Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the abuse-of-power dept

When you get down to it, there are two central overlapping reasons to be opposed to torture. One is that it’s wrong, and the other is that it’s ineffective. The latter pretty much seals the deal on the former, since the only way someone could even conceivably argue that it’s not wrong is if it’s clearly preventing more harm than it causes, which has never been the case. After a commenter questioned some of these conclusions, That One Guy won first place for insightful by providing a thorough and excellent rebuttal:

Whereas people who claim that torture does work, or even defend it’s practice, have shown clearly that they have lost what little humanity they may have had.

Before I get to the meat of your comment, let’s get the most obvious part out of the way:

Even if torture was found to be 100% effective and accurate, it would still not be justified. Ever. Anyone claiming otherwise has shown themselves to be a pure sociopath and/or sadist at best, and absolutely no better, and barely different, than the ones they are fighting.

“That’s all very well, but you’ll still need to use torture in situations like the one just after 9/11.”

You mean like the situations where the torture report found that the information obtained was either useless, or had been found through other, perfectly legal and humane methods? Those ‘situations’?

“That’s because torture works. It is indeed useless for extracting confessions (people will confess anything, that’s true), but it has always worked quite well to extract informations.”

For the life of me I cannot see how you typed this up and didn’t spot the glaring error in it. If torture is useless for extracting confessions, because people will confess to anything, why in the world would you believe that it would be effective at gathering information? In both cases the person being tortured is going to say whatever they think will make the torture stop. They are going to say what they think the one torturing them wants to hear, true or not.

“And not extracting informations when you have the chance means making it more likely that terrorists will be able to kill more of your civilians.”

Here’s a hypothetical situation for you: Say you torture someone, and thanks to the information you get from them(assuming, for the sake of the example, that you actually got useful intel), you manage to stop one attack. Good trade right, the basic humanity of the ones performing the torture, and the rights and life of the one being tortured, in exchange for innocent lives?

Right, well that was only half of the equation. Thanks to the intel you gathered, you managed to stop one attack. However, due to the way that you got it, you caused a dozen more attacks(and if you think ‘Let’s just torture more people and stop those attacks!’ you haven’t been paying attention). You stopped one attack, and caused even more. Still think that was a good trade?

I mean come on, if a group, or in this case military/government is known to torture prisoners, do you really think that’s going to make people like them? Not even close, but what it will do is to increase the hatred of people that already don’t like you, or are fighting you, and drive those that might have supported you before straight into the arms of the people who are already fighting you, causing more attacks, and more deaths. It will also significantly decreases the possibility that those fighting you will be willing to surrender, no matter how bad their situation is, as they know death in combat is preferable by far to what might happen to them if they surrender, which also increases the deaths on both sides.

“People who say torture doesn’t work think they have found a clever way to avoid the moral dilemma, but they haven’t.”

Not really. The people who put forward that argument do so primarily because they know the people who support torture are such sick bastards that appealing to emotion or basic humanity isn’t likely to get them anywhere, so they instead appeal to the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the actions. And as has been shown, and has been known for decades, if not longer, torture is a terrible way, both morally, and in terms of effectiveness, in gaining useful intel.

Torture, at its core, seems like a product of authority and power gone wild — something very familiar in the US, where you’ve got cops like those in New York asking that resisting arrest be elevated to a felony. Second place for insightful this week goes to Trevor for his counter-proposal to that idea:

Maybe we can compromise?

If Resisting Arrest is classified as a felony, make it so that if the accused is found not guilty or the charges are dropped, the arresting officer is automatically charged with False Arrest, also classified as a felony.

For editor’s choice on the insightful side, we’ll start with one more comment about the cops, this time regarding their fear of Waze and the possibility that people might share speed-trap locations. As usual, the cops trotted out the line that this practice puts officers in danger of being attacked — and one anonymous commenter quickly underlined how weak that argument is:

People killed by (US) police so far in 2015: 119
(US) police killed by people so far in 2015: 0

Next, we head over to the conversation about Sriracha and its creator’s refreshingly open and forward-thinking mentality about trademarks. One commenter suggested that, if Tabasco starts making its own “Sriracha”, then the company will be profiting from the original creator’s work — but an anonymous response clarified why this oh-so-common misconception just isn’t true:

I disagree. The Tabasco Corp profits from putting sauce in bottles, and selling them. The money is in the work, not the idea. Lots of people don’t get that.

Over on the funny side, we’re sticking with the Sriracha post for first place. One commenter expressed some off-brand preference, pointing to Shark Sriracha as his favorite for its “base vinegar flavor” — but Zonker had even more particular tastes:

I prefer Left Shark Sriracha. It just has its own offbeat flavor.

And for second place, we double back slightly to the story about cops and Waze, where one anonymous commenter felt what the situation really needed was some healthy sarcasm:

Those poor, poor, persecuted police…such a risk they take, riding around in a clearly marked police vehicle, with lights all over it, sidearm, club, taser, and a trunk full of small/mid-size firepower.

And now citizens *gasp* knowing where they are!

How can they be expected to remain riding around in their clandestine state with this app ruining their cover?

Oh, the humanity!


For editor’s choice on the funny side, we’ll head off to two entirely new topics. First, after the University of North Carolina attempted to “fix” hate speech with a totally unenforceable ban on a social media app, we noted that it’s possible to teach people better ways of dealing with this kind of thing. But, as beech asked, how could a university possibly do that?

If only we had a place where we could send people to learn about things…

Finally, we’ve got a response to the FCC’s Ajit Pai, whose argument against net neutrality is that it will make it harder for the US to push for open internet in other countries due to how its own policies will be perceived. Except, instead of something like “appearance” or “perception”, he was worried about the much flashier-sounding “optics” of the situation, and this led one anonymous commenter to coin an excellent rule of thumb that I’m certain to quote again in future:

When someone uses the word “optics” to mean appearance, it’s best to maximize your temporal utility by leveraging the geo-spatial functionality of your feet.

Well poorly said! That’s all for this week, folks. We’re off tomorrow for Presidents’ Day, and will be back with regular posts on Tuesday.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

New Offence Of The Week “Pitch-Siding’

The Cricket World Cup is currently taking place in New Zealand. While they haven’t tried to claim ownership of any mention of the event like the Rugby World Cup did, they do seem to have created a new form of “criminal” activity, called “pitch-siding”.

What this means is, you aren’t allowed to report details of the game in real time from within the stadium. This is because the so-called “live” TV coverage is actually being delayed. So anyone bypassing this delay gains an advantage in a situation where bets are being made on the game.

They refer to this as “cheating” on bets. But it seems to me this situation was created entirely by the ICC itself; if they weren’t forcing a delay on coverage, the loophole couldn’t exist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: New Offence Of The Week “Pitch-Siding’

The ICC could prohibit it and throw you out if you do it, but I’m not seeing the ‘illegal’ here.

from the NZ Herald article linked:

“As far as we were concerned he was breaching the ticketing policy, providing match information on his communication devices [and] chucked out.”

So what if he was lying about what was happening in the game? Is that still ‘match information?’

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: New Offence Of The Week “Pitch-Siding’

Chances are the reason for this prohibition is so that some insiders can make bets (or have a relative make bets and they take a cut) and make a profit.

If you had any common sense you would take bets well before the event occurs (and not after it occurs and before it gets aired). But I imagine there are enough gullible people willing to do the latter and there are some capitalist insider pigs willing to find creative ways to capitalize on this.

Anonymous Coward says:

regarding torture

I was just watching that ISIS mass-beheading video (no, it’s not as graphic as I was fearing) and the first thing that jumped out is that all the victims were wearing orange jumpsuits — just like the ones worn by prisoners who were tortured at the hand of the U.S. government.

The whole point of that torture program was supposed to be to reduce “terrorism” — but ironically has created more of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: regarding torture

The USG is doing nothing but handing these lunatics a ready-made arsenal of memes, tropes, and iconographies to be put to use in what are essentially disturbingly sophisticated marketing campaigns. I’m surprised they haven’t yet created a photo series of naked hostages in hoods forced into human pyramids, with a guy holding an AK-47 giving the thumbs-up (or have they?).

A paranoid person might say that our western governments are playing the terrorists’ game on purpose, because it gives them lots of opportunities to grab new powers over their own populations, and makes tons of money to boot. Wait, did I say ‘paranoid’? I meant ‘rational’.

sciamiko (profile) says:

Re: Re: regarding torture

It shows the difference between the legal and military mind, as exemplified by these two quotes:

“… the law holds it better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent party suffer…” – William Blackstone, Commentaries of the Laws of England (1765)

“I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent.” – Dick Cheney,

Anonymous Coward says:

We’re off tomorrow for Presidents’ Day..

Hmmm reminds me of a joke.

Grandpa asks his granddaughter if she knows what tomorrow is.

She answers, “It’s Presidents Day”.

So Grandpa asks her what that means to her.

She answers, “If the President goes outside the White House and sees his shadow, we’ll have another year of bullshit.”

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The UN’s works for me. Does it work for you?

For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The UN definition of torture seems to have some easily exploitable loopholes.

For instance, what if a prisoner were to sign a waiver giving up his rights granted under international law? The UN makes no mention of signing a waiver, which is one of the worst vehicles of abuse ever invented.

U.S. Police typically pressure people to sign waivers, thereby giving up their Constitutional rights. This is why people should never sign anything without first getting qualified legal advice. And any sort of contract or waiver or confession or whatever else signed while under detention should be universally considered null and void.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Show me a court that would accept as legitimate a waiver from someone who was about to be tortured and/or had been, where the fact that they signed it was enough to legitimize and legalize the torture, and I’ll show you a court that has no interest in justice, but only cares about covering for the ones who committed the torture.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

IOW, it works for you that what is being done by groups like ISIS is not torture.

Huh? Seems to easily qualify under: “punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind”

I know you love to troll this site, but this is beneath even you.

Do you have a point? If so, make it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Moreover, the terms are so overbroad that they encompass many actions most would never consider to comprise torture.

  1. Denial of reproductive rights (whole articles and websites elaborating on this abound). Guess the PPACA’s implementing rules re contraceptives was to ensure women of child bearing years would not be tortured by the thought that they might have to pay a modest sum for birth control pills.

    2. Bullying over the internet, which history has shown that on rare occasion has led to the person being bullied to take their life.

    3. The infliction of corporal punishment.

    4. The horror of men being told to stand naked before women.

    5. (Here take the time as an insightful follower of this site to consider other actions that arguably fit within the very, very broad definition that is so typical of UN-topian ideals. Even a few minutes of doing so should make one realize that the UN definition can be abused with far more ease that many US laws that are regularly decried here as ripe for abuse.)

    The above, and a whole lot more, have and continue to be pressed by a myriad of human rights and other agenda-driven groups as species of “torture” per the definition the author here finds acceptable.

    If you want to use the word at the very least think through a definition you believe is apt, and then ask what are limiting principles that should be employed to keep the word from becoming so general and broad in scope that it essentially loses all meaning because of blatant overuse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Moreover, the terms are so overbroad that they encompass many actions most would never consider to comprise torture.

If you want to use the word at the very least think through a definition you believe is apt, and then ask what are limiting principles that should be employed to keep the word from becoming so general and broad in scope that it essentially loses all meaning because of blatant overuse.

Like piracy?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Moreover, the terms are so overbroad that they encompass many actions most would never consider to comprise torture.

“keep the word from becoming so general and broad in scope that it essentially loses all meaning because of blatant overuse.”

Like “terrorism” did.

I agree with this. The problem as I see it is that before we overreacted to 9/11, everyone had a pretty clear and solid idea of what “torture” was. Then the US decided that it really wanted to start torturing people, so it started muddying up the meaning in order to be able to say “we don’t torture” when that is precisely what we do.

That’s why we get all these hair-splitting kinds of arguments about what is and is not torture: because the US wants to make the definition as narrow as possible in order to allow us to torture as much as possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Since “torture” seems to be such a popular word bandied about as if its definition is well settled, perhaps someone would be so kind as to recite an unassailable definition.”

The United States Department of Justice defined torture as such:

“Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”

Since “enhanced interrogation” techniques such as waterboarding did not quite fit that definition, torture therefore did not technically occur according to the Justice Dept’s opinion — the only opinion that counted.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Worse than thinking about the person who wrote that definition, and just how twisted they must have been, is thinking about all the other people in the government, from the person who ordered that ‘definition’ to be written such that they would be in the clear, and all the others who saw nothing wrong with doing so.

That is a lot of very highly placed individuals who I wouldn’t trust to watch over a freakin’ goldfish, never mind decide on just what is and is not acceptable treatment of prisoners.

ottermaton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”

Actually, I would say that waterboarding does meet that definition from everything I’ve heard/read about it:

“… equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as

  • organ failure
  • (lungs are an organ)

  • impairment of bodily function
  • (breathing is a rather important bodily function)

  • death
  • (by all accounts people being waterboarded believe they are dying)

It seems to me waterboarding meets that definition on every point

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If waterboarding was determined to meet their ‘new and improved’ definition of torture, I can guarantee you they’d just re-write the definition until it didn’t.

They had no interest in setting limits on what they could and could not do, only in coming up with excuses for why they were ‘justified’ in doing what they were planning on doing anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: (cognitive dissonance)

The US government has established two distinct definitions of water boarding as torture:
1. when done by foreigners to Americans (= torture)
2. when done by Americans to foreigners (= not torture)

Anon says:

Torture- You all missed the point

It’s a given that torture produces no useful information – or rater, produces so much noise, that’s it’s impossible to discern meaningful information. That’s not the point.

Much as we would like to think that it is an information extraction tool, it is pure an simple retaliatory infliction of pain. Despite the propaganda wrapper of “wanting to prevent more terrorist attacks”, it is no different than ISIS or al Qeda punishing people for the crime of being Shiite or Coptic. Repeating this action over and over in the face of repeated meaningless orange alerts is simple punishment disguised as further attempts to find the truth.

Even as simple pain-as-intimidation it does not work. COnsider the Israeli technique of flattening a “terrorist’s” house. It’s the closest a normal, legitimate government can come to physical torture, as official policy; we can’t beat you, but we will make sure your family all suffer because of you. Forty years on, this has been singularly ineffective. It has not caused the fanatical to think twice, but it has made relations between Israel and Palestine the worst it has been ever (especially thanks to the latest refinement, “if someone launches a rocket from near you, we will bomb the entire block to rubble”.) This was taken to absurd levels a few months ago when a Palestinian ran over some people waiting for the tram in Jerusalem – he lived in a flat, so all the IDF could do to retaliate was trash the interior of one apartment with sledgehammers.

Even as a means of inflicting pain to intimidate, torture does not work.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...