April 29, 2009

On Principles

I just watched this magnificent interview (in spite of the shouting match) by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show with Cliff May, who is known to defend the use of "methods to make terrorists talk" against the fundamental ideas of the Geneva Convention. The topic came up because of the recent publication of the CIA torture memos in the United States. The discussion now asks if there should be methods of pressuring prisoners into giving information and what that pressure could look like. Get a picture here:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Cliff May Unedited Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show
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Part 2, Part 3

Although I fundamentally disagree with Cliff May - having watched quite a bit of the TV series 24 - I think I still get the way of thinking that lies behind his arguments. If in a given situation the safety of a whole city, or the country, or a number of innocent Americans, depended in a TV-like fashion on the piece of information you know this prisoner has, you should be able to do what it takes to get it out of him.
The point where I find this misleading is where reality is not TV-like, because you can never be sure that information you get from torture is worth anything. Going to far to find out later if it was of any use should not be an option in any country.

I would like to quote Jon Stewart with one sentence that I found not only true, but that seems to cut through the whole debate: "Defining where we push the boundaries of torture has nothing to do with the person we have in custody, it has to do with who we are." This sums it up for me. By our principles we define who we are, especially in difficult situations.


Esfand` said...

Hola Rob!

I will agree with you that it gets a little too misleading when it comes to reality and our desire for just TV like action... n then it makes me wonder if we do a bit of a harm to the perception of people by making such movies and TV shows?

I guess the common perception is if we start making movies like real life they wont sell n film industry is all about selling... but recently a subtle change is visible where main stream media has started to appreciate movies which do try to portray real life while still managing to sell ... Slumdog Millionair would be one I guess... coz im sure when it was being made Daniel Boyle might not have thought that it wud sell so well :D

But I think ... apart form a change in tatse of mass audience it also tells that if we are smart enough we might be able to push the correct picture of reality as it is in the main stream public perception ....keeping my self form further philosophying reality n its perception, I would say that Rendition (2007) was one main stream movie trying to push some real pictures in perspective when it comes to the Subject matter you are talking about, i.e. inhumane treatment of human beings no matter what name we may give it... patriotism? religion? nationalism? etc. etc.

Hope you are enjoying the European summers!! stay happy !!!

Robert said...

Hey there Esfand :) It's about time I got back to you. European summers are the reason, haha.

Thanks for your thoughts and your mention of the movie Rendition. I will watch it when I get a chance.

Currently I am taking a seminar at university on the Sociology of Crime and we talk a lot about how the media and official statistics influence and distort our picure of reality. I think the only way to manage this is to educate people, to develop critical thought in schools and universities and maintain a variety of different viewpoints also in the media.

How is your summer going so far?
Take care my friend,

Esfand` said...

:) Thats such an interesting seminar, hope you are enjoying it thoroughly!

I agree with you that educating people and enabling them to think is one big solution to so many problems we face collectively as species.

My summers have just started. Being in northern america we get longer winters and milder summers. So I always enjoy summers here.

Stay Happy my friend! :)