Monday, October 02, 2006

Torture to Watch, Part the Second

Oh sweet jeebus, I no longer know what to say. Read this and this.

And this.

There's also this, from a couple of months ago. It's not so funny anymore.

And finally, though it's ancient and I just never came across it before, this.

So why are none of the top ten most Emailed articles on the New York Times website about the passage of the detainee bill, less than a week later? How had I never heard Rush Limbaugh's comments—why was everyone out there not debunking them the instant they were said? How did only a few of the Abu Ghraib images get into the mainstream, and how did we become so deadened to them so fast?

We don't know anything, and it's not only that we don't know anything, it's that we don't give a fuck when we do. A.J. Liebling once said, "A free press belongs to those who own the presses," but when I think about that in regards to this I see, for what feels like the first time, the genuine inticracies of capitalism in a democratic republic. I feel like it doesn't just belong to those who own the presses, or at the very least those who own the presses don't belong to themselves. We could find out if we wanted to know, because then those who own the presses could make more money and keep themselves on top. But how do we get from finding out to changing things? That goes back to the distinction Tyromaven pointed out on From Moment to Moment, between truth and insight. Right now, as I'm thinking about this, I'm finding the truth about it. The question will be what comes after.

Dahlia Lithwick makes the excellent point in the above article that none of the coercion methods used and pictured at Abu Ghraib would fall under the few explicitly banned methods in the new, improved, passed detainee bill. This deadening effect is starting to seem the oldest trick in the American book. Broadcast images over and over until they're stripped of their horror, until we accept them. We've made them ours, but we've made them ours in the parrotted language of shallow therapy, or in the language of Amanda in my twelfth-grade English class: "Well, that's Sarah's opinion, so you can't argue with it." As if we must justify something simply because it belongs to us.

God, do I appreciate the Constitution right now. The knowledge that somewhere there is a legally sanctioned and foreseeable way out of this is nice. Or at least, you know, nicer than a junta. But given the way the votes came down on this one, will it honestly change anything if Congress goes to the Democrats next month? Or is everybody just too scared and confused? How far do we have to go before we hit a dystopia?

This is not a useful post, though I'm hoping it will take me to useful thoughts. Right now I just, to quote my friend Talia many years ago, "don't know whether to cry or vomit."


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