Gentle reminder

Why does torture exist? If you set aside petty sadism, leaders sometimes need things to be true that are not only false but so wrong that no one credible can be persuaded to lie about them. If the threat of losing your job or prison can’t persuade someone to lie then you torture them until they change their mind. That’s it. The whole Jack Bauer mythology is a complete fraud. Nobody ever learns anything useful from torture. Germans and Israelis studied this extensively and came to the same conclusion. Sometimes you get nuggets of truth, but you have no easy way to tell those apart from the mountains of bullshit that someone will throw out to make the pain stop. You get more reliable information a lot faster from a cup of coffee. On the other hand, maybe you don’t want reliable information. If you already know what you want someone to say, and they strenuously object, then torture gets you there.

The CEO of Newsmax Media, known for having a relationship with President Trump, wrote on Sunday that Trump insists he will be proven right regarding his allegation of wiretaps at Trump Tower.

“I spoke with the President twice yesterday about the wiretap story. I haven’t seen him this pissed off in a long time,” Christopher Ruddy wrote in an article for his website.

Now I can think of several reasons why Trump will not put FBI agents to the rack. Sooner or later someone will persuade him to move on and pretend he never brought this up. However, you can expect the same story to happen again and again and again. Trump loves the idea of torture. He carelessly throws out bullshit and he has too fragile an ego to admit he ever made a mistake. Maybe president three year old decided those awful protesters could only say those mean things becasue George Soros paid them. The Attorney General is Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. Many local PDs, notably but hardly limited to Chicago, have long understood the magical powers of hitting someone until they confess. What could possibly go wrong?

59 replies
  1. 1
    JMG says:

    I honestly don’t see how this ends without civil war, which our side might not well win. One lesson of history, seen now in Syria, is that peaceful protest suppressed become violent protest, then war.

  2. 2
    Yarrow says:

    Trump spox says president rejects Comey’s assertion that wiretapping claim Is false @nytmike reports— Michael Tackett (@tackettdc) March 6, 2017

    Comey is going to regret doing what he did with the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and his press conference comments.

  3. 3
    MattF says:

    You say:

    Sooner or later someone will persuade him to move on and pretend he never brought this up.

    But I don’t think Trump ever needs to be persuaded to lie.

  4. 4
    Yarrow says:

    @MattF: Agreed. He’s been doing it his whole life. He’s on record saying things and then later denying he said them or saying he doesn’t know what the person is talking about at all. He says whatever he wants to have someone believe at the time and that is what is true, for him.

  5. 5
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Slightly off topic: The State of Trump’s State Department From the Atlantic via Steven Taylor at OTB

    With the State Department demonstratively shut out of meetings with foreign leaders, key State posts left unfilled, and the White House not soliciting many department staffers for their policy advice, there is little left to do. “If I left before 10 p.m., that was a good day,” said the State staffer of the old days, which used to start at 6:30 in the morning. “Now, I come in at 9, 9:15, and leave by 5:30.” The seeming hostility from the White House, the decades of American foreign-policy tradition being turned on its head, and the days of listlessness are taking a toll on people who are used to channeling their ambition and idealism into the detail-oriented, highly regimented busywork that greases the infinite wheels of a massive bureaucracy. Without it, anxiety has spiked. People aren’t sleeping well. Over a long impromptu lunch one afternoon—“I can meet tomorrow or today, whenever! Do you want to meet right now?”—the staffer told me she too has trouble sleeping now, kept awake by her worries about her job and America’s fading role in the world.

  6. 6
    Corner Stone says:

    @Yarrow: I hope eventually Comey and Colin Powell share a bunkbed in a very special part of Hell.

  7. 7
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @JMG: Since peaceful protests have been happening and are not being suppressed, you may be a little premature. Get a grip.

  8. 8
    XTPD says:

    Going off a comment marcion made earlier: Trump has Niyazov’s humility, Mao’s competence, Suharto’s financial integrity, Choibalsan’s independence, Milosevic’s ethnoracial sensitivity, and Macias Nguema’s stability and intellectualism.

  9. 9
    cmorenc says:

    I get the torture paradigm you describe, and I get the bullshit-generation forcing mechanism Trump and his RW distortion media allies use to generate deflection and distraction – but I frankly don’t get the connection you’re trying to draw between the two. Trump’s core supporters are hardly being tortured into willingly buying into (or overlooking) his viciously vacuous bullshit. Please explain the connection you’re attempting to draw here.

  10. 10
    Corner Stone says:

    @XTPD: Man, if you think I’m gonna learn something here today are you ever mistaken!

  11. 11
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: The closing of the above:

    “This is probably what it felt like to be a British foreign service officer after World War II, when you realize, no, the sun actually does set on your empire,” said the mid-level officer. “America is over. And being part of that, when it’s happening for no reason, is traumatic.”

  12. 12
    Yarrow says:


    kept awake by her worries about her job and America’s fading role in the world.

    Trump’s making America great again, right on schedule. And he’s bringing back factory jobs, too:
    First import of Russian steel arrives at new Paulsboro port

    On Wednesday, Doric Warrior made its final leg of a long journey to Paulsboro from Russia. The ship, 230 meters long, carried the first shipment of steel to the Paulsboro Marine Terminal
    Bob Miller, president and CEO of NLMK, said that NLMK steel will be bringing in 1.5 million slabs of steel to the port each year.

    “We plan to expand and bring up to 2 million slabs,” he said.

    “What we have in this ship is raw material,” he added. “Our 1,100 American workers will take and turn into real American steel,” he added.

    So, most of the work will be done out of the US–Russia, in this case–and a handful of workers will finish it off here.

    It’s just great to see Trump supporting the American worker and bringing back those factory jobs that have gone overseas.

  13. 13
    Kylroy says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Yeah, I don’t see this ending in war *now*, but it’s revealing a fundamental worldview divide that people cannot be persuaded out of. I feel that we are relative to the second American Civil War where the 1830s were to the first: truces being made with no fundamental agreements reached.

  14. 14
    Tim F. says:

    @cmorenc: Trump gets some validation from his core followers, but he needs everybody to believe him or his ego deflates. The major papers and TV stations basically calling him a liar drives him crazy.

    Formal investigations into this wiretapping BS are a smart way to distract from the actual Russia scandals. However Trump is not smart enough to leave it at that. He needs the BS to be true. He NEEDS the investigation to say that he was right. Since physical evidence is obviously not going to happen, that means someone would have to confess to something they did not do.

    As I said I strongly doubt this is the case where he crosses that line. You don’t coerce federal agents, and he still has an incredibly weak power base. But he lies about something new every half hour. Imagine a real emergency, say a terrorist attack, when he has the freedom to do more or less whatever he wants.

  15. 15

    @Corner Stone: no bunk beds in hell, it’s all ‘stress positions.’

  16. 16


    I don’t think it’ll happen. But if it did, it would start with our side winning the presidential election in a way that would very clearly guarantee us the White House for a generation. We’re not the type to shoot first.

  17. 17
    PPCLI says:

    @XTPD: And Henry VIII’s marital fidelity. And Saddam Hussein’s sons.

  18. 18
    gvg says:

    The other thing about the Jack Bauer scenario is that is fiction, which means someone is writing it according to it’s appeal to viewers with a build up in suspense and a dramatic resolution every episode. the writers do know what result they want before the episode starts. they also would never bother to make the villain anybody sympathetic I think (I have never watched the show). real life doesn’t work like that. Investigators do not know ahead of time what answers they will get nor do they know for sure if someone they catch even knows. Smart investigators cross check against other people and objective facts.
    Torture for info pollutes the pool of info all the intelligence services have to check against so that others don’t know that they can’t rely of something they think is a fact meaning they are being misled and don’t know it.
    I don’t think it’s just conservatives that are currently being foolish because fiction shows are such a big part of our lives from and early age, however they are currently the most dangerous deluded fools.

  19. 19
    Corner Stone says:

    @Tim F.:

    Imagine a real emergency, say a terrorist attack, when he has the freedom to do more or less whatever he wants.

    And who would believe any conclusion his administration put forth about the event(s)? There is simply no way that facts would be conveyed in a truthful or useful manner about what is going on. Even if it was a relatively low level incident, it could very easily and very quickly spin into a major catastrophe because no one has any faith that it was accurate or being handled efficiently.

  20. 20
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Yarrow: They are trying to restart the Pea Ridge mine near where I live. They’ve been investing lots of money into the project, bringing in a new high tension power line from the Labadie plant on the Missouri. They’ve been pumping water out of the mine for 2-3 years now and there is talk of building a conveyor belt to the Mississippi. In addition to the iron, there are lots of rare earth metals too.

    I’m sure cheap steel coming over from Russia will do wonders for their enthusiasm in investing in this project here.

  21. 21
    sigaba says:


    So, most of the work will be done out of the US–Russia, in this case–and a handful of workers will finish it off here.

    This has been a prevalent phenomenon for years, 90% of the work is done overseas and then the final product is shipped KD (knocked down, in pieces, Ikea-like) for final assembly with socket wrenches and hand tools in the US, thus producing a “Made in America” product.

    We used to do it opposite-wise in places like India, to get around import restrictions. Shipping a complete Ford Galaxy into India would entail a huge customs duty, but shipping a few hundred pieces that could be assembled by a couple guys into one wasn’t.

  22. 22
    MJS says:

    @JMG: I don’t see how this ends in civil war, either a U.S. circa 1860 version or a present day Syria version.

  23. 23

    CNN headline that pushed to my phone (not calling it a news alert): “the birth of a conspiracy theory: how president trump’s wiretap claim got started.”

  24. 24
    Kylroy says:

    @Thoroughly Pizzled: Given that that is more or less what happened in 1860…

  25. 25
    sigaba says:

    @Major Major Major Major: CNN’s got the bit between their teeth, but still expect them to fawn over prepared addresses. Trump’s resignation will be the most Presidential thing he ever does.

  26. 26
  27. 27
    XTPD says:

    @PPCLI: Add Trujillo Molina’s tolerance for dissent* and you’ve rounded out the Overlooked Monster Bingo Card.

    *He’s actually considered as more or less the Joker/Red Skull of Latin American dictatorships, but none of those traits are unique to the others I listed.

    Also, Ivan IV was worse with women.

  28. 28

    @gvg: this is why I stick to a strict regimen of science fiction and games where I pretend to be an elf.

  29. 29
    Yarrow says:

    @sigaba: Indeed. But in this case. Trump told the people in places like Allentown, PA that he was going to reopen the steel mills and thus bring jobs back to their communities . I hope they’re seeing this article.

  30. 30
    The Moar You Know says:

    I honestly don’t see how this ends without civil war, which our side might not well win.

    @JMG: If it comes to that, we will lose badly. We’re not armed.

  31. 31
  32. 32
    geg6 says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Maybe you aren’t. But I know plenty of liberals who are.

  33. 33

    @Gin & Tonic: I’m much too tall to be an elf. Although if Captain Carrot can be a dwarf…

  34. 34
    MattF says:

    @Major Major Major Major: It’s not news that talk radio is full of conspiracy theories. But it’s sorta-news that mainstream (i.e., ‘I’m not crazy’) conservatives find themselves having to react to it.

  35. 35
    Oatler. says:

    @Major Major Major Major: You nailed it, Major. I can’t see a RWNJ comment thread that doesn’t have some Happy Warrior saying “Finally the adults are in charge!” then including a picture of a 1980s action hero or Star Wars character. Enough with the scholarly essays about How Narnia Can Save Us From Leftists (and while I’m foaming at the mouth, enough with using the word “warrior” for soldier! It came from arcade gamers and sci-fi fans).

  36. 36
    Pogonip says:

    @JMG: Don’t worry. Trump will be impeached by July. Also most Americans are so overworked and frazzled they’re too tired to start a civil war.

  37. 37
    The Moar You Know says:

    Maybe you aren’t. But I know plenty of liberals who are.

    @geg6: To the teeth, actually. Been shooting since I was a child (yay Southern grandparents!) I guess I should have phrased this another way; libs don’t have the disregard for human life that would allow them to shoot people they don’t know. In general, this is a really good thing. But it would be a disaster in a civil war. We are not mentally or temperamentally armed. And we are shit at taking orders. The opposition seems to have no problem with the idea of rounding us all up into camps and shooting us all.

    Also most Americans are so overworked and frazzled they’re too tired to start a civil war.

    @Pogonip: I think this would be the saving grace. The ones that aren’t too exhausted are unable/unwilling/blazed on Oxy/drunk as fuck and couldn’t get off the couch and turn off the TV.

  38. 38
    MikeEss says:

    As O’Brien explains to Winston Smith in 1984, the purpose of torture is to torture. They don’t expect to get information, and believe they already have it anyway. So torture is a tool for manipulation, not intelligence. Experience in the real world seems to back this up…

  39. 39

    @Major Major Major Major: My grad students once photoshopped my head onto Legolas’s body. I looked pretty good if I do say so myself.

  40. 40
    Chris says:


    The other thing about the Jack Bauer scenario is that is fiction, which means someone is writing it according to it’s appeal to viewers with a build up in suspense and a dramatic resolution every episode.

    Being an eighties-action-show junkie, I always saw “24” as a similar, other-side-of-the-aisle counterpart to “MacGyver.” In the sense that, in the same way that Mac would never run into a problem that required him to kill or use a gun no matter how deadly the environment or how ridiculous that was, Jack Bauer would never encounter a problem that he couldn’t beat, kill, and torture his way to the bottom of, and more than that, it always required him to beat, kill and torture. The basic concept is political wish-fulfillment fantasy.

    The fact that one of these shows is remembered as silly and cheesy eighties entertainment while the other is taken seriously enough to be cited by Supreme Court judges says a lot – both in terms of how far to the right the nation’s worldview is, and in terms of how difficult the right finds it to separate fact from fiction.

  41. 41
    Chris says:


    As O’Brien explains to Winston Smith in 1984, the purpose of torture is to torture.


    Also, much like the Iraq War, it’s a way to show off how badass and hardcore you are, how you’re not going to take any crap, how you’re willing to Do What Must Be Done and not one of those liberal pansies who want to mollycoddle terrorists by reading them their rights.

  42. 42
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    have long understood the magical powers of hitting someone until they confess. What could possibly go wrong?

    That only works when the other side can’t hit back and doesn’t want to get hurt. Otherwise one has a serious fight on thier hands.

  43. 43
    Texpunk says:

    “becasue”? : I’ll sue you ‘just cuz…

    (@Tim F. RE: typo in above post)

  44. 44
    aimai says:

    @Tim F.: Its a given that Trump will order torture when he needs to, of foreign persons. He is already ordering and supervising torture of women and children by ordering them separated at the border. He is already supervising/responsible for the torture of prisoners in for profit prisons.
    But this is entirely separate from his need for public adulation and and public justification and acclaim. He will continue to try to squid ink his way out of the extreme loss of face he is suffering but is too stupid to realize what he is setting in motion. I’m worried about lower level Republican officials trying to ride herd on the hearings and inquisition he has set in motion. Especially with Sessions history of using the law to browbeat and attack political enemies. Its going to be mini saturday night massacres all the way down.

  45. 45

    “Why does torture exist? If you set aside petty sadism…” …you’ve lost the great bulk of the plot right there. Sadism may be trivial, but it is not petty; for conservatives, it is a matter of high policy. Torture must be understood to include all of its manifestations, including what is now called “gaslighting” and all other forms of dishonesty — always remember that lies are not told for gain, but to humiliate their audiences — and including the acquisition and flaunting of unaccountability.

  46. 46
    mardam422 says:

    Ruddy was playing golf with Trump this weekend. How many weekends has Trump played golf so far? How many weekends has he been President? See Identical sets.
    How often did Obama get grief for playing golf, again?

  47. 47
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @Kylroy: I think the critical point is no one is being assaulted. When they start shooting people, that’s when goes into civil war. However Trump is playing with fire.

  48. 48
    Shantanu Saha says:

    @gvg: Does anyone remember Homicide: Life on the Street? That was a fiction show that got interrogation more or less right. Andre Braugher’s Frank Pembleton was a master interrogator, and he never needed even the hint of torture to get information out of the people he interviewed. He even once specifically browbeat one man into (falsely) admitting to murder in order to demonstrate to his shift commander, Al Giardello (Yaphet Kotto) that he could produce what his superior wanted if he really wanted to railroad someone. Even then, he didn’t need to raise his hand. People who physically torture are sadists.

  49. 49
    Chris says:

    @Shantanu Saha:

    I did not know that but will try to find it now: I’m a sucker for shows that get this sort of thing right.

    On the same theme: I’m only a very infrequent NCIS viewer, but I saw the pilot episode (the original one, when it was a two-parter on JAG) a few months back and it’s another one that surprisingly gets the torture thing right. They’re trying to discover the details of a terrorist attack that they know is imminent, they have one of the cell’s members in custody, and Gibbs and his boss are watching footage of him being tortured at Gitmo while his boss goes “oh yeah, they’ll break him… in a month. Gibbs, we can’t wait that long.” Gibbs goes to Gitmo, where he ends up just having dinner with the terrorist, making small talk, and picking up enough clues from the small talk to figure out where his cell is planning to strike.

    It’s a small moment that doesn’t make a big deal out of itself, never actually condemns the torture, but it’s a nice reversal of the usual tropes, especially with the whole “those idiots with their ineffective methods, Gibbs, go in there and get $#!t done” commentary being flipped against the torturers.

  50. 50
    Philbert says:

    Another major purpose of torture is to neuter the activity or change the behavior of the victim. Egypt, Syria, Iraq: if eventually released, victims come out broken, and will not oppose the authorities again. In Latin America, when a RW dictator takes over, they arrest trade union people right away.

  51. 51
    Kylroy says:

    @Chris: FWIW, Burn Notice got almost pedantic in how often it emphasized “torture never works”.

  52. 52
    TenguPhule says:

    @The Moar You Know: Only until you consider what constitutes weapons these days. Terry Pratchett was quite inspired there.

  53. 53
    TenguPhule says:

    @Kylroy: Some anvils need to be dropped. Repeatedly. Because a lot of people are stupid.

  54. 54
    Snarki, child of Loki says:

    Sorry, folks. The USA has ‘normalized’ torture now. There was a chance, a slim (probably self-destructive) chance that Obama could stop it once and for all, but he didn’t.

    There are two options for getting rid of torture:
    1. Extensive investigation, vigorous prosecution, harsh punishment. No pardons.

    2. Torture is extended to violent RWNJ extremists, and all the people they rat out, and all the people THEY rat out.

  55. 55
    Seth Owen says:

    @The Moar You Know: If it comes to civil war, then ‘liberalism’ will be on hold until it’s over. Unionists had no trouble shooting secessionists, GIs shot Nazis. I have no doubt people will do what people need to do, if it comes to that.

  56. 56
    Chris says:


    Yep. One of the best things about that show.

  57. 57
    EBT says:

    @Chris: I love that the intro to MacGuyver shows a scene from the Pilot where Mac sprays an AK 47 all over the place.

  58. 58
    toschek says:

    @mardam422: Hannity used to call Obama the “Vacationer-in-Chief” and was fond of reminding his viewers of how much taxpayer money had been spent by the Obamas on their yearly trip to Hawaii. He acted personally affronted that Moo-Chelle’s mother was living in the White House as well to help with child care. Of course now that we have a real grifter running the show it doesn’t seem to matter as much. The spousal unit and I were tabulating the costs of Trump’s travel and security costs for himself, Melania and his adult children and if the past six weeks is anything to go on Trump will have spent nearly $3 billion (*) by the time his four years are up (contrasted with the roughly $97 million the Obamas cost us over eight years). Truly, IOKIYAR.

    * Also, too: much of that $3 billion will have been spent at Trump properties. If Trump wasn’t a billionaire before he became POTUS, he certainly will be one once he’s done.

  59. 59
    Chris says:


    Early installment weirdness is a hell of a thing. All the might have beens that you see when you get back to the first few episodes of a show.

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