OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Set it on fire, then

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  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Steve Parks,

    It works and they get the location of the bomb and defuse it.

    And this is the problem with your hypothetical: torture doesn't work. If the suspect is guilty, he will hold out as long as possible and/or give you misinformation. Or he'll just tell you what he thinks you want to hear. If he's innocent...well.

    It's always possible to come up with very very specific hypothetical situations where torture might Save The World, but in the real world it is not a reliable interrogation technique and its inclusion as a legitimate tool of government means that, inevitably, innocent people will be tortured, people will be tortured to no good purpose, and once, maybe, when all the stars align and you capture a clearly guilty man who has extraordinarily low pain tolerances and really not that much dedication to his cause, you might get the information you need in time to do something about it.

    That's why torture is always illegitimate: it's a power no state should hold, because they will misuse it and it will be to no good end. The only reliable use of torture is to, well, torture people.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    And this is the problem with your hypothetical: torture doesn’t work.

    That’s not the problem, because Graeme isn’t saying torture is bad because it doesn’t work. He’s saying it’s a fundamental breach of human rights (regardless of whether it’s effective or not).

    I’m against torture, and the state use of torture for the reasons you describe. The part that I’m questioning was the Graeme’s absolutism. He said the right of any person to life (which I take to include multiple persons) could not ever outweigh the right of any terrorist not to be tortured. I spent all of 10 seconds thinking up my outlandish, but possible, example. I can’t see how there couldn’t be a “lesser of two evils” situation even with something as reprehensible as torture.

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I think we've had this discussion with Graeme before - no that doesn't justify torture I think is his answer.

    Probably more interesting is "does a personal have a fundamental human right not to be injected with truth serum" in such a situation. Surely we have the right not to be injected with drugs which aren't for our benefit?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    Surely we have the right not to be injected with drugs which aren't for our benefit?

    Depends on the side-effects. A drug which has no particular after-effects and is very low-risk for serious side effects is a lot harder to argue against than a drug which will kill one person in a hundred (or a thousand). Might also fall under the right to silence - do people have a fundamental right to not be forced to incriminate themselves? Does incriminating yourself fall under the definition of "harm", as in, the state has a right to question but not to harm you?

    I'm not sure I can answer it, but I think that's because I have difficulty dealing with pure hypotheticals - I'll always want to think about the real-world effects, which muddy the waters considerably.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    I think we’ve had this discussion with Graeme before – no that doesn’t justify torture I think is his answer.

    Yep.

    The “more people may die overall as a result of allowing torture” argument is just the icing on the cake.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Steve Parks,

    The part that I’m questioning was the Graeme’s absolutism.

    And when did absolutism become such a bad thing? To drag things a little closer to the topic… Do I think Oxford University was a totally worthless institution of higher learning before 1920, when women were finally allowed to become full members of the university and receive degrees? (And it hadn’t been that long before that when restrictions on the admission of Catholics, Jews and ‘non-conformist’ Protestant undergraduates were significantly relaxed.)

    Not at all.

    But, yeah, I’m pretty unapologetic for being an absolutist that it’s totally unjustifiable to restrict access to tertiary education solely on the basis of having a vagina instead of a penis, or your religious beliefs (or lack thereof). I’m also pretty absolutist that it is hardly a red letter day in the history of Victoria University that Professor Von Zedlitz was removed from his teaching post – by Act of Parliament! – in a fit of WW1 anti-German hysteria.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    Both Auckland and Otago own their own buildings.

    and the land they sit on? maybe that was the distinctive thing? it was a while ago.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16771 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    I'll always want to think about the real-world effects

    Like most decision-makers. You don't need a rights-based argument to be against torture. However I have yet to hear why compulsory student association membership so shrivels the willies of the young men of Act. In real terms.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16771 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Sacha,

    You don't need a rights-based argument to be against torture.

    No, but it helps, and I have a lot of admiration for people who do have the patience to formalize ethical arguments. I usually resort to "hurting people bad!", which is somewhat less convincing.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Let me Delta that...

    I’ll always want to think about the real-world effects,
    which muddy the waters considerably.


    ;- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5060 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I'm confused. Is it okay to torture students associations, or not?

    Keith?

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Sacha,

    However I have yet to hear why compulsory student association membership so shrivels the willies of the young men of Act. In real terms.

    I suspect it is being compelled to spend money when they think they might be able to get something for free, or maybe even being forced to interact (as it were) with lesser mortals in a social setting (and they do seem to be a vengeful party) - I bet they will be pushing for the private invite-only fraternities though - Fie Beat-up Crapper and all that malarkey...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5060 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Sacha,

    However I have yet to hear why compulsory student association membership so shrivels the willies of the young men of Act. In real terms.

    Sacha: Sorry for being all po’ faced and PC, but when I was involved with VSM campaign there were plenty of women around the place. Perhaps we could save the gendered/sexualised insults of people whose politics you don’t like for Kiwibog and the Sub-Standard?

    And since you went there, my cock is a bit smaller than usual -- bracing, energising cold showers tend to do that.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to George Darroch,

    I'm confused. Is it okay to torture students associations, or not?

    Only if they steal your speedboat.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    feel free to substitute your own term for "seemingly irrational fear affecting what appear from the outside overwhelmingly to be young men who vote a particular way"

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16771 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to richard,

    In fairness, this incident happened before some (most?) of today’s students were born. This is a bit like refusing to vote Labour because of Nordmyer’s Black Budget.

    Well, it happened well after Rogernomics, which is still, to this day, a major reason not to vote Labour.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Sacha,

    Where there's a Willie... Theresa sway...

    '...what appear from the outside overwhelmingly to
    be young men who vote a particular way"

    Well it was Heather Roy's bill....
    But she does have a boys name for a surname
    and Heather is an Erica - and Eric is a boys name...
    But then Roger Douglas is a double boys name so that
    probably cancels Heather out...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5060 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steve Parks,

    I spent all of 10 seconds thinking up my outlandish, but possible, example. I can’t see how there couldn’t be a “lesser of two evils” situation even with something as reprehensible as torture.

    Heh, I like the way your abstract mind works.

    To me, the formulation of argument against torture isn't something you should leave to one killer point. It's OK to have multiple lines of attack. A human rights argument is persuasive to me, but it might not be to others, in which case the "it doesn't work" argument is valuable. And practically, I'm by no means 100% sure of either case, because there are always going to be the Jack Bauer counterexamples. I just think that such things, like Jack Bauer, are unlikely to happen or exist in reality.

    Far more likely is that the dirty bomb goes off before intelligence ever knows about it. Or the terrorist dies in a shootout as the FBI bust into his lair. Or lies about where the bomb is, wasting valuable time. Or they torture some guy who doesn't actually know anything. Or they torture ten people and get ten different answers. Or they torture ten people, and it turns out there was no dirty bomb after all (most likely of all).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to BenWilson,

    Dicking for cover...

    I just think that such things, like Jack Bauer,
    are unlikely to happen or exist in reality.

    Cheney, Cheney,
    Cheney boots of leather...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5060 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Sacha,

    However I have yet to hear why compulsory student association membership so [disappoints] the young men of Act. In real terms.

    Then I encourage you to read the submission ACT on Campus made on the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Be more understandable if it were "disappointment" rather than existential wailing.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16771 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to BenWilson,

    Far more likely is that the dirty bomb goes off before intelligence ever knows about it. Or the terrorist dies in a shootout as the FBI bust into his lair. Or lies about where the bomb is, wasting valuable time. Or they torture some guy who doesn’t actually know anything. Or they torture ten people and get ten different answers. Or they torture ten people, and it turns out there was no dirty bomb after all (most likely of all).

    Torture proponents are rather like some economists: they falsely assume perfect knowledge of everything except the one piece of information you need. You know what’s happening, you know who’s behind it, you know your suspect is part of it, you know when it’s going to happen, you know the general vicinity…all you need is to be told which wire to cut.

    Real-life terrorists are rarely that generous with information, and if they are, you’ve usually a) got enough to stop them anyway, or b) got so little that even that one-crucial-piece won’t get you anywhere in time to stop anything.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    There is a circumstance where torture could be a humane choice.

    Post-revolution, there are going to be a large number of reactionaries amongst the bourgeoisie and lumpenproletariat. In order to avert a counter revolution, it will typically be necessary to liquidate these people. An alternative would be to select various prominent righties and torture them to death, posting the results over whatever communication organs are popular at the time. This might have a deterrent event in convincing the masses away from counter-revolutionary actions and avoid their consequent demise. So the horrible death of a few thousand might avoid the greater evil of millions having to be killed (albeit more humanely).

    Of course that's in a different situation to today - in a pre-revolutionary situation, torture can never be justified.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Rich,

    What you are talking about is targeted killing, which is perfectly legitimate exercise of democratic force and is practiced openly by many states. This cannot be confused with torture which is cruel and barbaric.

    For instance after NZ has upgraded the survellaince laws we will be able to use Hellfire strikes from Predator drones in real time suppression of rebel scum, without the need for messy court proceedings.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • DCBCauchi, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    What you are talking about is targeted killing, which is perfectly legitimate exercise of democratic force and is practiced openly by many states. This cannot be confused with torture which is cruel and barbaric.

    Angus,

    What I take Rich to be talking about is the systematic use of targeted killing in combination with highly publicised torture as a deterrent – as an alternative to mass targeted killing.

    As you say, this combination is a 'legitimate exercise of democratic force', one openly used by all Western societies against their own populations (i.e. the criminal justice system, particularly in the US). What I take Rich to be saying is that it also legitimate for those oppressed by the exercise of this force to exercise the same force against their oppressors.

    Unfortunately, this seems to be what most revolutionaries think, which is why the successful ones end up as crude, more corrupt caricatures of those they replaced.

    Since Feb 2011 • 320 posts Report Reply

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