L.B.: The Imaginary Liberal

L.B.: The Imaginary Liberal February 29, 2008

Left Behind, pp. 413-415

One of the reasons I consider the Left Behind series to be the World’s Worst Books is that they achieve the precise opposite of what their authors intend.

The authors sought to provide an illustration that would persuade readers of the truth of the coming events supposedly prophesied in their premillennial dispensationalist interpretation of the Bible. But their best efforts to portray such events occurring in a “real world” fictional setting have instead served only to illustrate the implausibility and impossibility of those events actually happening in a world that is anything like the one we live in. The only way they are able to conceive of and present a scenario in which such events might occur is to have everyone in their story behave irrationally, inhumanly and inexplicably. The books thus disprove what the authors set out to prove. They illustrate powerfully that the event of PMD prophecies are impossible in the real world. Every page of these books provides evidence that such events could never occur without sweeping fundamental changes in nature and human nature (and in our understanding, such as it is, of the nature of God). These events are not merely supernatural, they are unnatural or even anti-natural. They are impossible.

In the previous post, we explored the possibility that the authors might, on some level, realize this. More than that, really. The authors must, on some level, realize this. And that has to be terrifying. Appreciate how high the stakes are for them here. They have placed themselves into the unenviable position of having everything they believe — about God, the Bible, the meaning of life and their place in the universe — rest upon six impossible things happening before breakfast. Thus when forced to choose between believing in those impossible things and believing in the real world as it presents itself to us all, well, to paraphrase the people of Krikkit, the real world’ll have to go.

Rejecting the real world in favor of the impossible reality of PMD prophecy can’t be easy, even for Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The real world, after all, is where they pick up their mail and do their shopping. They must be at least dimly aware of its stubborn refusal to cease to exist despite its incompatibility with their idiosyncratic interpretation of scripture.

Trying to get inside the authors’ heads to understand how they cope with this stubborn persistence of reality has proved a bit grammatically taxing, forcing me to rely on unwieldy constructs like “chosen to pretend to believe” in an attempt to convey the willful self-deception that it seems they must be employing. The subject of that self-deception in the previous post was the nature and function of the United Nations. Today we’ll examine how that same willfully self-deceptive ignorance shapes their understanding of something much closer to home — their understanding of people like me and, quite possibly, of people like you as well. The authors have chosen to pretend to believe some very unpleasant and demonstrably untrue things about people like us.

We left off as Buck and his Chicago-office colleagues were watching a CNN report on Nicolae Carpathia’s faux-reluctant acceptance of the role of global dictator:

“There is no guarantee, of course, that even member nations will unanimously go along with the move to destroy 90 percent of their military strength and turn over the remaining 10 percent to the U.N. But several ambassadors expressed their confidence ‘in equipping and arming an international peacekeeping body with a thoroughgoing pacifist and committed disarmament activist as its head.'”

A “thoroughgoing pacifist” could never accept the leadership of an armed peacekeeping body. That’s what “pacifist” means. We could, I suppose, imagine some kind of pacifist army of peacekeepers, something like Christian Peacemaker Teams writ large. They could be sent into areas of conflict to march, unarmed, between the guns of opposing forces, where they would likely get mowed down like Jeremy Irons at the end of The Mission, thus achieving a moral victory that would compel the aggressors to rethink their use of violence. Or something. But that’s clearly not what Carpathia has in mind, since his scheme starts with him acquiring an effective global monopoly on military force.

The idea here is so confused that it’s confusing. If everyone is already disarmed, what’s the point of a peacekeeping force? And where, exactly, is there room on First Avenue to park all of those tanks and fighter jets? (As for the latter question, readers should recognize that one of the authors’ unstated misapprehensions about the United Nations is that it has a standing army of its own — an army equipped, trained and employed by the U.N. itself. I’m not sure whether they conceive of this as an all-volunteer force composed of expatriates from throughout the world or whether they imagine it to be staffed by conscripts drafted from among the citizens of U.N.-istan, but I’ve already given this idea more thought than they ever have, so let’s try not to explore this particular absurdity further for now.)

The authors — and thus the CNN reporter, Buck and all the others watching — also don’t seem to realize what this means. They seem to think that Carpathia’s tithe of the world’s weaponry, and the destruction of the rest, would be merely some kind of tax or tribute and not, in fact, the effective surrender and dissolution of every nation that agreed to it. The monopoly on the use of military force is part of the definition of a state. To surrender that to some other entity is to surrender statehood itself. Agreeing to Carpathia’s scheme would involve not just a reduction, but the abandonment of sovereignty. The authors here portray every nation on earth as willing and eager to do this, with only the slightest reservation. That’s not just far-fetched, it’s impossible. It describes a world that is completely unrecognizable.

Not even Carpathia himself is portrayed here as recognizing that he has just been given the keys and pink slips to every nation on the planet:

The CNN anchor continued, “Among other developments today, there are rumors of the organization of groups …”

This isn’t intended as a parody of CNN’s shabby journalism. The CNN report here is simply an expository device and it’s thus supposed to be a realistic presentation of the sort of thing one might actually hear a news anchor say. In a novel with a journalist-protagonist readers deserve something better than a headline or lead-in such as “Rumors of the organization of groups.” Anyway …

The CNN anchor continued, “Among other developments today, there are rumors of the organization of groups espousing one world government. Carpathia was asked if he aspired to a position of leadership in such an organization.”

Just to clarify, “such an organization” there does not refer to its grammatical antecedent — “groups espousing one world government” — but to the OWG itself. So Carpathia, who has just been named head of the United Nations, which has just been reconfigured as one world government, is being asked here if he “aspired” to lead one world government. So Nicolae, now that you’re global sovereign, world caesar and commander-in-chief of planet earth, do you also “aspire” to become international prime minister?

Carpathia looked directly into the network pool camera and with moist eyes and thick voice said, “I am overwhelmed to have been asked to serve as secretary-general of the United Nations. I aspire to nothing else. While the idea of one world government resonates deep within me, I can say only that there are many more qualified candidates to lead such a venture. It would be my privilege to serve in any way I am asked, and while I do not see myself in the leadership role, I will commit the resources of the United Nations to such an effort, if asked.”

Of course he aspires to nothing else. There’s nothing else left to aspire to. The authors intend Carpathia’s moist and thick response to come across as a humble alternative to a “Today, Berlin … tomorrow, the world!” statement, but what it really amounts to is something more like “Today, the world! and tomorrow … well, ‘the world’ about covers it already, I guess. So tomorrow just more of the same.”

For no apparent reason other than the End Times Checklist, Carpathia’s conditions for his reluctant acceptance of global dictatorship also included a peace treaty with Israel:

“Also coming out of today’s meetings was the announcement of a seven-year pact between U.N. members and Israel, guaranteeing its borders and promising peace. In exchange, Israel will allow the U.N. to selectively franchise the use of the fertilizer formula, developed by Nobel prizewinner Dr. Chaim Rosenzweig, which makes desert sands tillable and has made Israel a top exporter.”

When peace in the Middle East is presented as an afterthought, then you know the U.N. has had a very busy morning. This achievement would have seemed more impressive, though, if we hadn’t already been informed that Israel had achieved peace with all of its neighbors and secure, guaranteed borders before the events of this book even took place. Here again is LB’s description of Israel’s status, from a flashback set a year before The Event, on Page 8:

The prosperity brought about by the miracle formula changed the course of history for Israel. Flush with cash and resources, Israel made peace with her neighbors. Free trade and liberal passage allowed all who loved the nation to have access to it.

Buck’s account of the harmless nuclear assault on Israel also lists the West Bank cities of Jericho and Bethlehem as part of that nation. So an expanded Israel is already at peace with its neighbors. The checkpoints and occupations are a thing of the past, and now the entire world will be voluntarily and completely disarming. So it’s not really clear why Israel needs a new peace treaty or, for that matter, how Israel could enter into a treaty with “U.N. members” when it is, itself, a member nation of the U.N. As such, of course, Israel is also among the nations that has just agreed to hand over its arms to Nicolae, making this treaty something akin to a treaty between Caesar and Rome. But whether it makes any sense or not, it’s in the checklist, so it has to happen.

(We covered the odd notion of prosperity-through-agriculture way back — see “Weird Science” — but let me just note here that making sand “tillable” isn’t really that impressive. A bit of a nitpick, I suppose, but a helpful reminder to young writers that the thesaurus is not always your friend.)

So now we’ve got one world army, without objection. And One World Government, without objection

Have I also mentioned that Carpathia’s conditions include one world religion?

A reporter asked Carpathia if that included plans for one world religion. … His response: “I can think of little, more encouraging than the religions of the world finally cooperating. Some of the worst examples of discord and infighting have been between groups whose overall mission is love among people. Every devotee of pure religion should welcome this potential. The day of hatred is past. Lovers of humankind are uniting.”

Again, the authors imagine and portray this as occurring with no objection — Sunni and Shia, Hindu and Buddhist, Sunni and Buddhist, Shia and Hindu, all embracing in one moist and thick global group hug. The authors don’t portray this as something difficult that must, somehow, be achieved in order for their prophecy to be fulfilled. They portray this as something their prophecy says must occur, and thus as something that will happen unremarkably and almost instantly. The problem here is not merely that of an unconvincing portrayal of the transition from Point A to Point B, but of the off-handed juxtaposition of Point A and anti-matter Point A.

Oh, and language.

There will also be one world language.

This idea is also enthusiastically embraced without the slightest opposition or concern for the vast and impossible logistics involved. Which language will survive and which 6,799 or so will be criminalized and euthanized? Don’t worry about such trivial details. Who could possibly concern themselves with such questions?

So OK then, here are Buck Williams and his colleagues, sitting in the offices of the dear disintegrated Lucinda Williams. They have just learned that their country has effectively been disbanded/subsumed into the OWG, that their religion or lack thereof will need to be brought into line with an as-yet-undescribed new global belief system, and that their magazine may soon need to be produced exclusively in French or Urdu or, for all they know, Romanian.

How do you suppose they receive this news?

They’re thrilled. Ecstatic. This is exactly what they’ve been waiting for all of their lives.

Smooth, Buck thought, his mind reeling. As commentators and [former?] world leaders endorsed one world currency, one language, and even the largesse of Carpathia expressing his support for the rebuilding of the temple in Israel, the staff of Global Weekly’s Chicago bureau seemed in a mood to party. “This is the first time in years I’ve felt optimistic about society,” one reporter said.

Another added, “This has to be the first time I’ve smiled since the disappearances. We’re supposed to be objective and cynical, but how can you not like this? It’ll take years to effect all this stuff, but someday, somewhere down the line, we’re going to see world peace. No more weapons, no more wars, no more border disputes or bigotry based on language or religion. Whew! Who’d have believed it would come to this?”

Please note here what does not happen in this newsroom full of reporters. No one jumps up, scurrying back to their desks to get as much of this into print as possible before their next edition goes to press. They should be scrambling to the phones, shouting like Cary Grant in His Girl Friday, “Tear out the whole front page! … The whole front page, never mind the Chinese earthquake! … What? Leave the rooster story alone. That’s human interest.” But of course they’re not because this is Global Weekly: “We won’t tell anyone.”

The reaction here to Carpathia’s announcement is mystifying. Faced with the surrender of country, conscience and culture everyone is “in a mood to party.” The Panzers are rolling into Warsaw and the people are responding like it’s V-E Day. And it’s not just here in the GW offices that this madness occurs. This is how the entire country and the entire world receives this news.

It’s flabbergastingly unreal. Unimaginable. Impossible. (I’m using that word a lot today.) But it makes perfect sense if you understand LaHaye & Jenkins’ concept of the Imaginary Liberal.

Forget what you know about actual liberals (including, of course, what you know about yourself if you should happen to be a liberal). There are no actual liberals in this book, only Imaginary Liberals. In the authors’ view, this is also true of the world.

It’s possible that you’re reading this with some relief because you do not consider yourself a liberal. If so, I should clarify. Are you a Real True Christian of the sort that you can be confident that you would be Rapture-qualified and not among those left behind? If not, then you’re a liberal. And by that I mean that you are, to the authors, an Imaginary Liberal. These are the only two categories that exist.

And if apart from the RTCs the world is populated by Imaginary Liberals, then this passage is a model of objective realism. This is exactly how a world of Imaginary Liberals would respond to an announcement like this.

Imaginary Liberals are awful people. They hate America and they hate God.

Even the ones who claim to believe in some other non-RTC religion hate the RTC God specifically, they’ve just pretended to latch onto that other religion, which they know isn’t real, as a convenient vehicle for expressing that hatred. Thus the abolition of all religion, seeing it subsumed it into one ill-defined, featureless global porridge is exactly what they’re hoping for. (Carpathia spoke of “cooperation” among religions, but the authors know that, for Imaginary Liberals, that’s really just a code word for the annihilation of all individuality and its absorption into a collectivist whole.)

Even the ones who claim to love some other country really just hate America, specifically, and they’ve just pretended to latch onto that other nationalism, which they know isn’t real, as a convenient vehicle for expressing that hatred too. Thus the abolition of all nations — including the delicious elimination of America itself — is also exactly what they’re hoping for.

Awful, awful people those Imaginary Liberals.

And the authors think you’re one of them. Those ridiculous reporters swooning and gushing over Carpathia’s moist and thick tyranny are the authors’ stand-ins for you and me. This is how they imagine we would respond if we heard just such an announcement. This is what they imagine we want to see happen. The authors don’t realize that the Imaginary Liberal is imaginary. They think they’re real and they’re everywhere.

This is obviously a bit more troubling than some of the authors’ other delusional beliefs. Tim LaHaye’s delirious fantasies about the form and function of the United Nations may have some influence over his politics and the political beliefs of his 50 million or so readers/followers, but those beliefs are directly shaped by this idea of the Imaginary Liberal.

Believing in the Imaginary Liberal, like believing in anything else that is demonstrably unreal, requires a great deal of effort. That effort, again, can never be wholly unconscious. Some part of the self must always be vigilantly attempting to explain why the abundant evidence against that belief doesn’t matter while also attempting to explain why the utter lack of evidence for that belief doesn’t matter. Thus, again, the lie must constantly be reinforced or reconstructed. And thus, again, this active effort to persuade oneself inevitably persists as a nagging reminder that oneself still needs persuading.

Which brings us back to the tortured grammar of trying to convey this multi-layered self-deception: The Imaginary Liberal is something in which the authors have “chosen to pretend to believe.” That’s not quite the same thing as actually believing, mind you, but it’s close enough for them to not-quite-comfortably convince themselves that this passage provides an accurate portrayal of Nicolae’s rise to power and the enthusiastic reception they have chosen to pretend to believe it would receive.

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  • Tonio

    Froborr, nice work. In way, the blind spot that Senator/Reverend Muse has on this issue is worse than the outright demagoguery practiced by the religious right. I wouldn’t label him as stupid, but since he wants to fob the issue off on the voters, I would label him as evasive of responsibility.

  • Froborr

    Thanks, Tonio, but to give credit where credit is due, that’s how a Muslim friend of mine expressed his own views to me. He actually went further, and explained that he has no problem with an explicitly Muslim nation banning gay marriage, but he recognizes that the U.S. is an explicitly secular nation governed according to the Constitution, not a religious text. (And no, to any conspiracy theorists reading, he’s got no interest in changing that fact.)

  • Comrade Rutherford

    The Official One World Government International Mandatory Language would have to be Lojban.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lojban
    A ‘logical language’ invented by humorless, and godless scientists, it’s a blend of every language on the planet, with each language included by proportion of the native speakers. Originally titled Loglan (Logical Language), it was replaced by Lojban because Loglan only accounted Western European languages. Lojban adds a large influence of Asian languages.
    Since Imaginary Liberals demand fairness (at the point of a blue-helmeted gun-toting UN soldier, right Scott?), no language currently in use would be acceptable, since it would be ‘unfair’ to non-native speakers. And since Imaginary Liberals, by definition, hate everything to do with Amerikkka, the One World Language can NOT be English!
    Esperanto just doesn’t have that cachét, too many people already have heard of it. No one but hard-core liberal computer programmers have even heard of Lojban… Imaginary Liberals live to shove unheard of crap down the throats of Patriotic American Citizens ®™, as Scott can personally attest (like being fiscally responsible by paying for the operating budget through taxes).
    Here is the “Lord’s Prayer” in Lojban:
    “doi cevrirni.iu noi zvati le do cevzda do’u fu’e .aicai .e’ecai lo do cmene ru’i censa
    .i le do nobli turni be la ter. ku se cfari
    .i loi do se djica ba snada mulno vi’e le cevzda .e .a’o la ter.
    .i fu’e .e’o ko dunda ca le cabdei le ri nanba mi’a
    .i ko fraxu mi loi ri zu’o palci
    .ijo mi fraxu roda poi pacyzu’e xrani mi
    .i ko gidva mi fa’anai loi pacyxlu
    .i ko sepri’a mi loi palci
    .i .uicai ni’i loi se turni .e loi vlipa .e loi mi’orselsi’a cu me le do romei
    fa’o”

  • Rosina

    Forget about One World Religion, or One World Tuna Casserole – can we have One World Recharger for Phones, MP3 players, Cameras, Shavers … With One World Electricity Plugs at the other end of the wire. It’s like trying to pack a hive of snakes.

  • jamoche

    Loglan was Heinlein’s future computer language of choice – I think Mike was programmed in Loglan. But if it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have heard of it either – the idea that a programming language would be easier to grok if it were similar to a human language is one that died rather quickly once real computers were widespread. (I know 16+ computer languages, and less than half are the common “functional” ones like C. Specialisation is good)

  • aunursa

    Jesurgislac: But, more recently, and quite reassuringly, Obama’s made clear he supports repealing DOMA… which to my mind overshadows his direct association with the ex-gay movement.
    So a candidate’s position on the issues is much more important than whether he condemns every controversial statement made by his endorsers and supporters? I agree. I’m glad you cleared that up, Jesurgislac. =)

  • aunursa

    Geds: Um, this statement says, “White people have been ignoring everyone else. Now they can’t.” That’s racist how, exactly?
    You’re asking me how a negative generalization about a group of people based on their race is racist? Geds, you can’t be serious!
    Would it help if I told you that the man who said this (assuming it’s actually Obama’s pastor, you gave no citation) is, himself, a black man?
    No, it wouldn’t. He’s calling Americans in general racist. Americans who in 2008 are poised to nominate a black candidate (his congregant) for President. Who came within a whisker of winning New Hampshire, a state that is 96% white, 1% black. Is America color-blind? No, of course not. Not yet. But a statement like his, to generalize about Americans like that, is obscene.

  • aunursa

    This is more potentially damning, I’d say. I want context and citation on it, however.
    Here’s your context and citation: Trumpet Newsmagazine
    Obama doesn’t agree with all of his pastor’s statements. But he won’t renounce his support. Just like McCain with Hagee.

  • aunursa

    Jesurgislac: Well, not that we didn’t already know it: you’re pro-torture.
    Consider the source: your definition of torture includes any act designed to humiliate or disgust.

  • Jesurgislac

    Aunursa: So a candidate’s position on the issues is much more important than whether he condemns every controversial statement made by his endorsers and supporters? I agree.
    I thought you would. McCain’s votes to support torture and repeal habeas corpus are even worse than his enthusiastic embrace of the support of bigoted lunatics Or, from your point of view: even better!
    [The UN’s] definition of torture includes any act designed to humiliate or disgust.

  • Froborr

    your definition of torture includes any act designed to humiliate or disgust.
    Yes. So?

  • aunursa

    Jesurgislac: [The UN’s] definition of torture includes any act designed to humiliate or disgust.
    No, it’s yours alone, Jesurgislac.
    The UNCAT definition refers to “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental.” You cannot provide any statement from any UNCAT party or other international authority that interprets “severe pain or suffering” to include humiliation or disgust.

  • Tonio

    Here were these conservatives, who’d claimed every time the subject came up before that they believed that government ought not to be allowed to control how businesses interact with and serve their customers… arguing that government ought to be controlling how these businesses interact with and serve their customers.
    Good point about hypocrisy. I strongly suspect that the English-only crowd is reacting mostly out of fear, which blinds them to the ideological inconsistency of their position.

  • hapax

    He’s calling Americans in general racist.
    That’s not a racist statement, aunursa. That’s a demonstrable fact.
    I’m an American, and I try very hard not to be CONSCIOUSLY racist, but I am. I react differently (and not positively) to people with darker colored skin. I NOTICE people of color on television, in politics, in a crowd — they stick out in my mind as “different; not normal.”
    No, I do not (I hope) act on this. I certainly don’t treat them differently (I hope.) But I do notice — I have to make a conscious effort to say, “Disregard this job candidate’s race, either positively or negative.” This NEVER happens with white people.
    It sucks, aunursa, but it can’t be helped. This is an inevitable consequence of the society we live in, the history we bear in this country. Thank God and the efforts of many many people, we’re getting better, slowly. But we sure aren’t there yet.
    It’s very much like living in the patriarchy, aunursa (which I don’t think you acknowledge either.) There are people; and then there are women. And pretending we don’t do that doesn’t change a darn thing. I vividly noticed the difference even here, once I was “outed” as female.
    Among even the best-intentioned, tolerant, liberal people in our community, Obama, Clinton, and Edwards were consistently identified as “the black candidate”, “the woman candidate”, and “the [default normal] candidate.” Why is that, do you think? Why are they identified that way, rather than (say) “the Illinois candidate”, “the New York candidate”, and “the North Carolina candidate”?
    I don’t know if other countries are better or worse than the USA in this regard. But I at least am honest about where I live, as is this pastor. Why aren’t you?

  • Jesurgislac

    Froborr: Yes. So?
    Ah, you’ve missed the Great Torture Arguments of yesteryear. Aunursa wants Americans to be able to deliberately humiliate their prisoners, or inflict disgusting acts on them, without anyone being so mean as to call that torture. Aunursa, as far as I’ve been able to tell, kind of misses the point of the UN Convention on Torture, which is supposed to be part of the UCMJ: it’s not meant to outline what kinds of pain, humiliation, and disgust detaining powers are allowed to inflict on prisoners to punish them or to get them to confess or to instill terror into the population from which the prisoners were taken – it’s meant, quite simply, to ban any such attempts by detaining powers to make use of their prisoners in such a fashion. Most pro-torture Americans who claim that the UN Convention on Torture isn’t specific enough or doesn’t really directly ban the kinds of torture which the US has admitted to inflicting on prisoners, appear to be coming from that direction: that some kinds of torture (Aunursa’s favored euphemism was “harsh interrogation”, as I recall) really must be legal – it can only be torture if you go too far.

  • Tonio

    My position on torture is the same as my position on corporal punishment. Although the first involves much more cruelty, both involve the person venting anger on another using physical force.

  • Jeff

    the idea that a programming language would be easier to grok if it were similar to a human language is one that died rather quickly once real computers were widespread.
    It was also killed when Commander Grace started telling of how she made her way through Japan by speaking COBOL to her counterparts.
    ========================
    So a candidate’s position on the issues is much more important than whether he condemns every controversial statement made by his endorsers and supporters? I agree.
    Of course you do. McCain’s support of torture and disdain for habeus corpus are a big part of your support for him. (Or what Jesu said.)
    Consider the source: your definition of torture includes any act designed to humiliate or disgust.
    And your “hero” says that waterboarding isn’t torture at all.

  • Hapax:
    To comment on your heartfelt statement at 10 o’clock, I think it best to paraphrase Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Dirge Without Music: You know. But you do not approve. And you are not resigned.
    But we sure aren’t there yet.
    I suppose a change of the heart is the most necessary step.
    (By the way, how lame am I for waiting till the next Friday to posit my two cents on a soon-to-be outdated post?)

  • How fascinating! I’ll have to read the rest of your posts on this book now.
    And I totally agree with you, but would argue that it’s not just the author’s that believe in these Imaginary Liberals. In fact, I’d imagine that the fact that their readers have a similar investment in believing in Imaginary Liberals contributes strongly to the books’ popularity.

  • jamoche

    It was also killed when Commander Grace started telling of how she made her way through Japan by speaking COBOL to her counterparts.
    That sounds like an interesting story (I can so see it happening; COBOL is one of the more verbose of the early languages – you can, if you want, write out “is equal to” instead of using “=”) – any links? Google wasn’t any help.

  • Lauren

    This is an inevitable consequence of the society we live in, the history we bear in this country. –hapax
    I’m not so sure that other countries don’t have that problem, regardless of local history. I believe what you are describing is a human condition, not a particularly American one. All people react differently to the unfamiliar.

  • Jeff

    That sounds like an interesting story (I can so see it happening; COBOL is one of the more verbose of the early languages – you can, if you want, write out “is equal to” instead of using “=”) – any links? Google wasn’t any help.
    I had the great opportunity to hear her speak (over 30 years ago — yikes!), and it was there she she made the comment. I’m not sure it was recorded anywhere for posterity, alas.

  • Froborr

    Lauren: Be careful, there, though. While bigotry appears to be near-universal, not all cultures express it in the same way. For example, differences in language or dress may be the focus, rather than the differences in appearance that are the core of racism.

  • Tonio

    Maybe it’s the “America to Americans” thread, but I imagine Atlanta Rhythm Section performing “Imaginary Lib’rul.”

  • aunursa

    Jesurgislac: Aunursa wants Americans to be able to deliberately humiliate their prisoners, or inflict disgusting acts on them
    Absolutely, I am in favor of Western authorities deliberately humiliating or disgusting known terrorists … if they are likely to possess knowledge that could prevent future attacks and if it can be reasonably expected that the humiliation or disgust will cause them to divulge that information.
    For instance, I would wholeheartedly support the humiliation and disgust of one hundred al Qaida terrorists if the authorities suspected that they possessed information that could prevent a plot to assassinate Jesurgislac.

  • aunursa

    hapax: That’s not a racist statement, aunursa. That’s a demonstrable fact.
    Wright: Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!… We [Americans] believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.”
    hapax: No, I do not (I hope) act on this. I certainly don’t treat them differently (I hope.) But I do notice — I have to make a conscious effort to say, “Disregard this job candidate’s race, either positively or negative.”
    Hapax, you don’t sound anything like the caricature of Americans envisioned by Obama’s pastor’s fiery sermons. You don’t believe in racial superiority or inferiority. You realize your prejudice and you consciously strive not to discriminate based on race. You yourself disprove his incendiary statements.

  • Jesurgislac

    I am in favor of Western authorities deliberately [torturing] known terrorists
    I am not, because every “disgusting known terrorist” – no matter that they have been tried, convicted, and sentenced for a specific crime – is a hero to someone. When the detaining authorities have the terrorist tried, convicted, and sentenced, and they then spend years of their life in good condition in jail, they stand a fair chance of being forgotten assuming that the conditions which created terrorism in the first place are being changed. Make martyrs of them with ill treatment, and that’s one of the many ways in which a stupid detaining power can ensure that terrorism will continue.
    As has been established in the past, the notion that torturing prisoners yields useful information is pure comic-bookery.
    For instance, I would wholeheartedly support the [torture] of one hundred al Qaida terrorists if the authorities suspected that they possessed information that could prevent a plot to assassinate Jesurgislac.
    I would wholeheartedly oppose the torture of even one, and would despise forever any government who used as a justification “but we thought they might have information that would allow us to protect you!”
    Permit torture on those grounds and you make no one safer: anyone can then be tortured, on the flimsy excuse that the authorities “suspected that they possessed information”.
    But we’re back where we so frequently went last year: Aunursa argues that certain forms of torture are acceptable, not really torture at all, without ever having experienced, inflicted, or witnessed them.

  • aunursa

    Jesurgislac: I am not, because [my right to life is less important than the right of a terrorist not to be humiliated or disgusted].
    that’s one of the many ways in which a stupid detaining power can ensure that terrorism will continue.
    If you still think that actions and policies of Western governments cause or increase terrorism, then you haven’t been paying attention.
    I would wholeheartedly oppose the torture of even one
    I value your life more than you.
    But we’re back where we so frequently went last year: Aunursa argues that [humiliation and disgust] are acceptable, not really torture at all, without ever having experienced, inflicted, or witnessed them.
    Jesurgislac argues that certain techniques constitute torture based on her authority alone. Moreover, when I show that the UN definition of torture doesn’t align with her view, she dismisses the UN definition as “lawyer’s talk.”

  • Tonio

    Aunursa, no government or authority should be trusted to rationally decide who deserves to be tortured, or even who deserves to be humiliated or disgusted. The only true purpose for such treatment is the promotion of fear, not just among the tortured but also among anyone who would oppose the torturers.

  • Jesurgislac: I am not, because [my right to life is less important than the right of a terrorist not to be humiliated or disgusted].
    People die under torture, Aunursa. I am asserting that your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is more important than a government’s claimed “right” to torture people the government has accused of being terrorists.
    I value your life more than you do. I value your freedom more than you do. You are willing to trade your life, your liberty, and your pursuit of happiness in exchange for a state right to torture suspects – which, gullibly, you think is intended to save lives.
    Jesurgislac argues that certain techniques constitute torture based on [the UN Convention against Torture] authority alone.
    Yes, I do, don’t I? Odd, that. And when you argue that there are torture techniques not specifically mentioned in that UN Convention against torture, which must be allowed and shouldn’t be called torture, I think you got that from a bunch of deeply inethical lawyers in the Bush administration quibbling over how they could make the US torturing prisoners sound legal.

  • Rosina

    As has been established in the past, the notion that torturing prisoners yields useful information is pure comic-bookery.
    “The past” where this was established pre-dates comic-books. It even pre-dates Leonardo’s cartoons. But aunursa still clings to the idea that you can torture the truth out of someone.

  • Caravelle

    Aunursa, if you do allow torture, how are you going to make sure it’s only used on those who you think deserve it ?
    It’s like slavery. Never mind that you can in theory have good masters, the problem is that the evil cruel ones can’t be prosecuted.
    If torture is legal, and you by some crazy mishap (maybe you look like a terrorist, maybe you were at the wrong place at the wrong time, maybe you were framed) get tortured, what’s your recourse ?

  • Rosina: “The past” where this was established pre-dates comic-books.
    True. (I was actually thinking of past discussions on Slacktivist, but yes.)

  • Jeff

    For instance, I would wholeheartedly support the humiliation and disgust of one hundred al Qaida terrorists if the authorities suspected that they possessed information that could prevent a plot to assassinate Jesurgislac.
    And I support you getting a unicorn that shoots moonbeams out its ass. Humiliating, disgusting and torturing people **DOES** **NOT** **WORK**. Not here in the real world, despite the lies that Cock-sucker Bush and Take-It-From-Behind McCain have told you. 24 is fiction, you idiot.
    You can’t even call water-boarding torture (unlike the CIA) because that makes your heroes, both Chimpy and McConfused war criminals. Why should we listen to a torture-monkey of such low morals?

  • aunursa

    Tonio: Aunursa, no government or authority should be trusted to rationally decide who deserves to be tortured, or even who deserves to be humiliated or disgusted. The only true purpose for such treatment is the promotion of fear, not just among the tortured but also among anyone who would oppose the torturers
    Tonio, do you consider torture to include any and every act intended to cause the detainee to experience humiliation or disgust?

  • aunursa

    Jesurgislac: People die under torture, Aunursa.
    People don’t normally die from being disgusted.
    Jesurgislac: You are willing to trade your life, your liberty, and your pursuit of happiness in exchange for a state right to torture suspects – which, gullibly, you think is intended to save lives.
    No, I am willing to trade the self-esteem of known terrorists for your life. You are not willing to make that trade. I value your life more than their self-esteem.
    Jesurgislac argues that certain techniques constitute torture based on [her interpretation of the UN Convention against Torture] authority alone.
    Yes, I do, don’t I?

    I challenge you to cite any international authority that shares your interpretation of UNCAT, i.e. that considers torture to include any act that produces humiliation or disgust.

  • aunursa

    Rosina: But aunursa still clings to the idea that you can torture the truth out of someone.
    ABC News and a former CIA director have both claimed that Al Qaida detainees, subject to certain interrogation techniques, provided information that turned out to be useful in disrupting planned terrorist attacks. I wasn’t there, so I can’t say one way or the other. Were you there? If not, how can you say for sure that they are lying?

  • aunursa

    Caravelle: Aunursa, if you do allow torture, how are you going to make sure it’s only used on those who you think deserve it ?
    Caravelle, do you consider torture to include any and every act intended to cause the detainee to experience humiliation or disgust?

  • aunursa

    Jeff: You can’t even call water-boarding torture (unlike the CIA) because that makes your heroes, both Chimpy and McConfused war criminals.
    I have stated repeatedly that I do not support the use of waterboarding. Perhaps you missed that thread.

  • Jeff

    aunursa eats pie. (IWNLFTT)

  • hapax

    If not, how can you say for sure that they are lying?

    The stunning lack of details about the averted terrorist attacks is a pretty good clue, I should think.
    Since the kind of “planned terrorist attacks” they have taken credit for disrupting in the past include impossible pipe dreams and sad little farces, it’s a logical conclusion, that they are either trying to save face, or talking out of their asses.
    Not to mention that said detainees have been “detained” for four years or more, aunursa. How could they *possibly* have any relevant information anymore?

  • ABC News and a former CIA director have both claimed that Al Qaida detainees, subject to certain interrogation techniques, provided information that turned out to be useful in disrupting planned terrorist attacks. I wasn’t there, so I can’t say one way or the other. Were you there? If not, how can you say for sure that they are lying?
    Because (a) they got their dates wrong in at least one significant instance, as I recall someone pointing out to you the last time you brought up this as “evidence” that “torture works”: and (b) because since ABC News loyally ran the story that the CIA director gave them, fuller information says that torture produces confessions that are at least 90% bogus – and there’s no way to tell which 10% if true.

  • Hapax: Since the kind of “planned terrorist attacks” they have taken credit for disrupting in the past include impossible pipe dreams and sad little farces, it’s a logical conclusion, that they are either trying to save face, or talking out of their asses.
    Under torture, Moazzam Begg is reported to have confessed to a plot to bomb the Houses of Parliament in London from the air, with anthrax. Perhaps you’d have to be a Brit to see the essential absurdity of such a plot – I think it’s unsurprising that the Telegraph, a right-wing/America-centric paper, doesn’t mention it in their otherwise uncritical acceptance of his confession in 2002 – but it really is ridiculous, in all sorts of ways.
    Other prisoners, now released, have confessed under torture to actions that it could be proved they could not have committed (one of the Tipton Three was videotaped at work by his employers CCTV cameras in the British Midlands, on a date when he had “confessed” to being in an al-Qaeda training camp).
    Abdallah Higazy confessed to a role in 9/11, after the FBI interrogator threatened to have the Egyptian authorities arrest and torture Higazy’s brother and leave the brother’s family destitute.

    So Higazy “confesses” and he’s processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back. This is like something out of the movies. The radio belonged to the pilot, not Higazy, and Higazy was free to go, the victim of horrible timing. Higazi was innocent!

    But if the airline pilot hadn’t showed up? Higazy would have been convicted on the basis of his coerced confession, and the FBI interrogator would doubtless have boasted that this proved even the threat of torture provided useful information: look how it had got one of the people responsible for 9/11 to confess!

  • Sniffnoy

    You’d think it would be kind of obvious that people under torture would just say what they think you want to hear, people do that enough when under considerably less threat…

  • Rosina

    I have never seen 24 which is probably why I don’t believe in the efficacy of torture (that and the advice of Eymeric, the fourteenth century Spanish Inquisitor.)
    But I would be interested to see ABC’s News footage of these interrogations, including those ‘certain techniques’. I assume they were there (since aunursa is using them as able to give first hand witness evidence, in contrast to me, who wasn’t there. In fact the mealy mouthed subject to certain interrogation techniques could include perfectly legitimate interrogation techniques – but of course, if this information came out when the prisoner was being given a cup of tea and a biscuit it can’t be used for the masturbatory fancies of torture-fanboys.
    I can take a pack of cards and draw one out. It may be the Ace of Clubs, but that cannot be used to prove that every card that comes out of that pack, using that method, will be the Ace of Clubs. You can make it look as if it is, by suppressing all the times you get the 6 of Diamonds or 2 of Spades. But a successrate of one in 52 draws, on average, is not something for glee, when the stake isn’t just tuppence on the turn of a card, but a man’s life and health and sanity.
    I will not concede that usable reliable truth is extracted by torture, or that it can be distinguished from the traffic of people confessing to anything their torturers want.
    The ABC report on interrogation methods, with uncensored geniune footage, might help me change my mind. Has it been on already, because it seems that it has convinced aunursa?

  • Tonio

    Tonio, do you consider torture to include any and every act intended to cause the detainee to experience humiliation or disgust?
    I don’t know if those actions would qualify as torture. I do know that the distinction isn’t relevant since those actions are driven by the same motive as waterboarding – the desire to control people through fear.

  • aunursa

    Jeff: aunursa eats pie.
    ???

  • aunursa

    hapax: Not to mention that said detainees have been “detained” for four years or more, aunursa. How could they *possibly* have any relevant information anymore?
    They did presumably at the time of their capture. That’s when interrogation should be done.

  • aunursa

    Jesurgislac: produces confessions that are at least 90% bogus – and there’s no way to tell which 10% if true.
    We’ve been over this before. If interrogation elicits an address in Germany, for example, and if authorities find bomb-making materials and al Qaida manuals at that apartment, that’s a pretty good indication that the information is true.

  • aunursa

    Tonio: I don’t know if those actions would qualify as torture.
    If a soldier stood on a Koran during an interrogation session, would you consider that to be torture? If a female interrogator dressed provocatively and touched her breasts to a detainee’s back in violation of an Islamic taboo, would you consider that torture?