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By Sam Ben-Meir
Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (2013) starred Jessica Chastain as Maya, a tough, brilliant and single-minded CIA agent who is prepared to use Torture in the interrogation of suspected terrorists. There was nothing sadistic about her character, and she comes to doubt the efficacy of torture – though in the end she is able to learn the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, which she could not have done, the film suggests, had she been unwilling to employ “enhanced interrogation techniques.” This assertion, that the use of torture did in fact produce useful intelligence that helped lead the U.S. to bin Laden, sparked debate as well as outrage.
The Report (2019) is, among other things, writer-director Scott Z Burns’ answer to Zero Dark Thirty. It is largely about another single-minded individual, Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver), lead investigator of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who spent five arduous years doggedly uncovering the CIA’s suspect detention and interrogation program following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. His investigation eventually culminated in a 6,700-page report, a damning exposé of the CIA’s methods of “enhanced interrogation” and the psychologists who helped design them – methods which included walling, cramped confinement, stress positions, waterboarding, the use of insects, and mock burial – despite having no interrogation experience. Like Jones, the film is unwavering not only in its moral condemnation of torture, but in its claim that torture is not effective and never produces real, actionable intelligence.
Torture is admittedly an extremely difficult issue to confront. It is so morally reprehensible that we are understandably reluctant to even consider the possibility that it could ever be justified, under any circumstances. The problem is that the world is a messy place – it isn’t morally tidy – and sometimes the right thing to do is not available to us. According to the American Field Manual, rulebook of military interrogators, “The use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.” However, if we are to deal honestly with this issue, we must recognize the fact that there is substantial evidence that sometimes torture is effective in eliciting information and, indeed, it has been known to save innocent lives.
In Why Terrorism Works (2002), Alan Dershowitz writes, “There can be no doubt that torture sometimes works. Jordan apparently broke the notorious terrorist of the 1980s, Abu Nidal, by threatening his mother. Philippine police reportedly help crack the 1993 World Trade Center bombings by torturing a suspect.” If, in certain dire situations, something like nonlethal torture may be justifiable then it appears we should at least consider Dershowitz’s suggestion that if and when torture is practiced, that it is done in accordance with law and with some kind of warrant issued by a judge.
“I’m not in favor of torture,” Dershowitz writes, “but if you’re going to have it, it should damn well have court approval.” His claim is that if we are, in fact, going to torture then it ought to be done in accordance with law: for tolerating torture while pronouncing it illegal is hypocritical. In other words, democratic liberalism ought to own up to its own activities, according to Dershowitz. If torture is, indeed, a reality then it should be done with accountability.
There are, however, significant problems with the reasoning behind torture-warrants. For one, the legalization of torture would significantly distort our moral experience of the world, corroding the very notion of law itself, which does not rule through abject terror: law is, after all, meant to replace sheer brutality as a way of getting people to do things. Indeed, the rule against torture is paradigmatic of what we mean by law itself. In short, to have torture as law is undermining of what we take the very rule of law to signify.
Such considerations are closely connected with the following concern which is addressed in The Report: namely, what are the consequences of institutionalizing torture? That is clearly what the introduction of torture-warrants would imply – and once you institutionalize torture you then have to elaborate on all aspects, including the training not only of would-be torturers but also medical personnel. In other words, the legalization of interrogational torture would apparently require the professionalization of torture; that is, the acceptance of torture as a profession.
This normalization is especially disquieting when we stop to consider in particular the role of doctors and medical professionals in torture: for nothing is more antagonistic to what we mean by medicine then its utilization in the prolongation of a person’s agony and brutalization. Sadly, the participation of medical practitioners in torture is nothing new; and we would do well to remind ourselves of that history, for we are now most certainly part of it.
In his book Torture, Edward Peters observes that it was under the Third Reich that torture was “transformed into a medical specialty, a transformation which was to have great consequences in the second half of the twentieth century.” Medical involvement in torture first came to world attention with the disclosure of practices in Nazi concentration camps. The Nuremberg trials revealed that physicians had, for example, placed prisoners in low-pressure tanks simulating high altitude, immersed them in near-freezing water, and had them injected with live typhus organisms.
It is likely that hundreds of doctors and nurses participated in these experiments, although only twenty-one German physicians were charged with medical crimes. What needs to be emphasized is a point that Robert Jay Lifton, M.D. makes with what he calls an “atrocity-producing situation” – by which he refers to an environment “so structured, psychologically and militarily, that ordinary people can readily engage in atrocities.” As Lifton observes, many Nazi doctors were engaged not in cruel medical experiments, but directly involved in killing. To get to that point, however, they had to undergo a process of socialization; first to the medical profession, then to the military, and finally to the concentration camps: “The great majority of these doctors were ordinary people who had killed no one before joining murderous Nazi institutions. They were corruptible and certainly responsible for what they did, but they became murderers mainly in atrocity-producing settings.”
Referring to the CIA program, Atul Gawande, a surgeon and author, observed that “The torture could not proceed without medical supervision. The medical profession was deeply embedded in this inhumanity.” In fact, the program was developed by two psychologists, Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who – as the film relates – based their recommendations on the theory of “learned helplessness,” which essentially describes a condition in which an individual, repeatedly subjected to negative, painful stimuli, comes to view their situation as beyond their control and themselves as powerless to effect any change. The crucial point is that medical professionals were an integral part of the program. Referring to American doctors that were involved in the torture at Abu Ghraib, Robert Lifton points out, “Even without directly participating in the abuse, doctors may have become socialized to an environment of torture and by virtue of their medical authority helped sustain it.”
We can hardly underestimate the significance of the process of socialization in facilitating participation in torture. Certain factors are decisive in terms of weakening the moral restraints against performing acts that individuals would normally find unacceptable. Following Harvard University professor of social ethics, Herbert Kelman, we can identify three forces that are particularly important. Kelman was particularly interested in what he described as “sanctioned massacres” – such as occurred at My Lai during the Vietnam War – but his observations are relevant to the torture setting as well.
The first factor is authorization: rather than recognizing oneself as an independent moral agent, the individual feels that they are participating in a mission that relinquishes them of the responsibility to make their own moral choices. The presence of medical professionals helps to lend a sense of legitimacy to the enterprise.
Routinizaton is another factor, which speaks directly to the establishment of torture as a profession – so that the torturer perceives the process not as the brutal treatment of another human being but simply as the routine application of a set of specialized skills; or as Kelman puts it, “a series of discrete steps most of them carried out in automatic, regularized fashion.”
Finally, dehumanization, whereby the victim is deprived of identity and systematically excluded from the moral community to which the torturer belongs: it becomes unnecessary for the agents to regard their relationship to the victim as ethically significant – in short the victim is denied any inherent worth and therefore any moral consideration.
Medical personnel who act as advisors, as it were, on torture techniques are directly implicated in the practice of torture. But if we were to follow Dershowitz’s suggestion and effectively institutionalize torture, this medical involvement would be an inevitable result – for it was present already when torture was being practiced clandestinely. It seems strange that Dershowitz, who finds the current hypocrisy so outrageous, would attempt to remedy the situation not by eliminating the hypocrisy but rather legitimizing it. For what could be more hypocritical than doctors, sworn to do no harm, taking a more or less active role in the systematic and scientific brutalization of another human being? But such would be the unavoidable outcome of legalizing torture through “torture-warrants.”
In closing, institutionalizing torture would have very bad consequences – far worse than the hypocrisy that so troubles Dershowitz. Not only would the practice of torture likely metastasize – instead of being limited to one-off cases – its professionalization would contribute to the formation of “atrocity-producing situations,” and we have seen how this relates in particular to the complicity of doctors in the torture situation. Physicians, nurses and the medical establishment itself would be severely ethically compromised by the institutionalization of torture. All of which is to say that the legalization of torture should be avoided. Best to then uphold the absolute ban on torture, even if that ban will be subject to violation under extraordinary circumstances.
Sam Ben-Meir is a professor of philosophy and world religions at Mercy College in New York City.
Social media is an umbrella term that encompasses all apps, websites, and blogs that allow people from all over the world to interact through the internet. Anyone who wishes to use any social media platform must first sign up and then sign in to view content and communicate with other members of that social media platform. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, and Snapchat are commonly used social media platforms. Social media, like all technological advancements, has both advantages and disadvantages.
Social media has become an essential aspect of life for many youths in today's society. Numerous young people carry on involving themselves with social media without even bothering to consider its effect on them. The consequences may be both good and bad at times. When it comes to the negative impact of social media on teenagers, the majority of the time, they are unfavourable if the activity is not linked with a commercial or professional objective.
Social media has taken on such significance in today's society that it has overtaken other concerns. | Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash
Social media has taken on such significance in today's society that it has overtaken other concerns. People, especially teens, are addicted to social media and have lost sight of the essential things in their lives like family, friends, physical activities, social interaction, sports, education and much more.
One manner in which social media harms our mental health is through the use of unfavourable social comparisons. Teenagers or even grown-ups who use social media spend a significant amount of time examining the lives and activities of their friends. Continuous comparisons lead to low self-esteem and negative body image in adolescents, increasing depression and anxiety in such people; this includes stalking their achievements, events, their pictures or the events they have attended. On comparing, it makes oneself feel worse about their life.
Teenagers or even grown-ups who use social media spend a significant amount of time examining the lives and activities of their friends. | Photo by Ángel López on Unsplash
We can only see the virtual aspect of a person while we are on social media sites. This means that we can only see the side of the situation that they want us to see. Many people make an effort to present themselves in a way that they are not. Bullying among peers is a common practice, which is acceptable to a certain level. However, when it comes to cyberbullying, it has a significant impact on a person's mental health, as the comments or posts may appear on the newsfeed of any individual and spread quickly. Depression and suicidal behaviour can occur as a result of such things.
Particular teenagers are highly prone to be manipulated. Such teenagers may feel the urge to alter their physical appearance as they begin to compare themselves with every other person they come across on social media. This can result in low-self esteem; also, there is a tremendous temptation to overindulge on social media. Hence, it can become an addiction for adolescents and cause them to get distracted, as already mentioned.
Several studies have found that excessive social media use is frequently associated with underlying problems such as depression, chronic stress, anxiety, or low self-esteem. | Photo by AH NP on Unsplash
Several studies have found that excessive social media use is frequently associated with underlying problems such as depression, chronic stress, anxiety, or low self-esteem. Hence, it becomes a social responsibility for us to keep a check on our and our friends' mental well-being by unplugging our devices, building solid friendships and beginning the search to find our true inner self by meditation, exploring nature and organizing offline get together.
Keywords: negative, unfavourable, friends, depression, teenagers, people, social, mental health
During festivals like Diwali, one shouldn't only pay pay attention to dressing up, shopping and meeting family members; an integral part of festivities includes cleaning and decorating our homes, neighbourhood and spreading joy. But while anybody can clean their homes, designing new spaces can be a tad bit cumbersome. With a restricted budget and high-priced decor products in the market, everyone is always looking out for new ideas that are both cost-effective and can transform your home to welcome Maa Laxmi and the New Year. Don't worry though, the following five budget-friendly ways shared by Niraj Johri, founder & CEO at Casa Decor, help you decorate your home in a manner that makes it unforgettable.
Adding metal accents
Adding brass, silver, or copper accessories in the tiny little spaces inside your home can elevate its overall design aesthetics. Metals are the epitome of elegance and luxury -- they can be moulded to lend an eccentric and dynamic fusion of colours. Due to their unpredictable nature, artisans can find numerous ways in which they can help accentuate every corner in your home.
Folded into intricate forms with beautiful solid colours, metals are an undeniably fascinating material to use in home decor. In fact, they are known for their polished and refined looks that bring together edgy, contemporary, and Victorian styles to the forefront. Such designs can usually be found in handcrafted decor pieces such as metal trays that are perfect centrepieces on wooden tables.
Adding brass, silver, or copper accessories in the tiny little spaces inside your home can elevate its overall design aesthetics. | Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Flowers, flowers everywhere!
This Diwali one should endeavor to shift to organic decor pieces that make use of fresh flowers elevate spaces like doorways, balconies, stairs, or even put them in vases and let the flowers be the centre of attention. Houseplants and flowers not only brighten your surroundings but also boost your mood immediately. Since Diwali calls for parties at home, flowers can function as a catalyst for good vibes.
You can also make use of metal planters enchanted by unexpected colors and veins. Through their unique characteristics and diverse sets of textures, metal planters enable the preservation of charm and value unique to Indian handicraft traditions and cultures.
Since Diwali calls for parties at home, flowers can function as a catalyst for good vibes. | Photo by Roberta Sorge on Unsplash
Light lights! Tea lights
Tea lights are perhaps best used when they are placed inside intricately handcrafted ceramic casings that combine various traditional techniques practised through time. Each piece exudes a sense of muted culture that find a new life in the nuances of the design work.
Each piece exudes a sense of muted culture that find a new life in the nuances of the design work. | Photo by Sven Hornburg on Unsplash
How about some lanterns?
Lanterns with fairy lights is a very popular idea that can be found in most households today. All you must do is fill the jar with fairy lights and hang them in any corner of a room. They offer an inspiring firefly effect that lends a unique and inimitable look to spaces within homes.
Lanterns offer an inspiring firefly effect that lends a unique and inimitable look to spaces within homes. | Photo by Vladimir Fedotov on Unsplash
Mirror Mirror on the wall
Wall mirrors are another way of adding an aesthetic and elegant touch to homes. One can add different sizes of mirrors on empty walls and change the look of the entire area. A classic mirror will add richness to your home and function as a reflective piece to shed light in each corner. (IANS/ MBI)
Wall mirrors are another way of adding an aesthetic and elegant touch to homes. | Photo by Tuva Mathilde Løland on Unsplash
Following a huge growth in his personal fortune, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has renewed his promise to "extend life to Mars". According to The Star, Musk's wealth has swelled to an astonishing $230 billion. Or a whopping 861 billion Dodgecoin, a cryptocurrency backed by the entrepreneur after he was reported to have invested millions.
Musk is now richer than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett combined, both individuals who had previously held the rich list title. "Elon Musk (with a net worth equal to 861 billion #Dogecoin) is now richer than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett COMBINED!" popular crypto YouTuber Matt Wallace's tweeted.
To which Musk said: "Hopefully enough to extend life to Mars". "Have no doubt you will make it happen," Wallace responded. CEO investments, the creators of Dogecoin, also responded backing Musk's plans every step of the way. The SpaceX Mars programme was initiated by Musk to colonize Mars after he first conceptualized the project back in 2001. SpaceX's aspirational goal has been to land the first humans on Mars by 2024, but in October 2020 Musk named 2024 as the goal for an uncrewed mission. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: investments, combined, SpaceX, billion, Elon musk, tesla