A Reader Mulls Over a Scenario

A Reader Mulls Over a Scenario May 31, 2014

She writes:

…in case you ever get bored with ticking bomb scenarios, Harry Potter, and women’s pants: the hostage scenario!

So I’m watching TV. Bad guy is trying to get information from heroine. Bad guy will use this information to do Very Bad (but as yet unspecified) Things.

Heroine so far has steadfastly resisted. But then Bad Guy makes credible threat against a third person: Give me the information or third guy gets it. If he dies, IT’S YOUR FAULT.

Now, I just realized that we saw this before in Star Wars. Quick-witted Leia gave up truthful but useless information. In the TV show, though, heroine doesn’t have that option.

So: is it moral to do the bad thing (give up the information) to attain the good (avert threat against third person)?

Especially since there’s a (small) chance that the Bad Guy will not do the Bad Thing with the information after all?

Or is it better to bravely say, “I won’t give you the information! If the other person gets it, that’s your fault, not mine.”

(with the usual disclaimer that this is entertainment and not real life, and torture is always wrong, and we’re not going to condemn real people stuck in bad situations, and in real life the Holy Spirit will tell us what to do, etc)

Speaking of Space Princesses… I am wondering if the tall guy who sits way across the church from me on Sundays is dear Mr. John C. Wright.

As co-founder of the Wright/Shea Mutual Admiration Society, I’m gonna go ahead and field your last question first. Since I can’t prove it’s not John, I’m going to go ahead and say, “Yes. Yes it is. John is studying you and you will soon appear in a novel as a kickass Space Princess with Way Kool Mind Powers”. If somebody claiming to be “John C. Wright” turns up in the comboxes below denying this, be aware that the Shadowy Government Forces have created a number of cloned body doubles of John, who prowl the earth sowing confusion. Act accordingly.

As to your main question, I wish I knew. Part of the folly of Christian enthusiasm for torture (and the insanity of hair-splitting casuistry that tries to define obvious torture such as waterboarding as “harmless”) is that the very first thing torture regimes do with this sort of court prophet intellectual prostitution is to use “harmless” torture, not against the suspect, but against his wife and children. A man who will gladly die a martyr will say anything when his little girl starts screaming. And there, in the background, will be every Catholic whore for torture who ever made excuses for this filth, telling us that what the girl is undergoing is not torture at all but just a little “dunking”, a little “splash of water”, a little “baptism”. God help the miserable wretch who stands before his Maker on That Day with such stinking manure on his lips.

So, I have no answer to your question. I don’t know what I would do if I were forced into such a monstrous dilemma. My suspicion is that, being made of weak flesh and loving my family a lot more than I love my country, I would try to save my family by giving misdirecting information. But if it came down to giving valuable intel and there was no other way to save them, I’d likely do it. I don’t like that any more than you do. But it’s the best I can think of. Meanwhile, the main thing is that we have to fight to keep from allowing our own country from become the sort of regime that places people in such horrible moral binds.

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