Image is everything

Style matters. Substance does not. Reality is purely a figment of perception and image is everything.

That is the only lesson we can take from the apology made yesterday by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. The senator was compelled to apologize following public pressure after he read the following description, from an FBI agent's report from America's prison camp in Guantanamo:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. … On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

Durbin said that if you read that description, and didn't already know it was about an American prison camp, you would assume that it was describing the treatment of prisoners by some much more infamous regime.

For that, he was compelled to apologize. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called Durbin's statement a "heinous slander against our country and the brave men and women risking their lives every day to defend it."

So let's review, just so we're clear what the new rules are.

Torture as official policy: A source of national pride; no apology necessary.

Condemning torture: A "heinous slander" against America; you must apologize or resign.

The apologists for torture need never apologize. But those who reject it — reject it on the basis that it is fundamentally un-American — are condemned.

Those are the new rules. Next up: Sen. Frist demands a tearful public apology from Spc. Joseph Darby.

You remember Joseph Darby, he's the brave soldier who stood up for America and American principles by blowing the whistle on some of the more egregious abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Oh, wait, let's rephrase according to the new rules: He's the cowardly bastard who hates America and put our brave men and women at risk with his heinous slander of pointing out what the U.S. was doing there. Joseph Darby, like Sen. Durbin, is a doubleplus ungood enemy of the state.

The minidrama leading up to Durbin's apology yesterday exactly paralleled the treatment that Spc. Darby received on his return home from Iraq. See if anything from this Washington Post account sounds familiar:

On TV, Spec. Joseph Darby's neighbors here in the Allegheny Mountains have heard him called a hero, a brave soldier who tipped off superiors to the abuses at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. And given the way small towns usually honor their soldiers, you might expect preparations for a proper homecoming, maybe even an impromptu parade.

But at the bar in the community center just down the road from Darby's house, near the trailer where his mother and younger brother live, none of the handful of patrons is in a parade kind of mood.

"If I were [Darby], I'd be sneaking in through the back door at midnight," says Janette Jones, who lives just across the border in Pennsylvania and stopped here at midday with her daughter for a Pepsi and a smoke. …

"Maybe if [Darby] hadn't turned them in, [hostage Nicholas Berg] would still be alive," Jones says. …

Janette Jones's husband was in the service, and so was her son-in-law. The Joneses live not far from Spc. Jeremy Sivits, a military police officer involved in the prison scandal who will face a special court-martial Wednesday. They knew Sivits, 24, growing up: He was a "nice guy, a quiet guy," says the elder Jones. She remembers he once helped her with the barbecue when the coals wouldn't light.

"Who knows what those boys were going through out there," she says. "The Iraqis did to us worse than we did to them."

Mrs. Jones argument against Darby foreshadows Frist's morally absurd condemnation of Durbin on every point. The assertion that condemning torture and abuse, but not the torture and abuse itself, is shameful. The claim that condemning such abuses, but not the abuse itself, strengthens our enemies and puts American lives in danger. Capped off with a lame NABA defense of the actual abusers. Frist owes Mrs. Jones a speechwriting fee.

I don't accept these new rules. Here's what I believe:

I believe that torture itself is dishonorable. I believe that failing to condemn torture is dishonorable. I believe that condoning the practice of torture empowers our enemies and puts American lives at risk. And I believe that by embracing the immoral, counterproductive and utterly un-American practice of torture we make America more closely resemble the kinds of infamous and evil regimes we ought never to resemble in the slightest.

I believe that those who defend the practice of torture lessen America. I believe that the condemnation of those who condemn torture lessens America. I believe that Joseph Darby is a great American and that Jeremy Sivits is not.

But I can't believe that we've fallen so far that I actually have to say all these things. I can't believe that we have reached the point where statements like "Torture is bad" and "It is good to condemn torture" are seen as controversial.

A United States Senator spoke the truth. He condemned evil and called it un-American. And then he was forced to apologize.

Jesus God.

  • J Mann

    Fred says:
    Durbin said that if you read that description, and didn’t already know it was about an American prison camp, you would assume that it was describing the treatment of prisoners by some much more infamous regime.
    Thinking about this, maybe what Durbin really meant is that American citizens are idiots – that Americans really don’t know (a) the conditions in American, French, and British prisons; and (b) what it was about the Nazis, the Communists, and the Khmere Rouge that makes them so exceptional.
    Seriously, he’s not doing his cause any good. The Country *does* need to have a serious conversation about (1) whether we should use coercion on captured insurgents at all; and (2) if so, how much. But if you say stuff that’s stupid, you’re only playing into the other side’s hands.
    Speaking as a right of center moderate, the left-of-centers would be well advised to say:
    1) Ok, Durbin’s remarks were ill-considered. He’s said he’s sorry.
    2) Durbin’s motive was pure – he wants people to think seriously about what we are actually doing. Now that he’s apologized, can we start over and talk about whether this is a good idea?
    3) Specifically, what we’re doing, while much better than the Nazis, is awfully close to a lot of recent conduct, such as the British interrogations of IRA prisoners, the Israeli interrogations of PLO members, Cuban prisons, US prison scandals, French prison scandals, et. al.
    4) Each of those was deeply wrong, and, just as important, not that helpful, and most of the countries have realized it. Britain has (whatever Britain did about IRA prisoners); the Israeli Supreme Court has forbidden similar sub-torture coercion, etc. etc. etc.

  • Ray

    What really annoys me about the right’s reaction to Durbin and the Amnesty report is the air of “Oh yes, I was _just about to_ do something about the problems you mention. But now you’ve forced me into spending my time debunking your wild comparisons. You see, if you’d just been reasonable in the first place, the problem would probably be solved already”
    I call bullshit.
    How much time have you spent, J Mann, criticising the administration for its treatment of prisoners, compared to the amount of time you have spent criticising Durbin and Amnesty?

  • J Mann

    None, to be honest, as compared to a couple cracks about Durbin to my friends and the comments on this board, so your point is fair.
    My point is that if you want to get people like me (or Senate moderates) on your side, saying that the US is acting like Nazis won’t help. It may be unfair, but there it is.
    As for my ultimate position, I’m willing to consider both sides. Specifically, I want to know (1) how much coercion are we really doing and what kinds, and (2) what intelligence is it getting us that we couldn’t get otherwise.
    I’m troubled by the idea that we’re coercing anyone at all, but shouting at me isn’t going to convince me – I suspect the moderate center is in the same boat.

  • Edward Liu

    “The Iraqis did to us worse than we did to them.”
    The Iraqis did not do worse to use than we did to them, assuming she is referring to the 9/11 terror attacks, because there were NO IRAQIS INVOLVED DIRECTLY IN 9/11.
    In case that wasn’t clear, THERE WERE NO IRAQIS INVOLVED DIRECTLY IN 9/11.
    By the way, THERE WERE NO IRAQIS INVOLVED DIRECTLY IN 9/11.
    So, to sum up, since there were NO IRAQIS INVOLVED DIRECTLY IN 9/11, and in return we infliced Gulf War II and Abu Ghraib on them, it seems self-evident to me that the Iraqis did not, in fact, do worse to us than we did to them. This becomes doubly true if you consider the first President Bush’s calls for Iraqis to rise up and topple their dictator and then failing utterly to support them or do anything other than order the Army to stand by and watch Saddam’s gunships massacre demonstrators.
    “the left-of-centers would be well advised to say: 1) Ok, Durbin’s remarks were ill-considered. He’s said he’s sorry.”
    I agree with all your assertions other than this one because I do not think Sen. Durbin’s remarks were ill-considered. I am not even sure I can safely concede the point for the sake of meaningful debate for all the others you mention because doing so would render the rest of the debate moot. If we’re going to engage in intellectually honest debate over principle, I can’t accept that I have to concede the principle as a pre-condition for the debate.

  • Edward Liu

    “The Iraqis did to us worse than we did to them.”
    The Iraqis did not do worse to use than we did to them, assuming she is referring to the 9/11 terror attacks, because there were NO IRAQIS INVOLVED DIRECTLY IN 9/11.
    In case that wasn’t clear, THERE WERE NO IRAQIS INVOLVED DIRECTLY IN 9/11.
    By the way, THERE WERE NO IRAQIS INVOLVED DIRECTLY IN 9/11.
    So, to sum up, since there were NO IRAQIS INVOLVED DIRECTLY IN 9/11, and in return we infliced Gulf War II and Abu Ghraib on them, it seems self-evident to me that the Iraqis did not, in fact, do worse to us than we did to them. This becomes doubly true if you consider the first President Bush’s calls for Iraqis to rise up and topple their dictator and then failing utterly to support them or do anything other than order the Army to stand by and watch Saddam’s gunships massacre demonstrators.
    “the left-of-centers would be well advised to say: 1) Ok, Durbin’s remarks were ill-considered. He’s said he’s sorry.”
    I agree with all your assertions other than this one because I do not think Sen. Durbin’s remarks were ill-considered. I am not even sure I can safely concede the point for the sake of meaningful debate for all the others you mention because doing so would render the rest of the debate moot. If we’re going to engage in intellectually honest debate over principle, I can’t accept that I have to concede the principle as a pre-condition for the debate.

  • R. Mildred

    “(The stuff that J Mann said as the first comment)”
    The reason we’re more like the nazis is because all the other governments at least attempted to deny and hide what they had done because they thought their voting populations would react badly to such news, if durbin had said the exact same statement while an elected opposition party member in any of the countries you cite, then the government reaction would have been to deny that what durbin read had in fact happened due to government policy or at all, but the response to durbin is that A) what he said fails to truly understand how valuable human rights abuses are in defense of the father land and B) that it was awefully bad form to actually mention what horrific things we are doing as part of an open governmental policy towards forigners in american custody because headline grabbing “impolitness” is in someway damaging to a politicians career, as opposed to being openly in charge of human rights abuses.
    And when, can I ask, are we supposed to have this “conversation” or “national Debate” about torture if we’re not actually allowed to mention it? And why, may I ask, didn’t we have the debate before we started using it?
    It’s also the fact of annoyance for me that pedantry is one of the main things that Durbin and Amnesty international got attacked on, NABA being splashed all over the place at the same time as though the great apologist monster that is the Right wing noise machine has got a bad case of explosive incontinence.
    What any “debate” about Torture needs before it can be done properly is for everyone involved to realise that a government who freely admits and justifies torture is one of the early (not first any more) step towards even greater atrocities, that comparisons to the Gulag and Nazi Death and Work Camps are fair because that is the logical extension of the puvblic acceptance that it is okay to mistreat and murder people purely because of their nationality, ethnicity, religion, or ideology without trial or possible self defense other than terrorism, under any circumstances.
    It must be acceptable to point out that the torture and murder of prisoners is a slippery slope, that it is the thin end of the wedge and that even if there really is a good reason to perform such acts as a nation, that we must have some system of checks and balances in place to stop us falling into a state where America is no longer NABA as anyone, because we have become the New Hitler or Stalinesque figure to which future generations will point to as being NABA.

  • kevin

    “I’m troubled by the idea that we’re coercing anyone”
    We are not coercing people. We are torturing them — burning them, beating them, hanging them by their wrists for hours at a time. Sometimes we torture them until they are dead — even if they are taxicab drivers who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    And, for the record, torture gets us nothing in the way of useful information.

  • Ray

    This reminds me of James Baldwin, in “Faulkner on Segregation”.
    Faulkner complains about the northern US pushing desegregation on the south, pleads for ‘moderation’, and says that the South will get there soon, but in it’s own time.
    Baldwin points out that the South has had over a century to do things “in it’s own time”, without much visible progress.
    The Abu Ghraib photos came out over a year ago. Guantanamo Bay has been open for longer than that. But it took Durbin to get you to do something about torture – and that ‘something’ is complaining that Durbin is immoderate. Frankly, its past time that people started shouting at you.

  • J Mann

    Then enjoy the shouting, and enjoy the 15% of the population that cares about this issue, because all it’s doing is causing me and the 30% of the country you need to tune out the issue.

  • J Mann

    That was intemperate. Obviously, I have a moral obligation to consider these issues even if I don’t like your arguments, and I will.

  • Beth

    My point is that if you want to get people like me (or Senate moderates) on your side, saying that the US is acting like Nazis won’t help. It may be unfair, but there it is.
    The problem isn’t that it’s unfair, but that it’s untrue. If we’re going to get people like you or “Senate moderates” (aka Senate conservatives who aren’t quite in lockstep with their neo- and paleo- brethern) on our side, we’ve first got to get you to pay attention to the problem, and while I agree that exaggerated analogies isn’t the best way, it seems to be the only way. A few months before the Amnesty report, Human Rights Watch came out with it’s own report on the mistreatment of prisoners which was broader and in many ways more damning than the Amnesty report. Still, it didn’t get 1/10th the attention. Could that have been because no HRC spokesman used the word “gulag”?

  • Beth

    “Maybe if [Darby] hadn’t turned them in, [hostage Nicholas Berg] would still be alive,”
    “The Iraqis did to us worse than we did to them.”
    Taking those two arguments together, one comes to the inescapable conclusion that the terrorists were entirely justified in beheading Nicholas Berg (and are entirely justified in any torture or killing of Westerners). That’s the real problem with the “he hit me first”/NABA combination. The rule seems to be: if you’re hit it’s ok to hit back harder. As long as you don’t engage in genocide which takes millions of lives, you still have the moral high ground. If everyone follows that rule, the result is an ever-increasing cycle of violence. I realize that as a lefty, I’m by definition a moral relativist, but I have no trouble saying that torture is wrong, period, and murder is wrong, period. Why is that so difficult for those beacons of moral clarity on the right to grasp?

  • Katherine

    Why is it everyone’s responsibility but yours? You sound like me when I was ten: I was GOING to clean my room, but since you yelled at me now I won’t! (stomp stomp stomp.)
    Fred–what do we DO about this?
    I have been focused on Congress, but if someone as good and stubborn as Durbin can be persuaded (he was not forced) to do a public self-criticism for speaking the truth, we are just utterly screwed in Congress.
    How do we call on the better angels of people’s nature? How do we convince them to care?

  • Katherine

    J mann–I obviously wrote that before your update.

  • Steve

    Just thinking out loud here…
    What is the best way to get the public attention and get it to stick? I really want people to get upset about abuse…and for their to be an outcry among U.S. citizens for the U.S. to respect human rights in the war on terror and war in Iraq. Does using the word “Nazi” grab attention, or cause people to write you off…even if you use it appropriately? Seems the opposition to this war needs to be very wise and crafty and astute in this current climate.
    Separate but related note…See this guy’s post:
    http://www.bullmooseblog.com/2005/06/mooreitis.html
    …his point being: stick to the facts and not conspiracy theories. Wondering if this same principle applies in relation to Nazi language…stick to the facts and not inflammatory language.
    (Note: The inflammatory language, and conspiracy theory for that matter, may be accurate…but in this climate, it gives First, Rove, and company and simple way to dodge the substance of the argument.)

  • Nate

    Does anyone actually believe the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress wouldn’t have demanded an apology even if Senator Durbin HADN’T used the word “Nazi”? Anyone? Anyone?

  • Katherine

    I believe they wouldn’t have demanded an apology because NO ONE WOULD HAVE NOTICED.
    Inflammatory language can be distracting but the other approaches have not worked. Anyone critcizing the inflammatory language must recognize this.
    The thing is–if you’re going to use deliberately inflammatory language, you had better be fully prepared to stand by it and back it up with all the evidence you can muster. AI was ready, and so even though their original remark was harder to defend than Durbin’s it ended up benefitting them. Durbin wasn’t.

  • http://www.unpartisan.com/articles.php?id=4237 Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator

    Senator apologizes for comparing prison treatment to Nazi actions

    Under fire from Republicans and some fellow Democrats, Sen. Dick Durbin apologized Tuesday for compa

  • Ray

    Steve, we don’t have to speculate, we can look at the facts.
    There have been plenty of people criticising the use of torture and Guantanamo, and many of them haven’t used the words ‘Nazi’ or ‘gulag’ in their criticisms. They didn’t get as much coverage. They were largely ignored.

  • http://ilx.wh3rd.net/thread.php?showall=true&msgid=5932718#5932745 I Love Everything

    WTF: “Sen. Durbin Apologizes for Gitmo Remarks “

    As Fred over at Slacktivist puts is:
    ….Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called Durbin’s statement a “heinous slander against our country and the brave men and women risking their lives every day to defend it.”
    So let’s review, just so we’re clea…

  • spencer

    After reading this post, I almost commented that I have grown to hate this country.
    But upon reflection, that’s not true. I love this country. It’s the people who live in it I can’t stand (liberal blog readers excepted, of course).

  • http://www.bigfool.com/foolblog/archive/2005_06.htm#000460 FoolBlog

    argh

    Can’t wait until LFF: Rather than insisting his remarks be interpreted correctly and truthfully, Sen. Durbin caves in and apologizes for using the word “Nazi” in the same speech as “America.” Dammit! Why won’t the Democratic leadership fight for the…

  • David

    ‘The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural;….to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.’
    Flannery O’Connor

  • anna

    ‘The Country *does* need to have a serious conversation about (1) whether we should use coercion on captured insurgents at all; and (2) if so, how much.’
    Then you also need to have a conversation about (1) wether paedophilia/rape/theft should be allowed and (2) if so to what extent.
    Because all those things, like torture, are illegal.
    Laws aren’t up for debate if they are applying. If you want to put them up for debate, you need to do so explicitely in the seat of legislative power by discussing ‘should we abolish this law preventing this kind of treatment/withdraw from this convention on prisoners of war/withdraw from the declaration of human rights’. As long as those laws, conventions, declarations are in force in the territory of the US, there is no debate that they apply.
    (Ah, but, it’s outside the territory, and they haven’t been defined as prisoners of war, so *technically*…)

  • anna

    ‘The Country *does* need to have a serious conversation about (1) whether we should use coercion on captured insurgents at all; and (2) if so, how much.’
    Then you also need to have a conversation about (1) wether paedophilia/rape/theft should be allowed and (2) if so to what extent.
    Because all those things, like torture, are illegal.
    Laws aren’t up for debate if they are applying. If you want to put them up for debate, you need to do so explicitely in the seat of legislative power by discussing ‘should we abolish this law preventing this kind of treatment/withdraw from this convention on prisoners of war/withdraw from the declaration of human rights’. As long as those laws, conventions, declarations are in force in the territory of the US, there is no debate that they apply.
    (Ah, but, it’s outside the territory, and they haven’t been defined as prisoners of war, so *technically*…)

  • Dan Lewis

    Of course our prisoner policies aren’t nearly as bad as the Nazis’ were. They’re Naziriffic, Himmler-esque, pseudo-Hitlerian. Such overreacting! We’re nothing like them; they, of course, were German, and we are American.
    Guantanamo isn’t a gulag; it’s an interrogation facility with a whiff, dare I say the bouquet of a classic KGB information extraction center, to those with a discriminating palate. But these comparisons to Stalin’s Russia are too tawdry, too explicit to be borne.
    As everyone knows, our military prisons boast a much lower mortality rate than our civilian prisons, so to the extent that any of these odious labels apply, they apply more justly to our civilian prison system.
    And let no one tell you that no laws apply in our prisons for the jihadists. Of course laws apply, very carefully selected by President Bush and his faithful staff; unfortunately, for security reasons they have not been made public. That would be letting the terrorists win.
    On the bright side, there are some very easy things you can do to find out what these laws are. First, move to Iraq, Afghanistan, or growth areas like Syria and Iran. Second, if you’re white you might want to do something about that. Third, get picked up in a sweep and you’re off!
    Tell us what it was like when you get out.

  • Cyndy

    It’s not about your comfort zone, J. Mann. It’s about doing what’s right.

  • Cyndy

    It’s not about your comfort zone, J. Mann. It’s about doing what’s right.

  • Mnemosyne

    What really drives me nuts about the people who completely reject the Nazi comparisons is their utter ignorance of history.
    The Nazis didn’t start out by setting up death camps and killing Jews wholesale. In fact, they didn’t even start by killing Jews at all — they started by secretly killing handicapped children and adults who had been institutionalized (which, at that time in history, would have been any physically or developmentally disabled person. No one cared for their cerebral palsy or Down’s syndrome child at home.)
    The entire history of the Holocaust is a series of tiny baby steps towards the Final Solution. So forgive those of us who keep trying to draw our fellow Americans’ attention to the baby steps we are taking now to the same kind of decisions.

  • sara

    The problem of scale is an absurd one: it leads to the sbsurd conclusion that if we imprisoned and killed 5,999,999 Iraqis we would still be Not As Bad As the Nazis who killed 6 million Jews (round figure) in the camps.
    but I fear the people who forced an apology out of Durbin are so shameless that if it did come to 5,999,999 deaths, they would still be demanding an apology from whoever compares us to the Nazis.

  • David

    It occurs to me that it is interesting what is and is not allowed to be discussed in emotional language. There is no shortage of emotional and/or inflammatory language in use when theses same politicians who demanded an apology speak about gay marriage, abortion, or the late Terry Schiavo. But in speaking about torturing human beings, it apparently has no place.

  • http://www.discourse.net/archives/2005/06/brad_delong_explains_why_he_is_a_democrat.html Discourse.net

    Brad DeLong Explains Why He is a Democrat

    Bard DeLong explains why he is a Democrat: I’m a Democrat, and I believe that I will always be a Democrat: Richard Nixon’s decision that the appropriate reaction to Lyndon Johnson’s commitment to Civil Rights was to turn the Republica…

  • anna

    Mnemosyne, I get your point but that is still not comparable, a series of tiny steps it wasn’t, and a parliament had been seized, and there is no parallel on a purely historical basis.
    However, I’ll give you another good reasons to quit the nazi comparisons that has nothing to do with ‘civil’ language, formality, hypocrisy, or hide-your-head-in-the-sand reactions.
    If you think about it, the difference between what’s going on in Guantanamo/Abu Ghraib/Baghram, and what had been going on since the School of the Americas started churning out ‘expert interrogators’ way back in the old days, is that it’s all a lot more public now.
    So if you’re looking for a series of steps towards public, open acceptance of torture, you only have to look back at the US own history of involvement in Latin America & other places in past decades. Before, unlawful detainment & torture were outsourced to regimes that the US would support. Now, the US is also taking on that activity directly.

  • R. Mildred

    The toruble with mentioning that parliament was siezed is that there was those interesting little Anti-terrorism actions taken in ohio where votes were being counted, and the other voter irregularities and such like. But polite librals don’t mention that because they’re just conspiracy theories, and mentioning highly probably conspiracy theories based off real life facts lets Rove win. (lets ignore that Hitler was elected under dubious circumstances before decalring himself Supreme tyrant for life, in case I say the “N” word and the Con-librals are forced to sulk again)
    But on the “Pro” side of inflammatory language as neccesary to spark off serious political debate, Bill o’riley has this to say:
    “And when he [Durbin] went out there, his intent was to whip up the American public against the Bush detainee policy.”
    Can we please make Bill o’riley right for once and make sure that Durbin’s cowardly backpedalling was pointless, come on everyone, are we for or against torture?

  • Steve

    Ray/Katherine/Others:
    That is my point. It is a question, really. What does it take to get people’s attention? Saying it with less blunt force doesn’t seem to get noticed, but using strong language gets ridiculed. That is why the opposition has to be so wise and crafty. I like the Flannery O’Connor quote David posted: we must “make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural”. It CAN happen. I’ve known staunchly tough-on-crime people who’ve gotten concerned about prison reform, I’ve known staunchly pro-death penalty people and pro-war people who had their eyes opened to alternative viewpoints, etc.
    I sometimes I have this discussion with my friends: How strongly do you challenge people on an issue (two that come to mind in my circle are concern for the environment, and acknowledging and overcoming racism) with people who don’t think it is an issue. Do you try to hit them with the hard truth. Many times they react and tune you out as that extreme guy because your view is toooo far from where they are currently at. Or do you try more subtle persuasive tactics…that may gloss over some harsh realities to begin with, but set them up to hear and accept the truth later. I call this the “baby steps baby steps” approach.
    (Admittedly a national dialogue is much different than a dialogue with one friend, but still, it seems the way something like Watergate happened was an ever rising tide of worse and worse allegations. If people would have called Nixon a crook and called for impeachment shortly after the break-in, many people would have called those people crazy reactionaries. But over time, more and more rose to the surface and the American public was convinced. And then thirty years later a large section of the public can whitewash the past and say Nixon was railroaded. This is what I worry about: even if Bush/Rove seriously get held accountable…20 years from now a new conservative movement will rise up and say they were victims of the time and were actually heros.)

  • David

    Steve – that is the grand question. What does it take to get people to care? Everything the current administration has gotten away with has been mainly due to careful manipulation of fear and apathy. I don’t know what it will take to cut through it. Even if Americans were shown actual pictures or video footage of the torture occurring at Guantanamo, I’m not sure it would be enough. Until it actually has an impact in their own backyard, people can be incredibly resolute in utterly ignoring reality.
    This is, to some extent, where the artists need to step in, which is the context of the O’Connor quote. While she was speaking about communicating the Christian view of the world through art, I think her point holds in this context as well. It is up to the artists to find new ways to express the horror of what we’re becoming that can find it’s way around the filters and willful denial and strike the message home. It is also the job of all of us. We need to get creative.
    I wonder – if a series of ads were produced showing scenes like an unwashed man, stubbled, coated in sweat, feces, and urine, chained in a brightly lit small room with loud gangsta rap blaring, or other scenes of psychological torture, shown for 28 seconds, followed by a simple white on black ‘This is what we’re doing.’ followed by contact info – would any US networks air them? And would it make any impact? Can we make people feel the same revulsion for torture they feel for abortion?

  • Peter

    The conservatives minted, used and continue to use the term “feminazi.” They have exactly zero right to complain about the nazi word being used. Not now, not ever.

  • Steve

    Excellent point, Peter.

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org/brutally_honest/2005/06/leftist_looney_.html Brutally Honest

    Leftist looney tunes – play it again (and again and again Sam…)

    Did you hear about the Australian ex-hostage who’s wanting to pay $50,000 dollars or more to go after his captors? Did you hear what the left has to say about that? Did you read what some of our congressmen (and

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org/brutally_honest/2005/06/leftist_looney_.html Brutally Honest

    Leftist looney tunes – play it again (and again and again Sam…)

    Did you hear about the Australian ex-hostage who’s wanting to pay $50,000 dollars or more to go after his captors? Did you hear what the left has to say about that? Did you read what some of our congressmen (and

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org/brutally_honest/2005/06/leftist_looney_.html Brutally Honest

    Leftist looney tunes – play it again (and again and again Sam…)

    Did you hear about the Australian ex-hostage who’s wanting to pay $50,000 dollars or more to go after his captors? Did you hear what the left has to say about that? Did you read what some of our congressmen (and

  • Terry Karney

    I’m an interrogator, and I agree.
    I believe the actions of Darby, and Durbin, made the soldiers in Iraq safer.
    TK

  • Phoenician in a time of Romans

    What is the best way to get the public attention and get it to stick?
    Have someone kidnap (elided to avoid breaking certain ridiculous American laws even in hypotheticals) the B**h twins – and announce that they will be treated in the same way as the prisoners in Gitmo for as long as it stays open.
    And the Nazis didn’t kill 6 million in the Holocaust – they killed 11-12 million. That’s what happens when you allow the loudest voices in the victimised groups to claim ownership of an event that belongs to all mankind.


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