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More Tortured Logic From The Regressive Right

By       Message Allen Snyder     Permalink
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Desperate apologists for BushCo 's attempt the first of its kind in American history - to codify torture into law are out in droves, again being forced to justify the unjustifiable. They 're either blaming a 'few bad apples ', flat-out denying they 're torturing anyone at all, or pretending that VP Cheney 's arm-twisting, bullying, and intimidation along with Zippy McFlightsuit 's threat to veto a bill if it disallows CIA torture don 't amount to actually supporting torture (we 're left to imagine what they do amount to).

And then there 's my personal favorite. It 's a shamelessly over-flogged dead horse of an undergraduate-level hypothetical quasi-philosophical thought problem that 's apparently supposed to shut us weak-ass non-torture-lovers up. Since it typically elicits a visceral gut reaction which circumvents rational thinking, it 's perfect grist for the regressive mind-mill.

You 've probably seen or heard it before.

Imagine you 've captured a terrorist whom you know has planted a bomb at the Super Bowl on game-day. It 's set to explode during the half-time show and you only have hours before it kills thousands. Would it be morally permissible to torture your prisoner till he tells you the bomb 's location?

Now, if you 're a dull blade, dim bulb, or still supporting BushCo, then you 'll reflexively exclaim, 'Well, hell yes, you torture him! How else you gonna find that bomb and save everybody? '. Regressives never question whether or not this case even remotely supports the point that at least sometimes, under circumstances like these, any reasonable person would have to say torture is permissible perhaps even demanded or required.

[My Hypocrisy/Irony Meter almost exploded when I realized this comes from the same regressives who constantly bemoan moral relativism while trumpeting absolutism and lauding those whose moral view never wavers as both resolute and principled. I guess relativism and moral flip-flopping are A-OK when it comes to torturing suspected terrorists oops, I mean, aggressively interrogating detainees. But I digress.]

Here are a few obvious reasons this particular hypothetical is pure pseudo-logical regressive horseshit:

§ The entire argument rests on the flawed assumption that torture victims always tell the truth. But experience (and we apparently have lots) has shown that torture does no such thing not even close. It 's infinitely more likely that victims will simply tell their torturers whatever they want to hear. There 's no reason to suspect torture victims to do anything other than lie to stop the pain.

§ Why is it a given that we know that the bomb was planted, we just don 't know where. How did we come by this information? Bomber certainly wouldn 't tell anyone and since we only have hours till it detonates, he 's apparently captured soon after planting it. If someone saw him plant it, then we also know where it is. If we intercepted some communication, it 's unlikely we 've just now heard about this. If we 're on the ball and BushCo assures us they are we 'll stop him before he can do anything at all. In any case, we would likely know much more than the example allows.

§ There 's no reason to cave and grant the regressives ' fictional formulation of the problem. There are precious few, if any, circumstances where this problem could arise outside of the confines of the paranoid regressive mind. I challenge anyone to concoct a believable scenario built around its requirements.

§ The only moral theory that comes close to justifying torture is Utilitarianism. That 's the view that the moral worth of an action is determined by that action 's consequences. If the result is overall good, then the act is permissible; if it 's overall negative, it 's not. So here 's a case of causing lots of harm to one person for the sake preventing lots of harm to lots of other people. Seems worth it. Never mind that this type of 'ends justify the means ' thinking, while part and parcel of regressive immorality, is generally considered a serious criticism of the Utilitarian view.

§ And, finally, what happens if we do torture him? While it 's possible he 'll reveal the bomb 's location when his balls are being squished or zapped or he 's having something long jammed up his ass, this is unlikely given your typical bomber 's apparent level of commitment. And if he names a phony location, like it 's practically inevitable he 'll do, resources will be diverted, time will be wasted, and gooses will be chased. How many times will this happen before ...BOOM?

So put this rank hypothetical nonsense right next to the one about whether or not to plow ahead in a runaway train that 'll kill 5 babies or divert it to kill 10 adults. The specific parameters of the scenario are entirely bogus and are designed for the theoretical exploration of morality and not real-world application. They have no absolutely basis in reality and no connection whatsoever to the real world. Sadly, neither does the 'logic ' of the stunted and atrophied regressive mind. But I guess you need to have taken an Ethics course to know that.



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Allen Snyder can be reached at This article is copyright by Allen Snyder and originally published by but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is (more...)

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