Monday, May 10, 2004

Torture and Media, part 2

I'm not sure I really expressed myself accurately in the last post, so here goes again. I'm beginning to suspect that in the last few years our political systems have been polluted by the possibilities of the networked world. Not that "it's all the fault of the media" - it's the fault of politicians. It seems to me that the Abu Ghraibh torturers' obsession with photographing their own crimes - in effect, preparing the evidence for their own trial - is similar to the politics that put them there. They seem to have transferred a trash culture of bizarre porn images and yelling patriotism into action (it is no surprise that in among the war crimes, they also filmed themselves having sex) - after all, according to the New York Times, the same kind of sadism has been reported in ordinary civilian jails in the US. Several of the people involved were screws in civil life, and the chap responsible for reopening the Iraqi prisons (or should that be "reclosing"?)was forced to resign from his job running Utah's state prisons after
"an inmate died while shackled to a restraining chair for 16 hours. The inmate, who suffered from schizophrenia, was kept naked the whole time."

A vicious prison-gang culture plus a media world driven by sensation and horror, transplanted into a distant war in conditions of impunity...it seems simple enough. I think much of the current British migrant-basher hysteria has a similar source in the combination of unchallenged scare propaganda and a government obsessed with trying to get ahead of its press opponents - it just provides the validation.

I suppose this also supplies some of the answers to our situation. The US authorities have already said that the Abu Ghraibh torturers will be tried publicly in Baghdad. This makes sense. Robin Cook's suggestion of demolishing it does too. From a British point of view, though, this is already losing out. The government is currently refusing to publish the Red Cross report on detention in the British zone, whilst protesting that they did not know about the report - this demonstrates Alan Watkins' view that scandals in Britain always concern whether or not someone had the right to say what they did, not the facts, and also demonstrates that the government is still obsessed with trying to show mythical "toughness" in the belief that the Murdoch press will love them again. They will not, and the cruelty increasingly evident in the government's every idea (demanding that doctors refuse treatment to failed asylum-seekers..)will only increase this way.

Note - The London News Review is of a similar view about the torturers - apparently Graner had a record of stalking his ex-wife with guns and setting up secret video cameras...

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