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10239Normalising Pathology

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  • World View
    Feb 6, 2009
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      Normalising Pathology
      Maura Moynihan
      http://atheonews.blogspot.com/2009/02/normalising-pathology.html


      The public is being exposed to a pathological world view where
      torture 'works', where murder is 'entertaining' and the suffering of
      others is no more than fashionable titillation.

      In their zeal to legalize torture and trounce the Bill of Rights, the
      Bush team crafted a media campaign to sell the "War on Terror" as a
      righteous quest retribution for 9/11, inciting fear of future carnage
      to justify violating the Geneva protocols and the U.S. Army Field
      Manual. While the Bush torture policy made stunning progress through
      the courts and the legislature, with the Patriot Act and the Military
      Commissions Act of 2006, there followed an increase in the
      normalization of torture images in popular culture, a growing
      acceptance of violence as effective, routine.

      When photographs of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib appeared in 2004,
      Bush's approval ratings sank, yet torture themes multiplied in film
      and TV. From 2002 through 2005, the Parents Television Council
      counted 624 torture scenes in prime time, a six-fold increase. UCLA's
      Television Violence Monitoring Project reports "torture on TV shows
      is significantly higher than it was five years ago and the characters
      who torture have changed. It used to be that only villains on
      television tortured. Today, "good guy" and heroic American characters
      torture -- and this torture is depicted as necessary, effective and
      even patriotic".

      Human Rights First has just released a short film entitled "Primetime
      Torture" that examines how torture and interrogation scenes are
      portrayed in television programming. A retired military leader
      interviewed for the film says, "The portrayal of torture in popular
      culture is having a significant impact on how interrogations are
      conducted in the field. U.S. soldiers are imitating the techniques
      they have seen on television -- because they think such tactics work."

      Lately it seems that three out of five offerings at the local
      Cineplex are tales of clever and nimble torturers and serial killers.
      This mass marketing of the murderer, sadist and child molester endows
      the deviant with a fictitious intelligence, the pretense of a rich
      and complex "inner life", a particularly annoying Hollywood buzzword.
      Such characters aren't presented as perverts, rather, they're complex
      geniuses, creative and tormented, ever misunderstood. It must come
      from the suits, who study box office returns for the "Texas Chainsaw
      Massacre" franchise. Whereas actresses frequently complain that the
      only roles available are for killers or tarts, actors bemoan the
      dearth of "serious" movies amid piles of scripts about guys shooting
      off guns. They'll play the killer if they have to, it's work.

      Showtime has launched a hit series called "Dexter, "America's
      Favorite Serial Killer; He's Got A Way with Murder" The star, Michael
      C. Hall, has become a pin-up icon in men's magazines, where he speaks
      rapturously in interviews about the joys of portraying "a serial
      killer with a conscience", in that he only kills bad people, or
      anyone he finds irritating. There's a Dexter screensaver, board game
      and Facebook site, where you can "Dexterize" your friend's profile.
      Huh?

      In the Bush years torture images migrated from Hollywood to fashion
      and advertising. Last season a TV commercial featuring lesbian-
      bondage-torture imagery got heavy rotation on prime time. A sleek and
      luscious model is strapped to a restraining chair, encircled by
      another model wielding a hair dryer like a weapon, whilst
      growling, "In" A new color print ad in women's magazines shows a
      ferocious swat team breaking into a bathroom, hoisting bottles of
      toilet bowl cleaner like clubs. I guess it's supposed to make you
      feel "safe".

      In 2007 a fashion blog proclaimed; "Torture is the New Black", when
      John Galliano's 2007 runway show male models wore hoods, nooses,
      handcuffs, and had their bodies painted with gashes, cuts and
      cigarette burns. Then Italian Vogue ran 30 pages of color photographs
      by Steven Meisel, depicting models elegantly clad in Dolce & Gabbana,
      Prada and more, being interrogated and beaten by policemen with
      clubs, knives, guns and attack dogs. Many fashion writers
      embraced "Torture Chic". Joanna Bourke, a professor at Birkbeck
      College, observed that the images served "the interests of the
      politics of torture and abuse. There is a vicarious satisfaction in
      viewing these depictions of cruelty in the interests of national
      security.'

      Human Rights First offers a list of recommendations to "creators of
      popular culture who are writing scenes about interrogation.' These
      include:


      U.S. interrogators say that not only is torture illegal and immoral,
      it is also ineffective as an interrogation tactic - because it is
      unreliable. Moreover, evidence gained through torture is inadmissible
      in court - and therefore unusable for prosecuting alleged terrorists
      or criminals.

      Torture, as it is performed by American characters on television,
      regularly produces reliable information - and quite quickly. When
      writing about interrogation, writers might consider creating scenes
      that more accurately mirror reality: showing that torture often
      incapacitates suspects (or kills them); that innocent people are
      often mistakenly tortured; or that victims of torture provide false
      information. On television today, torture has few consequences for
      the torturer and the tortured ... it would be difficult, if not
      impossible, for those who torture or are tortured to resume normal
      life quickly as they do on television.

      Remember that American popular culture is exported widely around the
      world...With the abuses at Abu Grahib and Guantanamo fresh in
      people's minds, exporting the glorification of torture by American
      military and police personnel further tarnishes America's image in
      the world."

      Fans of "Dexter" and "24" have become artificially desensitized to
      torture, having never experienced it themselves, or seen a friend or
      relative whipped, burned, frozen or starved.

      Daniel Patrick Moynihan once wrote; "The central conservative truth
      is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a
      society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a
      culture and save it from itself." In his 1993 essay "Defining
      Deviancy Down" he observed Americans "must be wary of normalizing
      social pathology that leads to trauma ... we are getting used to a
      lot of behavior that isn't good for us."

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