Take Some Of These Knives Out My Back

Most days, I sit down to blog with an idea of what I want to say or a thought that's bugging me. I don't know what the weather's like where you are but in Central New Jersey today the sunlight has turned that summer yellow, the breeze smelled fresh and the temperature hovered around 85 at midday. I can't think when the weather turns, I am too busy feeling the wonder of being alive on a glorious day. So yeah, when spring turns summery I can be pretty stupid.

Under these circumstances, I thought I might watch a bit of public television.
This is the second time I've tried to watch an episode of The Secret Files of the Inquisition, and I won't try it again. This is disappointing, because I studied Medieval and Renaissance history with an autodidact's focus on the Catholic Church, and I love this. I guess I learned the hard way that it's one thing to read about it but quite another to put a face to the affliction. Tonight, I had to change the channel in a big freaking hurry when a Jewish ceremony was observed by a Catholic neighbor in 1478 Spain, because I had a very good idea of what would come next, and I didn't have the courage to bear witness to it. Also: how could anyone? How could anyone do that to another human being? Any living thing?

I don't know, but a lot of people on TV are talking about how torture is useful, and it is freaking me out. Via Crooks & Liars, a transcript I'm having trouble believing I've just read.
[Joan] WALSH: You know, I couldn't disagree more with my friend Chris [Cilizza]. This is not a "he said/she said" situation. This is torture. Torture is illegal. We don't sit here, Howie, and say he said murder is illegal, but she said, well, sometimes murder's not so bad. These are clear matters of law.

Ronald Reagan signed the 1988 U.N. Convention Against Torture where we committed ourselves to prosecuting people who torture. It's the law. It's super clear. It's not a partisan witch hunt or a "she said/he said" situation.

[Howard] KURTZ: David Frum.

FRUM: It's not super clear, because the key piece of information people need, most people need to make a decision, is missing. Look, there's a hard core of civil libertarians who will say, I don't care whether this contributed to the defense of the country. Forget it, we won't do it, even if it means Americans die. And then there are some people who say, I support the president no matter what.

But most people want to know, did this contribute to the nation's safety? If so, we'll come to one judgment. If it was wasteful, as it's sometimes alleged, and achieved nothing, then we all condemn it. That's the thing we need to know, and that's the thing we don't know. That's the missing piece in all the reportage.


WALSH: No, it's illegal, whether it works or not. It's illegal whether it works or not, David.

FRUM: Well, as I said, there's a small minority who would feel like Joan does.

WALSH: Oh, really?

FRUM: Most people want to know, did it -- and that is the missing or the contradicted piece. We don't have a clear answer to that question.

WALSH: It doesn't matter.

CILLIZZA: Howie, I just want to...

KURTZ: Chris.

CILLIZZA: Joan, just real quickly, I just want to point out, in our poll that came our this morning, 49 percent of people said no torture under any circumstances; 48 percent, in some special circumstances, depending on the information. That's not my opinion.


WALSH: But Chris, the point is it's illegal. In what instance does it matter that 80 percent of Americans would like to murder Dick Cheney? Does that -- would that make it legal? It's not a matter of opinion. It's law.

Talking about torture in conversational tones isn't rational, it is monstrous. Nothing can be said in defense of Frum and Cilizza that isn't monstrous. Nothing. They should be seen for what they are and shunned by decent people. This is not even to mention what should happen to the people whose acts they themselves defend.

I'd like to make a joke about a Brothers Grimm ending for media douchebags defending atrocity but it's too soon and this shit isn't funny. The best I can do is say these villains should avoid anyone with a clear idea of justice and a magic wand.



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