Thursday, July 3, 2008


Okay, so Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair has apparently for quite some time been arguing that waterboarding is not torture. Somebody dared him to put his money where his mouth is, so he got himself waterboarded.

Guess what? his latest column proclaims. It totes IS torture! Golly!

Now, I applaud him for not being afraid to change his mind publicly, and any new voice which presumably had an "it's not torture" audience saying it IS torture and being able to testify not only to the experience but to the aftermath is certainly a good thing. But, as some have pointed out, the fact that he couldn't figure this out before with basic empathy and historical and ethical reasoning doesn't exactly speak well of his character. Welcome, Hitch, but no treat.

In particular, when I commented on the NYT report on this, I said "one would hope that our nation's leaders and thinkers would have the empathy and ethical capacity to figure this out without a reality-tv-style demo." That was when I noticed that Vanity Fair posted video of Hitch undergoing the "procedure."

With that I take unequivocal issue. Because they literally just turned torture into reality TV. I recoiled physically when I saw a photo of waterboarding; the last thing I want is a bunch of people watching video and going "WHOA, crazy! What else is on YouTube?" If they are repulsed, then that's good, but I have the feeling that like everything else, if this becomes widespread imagery it will be normalized and unworrisome.

I suppose I can actually see two sides to it. We have been inured to our wars and our nation's actions, and being forced to face what we actually do is valuable. I just don't want any numbing or trivializing.

You know what would make this whole thing easier? IF WE DIDN'T TORTURE. Jeez louise.

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