HideOnly 1 day left to get your copy of the CIA's declassified training game by backing CIA: Collect It All on Kickstarter »
HideOnly 1 day left to get your copy of the CIA's declassified training game by backing CIA: Collect It All on Kickstarter »

John Oliver Gets Helen Mirren To Read CIA Torture Report As An eBook To Get People To Read It

from the would-be-helpful dept

Another week, another John Oliver report that covers topics we talk about on Techdirt. This time, it's the CIA torture report, put together by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The 6,000+ page document is still classified, but the 500+ page executive summary (still with lots of redactions) was released last December as you may recall. There were plenty of interesting revelations in it -- and we're sure the full report has many more. The "true believers" in torture took the fingers-in-ears-"we're-not-listening" approach to dealing with it. The DOJ announced that it had not opened the report. Apparently, the former CIA boss Porter Goss claimed he hadn't read the executive summary either -- even though he mocked John McCain for not having read it either.

Either way, John Oliver decided to do something about this, and asked famed actor Helen Mirren to create an audio book version of the work (which, you know, he can do because it's in the public domain), clips of which were played on the show.
The segment highlights that torture doesn't work and that people ridiculously think it does because it works in TV shows even if basically every actual study shows it doesn't. And then it makes the more important point: even if it did work (which it doesn't), it shouldn't matter because it's the wrong thing to do.

I've been searching around trying to find a link to the full audiobook, which Oliver insists was recorded, but so far can't find anything other than the snippets in the show itself. Hopefully it really does exist.

Either way, kudos to Oliver for taking topics that we tend to talk about in our small corner of the world here and exposing them to a much wider audience -- and including Helen Mirren in the process.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 9:44pm

    Sad but true.

    It is sad that we have to get information about our own government thru a tv comedian.

    What makes it worse is that I trust what he says more than any news report.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:54pm

      Re: Sad but true.

      "It is sad that we have to get information about our own government thru an English tv comedian."

      Just thought I'd make it sadder for you. Once Stewart's left The Daily Show, you're not even getting the info from your own citizens (Trevor Noah is South African).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whoever, 16 Jun 2015 @ 9:51pm

    It's far worse than the torture report summary admits

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 7:01am

      Re: It's far worse than the torture report summary admits

      You should read the story of the guy who inspired Ellsberg to release the Pentagon Papers. This CIA torture story goes back at least as far as Vietnam War.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 10:04pm

    I love listening to audio books while driving the car, but I'm afraid the CIA torture book will be too disturbing and might cause me to lose control and crash.

    Kind of like how the CIA lost control after 9/11, crashing all our moral values as a nation and burning international law down to the ground.

    I still can't believe not a single person has been arrested for torturing people, or aiding and abetting the torturers. Not a single one.

    Nation of the rule of law my ass. We're a lawless nation of torturers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 10:32pm

      Re:

      "We're a lawless nation of torturers."

      Sorry, I don't accept that. I, personally, have never, ever tortured anyone or thing (well maybe a phrase or two). That our government has tortured in our name is an aberration that I despise with my entire being. Blame the government all you want, but don't slough it off on the rest of us. We are working to depose those responsible, but there is a process, a very messy process, but a process none the less.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:15pm

        Re: Re:

        Sorry, but what you say is a huge pile of BS. I am sure MOST of Germans did not run concentration camps - this was the 'government'. The government, which was their best representation. As is yours.
        Get over it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          tqk (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 7:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          You trivialize history and discount human nature. Chic.

          I don't blame victims. The gang in power du jour is hardly any single person's fault more than what a vote's worth: close to nothing. The Nazis aren't the Germans' fault any more than Italy should still be blamed for the Holy Roman Empire.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2015 @ 8:21am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            any more than Italy should still be blamed for the Holy Roman Empire.

            Italy was totally blameless for that empire, as its founder was Charlemagne, who ruled what is modern France Germany,

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 9:53am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "I am sure MOST of Germans did not run concentration camps"

          That's right, which is why most Germans are not guilty of war crimes, nor are they to blame for them.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 12:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Plus, as some often forget, a great many of the victims of the concentration camps and other Nazi actions were German. If Germans are responsible for the atrocities, it's because their vote allowed Hitler to be democratically elected and thus give some pause to trying to stop him later. Most Germans were not Nazis, but for most it was too late to speak up by the time the true horror became apparent (if it ever did before the end of the war and Allied footage was available)

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              John Fenderson (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 2:08pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              We should also remember that the Nazis never had the support or vote of the majority of the population. They were most commonly viewed as a bunch of radical nutjobs.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Pragmatic, 18 Jun 2015 @ 5:33am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Dangerous radical nutjobs. I understand it was a crime to criticize Der Fuhrer, so trying to do anything about the Nazis could have landed you in a concentration camp.

                Here's the thing, though; under cover of "The Devil made me do it," authoritarians, bullies, and thugs of every stripe can do pretty much what they like at the time, then afterwards claim they were just doing their jobs.

                We're seeing this now in the militarization of our law enforcement, etc. Claiming to stand for the rule of law and appealing to respect for authority can make a lot of people turn a blind eye to some very nasty things.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2015 @ 1:26am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "most Germans are not guilty of war crimes, nor are they to blame for them"

            Of course. They were only following orders.

            I am sorry, but all the Germans living in that time were part of this. They voted for NSDAP, which got 107/444 MEPs in 1930 and 288/444 MEPs in 1933 (which made Hitler the Chancellor). While you might argue they were stupid enough not to anticipate the consequences, it is not like they had no warning - Sturmabteilung have been established in 1921. In November 1923 they tried to take over Munich. The Völkischer Beobachter have been spreading hatred since 1920. Germans had plenty of warning.

            So yes, the WW II contemporary Germans are to blame for the war crimes.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2015 @ 9:13am

        Re: Re:

        I don't think the rest of the world will forgive you for standing by and letting them to continue to torture people as you go through the paperwork to get them arrested.

        People are never given a free pass when they stand by and let evil continue unabated

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 9:38am

          Re: Re: Re:

          So your solution to those who break the law is to encourage others to break the law? Because that's exactly what you're doing. You're saying that due process and justice should be ignored just to get those bad guys.

          Beware the rode that you walk down for it leads to the same place you claim to oppose.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 23 Jun 2015 @ 9:10pm

            Remember the July 20 plot?

            Maybe you should look it up.

            In the US due. process. doesn't. work.

            Look at how many police officers walk away and continue working after they've gunned down an unarmed person.

            And those were just cops.

            Think that G-men are going to see a less-friendly courtroom?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Sheogorath (profile), 18 Jun 2015 @ 12:20am

        Re: Re:

        I agree. After I put a song on AO3 about the US Government's excesses, my beta reader wrote a comment in which she apologised for them. I thanked her for her apology, but also explained that I didn't expect one from her because it's her government to blame, not individuals.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 23 Jun 2015 @ 9:06pm

        Feel free to continue that process of reprisal by Other Means

        Last I checked every soul that was involved in the torture program (that wasn't a victim of it) was pardoned.

        So yeah, justice is another one of those things that works only in the movies.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 16 Jun 2015 @ 10:49pm

      Re:

      I still can't believe not a single person has been arrested for torturing people, or aiding and abetting the torturers. Not a single one.

      If I remember correctly, Obama has emphatically called the torturers heroes and patriots. That's way above not arresting them. Apart from being really sick and pointing to a total lack of the moral qualities required for leading a group of more than three people, it is also torturing language.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2015 @ 9:09am

        Re: Re:

        "If I remember correctly, Obama has emphatically called the torturers heroes and patriots. That's way above not arresting them."

        That was Bush, boy.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2015 @ 10:54am

          Re: Re: Re:

          We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values... And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

          https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/08/01/press-conference-president

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 11:50am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            If anyone in the room when he said that revolting line had even a shred of humanity or decency, they would have immediately walked out, ideally right after noting that he was defending torture and spitting on the names and sacrifices of real patriots with his speech.

            Torturing people doesn't make someone a 'patriot', it exposes them to be sociopaths and/or sadistic scum, that either need to be locked up for the rest of their lives to protect those around them, or executed, for the same reason.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Pragmatic, 18 Jun 2015 @ 5:37am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You've just explained how loaded language can persuade the most decent and reasonable people to put up with outright evil.

              The only way to counter it is to call it out when we see or hear it.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2015 @ 9:14am

        Re: Re:

        don't forget the founding fathers are being labeled as terrorists.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2015 @ 9:14am

        Re: Re:

        don't forget the founding fathers are being labeled as terrorists.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nigel (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 10:42pm

    Fine. I will say it. Helen Mirren is the goods.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:03pm

    He’s Even On Al Jazeera

    John Oliver’s message to the people of Trinidad and Tobago about Jack Warner was an item on The Listening Post this week.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:19pm

    The Best Propaganda Is When You Don’t Realize It’s Propaganda

    People believe torture works because they see it working in film and TV.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Kaemaril (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 1:59am

    "The uploader has not made this video available in your country"

    I hate when that happens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 7:17am

      Re: "The uploader has not made this video available in your country"

      (0) AbsenceOfMalice /home/keeling_ cd /scratch/tunes/
      (0) AbsenceOfMalice /scratch/tunes_ youtube-dl https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmeF2rzsZSU
      [youtube] zmeF2rzsZSU: Downloading webpage
      [youtube] zmeF2rzsZSU: Extracting video information
      [youtube] zmeF2rzsZSU: Downloading DASH manifest
      [download] Destination: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver - Torture (HBO)-zmeF2rzsZSU.mp4
      [download] 100% of 167.60MiB in 02:02
      (0) AbsenceOfMalice /scratch/tunes_

      I'm in Canada. Comedy Central usually spits at me, but no complaints anywhere here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2015 @ 8:18am

      Re: "The uploader has not made this video available in your country"

      Watch on DailyMotion.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JustMe (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 4:15am

    Re: Obama (and Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan)

    Inauguration Day. Such lofty goals. Such high hopes. Turns out that every new President is just like his successor, morally corrupt and willing to compromise American values - not to mention the Constitution - at the drop of a hat. Sad.

    Carter at least seems to be a good egg.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 17 Jun 2015 @ 4:39am

      Re: Re: Obama (and Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan)

      Carter was one of the best former presidents the U.S. had had. Heck, Obama was a good future president.

      But the Oval Office is something else. Carter fought it and was not able to wield power. Obama let "his" power be wielded like most of his predecessors.

      The last president actually being on control of both himself and the office was probably Eisenhower. Kennedy tried too hard to survive.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2015 @ 6:13am

    What do you mean it works in TV shows? Mel Gibson NEVER reveals the secrets under torture.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 6:17am

      Re:

      Mel's normally the "good guy", so he's impervious. "Bad guys" will always cave.

      Come on, you think people who believe that torture is OK because of movies will stop to think about it in anything other than black & white?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 7:25am

        Re: Re:

        Mel's normally the "good guy", so he's impervious.

        It helps when you're a veteran and your gov't (DoD) runs torture survivability courses for its soldiers. He's trained to withstand it.

        Imagine the Soviet KGB version of that course. I expect they had one too.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 7:35am

    Nitpick

    Last I checked, Helen Mirren was a famed actress :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 23 Jun 2015 @ 9:13pm

    US Senate Torture Report Audio Book featuring Helen Mirren

    Is there someplace where I can actually get this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.