Americans Love Torture

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Atrios on torture:

If I was involved in this stuff and avoided prosecution…I’d count my blessings and not think, “hey, maybe I should stick around and pursue the highest job in order to ensure that I would have renewed media scrutiny for all that torture.” … The problem isn’t simply that these people weren’t prosecuted (though they should have been). It’s that they weren’t even shamed enough to think that maybe the public spotlight wasn’t the best thing for them.

So why didn’t that happen? Unfortunately, I think public polling offers us all the explanation we need:

The American public supports torture by a pretty wide margin, and Republicans support it almost unanimously. This means there’s really not much reason for anyone to feel ashamed about it or to think it will hurt their reputation or their ability to work in government.

The bottom half of the poll graphic explains why so many people feel this way: they’re scared. This is hard for people like me to understand: It never even occurs to me to feel scared in any of the situations they asked about. At airports I mostly feel annoyed. At movies I mostly wish Hollywood made better stuff. At sporting events I wish the guy in front of me wasn’t wearing a big hat.

But scared people support bad policies. They support interning people of Japanese ancestry. They support napalm and carpet bombing. And they support torture. The only way to change this is to figure out a way to make people less scared. Obviously we haven’t done that yet.


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