torture and domestic politics

forgiveness not, 2007, 11″ x 14″ x 2″ oil on wood

This poll, released last year but is being noticed recently;

is interesting on several fronts. It shows that 35% of secular people think torture can often or sometimes be justified against suspected terrorists, while on the same count, 49% to 56% of people with religious affiliations think that torture can be justified. While on the one hand, it’s pretty disgusting that so many people in the U.S.A. think torture of a suspected (and not necessarily a proven) terrorist is acceptable – it should come as no surprise that the supposed high moral religious class should be way more accepting of torture than the supposed morally rudderless class of liberal atheist secularists. As it also should come as no surprise that those making the most fuss in favor of torture are the right wing political class. And why is that?

The right wing political class is now under enormous pressure, as they have lost their most important means of faux political patronage, that has gone up in smoke with the financial meltdown. The promise that unregulated free markets would produce an unlimited and prosperous ownership society, that all would ultimately benefit from, has turned out to be a massive ponzi-scheme economy where the only the exclusively rich would be allowed to prosper at the expense of everyone else. While in one sense, if not the plan all along, then, at least a logical consequence of what 30 years of economic deregulation would produce. Which in its success, also happened to explode its mythic political essence that gave the idea its wings in the first place. And so suddenly being broke, unemployed, and living in a non-running Winnebago under a freeway off ramp offers little enthusiasm for another all night bender at the ownership bar and casino.

All of which leaves the religious authoritarian orientated inherited obligation family man (whom the right relies upon) with little recourse in maintaining some semblance of faith in the status quo of order and structure – up until torture becomes an issue. Because torture, as it is being used, is nothing more than an elevated form of punishment. Punishment for what the terrorists did, what they know and refuse to tell us, and as an unambiguous message to all other would be terrorists, that we can and will inflict this punishment for whatever other reasons we desire because we can, because we are the authority. This is something easily assimilated by the authoritarian oriented right wing rubes as being yet another symbolic affront on their own personal role as an authority figure. Because in such a traditional family structure that is inherited, as opposed to one that is negotiated upon, punishment for failure to conform is paramount in maintaining structure. The debate to banish torture as a political statement follows on the heels of the failure of the free market ideology and is intertwined with it as seen from the vantage and preservation authority worship.

If this were all not so, then next time you run into such a proponent of torture, ask them whether the Philadelphia cop killer who killed for a political agenda, Army Reservist Joshua Cartwright who killed two deputies, former Bush campaign worker Dannie Baker who opened up on Chilean exchange students, or the liberal hating Unitarian Church killer, or any number of other right wing suspected domestic terrorists who have commited acts of terrorism against unsuspecting individuals for political reasons, should be tortured. Tortured because of what they did, tortured because what they refuse to tell us what they know and plan, or tortured simply because we have the authority to do so. Ten to one there will be excuses, because….

Failure to enforce the right to use any means to achieve and maintain either their inherited unfair advantage and position of authority and the right to punish non-conformity, by any means to such authority are both essential to the republican right wing narrative as spelled out in association to so called “values” voters. And both methods have been dragged into the sunlight kicking and screaming and exposed for what they are. Assaults upon humanity for the benefit of the few.

4 Responses to “torture and domestic politics”

  1. dan of steele Says:

    this is something I have been trying to get my head around as well. I have been talking to a cow worker, 65 yo retired Air Force Colonel, dentist, and is currently working for a major defense contractor in the healthcare field. He has sons who work in law enforcement and intelligence, married to a very religious woman, grew up in Indiana and was born in West Virginia. He has bought into the Limbaugh/Fox News viewpoints without question. To his credit he is still somewhat curious and has taken upon himself the task of educating me in the ways of the world. His wife is convinced that I simply do not understand and that all I need to do is take Jesus into my life and not worry about anything else.

    anyway, this thing about torture came up and we started talking about it. He thinks that it is foolish to punish lawyers for this because then lawyers will be hesitant to offer opinions in the future. when I say that the lawyers were knowingly breaking the law he says that everyone else does it and to survive we need to do it too since those evil terrorists certainly won’t follow Robert’s Rules of Order. He tries to continually tie in torture with the attack on the twin towers and says anyone who doesn’t want our good guys to torture their bad guys must want to kill americans. I asked him to tell me if torture is necessary, why didn’t bush change the law so we could take our place proudly and officially among the regimes in the world who practice torture… answer on that.

    finally, on thursday I sent him a link to the poll that showed evangelicals to be more inclined to believe in torture than any other group of people and told him I really didn’t understand how people who worship Jesus, the original hippy and pacifist, could be so seemingly incoherent when it comes to torture. His reply surprised me. He said that he and his fellow evangelicals saw life as a big battle with faith and morality on his side and evil and non believers on the other side. He believes that the US is a Christian nation with Christian values and sees it under assault from homosexuals, abortionists, communists, and of course Muslims. If we do not resist with great vigor, I will lose my right to stay in bed on Sunday morning and instead have to go to the mosque 5 times a day (actual quote).

    I fear I will not be able to discuss much more of this with him. up to now it has been a fairly amicable discussion and he has granted me many points. If I push anymore he will most certainly think I am attacking his core beliefs and that probably would make him very uncomfortable.

    your tying this to red family behavior is very insightful, I really hadn’t thought of it that way but it does make perfect sense. even for the wife and children to insist upon the father’s right to apply a good ass-whupping when called for.

  2. am Says:

    Thanks dan, I appreciate the input. I would love the opportunity to ask your cow worker my question, in spite of what one would expect, given that he outlines pretty well how the right is able to frame political questions in a personal and cultural vernacular – and amplify it into the sort of victimization they’re well known for. Funny, when they’re on top politically they say to dissenters love it or leave it, but when they themselves have lost their authority they go all secessionist and want the country to break up. Today I read the secession talk has moved from Texas to Georgia. Nonetheless, your cow worker is most likely worried about the loss of white authority culture being eroded than the perceived challenge to religion.

  3. DavidS Says:


    nice post. I agree with dan that the red family behavior and torture go hand in hand.

    Americans want to believe we’re still the good guys in this film… the other choice is to accept we’re nothing more than a two-bit banana republic and we’ve sold the Constitution for a couple of shekels and a promise of safety.

    It is hard to believe in less than ten years america bankrupted whatever goodwill and glory it claimed after the fall of the Soviet empire. And now it appears we’re headed for a far worse fall ourselves.

    What is to be expected from a culture that compares real life to video games and movies? I hear all too often from buddies that, “to win in the video game, ya’ gotta be willing to torture. so what’s the problem?”

    These guys think winning is making it to level “X” and then you win. Pretty simple; just do whatever it takes to get there, hell it might take 12 hours and your thumbs will hurt, but goddamit you’re a winner. Isn’t real life the same?

    Thanks again for the words – you’ve done a nice job of explaining the way these kooks justify their kookiness.

    Dan of Steel- nice post. Too many Cow workers out there in the world. Good luck.

  4. senecal Says:

    Very valuable insight, AM — torture as a right and a symbol of our inherent superiority, whether merely as male, head of family, member of the “elect”, member of the richest nation, or member of the white race. Anyone with power over others knows the impulse.

    And torture has been mixed up with religion for a long time, in which it is seen as a kind of exorcism, or purification, or “correctional” regime.

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