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  #81  
Old 04-26-2009, 12:08 AM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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As DoctorMoney observed, we have not heard even one convincing story from the Bushies about torture having saved the day. We are also in the position where we may rightfully make the Sagan demand of them: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It will not be enough for them to tell some hand-wavy story about what might have happened; they will also have to show, among other things, that they could could only gotten the information this way. They will also have to show why we should not view these as extraordinary one-offs that do not support a case for sanctioning torture as a policy. They will not be able to do this, and I believe exposing the weakness of their effort will only make the moral argument more persuasive to people still on that fence.
I think this is spot on!!! If progressives have learned anything from the past 20 years, hopefully it is the importance for framing the debate. We all too often get sucked into these "well what if it MIGHT save American lives" trap, and forget that the burden must be on the torture proponents to prove that torture not only worked, (and will continue to work in a predictable fashion going forward), but that it was the ONLY thing that could have possibly worked. As well as taking them to task for all the times that it did not work and for all the harm it caused innocent victims. Put the proponents on the defensive. Make them explain why after 200 years of taking the moral high road, despite tremendous potential for attacks, suddenly America must change it's course.
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  #82  
Old 04-26-2009, 12:52 AM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

I can't figure out what you guys are debating. Somebody give me the movie pitch version.
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  #83  
Old 04-26-2009, 01:08 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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Originally Posted by claymisher View Post
I can't figure out what you guys are debating. Somebody give me the movie pitch version.
Here is my take. Jeff says torture is so obviously wrong from a moral standpoint and is in such violation of our ideals as a nation that we should not suffer others' arguments in favor of torture on other grounds.

I resonate with his righteousness, but I also think, from a practical standpoint, that not everyone is, at least nowadays, persuaded by the morals and ideals argument, and that we have to be able to engage other arguments successfully, since we have no choice about the reality that the Cheney school of thought has many advocates.

I think Jeff also believes that admitting a utilitarian argument into the Overton Window risks making people pay even less attention to the idea that torture is fundamentally wrong.

By contrast, I believe that winning these other arguments will help strengthen the effort to remind people of the moral starting place that we have to return to.
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Last edited by bjkeefe; 04-26-2009 at 01:19 AM..
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  #84  
Old 04-26-2009, 01:12 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
I think this is spot on!!!
Thanks. Getting a triple exclamation point review makes all that typing worthwhile. (half-;^))

Quote:
Put the proponents on the defensive. Make them explain why after 200 years of taking the moral high road, despite tremendous potential for attacks, suddenly America must change it's course.
I quite agree with you -- we have to work harder to put the pro-torture people on the defensive. We have for too long cowered before their bullying, and let the undecideds see us as sissies with no stomach for "making hard choices" and "doing what has to be done."

The truth is, the overreaction by the Bush Administration that led them to embrace torture was cowardly (where it wasn't downright evil in trying to build the case for the invasion of Iraq), and it is also true that resisting the urge to return to the Dark Ages in the face of terrorism is what takes real courage.
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Last edited by bjkeefe; 04-26-2009 at 01:18 AM..
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  #85  
Old 04-26-2009, 01:53 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Bérubé's take

Neither Arbitrary Nor Fun Friday: Truth and Consequences Edition!

Opening paragraph:

Quote:
Greetings Chávezian Airspacepeople! Now that Presidente Chávez has rounded up the teabaggers and assorted dead-enders in state-of-the-art Radical FEMA Pedagogy Camps, it’s time to talk about taking the next step. Yes, that’s right, we’re going to complete the Third-World Latin-Americanization of the nation by forming a Truth Commission to investigate the use of torture by the former U.S.!
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  #86  
Old 04-26-2009, 02:04 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Here is my take. Jeff says torture is so obviously wrong from a moral standpoint and is in such violation of our ideals as a nation that we should not suffer others' arguments in favor of torture on other grounds.
Here is some support for Jeff's point of view.
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  #87  
Old 04-26-2009, 02:14 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Thers's take

The Whiskey Fire proprietor's response to a post by Tom Maguire: "The Nitpick King of the Pointless Asshole Objection," on the comparison to Japanese soldiers convicted of war crimes for waterboarding.
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  #88  
Old 04-26-2009, 02:42 AM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Here is my take. Jeff says torture is so obviously wrong from a moral standpoint and is in such violation of our ideals as a nation that we should not suffer others' arguments in favor of torture on other grounds.

I resonate with his righteousness, but I also think, from a practical standpoint, that not everyone is, at least nowadays, persuaded by the morals and ideals argument, and that we have to be able to engage other arguments successfully, since we have no choice about the reality that the Cheney school of thought has many advocates.

I think Jeff also believes that admitting a utilitarian argument into the Overton Window risks making people pay even less attention to the idea that torture is fundamentally wrong.

By contrast, I believe that winning these other arguments will help strengthen the effort to remind people of the moral starting place that we have to return to.
Thanks! That's what I was looking for. Too long for a movie pitch though.

Honestly I have no idea what the best rhetorical strategy to take with someone who's on the fence about torture. All I can do is imagine me that torturing that person. I've done horrible, horrible things to Dick Cheney in my imagination. Rush Limbaugh would definitely not enjoy a "harsh interrogation" from me.
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  #89  
Old 04-26-2009, 10:26 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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Originally Posted by claymisher View Post
Thanks! That's what I was looking for. Too long for a movie pitch though.
Heh. I thought that, too, so I rearranged it right after first clicking "submit" so that the first two sentences should get most of the idea across, in case of a short elevator ride. Plus, I can talk fast.

Quote:
Honestly I have no idea what the best rhetorical strategy to take with someone who's on the fence about torture. All I can do is imagine me that torturing that person. I've done horrible, horrible things to Dick Cheney in my imagination. Rush Limbaugh would definitely not enjoy a "harsh interrogation" from me.
I'm glad to hear that it's not just me.
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  #90  
Old 04-26-2009, 10:39 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Here is my take. Jeff says torture is so obviously wrong from a moral standpoint and is in such violation of our ideals as a nation that we should not suffer others' arguments in favor of torture on other grounds.

I resonate with his righteousness, but I also think, from a practical standpoint, that not everyone is, at least nowadays, persuaded by the morals and ideals argument, and that we have to be able to engage other arguments successfully, since we have no choice about the reality that the Cheney school of thought has many advocates.

I think Jeff also believes that admitting a utilitarian argument into the Overton Window risks making people pay even less attention to the idea that torture is fundamentally wrong.

By contrast, I believe that winning these other arguments will help strengthen the effort to remind people of the moral starting place that we have to return to.
Nice summary, Brendan. I'll try to polish a couple of the seams here. (If they exist it's because I haven't made my case perfectly.) I actually don't think the moral argument against torture is eather easy to make or easy to win. I think it's easier to win than the utilitarian argument which I think plays on the proponents' [of torture] turf. I'm trying to make a case that trying to shut the door completely on pragmatic arguments and making every effort not to let the conversation take that path is a more effective long term strategy.

Ther are a lt of moving parts here - my original response was based on a misundertanding of chrisalbertyn's POV as a lawyer. His point about the technical usefulness of a utilitarian argument in the context of legal proceedings is really important.

But having said that, I think policy discussions, ought to, from the perspective of people who object to the use of torture, stand on the morality of torture as an act and not the usefulness of torture as a method. And I think so because I believe that's the stronger, more winnable argument, not out of any high-minded sense of what's proper.
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  #91  
Old 04-26-2009, 11:22 AM
graz graz is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
...But having said that, I think policy discussions, ought to, from the perspective of people who object to the use of torture, stand on the morality of torture as an act and not the usefulness of torture as a method. And I think so because I believe that's the stronger, more winnable argument, not out of any high-minded sense of what's proper.
For the purposes of argument in the forum, your approach is the way to go.
But do you expect to persuade those that do not object or easily find a rationale for exception?
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  #92  
Old 04-26-2009, 12:16 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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Originally Posted by graz View Post
For the purposes of argument in the forum, your approach is the way to go.
But do you expect to persuade those that do not object or easily find a rationale for exception?
If you want to win a debate, you have to get a handle on the domain in which you argue. Newt Gingrich helped to paved the way for the Republicans in '94 by understanding this fact. Why did "liberal" become an epithet? Newt is directly responsible for showing how to control that meme. Frank Luntz continues this work to this day. Controlling the domain in which you argue is an extremely important aspect of public debate. What I'm trying to say here is that if we let the debate move into the practicalities we're needlessly ceding an advantage.
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  #93  
Old 04-26-2009, 03:20 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

You and Brendan both make excellent points. I can see taking either road. Me, I'd probably lean towards the multi-front tactic, because in reality that's how the attacks come. And while, to me, the moral justification is enough, I know that for alot of people it isn't (which is where the utility argument gains ground.) Fortunately, I think that as long as the pro-torture aren't allowed to frame the debate in their favor, that the utility argument actually isn't very strong.

In other words Jeff leads the charge from the noble center, but the rest of us are still covering the flanks ;-)
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  #94  
Old 04-26-2009, 05:48 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
If you want to win a debate, you have to get a handle on the domain in which you argue. Newt Gingrich helped to paved the way for the Republicans in '94 by understanding this fact. Why did "liberal" become an epithet? Newt is directly responsible for showing how to control that meme. Frank Luntz continues this work to this day. Controlling the domain in which you argue is an extremely important aspect of public debate. What I'm trying to say here is that if we let the debate move into the practicalities we're needlessly ceding an advantage.
That's a very good point, Jeff. I guess I feel like the debate, at the moment, already exists in those other domains, so there's no choice except to win at those, too.

But as a strategy from here on out, insisting on your perspective is worth doing, too, even as a first response to someone who tries to argue about the utilitarian aspect. The Overton Window is moved by many little pushes.
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  #95  
Old 04-26-2009, 07:18 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
That's a very good point, Jeff. I guess I feel like the debate, at the moment, already exists in those other domains, so there's no choice except to win at those, too.

But as a strategy from here on out, insisting on your perspective is worth doing, too, even as a first response to someone who tries to argue about the utilitarian aspect. The Overton Window is moved by many little pushes.
I've been thinking about how to respond to your longer post from yesterday all day. But, this perfectly captures what I'm trying to get across.
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  #96  
Old 04-26-2009, 08:39 PM
DoctorMoney DoctorMoney is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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I don't believe for a second that torture doesn't work. It obviously works sometimes for some stuff with some people.
You'd be surprised at how often people cling to a failing strategy because it fits their view of the world. I'm not convinced that there's even one case in American history you could point to that would prove that it works, let alone sometimes for some stuff.

People *say* they torture because it works. My guess is that they just want to not be accused of lacking the stomach to do whatever it took. It's the military intelligence equivalent of looking busy for the bosses.

"Why are we still getting hit with IEDs?"
"I dunno, all I can tell you is I banged that dude into the wall 80 times last night. What more can I say?"
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  #97  
Old 04-26-2009, 09:07 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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I'm not convinced that there's even one case in American history you could point to that would prove that it works, let alone sometimes for some stuff.
Really? You don't think you could find a police officer who beat the shit out of a suspect until he told him what he wanted to know? You think that's never happened?
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  #98  
Old 04-27-2009, 11:25 AM
DoctorMoney DoctorMoney is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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Really? You don't think you could find a police officer who beat the shit out of a suspect until he told him what he wanted to know? You think that's never happened?
If you only want to get people to tell you what you want to hear, alcohol or cash is usually easier.

Like I said, the police officer *imagines* that this strategy gets results because of his/her worldview. Doesn't mean it actually accomplished anything.
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  #99  
Old 04-27-2009, 12:44 PM
Sgt Schultz Sgt Schultz is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

Been busy for a long while.
When did Joshua quit the Danskin® ?
tia
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  #100  
Old 04-27-2009, 01:19 PM
cragger cragger is offline
 
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Default Re: Torture and the Overton Window

While it is probably worth having the moral and utilitarian arguments for the benefit of those uncomitted folks, the overall argument is ultimately unwinnable. The moral repulsiveness of torture may or may not outweigh the fact that a lot of people simply like to abuse and dominate others. The focus and source of the torture argument in the US isn't really about that, or about different perceptions of the utilitarian value. It is political and driven by group identification.

The argumentative rationalizations for torture follow the automatic and necessary conclusion that the group is right, the conclusion does not arrive based on rational consideration. How many of the voices defending US torture would be doing so if all this had happened and come out under a Democratic administration? Would we not be hearing instead a steady chorus of "what else can you expect from a bunch of immoral, godless Democrat baby killers"? Some of it would be as cynical and as much knowingly self-serving partisanship as is some of the torture defense and some would come from folks who would as sincerely convince themselves that torture was wrong if some other group does it as they are convinced that is must be right if their group does it.

Not everyone is a comitted partisan with strong senses of group identification and submisison to the group authorities of course, and counter arguments may have some value at large for those whose moral senses don't lead them automatically to a rejection of the use of torture. There may even be the odd person or two who wades through the political threads on these boards and is undecided, as well as value in using the board as a verbal exercise routine to concentrate and order one's thoughts and hone arguments.

But you will never move torture out of the Overton Window because there are too many professional advocates out there who have taken their unalterable postions and there is no way they will ever shut up and drop out of the range of offered opinion. And you will never convince those who defend torture here, logic isn't that strong a driver for many compared to their emotional identities. Facts and reason can, are, have been and will be ignored when they conflict with those identifications. Look back a few years across the pond at Germany with cities in rubble, the Western Allies on the Rhine and the Soviets pushing to the Oder; the good loyalists were still insisting "only Hitler can save us". Todays loyalists will continue to recite the mantra "only torture can keep us safe".
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  #101  
Old 04-27-2009, 01:39 PM
graz graz is offline
 
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Default Re: Torture and the Overton Window

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Originally Posted by cragger View Post
While it is probably worth having the moral and utilitarian arguments for the benefit of those uncomitted folks, the overall argument is ultimately unwinnable. The moral repulsiveness of torture may or may not outweigh the fact that a lot of people simply like to abuse and dominate others. The focus and source of the torture argument in the US isn't really about that, or about different perceptions of the utilitarian value. It is political and driven by group identification.

The argumentative rationalizations for torture follow the automatic and necessary conclusion that the group is right, the conclusion does not arrive based on rational consideration. How many of the voices defending US torture would be doing so if all this had happened and come out under a Democratic administration? Would we not be hearing instead a steady chorus of "what else can you expect from a bunch of immoral, godless Democrat baby killers"? Some of it would be as cynical and as much knowingly self-serving partisanship as is some of the torture defense and some would come from folks who would as sincerely convince themselves that torture was wrong if some other group does it as they are convinced that is must be right if their group does it.

Not everyone is a comitted partisan with strong senses of group identification and submisison to the group authorities of course, and counter arguments may have some value at large for those whose moral senses don't lead them automatically to a rejection of the use of torture. There may even be the odd person or two who wades through the political threads on these boards and is undecided, as well as value in using the board as a verbal exercise routine to concentrate and order one's thoughts and hone arguments.

But you will never move torture out of the Overton Window because there are too many professional advocates out there who have taken their unalterable postions and there is no way they will ever shut up and drop out of the range of offered opinion. And you will never convince those who defend torture here, logic isn't that strong a driver for many compared to their emotional identities. Facts and reason can, are, have been and will be ignored when they conflict with those identifications. Look back a few years across the pond at Germany with cities in rubble, the Western Allies on the Rhine and the Soviets pushing to the Oder; the good loyalists were still insisting "only Hitler can save us". Todays loyalists will continue to recite the mantra "only torture can keep us safe".
Ding, ding, ding! As the hundredth post in this thread you win the prize.
Coincidentally, your post captures the essence of the dilemma, stated definitively.
I hope someone challenges your conclusions, but I think they will be tilting at windmills.
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  #102  
Old 04-27-2009, 03:57 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: Torture and the Overton Window

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While it is probably worth having the moral and utilitarian arguments for the benefit of those uncomitted folks, the overall argument is ultimately unwinnable.
I think it's a hard argument to win, but you don't have to win. You just have to enforce current law and make sure you have closed all legal loopholes.

Progressives never won the abortion issue or school prayer, for example, but the rule of law has allowed girls and women access to abortion for 35 years and has kept prayer out of public schools for 40.

The struggle is never over, and the forces on the other side are always looking to create new loopholes ("silent meditation" is not prayer; girls under 16 need parental consent, etc.), but generally the law has held, and the lessons to be learned are to make the law as ironclad as possible from the git-go, to enforce vigorously (Cheney is the equivalent on torture to the criminal fanatcis who murdered abortion doctors) and remain ever vigilant to challenges.

Quote:
How many of the voices defending US torture would be doing so if all this had happened and come out under a Democratic administration?
Unfortunately, you can also ask this another way: How many voices opposing torture would there be if it had been a Dem. administration? Consider war crimes under the Johnson-Nixon administrations.

Quote:
But you will never move torture out of the Overton Window because there are too many professional advocates out there who have taken their unalterable postions and there is no way they will ever shut up and drop out of the range of offered opinion.
Again, it seems to be there are a lot of issues up for grabs today -- national health insurance, same-sex marriage, capital punishment. Once the Law is firmly on your side, a lot of the authoritarian types end their opposition. Some are intellectually lazy and just want to teach their kids to obey the law (whatever it is).
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  #103  
Old 04-27-2009, 09:22 PM
cragger cragger is offline
 
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Default Re: Torture and the Overton Window

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Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
you don't have to win. You just have to enforce current law and make sure you have closed all legal loopholes.
How'd that work out? There is a fundamental problem in that the people deciding to torture are the same people who make, interpret (and a herd of camels enters the tent with this nose), and enforce the laws. Do you think the law was unclear or insufficient and that was the problem? I don't, but that wasn't really what my post was about.

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Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
Unfortunately, you can also ask this another way: How many voices opposing torture would there be if it had been a Dem. administration? Consider war crimes under the Johnson-Nixon administrations.
There is some truth to this, and I considered including the fact that this sort of knee jerk group defense is not exclusive to Republican partisans and those who get rich off them. I think Haidt is dead on though regarding the strength and relative primacy of group identification. Politically comitted Democrats are also defensive of their party, and for that matter it can be difficult for anyone who has taken a strong position to admit to being wrong. This is first a false equivalency however. Democrats did not largely fall into line over Vietnam. The war split the party and Johnson did not stand for reelection because of the war. There is no shortage of Democrats today who admit that the war was a huge mistake, or who think Bubba Bill was a jerk who couldn't keep it in his pants. Which group still passionately defends the Vitenam war to this day, or foams over the suggestion that the Snow Princess' ambition far outstripped her preparedness for the job she sought, or reflexively bristles about .... but secondly, that's again not really my point.

The degree to which Democrats share the trait of blind allegience with Republicans, or to which we might all exhibit it to some degree with respect to one sort of group identification or another, and whether Republicans are more prone to this sort of herd behavior is a bit beside the point I was making in my earlier post. That point is that these psychological mechanisms are the mainsprings driving the torture defense, that facts and logic will not move a lot of those defenders who will come up with ever shifting rationalizatons in defense of their emotional attachments, and that making counter aguments probably can and will not move torture back into the realm of things that fall automatically beyond the pale for political discussion in the US.

In a previous go-round in the BHTV forums on the US becoming a torturing state, I argued with more passion than likely clarity that proponents should be subjected to social sanction as described by Bob Wright in discussing how we interact, rather than treating them as offerers of a proposition that was reasonable to debate. This was not a position that achieved much acceptance regarding advocacy and justification of torture. Longtime BHTV forum readers are aware that the sort of sanction I proposed was used a bit later with regard to a poster whose output was considered rather racist. Take whatever conclusions you will over the relative acceptability of torture and racism to the BHTV commentariat and my tainting of the issue. BHTV is a microcosm, and I suspect that users of this forum are not a 1:1 representation of the nation writ large, but whether the failure of my proposal reflects my failure to better present it, that failure seems reflected in our failure as a society at large to exhibit outrage over US torture and demand corrective action.

My posts some months back can be considered a failed attempt to place torture outside the Overton Window discussed in this thread. My previous post in this thread represents a view that virtually nothing can be considered to be outside this window if the authorities of a significant identification group chose to embrace it, and that now that the Republican party has embraced torture as a policy it will forever be within that window.
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  #104  
Old 04-27-2009, 09:44 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: Torture and the Overton Window

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[The] point is that these psychological mechanisms are the mainsprings driving the torture defense, that facts and logic will not move a lot of those defenders who will come up with ever shifting rationalizatons in defense of their emotional attachments, and that making counter aguments probably can and will not move torture back into the realm of things that fall automatically beyond the pale for political discussion in the US.
Maybe. I don't really have a strong opinion on that one way or the other. I'm hopeful that torture will soon be seen as obscene and despicable by everyone (like slavery), but you could be right.

Quote:
My previous post in this thread represents a view that virtually nothing can be considered to be outside this window if the authorities of a significant identification group chose to embrace it, and that now that the Republican party has embraced torture as a policy it will forever be within that window.
Here I think you're being too partisan. New generations of Republicans are replacing the Baby Boomers and their mentors. Don't forget that even a diehard warmonger like McCain was anti-torture to a great degree.

The Neocons and their media cheering section tried to legitimize torture. Did they succeed? Time will tell.

Maybe they unintentionally did us a favor (in a morbid way): By endorsing torture they brought the debate out of CIA and military closets into full view of the public. Maybe at the end of the day the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention on Torture become stronger, not weaker.
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  #105  
Old 04-27-2009, 09:45 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Torture and the Overton Window

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Originally Posted by cragger View Post
...
My posts some months back can be considered a failed attempt to place torture outside the Overton Window discussed in this thread. My previous post in this thread represents a view that virtually nothing can be considered to be outside this window if the authorities of a significant identification group chose to embrace it, and that now that the Republican party has embraced torture as a policy it will forever be within that window.
Ideas can be discredited. Parties that associate with ideas whose popular support is waning will often choose to move with the tide, especially if some superficial way to save face seems available. I'm not suggesting any of these things are currently true in the torture debate. I am suggesting that it's possible that the situation is more fluid than it seems.

BTW, I remember the previous thread you've mentioned. I also remember personally overreacting to your stated point of view; something I'd prefer I hadn't done.
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Old 04-27-2009, 09:48 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Torture and the Overton Window

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Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
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Here I think you're being too partisan. New generations of Republicans are replacing the Baby Boomers and their mentors. Don't forget that even a diehard warmonger like McCain was anti-torture to a great degree.
...
I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your point of view, but McCain's views on torture really don't make sense as an example of anything beyond a reaction to his own experiences.
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Old 04-28-2009, 01:12 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Torture and the Overton Window

That was an extremely thoughtful essay, cragger, and much as it pains me to admit it, I have to agree with just about everything you said. I think the only point I will dispute is this:

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Originally Posted by cragger View Post
But you will never move torture out of the Overton Window because there are too many professional advocates out there who have taken their unalterable postions and there is no way they will ever shut up and drop out of the range of offered opinion.
There are too many counterexamples for me to agree with "never." I rant that I will never be able to get specific individuals to stop spouting their pro-torture bullshit, but I and millions of others will be able to move the window as time goes on, and eventually, I hope, it will be as unthinkable to argue for state-sanctioned torture as it now is to argue in favor of anti-miscegenation laws, selling children, or the state conducting public executions on the town square.

I would also say that until the previous administration came along, it was the case for an American pundit that espousing a pro-torture point of view was unthinkable.

So, the genie's out of the bottle. But we can put it back. Look at how rapidly Germany recovered from its collective demonize-the-Jews mindset of, say, 1930-1945.
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Old 04-28-2009, 01:29 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Originally Posted by cragger View Post
In a previous go-round in the BHTV forums on the US becoming a torturing state, I argued with more passion than likely clarity that proponents should be subjected to social sanction as described by Bob Wright in discussing how we interact, rather than treating them as offerers of a proposition that was reasonable to debate. This was not a position that achieved much acceptance regarding advocacy and justification of torture. Longtime BHTV forum readers are aware that the sort of sanction I proposed was used a bit later with regard to a poster whose output was considered rather racist. Take whatever conclusions you will over the relative acceptability of torture and racism to the BHTV commentariat and my tainting of the issue. BHTV is a microcosm, and I suspect that users of this forum are not a 1:1 representation of the nation writ large, but whether the failure of my proposal reflects my failure to better present it, that failure seems reflected in our failure as a society at large to exhibit outrage over US torture and demand corrective action.
I think you're neglecting some aspects by making this comparison. For one thing, it is the case that by and large, outward expressions of racism are widely agreed to be objectionable. More importantly, there is very little pressure to make racism acceptable again. We did not have a government and a lapdog PR apparatus that went to enormous effort to deny that racist policies were being implemented, and then later attempt to redefine what it meant to be racist, and then still later to attempt to say that, "Hey, those racist policies were necessary and they worked."

I think it is also true that for many reasons, it is easier to appeal to many people's fears, to get them to tolerate their government doing torture, and more importantly, to get them to buy all of the misinformation that went along with it ("few bad apples," "ticking time bomb," etc.). By contrast, there is no apparent threat that would support preying on people's fears to get them to tolerate state-sponsored racism. (To first order -- let's not get into all the subtle ways it could be argued that this isn't entirely true.) Thus, it was harder for you to get everyone to line up in support of your call for social sanction just by making the case in one place at one time. Like it or not, there were (are) people who are not convinced that it's plain wrong for the government to torture as a matter of policy. Also, like it or not, there were (are) people who feel it worthwhile and/or necessary to engage with people who are arguing in favor of torture, on a variety of fronts besides just moral grounds.

Finally, I would observe that post hoc ergo propter hoc disclaimers aside, it is true that earlier, you made the case that debates over torture shouldn't be entertained, and now there is at least one other strong proponent of this view -- AemJeff. So, maybe you did nudge the Overton Window a little, but the response had some lag.
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  #109  
Old 04-28-2009, 01:38 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your point of view, but McCain's views on torture really don't make sense as an example of anything beyond a reaction to his own experiences.
I would say it's also the case that McCain has been less than consistent, at least as far as his public stance goes, on this issue. He was very strongly opposed in the early '00s, disturbingly walked away from that when he started running for president even to the point of voting wrongly (or abstaining?) on at least one important bill, has lately made some more worthy statements, but has also been way too quick to call for everyone to "move forward."

He's not the worst by a long shot, but McCain has lost most of his credibility in this area, in my view. In fact, I judge him more harshly than the average politician, because if there was ever anyone who could have been the unimpeachable voice of moral outrage about the US government torturing prisoners, it was him.
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Old 04-28-2009, 01:50 AM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: Torture and the Overton Window

Quote:
Look at how rapidly Germany recovered from its collective demonize-the-Jews mindset of, say, 1930-1945.
If by rapidly you mean 1,000 years, then I agree (just kidding, sorta):

Wikipedia on anti-Semitism:

Quote:
During the Middle Ages in Europe there was persecution against Jews in many places, with blood libels, expulsions, forced conversions and massacres. ... The persecution hit its first peak during the Crusades. In the First Crusade (1096) flourishing communities on the Rhine and the Danube were destroyed; see German Crusade, 1096. In the Second Crusade (1147) the Jews in Germany were subject to several massacres. The Jews were also subjected to attacks by the Shepherds' Crusades of 1251 and 1320. ...

As the Black Death epidemics devastated Europe in the mid-14th century, annihilating more than half of the population, Jews were used as scapegoats. Rumors spread that they caused the disease by deliberately poisoning wells. Hundreds of Jewish communities were destroyed by violence.
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Old 04-28-2009, 01:56 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Torture and the Overton Window

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Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
If by rapidly you mean 1,000 years, then I agree (just kidding, sorta):

Wikipedia on anti-Semitism:
I didn't mean to suggest that anti-Semitism only winked into existence in 1930 or that it winked out in 1945, but I think it is beyond dispute that the problems both before and after were of orders of magnitude different from that one period.

I'd also say that I was thinking in terms of comparatively modern times; i.e, the past hundred or so years.
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Old 04-28-2009, 02:03 AM
John M John M is offline
 
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Default Re: Torture and the Overton Window

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McCain has lost most of his credibility in this area, in my view. In fact, I judge him more harshly than the average politician, because if there was ever anyone who could have been the unimpeachable voice of moral outrage about the US government torturing prisoners, it was him.
Shut the hell up, Keefe.

Like I told Bob Schieffer the other day, "Are you going to prosecute people for giving bad legal advice? We need to put this behind us."

I know, maybe you'll say Hitler just got bad legal advice. That's true. He did. Stalin too, poor bastard. And Pol Pot. Who are these men supposed to listen to if not their lawyers? Their drivers? Their caddies? Their wives?

Torture is nobody's fault. Shit happens.
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  #113  
Old 04-28-2009, 02:05 AM
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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
I would also say that until the previous administration came along, it was the case for an American pundit that espousing a pro-torture point of view was unthinkable.
But leave it to a newly minted top notch pundit to push the idea that we really need to have that debate:
Quote:
... A large swath of the political class wants to avoid the torture debate. The Obama administration backed into it last week, and obviously wants to back right out again.

But the argument isn’t going away. It will be with us as long as the threat of terrorism endures. And where the Bush administration’s interrogation programs are concerned, we’ve heard too much to just “look forward,” as the president would have us do. We need to hear more: What was done and who approved it, and what intelligence we really gleaned from it. Not so that we can prosecute – unless the Democratic Party has taken leave of its senses – but so that we can learn, and pass judgment, and struggle toward consensus.
I'm not sayin' torture works... I'm just sayin'

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  #114  
Old 04-28-2009, 02:12 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Originally Posted by graz View Post
But leave it to a newly minted top notch pundit to push the idea that we really need to have that debate:

I'm not sayin' torture works... I'm just sayin.'
Hey, thanks for passing along this link. I had forgotten to keep checking for Ross on the NYT op-ed page.

Boy, that first paragraph (in the column). Talk about link bait! All right, so I just fell for it, too.

Quote:
Watching Dick Cheney defend the Bush administration’s interrogation policies, it’s been hard to escape the impression that both the Republican Party and the country would be better off today if Cheney, rather than John McCain, had been a candidate for president in 2008.
As to the bit you quoted:

Quote:
... A large swath of the political class wants to avoid the torture debate. The Obama administration backed into it last week, and obviously wants to back right out again.

But the argument isn’t going away. It will be with us as long as the threat of terrorism endures. And where the Bush administration’s interrogation programs are concerned, we’ve heard too much to just “look forward,” as the president would have us do. We need to hear more: What was done and who approved it, and what intelligence we really gleaned from it. Not so that we can prosecute – unless the Democratic Party has taken leave of its senses – but so that we can learn, and pass judgment, and struggle toward consensus.
... I am at least happy about the part I bolded.
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  #115  
Old 04-28-2009, 02:21 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Torture and the Overton Window

Overall, that's not a bad column. I'm not sure I fully buy his thesis, but the idea is intriguing: what if Cheney had been the nominee, and had taken an unapologetically pro-torture position and really hammered on it? I agree with Ross that given that scenario, it could have worked out well in several ways.

If, however, Cheney actually had been the candidate, I think it is far more likely that he would have stonewalled on the torture issue. I think he is panting for face time on TV now because he is worried about what recent revelations have done to the public mood. A year ago, when these reports and memos were still incomplete and/or classified, Cheney would have had no reason to bring up the issue, and I don't think Obama would have pushed on it any more than he did when running against McCain, either.
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  #116  
Old 04-28-2009, 02:30 AM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

I didn't notice Douthat saying torture was wrong. Hell, he didn't even use the word until the end, and even then, it was "torture debate." As I predicted, waffle!
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Old 04-28-2009, 05:30 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Finally, I would observe that post hoc ergo propter hoc disclaimers aside, it is true that earlier, you made the case that debates over torture shouldn't be entertained, and now there is at least one other strong proponent of this view -- AemJeff. So, maybe you did nudge the Overton Window a little, but the response had some lag.
@cragger: Somehow I doubt Daniel Larison is reading this forum that closely, but this opening to a recent post (via John Cole) ties in nicely:

Quote:
Quote:
Or more precisely, why is the belief that the torture of captured combatants is wrong compatible with anything other than some form of pacifism? I mean this an actual question, not as a passive-aggressive assertion. ~Jim Manzi
One of the things that has kept me from saying much over the last week or so is my sheer amazement that there are people who seriously pose such questions and expect to be answered with something other than expressions of bafflement and moral horror. Something else that has kept me from writing much on this recently is the profoundly dispiriting realization (really, it is just a reminder) that it is torture and aggressive war that today’s mainstream right will go to the wall to defend, while any and every other view can be negotiated, debated, compromised or abandoned. I have started doubting whether people who are openly pro-torture or engaged in the sophistry of Manzi’s post are part of the same moral universe as I am, and I have wondered whether there is even a point in contesting such torture apologia as if they were reasonable arguments deserving of real consideration. Such fundamental assumptions at the core of our civilization should not have to be re-stated or justified anew, and the fact that they have to be is evidence of how deeply corrupted our political life has become, but if such basic norms are not reinforced it seems clear that they will be leeched away over time.
And don't miss his concluding paragraph, not to mention John's follow-up comments.

@The Bh.tv Overlords: Could we get Daniel Larison back sometime soon? And has John Cole ever been approached?
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  #118  
Old 04-28-2009, 05:35 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: A Theory of Torture (Joshua Cohen & Mark Schmitt)

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I didn't notice Douthat saying torture was wrong. Hell, he didn't even use the word until the end, and even then, it was "torture debate." As I predicted, waffle!
I did notice the single use of the word torture.

On his failure to condemn: as a matter of literal reading, you're right. My impression from the tone of the overall column was that Ross thinks torture is wrong, but now that you've raised the issue, you've made me wonder a bit.
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Old 04-28-2009, 09:36 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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I would say it's also the case that McCain has been less than consistent, at least as far as his public stance goes, on this issue. He was very strongly opposed in the early '00s, disturbingly walked away from that when he started running for president even to the point of voting wrongly (or abstaining?) on at least one important bill, has lately made some more worthy statements, but has also been way too quick to call for everyone to "move forward."

He's not the worst by a long shot, but McCain has lost most of his credibility in this area, in my view. In fact, I judge him more harshly than the average politician, because if there was ever anyone who could have been the unimpeachable voice of moral outrage about the US government torturing prisoners, it was him.
That wasn't intended to read as a defense of McCain - he's squandered, in my opinion, a great deal of his general reputation as a truth teller, and much of the inherent goodwill due to anybody with his history, by deciding to hedge his political bets on this particular issue.

It's still true, I think, though, that his point of view on the issue of torture has to be viewed as a singular thing, and isn't a particularly useful exemplar of his party's generic set of attitudes toward it.
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  #120  
Old 04-28-2009, 09:57 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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That wasn't intended to read as a defense of McCain - he's squandered, in my opinion, a great deal of his general reputation as a truth teller, and much of the inherent goodwill due to anybody with his history, by deciding to hedge his political bets on this particular issue.

It's still true, I think, though, that his point of view on the issue of torture has to be viewed as a singular thing, and isn't a particularly useful exemplar of his party's generic set of attitudes toward it.
Yeah. Sorry for my non sequitur. In looking back, I see I must have had Wonderment's words ("Don't forget that even a diehard warmonger like McCain was anti-torture to a great degree.") in mind, but clicked the reply button under your post.
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