August 28, 2006

Making Saddam watch the "South Park" movie.

Yahoo News reports that Matt Stone -- one of the two "South Park" creators -- says that marines guarding Saddam Hussein have forced him to watch their movie "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut," which depicts Saddam in hell having a sexual relationship with Satan.

Stone might just be joking, but let's assume he's not. Shouldn't we be treating prisoners with more respect? Stone is obviously pleased about it. GOP Vixen seems to think it's just fine.

Let me add that I love the movie. And I've always assumed the Saddam watched the movie himself on his own in the days before we invaded.

But showing it to him now is just an attempt to annoy and humiliate him. We should be above that.

IN THE COMMENTS: "Are you seriously joking Ms. Althouse?" I'd rename my blog that if I could start all over again.

85 comments:

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I liken it to the soldiers blaring "Panama" while keeping Noriega in the papal nunzio's.

I have been around the raw bravado of U.S. Army Infantry soldiers. I'm glad they're on our side. I think it's harmless testosterone-laden fun.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

That goes double for the Marines.

Ann Althouse said...

Ruth Anne: It's not right to have fun with prisoners.

Truly said...

You're right, of course, Prof. A. And yet I can't get too worked up over Saddam's widdle feewings. It beats being fed into a giant paper shredder, no?

ignacio said...

It depends on what else he gets to see. If he is exposed to a full slate, it's a different call than if this is his only exposure to western wickedness and lack of respect. Show him "Syriana" as well, to cheer him up. Show "War of the Worlds."

I'm actually not very interested in him by this point. He has ceased to be an active player.

LarryK said...

Maybe this isn't good policy for all prisoners, but isn't Saddam a special case? The fact that the Iraqi people are having a trial at all is already cutting the guy enormous slack. If we weren't trying to build a decent civil society in Iraq (including strengthening the rule of law, due process etc.), a strong case could be made for giving him the Mussolini treatment.

Goesh said...

Why not? They certainly do, and make a nice profit off selling beheading videos to boot. They sell as fast as cheap Chinese T-shirts in Wal-Mart and are of top DVD quality. I thought it was an equal opportunity kind of world? If they were poking the monster with sharpened sticks, we would have cause to cluck our tongues from our podium of higher morality. We want our troops to play by the rules when they blow off heads and literally splatter intestines and other body parts all over, but then we want them to turn off some magical switch and be our little darlings again, so far away from Mom and Pop and warm apple pie back home. Sorry, this is not a war of convenience and once islamic fundamentalists put nuclear war heads on missles, we will wish the hot topic was some prisoner being made to watch a cartoon.

Ann Althouse said...

Goesh: It's a separate question what we ought to be able to do to protect ourselves from attacks. This is the issue of how to treat a person who is incapacitated. It's entirely different.

MadisonMan said...

Goesh, your argument reminds me of my then-1st graders playground. He did it first! Like that matters.

If American soldiers don't treat the enemy with respect, how is the American Way Of Life something to strive for if you are in a foreign country?

J said...

"But showing it to him now is just an attempt to annoy and humiliate him. We should be above that"

Why? Is he deserving of any sort of respect? I think the public is getting pretty sick and tired of being told to have respect and tolerance for things that clearly don't deserve it.

Being a prisoner is by definition annoying and humiliating - how far would you go with your philosophy?

Palladian said...

Maybe they could balance it out by making him watch "Fahrenheit 911", a movie as kind to him as any Western movie has ever been.

mcg said...

The notion that Saddam Hussein deserves respect is contemptible. Saddam deserves absolutely no respect, and it is wrong for us to give it to him. He deserves the heavy boot of justice on his neck.

That is not to say, though, that it is right to have fun at his expense. The reason we treat ought to treat prisoners with a bare minimum of decency is that we respect ourselves.

But let's be clear, a prisoner is still a prisoner: stripped of freedom of movement, choice, (often) expression... there's nothing respectful about that. Nor should there be.

Mathew said...

Wow, I'm honestly shocked at the number of people who seem to think this is perfectly okay or at least "harmless fun". Let's forget for a moment that, as Ann says, it's simply not right to have fun with prisoners in the first place. Consider the spin that the enemy will put on this one. While it's not exactly Abu Graib (sp?) all over again, it's not that far removed from the Muhammad cartoon mess.

It's just stupid. Assuming it really did happen, what good does it do other than give a few of the prison guards a good laugh? On the other hand, it's just more fodder for the enemy and critics to use on the battlefield of public opinion.

Let's just hope this didn't really happen.

mcg said...

Oh, and another thing, about this: "If American soldiers don't treat the enemy with respect, how is the American Way Of Life something to strive for if you are in a foreign country?"

This would be like saying, "how can we expect people to be against murder if we're going around littering all the time?"

Unlike certain leftist Americans, I am sure the Iraqis can distinguish between acts of humiliation like this and the systematic murder, maiming, and true torture that occurred under Saddam's rule. Given the choice between the two, I'm sure they'd pick the "American Way" every time, if we don't actually lose the resolve to get them there.

To be clear, I would prefer that we not have the waters muddied with actions like this, but I'm not going to get all morally (un)equivalent about it.

Goesh said...

I guess I missed the lesson of 9/11. I thought they just wanted us and our children dead. In many countries, the American way of life is not something to strive for but rather something to be killed. Deny that reality at your own peril. Collective mind-set and self defense go hand-in-hand. We don't get our cake and frosting, not with islamofacists and the likes of saddam hussein, not any more, not with nuclear technology and an even playing field. Sorry, no cigars on that one - we'll just have to believe that once descended into barbarity to eradicate that which seeks our demise at any cost, we can ascend back to civilization. We certainly did so after Hiroshima and Dresden.
When the leader of Iran says, "..you should bow and surrender to the might of the Iranian people", I drop the Geneva Conventions and grab a shotgun.

Ron said...

It's got to be a whole lot less annoying and humiliating than victim impact statements during sentencing or parole hearings. I've seen a number of these on TV and they seem like they would be awful for a prisoner. Would it be different and worse if a victim chose to make fun of a prisoner rather than castigate him?

Doolesfan said...

Good grief. Poor Saddam. He has to watch good movies in captivity. He might be humiliated. Heaven forfend.

Next I suppose you'll be condemming Sheriff Joe Arpaio for making his poor prisoners wear pink and not letting them watch R-rated movies.

Telecomedian said...

I'd point out that this thread is based purely on conjecture, coming from the mouth of one of the more notable humorists of this generation. Stone could easily have made it up.

However, I am of the opinion that when a man launches poison gas on his own people, his basic nature of human rights is obviously skewed. A movie, even one as ridiculously hilarious and obnoxious as the "South Park" cartoon, is not nearly as bad as the crimes of Hussein's reign.

Plus, wasn't Zacarias Moussaoui forced to watch movies, look at pictures, and hear stories of the people who died on 9/11? Sounds like it's common practice.

hygate said...

I've always assumed the Saddam watched the movie himself on his own in the days before we invaded.

After the movie came out I wondered if Matt Stone and Trey Parker hadn't placed themselves in some danger. After all, if Saddam was offended enough it is possible that he might have had them killed. Nothing could have been done if he had. Getting back to the point of the thread, I doubt that they are showing him the movie. Some Marines may have said they were and wish they could. But my guess is that the books and movies he is allowed to access are first screened by higher ups and that a Marine that subverted that process for any reason would get in plenty of trouble.

Theo Boehm said...

“…we'll just have to believe that once descended into barbarity to eradicate that which seeks our demise at any cost, we can ascend back to civilization. We certainly did so after Hiroshima and Dresden….”

Goesh, It’s not at all clear to me that we did. It’s really unclear we ever did after the Somme, Paschendaele, or Verdun. There is a pretty straight line from the Western Front of 1916 to the firebombing in 1945 of lovely, Baroque Dresden, a city emblematic of humane, Christian civilization. We in the West have been living in a kind of hog-heaven these 60-odd years since Dresden and Hiroshima, but I wouldn’t call it “civilization.” Our civilization was incinerated in the 20th century, and it remains unclear what will take its place.

Treating Saddam Hussein with the measure of decency due any prisoner may strike some as foolish. To some, subjecting him to clownish crudities may be the height of fun. To me, it speaks of just how far we have fallen.

Handsome Dan said...

I guess I missed the lesson of 9/11. I thought they just wanted us and our children dead.

That sounds about right to me; I understand that Bin Laden & Co. want us dead. Got it.

And yet I still don't think we should mistreat prisoners in our care. What have I missed that you understand?

(Standard Blog Comments Box Disclaimer: I, the undersigned, understand and comprehend the fact that Saddam, etc. have done all sorts of awful things to those entrusted to their care, and that nothing that US forces have done approaches that level of savagry. I also understand that, in the grand scheme of things, playing the South Park movie for Saddam isn't, in and of itself, that big of a deal.)

Ron said...

Fallen to the level of showing him comedies.

Sean E said...

Did they strap him down and "force" him to watch Clockwork Orange-style, or did they set a TV in front of his cell and force him to go through the humiliation of turning his back, covering his ears and going "La-la-la, I can't hear you"?

Al Maviva said...

Making Saddam watch Southpark? What a bunch of bestial peegs. Like Goesh said, when you send otherwise good young men and women halfway around the world to cut the heads off innocent Iraqis, scoop out their brains, eat them with some fava beans and a nice Chianti, what did you expect? What did you expect?

Can you imagine how this plays around the world? I bet poor Muslims everywhere are hating the U.S. and firing rockets at Israel in protest.

Oh well. At least they aren't making him watch "Battlefield Earth." It would rank alongside the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust, if they did that. Support the troops! Bring them home now! Except the ones who watch Southpark.

DaveG said...

I'm willing to defer to our new moral compass, one Andrew Sullivan, on this one.

Freder Frederson said...

Why? Is he deserving of any sort of respect? I think the public is getting pretty sick and tired of being told to have respect and tolerance for things that clearly don't deserve it.

Sheesh, how many times do we have to go over this. The president (remember him--the commander in chief who can do no wrong. Who apparently is a law unto himself, who most of you defend blindly) has stated repeatedly that the Geneva Conventions are fully applicable in Iraq. Whatever else Saddam is, was, or whatever he might of done, he was the the Internationally recognized Chief of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of a Signatory Nation to the Geneva Conventions. As such he is entitled to be treated with the same honor and respect that we would expect would be accorded our own president and commander and chief. Look it up.

So if you want our president to be made out to be a liar and a dishonest hack, then go ahead and laugh it up and encourage all kinds of humiliations for Saddam. Of course, that ship already sailed when we published the video of Saddam being probed and prodded shortly after his capture.

Jeremy said...

To me, it speaks of just how far we have fallen.

Perhaps you would suggest reverting to pre-20th century ideals of prosecution and punishment? Accusitorial-style trials? Sitck him in the stocks on public display? Summary execution? Any other good pre-20th century ideas?

LoafingOaf said...

Ann Althouse:
We should be above that.

Perhaps we should be above it. But "we" aren't the ones having to deal with him every day, and Lord knows Saddam is a piece of work.

Has there ever actually been a prison where guards haven't tweaked some of the prisoners a little? I'm a bit more concerned about some of the things that go on in our domestic prisons than whether a genocidal dictator was subjected to a clip of South Park to show him what much of the world really thinks of him, as a counterargument to his ravings of being some wonderful leader who was justified in everything he did. It might even be doing him a favor - perhaps giving him something to reflect on before he dies.

But, putting aside that we don't know if this happened, most reports of the treatment of Saddam are in the other direction - arguably too much niceness.

He enjoys family size bags of Doritos, Fruit Loops, and not merely Raisin Bran but Raisin Bran Crunch.

And while it's proper they allow him to pray with a Koran, why his special copy? Saddam prayed five times a day in his cell and kept a Quran that he claimed to have found in some rubble near the underground hideout. “He proudly showed (it) to the boys because it was burned around the edges and had a bullet hole in it,” the story says.

Mathew:
Wow, I'm honestly shocked at the number of people who seem to think this is perfectly okay or at least "harmless fun". Let's forget for a moment that, as Ann says, it's simply not right to have fun with prisoners in the first place. Consider the spin that the enemy will put on this one. While it's not exactly Abu Graib (sp?) all over again, it's not that far removed from the Muhammad cartoon mess.

Look how easily you wanna almost jump to Abu Graib.

Here's a previous report: Once, when Saddam fell down during his twice-a-week shower, the article says, “panic ensued. No one wanted him to be hurt while being guarded by Americans.” One GI had to help Saddam back to his cell, another carried his underwear, it adds.

So there's an awareness we don't wanna do things that will be negatively spun. At the same time, the people guarding him are human and the man they're guarding is one of the most evil pieces of crap of all time. I'd guess they have to tolerate an awful lot of B.S. from Saddam as he goes on and on about how he's still president of Iraq, compares himself to Jesus, not to mention his attempts to disrupt the courtroom and the disrespect he shows to his victims as they testify. Is it so wrong to help him understand that after he's executed he'll be remembered as the scum of the earth?

If they showed him a clip of a movie that makes fun of him, I can't say I care much. Part of me think maybe they shouldn't have, but part of me is glad he's getting tweaked since it seems pretty mild. *shrug*

As far as the Muhammad cartoons, the Danish paper has nothing to apologize for. I did notice, though, that Kofi Annan (who was quick to condemn the Danish paper) had no comment on the anti-semitic cartoons in Iran. But then those sorts of things are a daily occurance in the Nazi-esque media of the Muslim world, and no one ever seems to ask them to apologize for anything.

MadisonMan:
If American soldiers don't treat the enemy with respect....

Sounds like they must be treating him with some kindness to me: Saddam learned the names of the GIs guarding him, was interested in the details of their lives, which they were not supposed to discuss, and sometimes offered fatherly advice.

mcg said...

I am sure Trey and Matt would be honored to know that the viewing of their movie is considered questionable treatment under the Geneva Convention.

The next thing you know, a U.S. prison inmate will sue for being given a defective haircut by the prison barber. Oh, wait, that's been done.

Jonathan said...

We should have killed him. Since we didn't, we should torture and humiliate him. We should do so publicly, or at least distribute videos to publicize what we are doing.

It isn't about "having fun with prisoners." It's about setting an example pour encourager les autres: Hello, Mr. Dictator, THIS is what will happen to you (if you are lucky) if you commit mass-murder, and particularly if you piss off the USA.

Hussein isn't a standard prisoner. His trial isn't a real trial. There is no question about his guilt. At best the trial is a kind of theater in which a real-life morality play is performed for the benefit of Iraqi and international audiences. Hussein himself understands all of this, which is why he continues to play the court like a master actor, even though he is obviously doomed.

The trial is a mistake. It grants a presumption of innocence that Hussein doesn't deserve. We should have given him one in the back of the head and hung his body from a bridge, as an example. Having failed to do that, the least we can do is humiliate him to discourage his admirers.

LoafingOaf said...

then go ahead and laugh it up and encourage all kinds of humiliations for Saddam. Of course, that ship already sailed when we published the video of Saddam being probed and prodded shortly after his capture.

Probed and prodded? Ah yeah, I remember that. They had to have a veterinarian do that - he looked all covered with fleas!

Anyway, they had to show him after he was captured because people might not have believed he was really captured. And I do still remember how the MoveOn.Org Hard Left of America was palpably disappointed on the day of his capture.

Internationally recognized chief of state? What a sick world that would recognize him as a legit head of state. He should've been toppled many, many years ago.

LoafingOaf said...

The trial is a mistake.

The trial is important for the historical record of his crimes against humanity, for future generations.

You can see already how many people wanna forget how evil he had been.

J said...

"The president (remember him--the commander in chief who can do no wrong. Who apparently is a law unto himself, who most of you defend blindly) has stated repeatedly that the Geneva Conventions are fully applicable in Iraq"

I'm not sure that stance bought W much support. Remind me again which country we've been at war with that has honored the GC rights of US prisoners? Maybe Nazi Germany, at least in the acclaimed WWII documentary "Hogan's Heroes".

Press reports notwithstanding, I'll bet most of the public looks at episodes like Abu Ghraib or Gitmo and sees violent, dangerous terrorists getting what they deserve - I don't think that stuff did anywhere near as much damage to the president's standing as the left thinks.

Theo Boehm said...

Jeremy: The 20th century was no ideal of civilization. The concentration camps, the mass starvations, the purges and "liquidations," the man-made catastrophies of the incinerations of cities full of people, all culminating in the Holocaust, give lie to the proposition that we in the recent past were any better than the worst barbarians of any Dark Age. We could do worse, each of us, than to search our souls for the seeds of a mentality that can even imagine such things, much less regard them as anything other than the worst crimes ever committed in the long history of human folly.

You ask how Saddam Hussein should be treated? What about the way the British treated Napoleon? He may have been exiled to a distant dot on the map and poisoned slowly, but he was treated with the outward respect and dignity that a civilized time and nation expected of themselves. They, at least, acted like adults. We run the risk of being petulant children.

El Presidente said...

Maybe Saddam wanted to watch it.

You might be surprised what kind of sense of humour third world dictators have.

Palladian said...

"The 20th century was no ideal of civilization. The concentration camps, the mass starvations, the purges and "liquidations," the man-made catastrophies of the incinerations of cities full of people, all culminating in the Holocaust, give lie to the proposition that we in the recent past were any better than the worst barbarians of any Dark Age."

No ideal of civilization? The discovery of antibiotics and basically every drug used to treat every condition today, the eradication of many of the diseases that had plagued man from the beginning of time, the almost universal adoption in the West of indoor plumbing and waste disposal and potable water, the surfeit of uncontaminated food available to every strata of society, the end of segregation, the almost total collapse of the 19th century scourge of Marxism, ecological awareness, cleaner air, electricity, universal availability of cleaner, more efficient heating systems, the development of communications technologies, the internet, the computer, women's suffrage and women's rights, racial tolerance, gay rights, improved working conditions, and on and on. Yeah, terrible, uncivilized century the 20th was. That you think that the darkest points of the 20th century mitigate the abundant advances is a good example of how ubiquitous civilization has become. If not for the bright parts of the 20th century you would be out digging small, hard potatoes out of the ground rather than wringing your uncalloused hands over lovely Baroque Dresden.

semm said...

Are you seriously joking Ms. Althouse? Unless this is some kind of slippery slope arguement I can't see how a thinking person can care one whit that Mr Heussein may wind up being a little uncomfortable form having to watch repeatedly a movie where he is lampooned.

Icepick said...

Theo Boehm wrote: Goesh, It’s not at all clear to me that we did. It’s really unclear we ever did after the Somme, Paschendaele, or Verdun. There is a pretty straight line from the Western Front of 1916 to the firebombing in 1945 of lovely, Baroque Dresden, a city emblematic of humane, Christian civilization. We in the West have been living in a kind of hog-heaven these 60-odd years since Dresden and Hiroshima, but I wouldn’t call it “civilization.” Our civilization was incinerated in the 20th century, and it remains unclear what will take its place.

Theo, Americans weren't involved in the WWI battles you mention. However, those paragons of the older order, Britain, France and Germany, were. It was the old order that started the slaughter. (And the old German Imperials had their hands in the Bolshevik Revolution, as well.) The British Army suffered 19,240 dead on the first DAY of the Battle of the Somme. Our modern nation can hardly tolerate 2,600 dead soldiers over three years.

I'm not sure that those numbers support your claim of a better civilization back then.

Revenant said...

Shouldn't we be treating prisoners with more respect?

I'm puzzled as to why anyone would think Saddam Hussein deserves ANY respect. We're only keeping him alive and going through the formality of a trial for the look of it, anyway.

But showing it to him now is just an attempt to annoy and humiliate him. We should be above that.

Nah. We're above feeding him into a woodchipper, despite the fact that he certainly deserves it. But we're not above mocking him. At least, I'm not.

Balfegor said...

Has there ever actually been a prison where guards haven't tweaked some of the prisoners a little? I'm a bit more concerned about some of the things that go on in our domestic prisons than whether a genocidal dictator was subjected to a clip of South Park to show him what much of the world really thinks of him, as a counterargument to his ravings of being some wonderful leader who was justified in everything he did.

And how! Reading about the Stanford Prison Experiment soured me on the idea of imprisonment as a catch-all punishment. Saddam's case is really the least-bad situation, since he's an object of public interest, and under continual outside scrutiny. The real worry ought to be those prisoners whose treatment is not similarly open to outside scrutiny.

We know abuse of prisoners by guards and other prisoners is widespread in American prisons, as in prisons everywhere throughout the world -- and most of this abuse is loads worse than humiliating an old man by watching a cartoon of himself sing about homosexual love with the devil. Yes, we shouldn't do it. It's kicking a man when he's down, after we've already slain his sons and brought his family to ruin. Insult to injury. But in the list of prison-sins, it ranks pretty low, I think.

Synova said...

I liked the look on Saddam's face in the video clip of him watching a KURD get installed as president of his country. Calling it "upset" would be an understatement. I hope he gets to see lots of news about Kurdistan. I hope they pipe in news announcements and pictures of new housing and supermarkets (Totten took some fantastic pictures, *beautiful* buildings) that go up in Kurdistan.

I hope they showed him the "Life on the D List" show where the female comedian got to stay in the palace he built and then joked about being worried about sleeping in the bed because of crabs and her vagina to American troops.

It might not be very *nice* but compared to the treatment prisoners recieved when he was in charge (I will *always* remember reading about the US commander ordering one of the buildings at Abu Ghraib dozed because he refused to make his soldiers clean up that much human blood. The children's prison that is now a museum in the Kurdish north is a nice reminder as well.)

As for our soldiers being allowed to make him watch... all they have to do is get permission to have a television for their own viewing and put it where he can see it.

Dan said...

Does anyone actually think that Saddam can actually understand what is going on in that movie? Does he understand English well enough to be able to decipher Eric Cartman, let alone Kenny? Please. He probably got as much out of it as one of my dogs gets out of watching the Animal Planet.

Bill Dalasio said...

Ms. Althouse,

I don't think we have enough information here to make a judgement. It really depends on what we mean by "forcing him to watch Southpark". I mean it could be the case that the guards just put that particular video on and wouldn't change it to Iraq's Funniest Home Videos at Saddam's request. I'm sorry, but for mass murder, attacking other countries, etc., not having control of the remote doesn't exactly seem cruel and unusual. It's the absence of actual context, in this case and others, that makes me perhaps a little too cautious about getting worked up about accusations of torture.

Balfegor said...

I don't think we have enough information here to make a judgement. It really depends on what we mean by "forcing him to watch Southpark". I mean it could be the case that the guards just put that particular video on and wouldn't change it to Iraq's Funniest Home Videos at Saddam's request. I'm sorry, but for mass murder, attacking other countries, etc., not having control of the remote doesn't exactly seem cruel and unusual. It's the absence of actual context, in this case and others, that makes me perhaps a little too cautious about getting worked up about accusations of torture.

Ah, good point. I was thinking A Clockwork Orange or somesuch.

Balfegor said...

That said, there's a whole range of things we oughtn't do that far far short of torture. It's not torture to point at a man and jeer (at least, I think that is still the case), but it's still not something one should do to one's prisoner.

Kirk Parker said...

Torture Sadaam? Heck no, we have our own souls to worry about, no reason to degrade them just for the sake a spite.

But should he have been given a Ceausescu sendoff? Absolutely, complete with the live telivision bit. As far as his trial providing a record for posterity, there's no reason that couldn't have been done after his demise, Truth-and-Reconciliation Committee style. It's not like Sadaam's presence lends anything to the proceedings.

Harkonnendog said...

There is no moral not to TEASE Saddam Hussein. Let him see how the world sees him. And a comparison of this to Abu Ghraib is a little worse than just stupid.

Revenant said...

It's not torture to point at a man and jeer (at least, I think that is still the case), but it's still not something one should do to one's prisoner

It's not something one should do to a typical prisoner, or to a typical POW, because the former is presumed innocent and the latter has committed no crime. Mocking such people is wrong because it remains to be seen if they've actually done anything wrong at all.

But Hussein is guilty; there can be no real doubt about that. He really is responsible for the torture and murder of tens or hundreds of thousands of people and the oppression of millions more. He doesn't deserve to be treated the way we treat a typical, presumed-innocent suspect in a typical crime. He is genetically human, but he has long since forfeited the right to be treated with the tact and politeness that normal people deserve. Indeed, treating him like he was a respectable human being demeans the entirety of the *actually* respectable human race; it cheapens the value of actually behaving in a respectable manner.

Balfegor said...

It's not something one should do to a typical prisoner, or to a typical POW, because the former is presumed innocent and the latter has committed no crime.

I would venture that for a majority of prisoners, the presumption of innocence is rather a long way behind them. Most people in jail in the US are in jail because they have been convicted of a crime, and jailtime is our all-purpose punishment. The fact that they are guilty, sometimes of quite heinous crimes, does not, however, make it alright to point at them and jeer.

Harkonnendog said...

Can someone break down WHY it is morally wrong to show Saddam this movie? People seem to be admitting it is morally wrong but excusing it. I don't see why it is morally wrong at all.

It is entirely just, if you ask me. Are we pretending Saddam friggin' Hussein is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law or something? Does anyone really believe this is morally wrong, as in dispraportionate? Or morally wrong as in cruel and unusual?

Balfegor said...

Does anyone really believe this is morally wrong, as in dispraportionate? Or morally wrong as in cruel and unusual?

No. It is "morally wrong" in the sense that it is an offense against good taste and decorum. It is taunting a defeated enemy. It is kicking a man when he is down.

In the general case (e.g. with convicted criminals locked away in jail), it is reprehensible because it is rude.

The argument against this is offered by Revenant:

He is genetically human, but he has long since forfeited the right to be treated with the tact and politeness that normal people deserve. Indeed, treating him like he was a respectable human being demeans the entirety of the *actually* respectable human race; it cheapens the value of actually behaving in a respectable manner.

I simply don't see why this should be the case. Treating other people decently is the proper thing to do. Perhaps we do it because it reinforces habits of good behaviour and moderation in ourselves. Perhaps we do it because it was beaten into us mercilessly when we were small. Perhaps we do it because it is a gesture of respect to deserving fellow human beings. However you break it down, it is correct behaviour.

I am (or try to be) kind to animals in the same way. Not because I think they are deserving in any sense, or are my equals in any respect, or even that they are sinless and without fault. It's just a horrible low thing to be gratuitously unkind to animals. And the same way with being unkind to humans, no matter how inhumane they have been to others in the past.

There is not even a real punitive effect involved in making an old man watch crudely animated cartoons of himself cavorting with Satan. It's not likely to cause him great pain on account of its substance (it's a crudely animated cartoon, after all). It's not likely to cause him to reflect on his wrongs either. We can try and puff this into some kind of narrative about just deserts and showing an old tyrant what people thought of him, but this strikes me as unpersuasive? If this has actually been going on, all we have really been doing, when you get down to it, is taunting him.

This isn't a major problem here. I would hesitate to call it a "moral" issue at all. But it is ungentlemanly. And it is unmanly. To taunt your beaten enemy.

Scott said...

Goesh said:

"I guess I missed the lesson of 9/11. I thought they just wanted us and our children dead. "

Yes. You did miss the lesson. The lesson was that they wanted us to pee our pants, fear for our lives, abandon our principles, and live our lives as miserable and hateful bastards, just like them. In your case, Mission Accomplished.

There's a reason they're called TERRORISTS. Their M.O. is causing terror. The people who die are just a nice cherry on the sundae. Just a means to an end in their twisted philosophy.

" When the leader of Iran says, '..you should bow and surrender to the might of the Iranian people', I drop the Geneva Conventions and grab a shotgun."

When the leader of Iran says that, I laugh at his weakness. When we faced down the big bad Soviet Union during the Cold War, who had 20,000 warheads aimed at our children, we shrugged, went on with our lives, and met them at the negotiating table. Even Ronald Reagan did that. Now that's courage, and that's a real Republican. Never thought I'd pine for the days of Reagan.

Al Maviva said...

I'm sorry, but for mass murder, attacking other countries, etc., not having control of the remote doesn't exactly seem cruel and unusual

So if you favor showing a box office hit to a prisoner, you inhuman homophobic fiend, then you're clearly in the Christianist camp of people favoring the mass murdering bloody murder torture murdering of everybody with whom you disagree.

/Andy Sullivan.

More seriously... "They killed Qusay! You bastards!"

Does anybody actually believe that showing a prisoner a Southpark movie constitutes torture within the meaning of the CAT treaty, or inhumane treatment even under the strictest interpretation of the Geneva Conventions? I'm a little puzzled by this. If so, then I suppose we need to shield the poor chap from hostile NY Times editorials too; evan as much as the Times bashes the Bush administration, they still manage to call Hussein names from time to time.

Theo Boehm said...

Palladian: All that technological progress has cut both ways, hasn't it? It's given us the illusion of God-like power, but I am not sure we have used it well or ever can. The 20th century has been very nice to me, and I am very grateful, but I am of the opinion that most people in this world are worse off than ever before. WE may live in a hog-heaven, but ask a Ugandan farmer or a Hatian slum-dweller if the 20th century has been kind to him. You might ask a Ukranian Kulak if he is better off, but they're not around any more, are they?

You might ask a third of the species on this planet if they are better off because of the technological wonders of the 20th century, but they aren't here, either. Somehow all this technology seems a little hard on some living things.

As for the moral improvements, yes, we have plenty. And they've been nicely applied to the developed world, but it's not clear how our standards, relevant as they are to a small minority of humanity, are going to benefit the vast majority of people. Child labor, slavery, famine, disease, all are out there, and I would argue they are worse for the majority of the world's inhabitants because of the actions of the developed world in the recent past.

And curiously enough, the developed world seems to be in a demographic death-spiral. All that progress looks like it won't keep us alive, either.

But these are old arguments, and we seem to be into serious comment-creep, so I'll cut this as short as I can.

Icepick: I think there's a bit of a misunderstanding. Western civilization, which includes both Europe and the Americas, began its suicide on the Western Front. It put the revolver to its head, spun the cylinder and pulled the trigger in August, 1914, and the bullet has been coursing through its brain in historical time ever since. Time not measured in milliseconds, but decades and perhaps centuries. All civilizations seem to do this in one way or another, but we have the advantage of a start date. As you know, the US wasn't in the Great War early, and suffered relatively few casualities, but we did our bit to muck up the aftermath.

Back to my basic point: Behavior in our society, seems increasingly childish, and not worthy of the best that we once represented. It costs us nothing to treat Saddam decently. But it might cost our dignity and self-respect to treat him in the foolish way under discussion. That is, if there is anyone left capable of understanding "dignity" and "self-respect."

Also, Palladian, don't patronize me. You may not like what I have to say. Fine. But my hands are not, in fact, "uncalloused." They have plenty of callouses and stains and scars. Why? Because I work 12-hour days in a machine-shop environment, where I am a senior craftsman with managerial responsibilities. I actually do manual work for a living. How many others here do?

I am perfectly willing to have a discussion, and, as Dr. Johnson said, "...dogmatise and be contradicted...," but I do not engage in ad hominem attacks, and I expect the same in return.

JDM said...

Well, I cant get too excited about it, but I agree with Ann's basic point that we should not do these things to prisoners.

Now, I dont have a problem with applied violence in a time of war. Mr Boehm mentioned the firebombing of Dresden as a horror, and I have no doubt it was, for our enemies. Dresden was in fact one of the few successes of a bombing campaing the goal of which was comparable destruction every night. Had that in fact occurred, WWII might have been over a lot sooner, and cold war history somewhat different.

I also can justify torture - actual physical torture if there is a point to it, such as obtaining strategic information. Obviously I have no problem with mere "mental" torture, but again, provided there is a point to it. I would simply call that interrogation.

I also think interrogation and torture should be kept secret from the public generally. It is a necessary evil, something that must be done, and should never grow to be accepted as commonplace. We must be willing to do these things, but we must never willingly do so, if that is not too fine a distinction to draw.

Doing such violence harms us also. It can only be justified where there is a greater goal.

If we were still interrogating Saddam, repeated viewings of South Park, or Gigli, or The Horse Whisperer, might well be justified.

Doing it for fun is wrong. Not because we disrespect a cruel tyrant, but because we disrespect and coursen ourselves.

Palladian said...

"Yes. You did miss the lesson. The lesson was that they wanted us to pee our pants, fear for our lives, abandon our principles, and live our lives as miserable and hateful bastards, just like them. In your case, Mission Accomplished."

You may have done those things, darling. The rest of us were sad for a while, then became pissed off. Some became pissed off faster than others. Your side's goals would have been quickly achieved if everyone was as scared as you want them to be.

"When we faced down the big bad Soviet Union during the Cold War, who had 20,000 warheads aimed at our children, we shrugged, went on with our lives, and met them at the negotiating table."

No, we aimed 25,000 warheads at their country (I wasn't aware that the Soviets had special children-seeking warheads), made sure they knew that and understood we were bellicose enough to use them, ignored your side's squawking about proliferation and warmongering (as usual), made some diplomatic motions, and waited for the place to collapse from its own decay, which it did.

Who should we meet at the vaunted negotiating table this time? Bin Laden? The Iranian Mullahs? 1 billion angry Islamoids? The longer we shrug and get on with our lives the more time our current enemies have to develop 20,000 warheads to point at our country and every other non-Muslim country in the world, all the places that operate by the vaunted principles that you are so unwilling to defend. I like your idea of laughing at them. But if you do nothing else, it's our enemy that will have the last laugh.

Revenant said...

The fact that they are guilty, sometimes of quite heinous crimes, does not, however, make it alright to point at them and jeer.

Well, you're entitled to your opinion, but I don't see what basis it has. I don't see anything wrong with mocking criminals.

Treating other people decently is the proper thing to do.

Propriety has nothing to do with morality. If you think mocking Hussein is crass, fine -- its crass. But I think *not* mocking Hussein is a form of hypocrisy, as it does nothing more than put a pretense of decency on a situation that is anything but decent.

There is nothing morally or ethically wrong with treating mass murderers with derision, and quite a lot wrong, as a matter of pragmatism, with treating them the same as moral, law-abiding citizens. Hussein is in prison for breaking the law. But completely independent of what laws he may have broken, his behavior has cost him his place in any decent society -- it is our obligation to make certain that he understands that he is no longer one of us, and never can be again.

Palladian said...

Theo, I'm not patronizing you, I'm mocking the ridiculousness of your notion that the proper response to the miracle of the 20th century was to lie down on a 19th century fainting couch and weep. People who think the way you do are every bit an enemy of the future as the raving Islamist or the theocracy-craving Biblical literalist. Yes, yes, isn't it sad about the dodo and the anonymous slum dwellers and such. You're mistaken, though, to think that we've reached the apogee of our evolution and that those that it hasn't yet reached are shut out forever. But there is no apogee to evolution. All the problems that you mention are the result of our technology not having advanced enough. But it will, and things will get better and better for more and more people. I am of the opinion that our destiny is not to die with our planet and our star.

Your position seems to boil down to one word: BUT, that hinge on which the gloomy door swings shut in the happy face of progress. "We've developed a treatment for all types of cancer BUT...", "Radical Islam has been defeated BUT...", "We've developed a cure for death BUT...". It's no coincidence that a homonym of that foul little conjunction means ass.

Sam said...

Cripes. I can't imagine a moral universe where law professors defend the imprisoned Saddam Hussein from teasing that pales in comparison to that routinely absorbed by fat twelve-year-olds.

Actually, having his dignity defended by sissy moralists must be as least as humililiating as a South Park episode. Stop it, Ann. Your motherly coddling of Saddam cruelly mocks his swarthy manliness. Have you no decency?

Steven said...

My opinion?

Because of his unquestionable and terrible crimes, it is impossible to abuse Saddam Hussein unjustly. No unpleasantness of any kind that can be inflicted upon him is more than the punishment he deserves. There just is no moral question at all. There is no degree of respect for the person of Saddam Hussein, however small, which is not excessively generous from the perspective of justice.

This is not a matter of "he did it first", except in the sense that imprisoning a man because he committed a rape or a murder is because he committed the crime first.

An attempt was made to an analogy with Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon was dangerous, yes, but he never ordered the rape, tortue, and murder of tens of thousands. Morally, Bonaparte and Hussein are as different as Florida and the South Pole are geographically.

The only questions in Saddam Hussein's case are matters of the dehumanizing effects of abuse upon those inflicting it, and the propaganda effects of such abuse. Regarding the former, I see no way that making him watch a movie would seriously hurt the soldiers who made him do so. Regarding the latter, I don't think the effect of the movie is going to be sufficient to change anyone's views.

It's unfortunate, I think, that Hussein was not "shot while trying to escape" in the first hours of his captivity. All living things on Earth are defiled by breathing the same atmosphere that keep Saddam Hussein alive.

Theo Boehm said...

JDM: We may have different view on the morality of violence in war, but I am otherwise in complete agreement with you.

One other completely unrelated thing.

RE the manual labor remark I made above: There is another one of us who works with his hands, who goes by the screen name Sippican Cottage, and is among the best commenters here. He makes interesting and clever furniture, and you can say the same about his comments.

Sippican, have I laid it on thick enough?

thefewandtheplenty said...

I can't believe how many thought Althouse's post was serious. Hello? People-she's kidding. Obviously when you're at war and you make the leader of the enemy watch a movie like South Park you are automatically "better than that" because the enemy doesn't have a movie as good as South Park.

Daryl Herbert said...

While it's not exactly Abu Graib (sp?) all over again, it's not that far removed from the Muhammad cartoon mess.

Mathew, while we're on the subject of liberties, some of us still believe in free speech.

The "Muhammad cartoon mess" was caused by Muslim oversensitivity and Muslims' urge to censor us and take away our free speech.

Avoiding that kind of "mess" (by censoring ourselves while Muslims insult our religions and leaders) is only willingly making us into second-class citizens in our own countries.

nedludd said...

Eh, could have been worse, they could force him to watch "Brokeback Mountain"

Personally I wouldn't give a damn if they summend up Ol' Scratch himself and did a live action play using all the original characters. Hell, I think that's what they should do, summon Satan and have him and Saddam sing about and act out their love in a nice Off-Broadway production. THink of the high praise it would recieve from the NYT. Think of how much fun Ann would have blogging the review. Think of the cash.

Anyone know how to summon Satan (no fair calling my inlaws, that's just too easy)?

Normally this might bother me, but Saddam is a special case. Someone suggested sending him to his own Elba, which would be fine with me. Particularly if he wasn't strapped in real well and the door of the plane open during a sharp bank.

Of all the things to get worked up about in this world this just doesn't come close to making the cut.

kalmia2 said...

Ann Althouse said...

We should be above that.

I agree with Ann that we should be above humiliating prisoners for sport for the simple reason that it's unethical, unprincipled, and immoral. For me, the only grey area is when innocent people's lives are at stake -- e.g., when torturing a prisoner with emotional and physical abuse may avert a terrorist attack. When we are dealing with a ruthless enemy whose intent is to destroy us and there is a good chance that lives will be saved, common sense compels me to support the extraction of information by these means. (Too bad, so sad, and all that.) However, this is clearly not the situation with Saddam Hussein. He is a prisoner with no useful information to provide. The only possible reason for humiliating him would be to derive vengeful, sadistic pleasure from it. And yes, however much his depraved evil deeds tempt us to behave this way, we should not lower ourselves.

Theo Boehm said...

...It's not at all clear to me that we did. It's really unclear we ever did after the Somme, Paschendaele, or Verdun.

We could argue back and forth on this matter forever, cherry-picking examples to support our contention that we are a humane/inhumane society. Throughout our history, we have sometimes shone like stars and other times plummeted like stones. The truth is that society is made up of individuals, and ethical, principled, moral behavior is the responsibility of each one of us. When a critical number of people are willing to stand up for these ideals (or one powerful person is willing to put his/her life/career/reputation on the line for them), we succeed in becoming a humane society. When enough people aren't, we fail. The hard part is deciding when self-preservation dictates that we temporarily set them aside. Again, this is clearly not the situation we are faced with here.

ruth anne adams said...

I think it's harmless testosterone-laden fun.

I don't think it's harmless. Although Saddam deserves no respect, it's beneath our dignity to be sadistic, and it sets a bad precedent. I also don't think it's necessarily testosterone-laden, as I would rate men and women as equal partners on the desire-for-just-deserts scale.

For me the bottom line is this: if it's not necessary for survival to be sadistic, let's take the high road.

Revenant said...

I am of the opinion that most people in this world are worse off than ever before.

Well, your opinion is not correct. :)

WE may live in a hog-heaven, but ask a Ugandan farmer or a Hatian slum-dweller if the 20th century has been kind to him.

A Ugandan farmer today enjoys a higher life expectancy, more education, lower infant mortality, and less disease than a Ugandan farmer did a century ago.

Your Haitian example is even more bizarre, considering that the Haiti used to be a brutal slave colony where the death rate of slaves exceeded their birth rate -- new slaves had to be continuously imported just to keep up with all the ones who had been worked to death in the fields! Sure, if you ask a Haitian slum-dweller "how did the 20th century treat you" he'd say "badly" -- but if you ask him "would you rather be a plantation slave in the pre-revolution days" he's obviously going to say "no!". Which is why he's a very, very strange example for your "people are worse off than ever" belief.

You might ask a Ukranian Kulak if he is better off, but they're not around any more, are they?

All of the wars, genocides, and atrocities of the 20th century killed around 2-3% of the world's population. The historical death rate from war and genocide is approximately ten times that. Simply put, as awful, bloody, destructive, and nasty as the 20th century was, it was actually one of the nicest, most peaceful centuries in all of human existance.

People who say "things are worse now than they've ever been" reveal nothing other than the fact that they don't read history books.

Mitch said...

Let's follow up with "Team America, World Police" by the same auteurs ("Dirka dirka Mohammed jihad...").

No, wait – Ishtar! It's culturally appropriate, isn't it? Make him watch Ishtar until he's begging to be sent to the gallows!

Ann: It's not right to have fun with prisoners.

What about the humane Mikado's noble sentiment?

"My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time —
To let the punishment fit the crime —
The punishment fit the crime;
And make each prisoner pent
Unwillingly represent
A source of innocent merriment!
Of innocent merriment!"

Harkonnendog said...

Sam you just exactly nailed it.

Besides that, why is it fine to imprison someone but not to show them a movie that hurts their feelings? If Saddam had the choice he would rather watch the movie, and not be imprisoned, I'm sure.

Again, I don't see why this is morally wrong.

Clyde said...

Oh, please... If we had Kim Jong Il in jail, I'd make him watch "Team America: World Police," too!

Mellow-Drama said...

Did anyone else think it was funny when LoafingOaf said that it was bad enough that they were feeding him Raisin Bran, but man he gets Raisin Bran Crunch! It made me chortle.
-- Jennifer

mcg said...

Eh, could have been worse, they could force him to watch "Brokeback Mountain"

Actually, The South Park Movie was Brokeback Mountain long before Brokeback Mountain was Brokeback Mountain.

Did that come across? :-)

Meade said...

"But showing it to him now is just an attempt to annoy and humiliate him. We should be above that."

If annoying and humiliating Saddam now helps the war effort, do it.

If not, don't.

Theo Boehm said...

All of the wars, genocides, and atrocities of the 20th century killed around 2-3% of the world's population. The historical death rate from war and genocide is approximately ten times that.

Revenant: Are you saying that historically 20-30% of the population was killed by war and genocide? In what cultures? What centuries? Care to give us some citations? That figure is actually conservative for, say, Germany in the Thirty Years' War, but I cannot believe it for the following century in Europe. The Napoleonic era was quite bloody, but, again, that figure sounds extreme for Europe even at that time. What about the rest of the 19th century in Europe or America? What about Asia? Were 20-30% of the Chinese being killed off by war and genocide before the 20th century?

As for my "bizarre" examples, they were taken from people I actually know. From the African guy from a farm background who has gotten himself into academia in Boston, to the Haitians I know, to the many Eastern Europeans (including Ukranians) I know and work with; they take, to a person, a very dim view of the 20th century. Most are hopeful for the future now that some of the worst problems of the past seem over, but among all these diverse people, I know no one with the naive optimism of a typical American. These people, representing victims of the 20th century, know too much. I will admit that my Hatian example is a poor one, in that Haiti has never been anything but a Hellhole, but the promise of the 20th century was that such misery would cease. It, of course, did not.

Will it do to tell my African friend that I needn't contribute to his fund for school kids in his village, because they must be better off than a century ago? Should I tell my Ukranian co-workers that their dead relatives don't matter that much, because, statistically, Stalin wasn't that bad? Perhaps my Jewish boss would appreciate knowing that his relatives lost in the Holocaust were only a blip in the otherwise happy century? After all, Hitler only suceeded in killing 1/3 of world Jewry. 2/3 were left, right? According to your figures, 20-30% traditionally died in wars and genocides anyway. What's the big deal?

I may be wrong, but I have read a few history books along the way. I have a Master's degree in an historical discipline, but unfortunately it's in an area of cultural history that ill-prepares me to argue with Dr. Pangloss. My historical studies taught me to look at real people in actual circumstances, and so I am deficient in the ability to conjure worlds from the best of all possible statistics.

JDM said...

Theo, I think the simplest response to your argument about C20th is to agree that it was plenty bad, but heck, it could have been a lot worse.

jim simonson said...

i was thinking that the act of forcing the prisoner, any prisoner, to experience the show is consistant with the ongoing theme generally, "...man's inhumanity toward man...".
it may be a little on the threshold side of pain level but done for the same reasons. overall we are not all so different. time.place.situation.

Balfegor said...

Revenant: Are you saying that historically 20-30% of the population was killed by war and genocide? In what cultures? What centuries? Care to give us some citations? That figure is actually conservative for, say, Germany in the Thirty Years' War, but I cannot believe it for the following century in Europe. The Napoleonic era was quite bloody, but, again, that figure sounds extreme for Europe even at that time.

Europe, which, owing to their pat resolution to the Bonaparte problem, had a century with nothing more than minor wars, even including the Franco-Prussian war and the civil disturbances back in 1848. But for the rest of the world? The War of the Triple Alliance, down in Latin America, killed off 90% of the male population of Paraguay, and something in the vicinity of 60% of its prewar population. In the wars between white settlers and native Americans in the US, the native Americans were effectively wiped out. I suspect that colonial wars in other lands had huge death tolls as well.

What about the rest of the 19th century in Europe or America? What about Asia? Were 20-30% of the Chinese being killed off by war and genocide before the 20th century?

On the other hand, the 20th century, for the communist countries, was . . . unusually bad. To say the least.

I think, however, that Revenant's figure of 20% to 30% is probably coming from the book Before the Dawn, which (if I recall aright) argues that in prehistoric societies, the death toll from war was generally far higher than it is now, because most wars were effectively genocidal. In terms of actual individual deaths, this doesn't mean much, since there are so many more people alive now than there were 10,000 years ago. But I think that is where the 20%-30% comes from.

Theo Boehm said...

Balfegor: Thanks for the reference and the comments. I suspected the 20-30% figure came from that source, but I never read the book, only a couple of reviews, and I couldn't remember the title last night, and really didn't want to get into serious research mode over this. Interesting book, though, and it's now definitely going on my reading list.

mcg said...

As for my "bizarre" examples, they were taken from people I actually know.

That methodology is valid for only as long as you've ben alive, of course. It really doesn't help establish your case of decline over centuries.

Revenant said...

Revenant: Are you saying that historically 20-30% of the population was killed by war and genocide? In what cultures? What centuries?

That's an overall average for human history, thus the term "historical average". Primitive cultures typically have rates much higher than that, with rates declining in more civilized ones. Also, I should have clarified that that only counts adults, since prior to the last century or so most humans died in childhood.

Were 20-30% of the Chinese being killed off by war and genocide before the 20th century?

Well, I already noted one example of that happening, during the Mongol invasion years; there are, of course, others. But the mistake you're making is looking for war and genocide in the most civilized parts of the world, rather than in the nasty and brutal *uncivilized* parts of the world in which the vast majority of humans have lived.

As for my "bizarre" examples, they were taken from people I actually know. From the African guy from a farm background who has gotten himself into academia in Boston, to the Haitians I know, to the many Eastern Europeans (including Ukranians) I know and work with; they take, to a person, a very dim view of the 20th century.

Whether they have a dim view of the 20th century is irrelevant. You're not claiming "most people in the 20th century disliked their lives", you're claiming "most people in the 20th century are worse off than people in past centuries".

Take your African friend. Would he rather be the academic he is today, or the uneducated farmer with no access to decent medicine that he would have been a century ago? Would your Haitian friend rather have spent his teen years in a slum, or harvesting crops eighteen hours a day under a slavemaster's lash? Etc, etc, etc.

That's why I said your examples were bizarre.

I know no one with the naive optimism of a typical American.

Most of the immigrants I've known share that optimism -- which you strangely call "naive", despite the fact that it works. That you do not know such people isn't really relevant.

I will admit that my Hatian example is a poor one, in that Haiti has never been anything but a Hellhole

The world in general has, prior to the recent development of enlightenment philosophy and modern science and medicine, never been anything but a hellhole.

After all, Hitler only suceeded in killing 1/3 of world Jewry. 2/3 were left, right?

What I am objecting to is your holding up the atrocities of the 20th century as the pinacle of human evil. They're not even close. It isn't that murdering 1/3 of all the Jews wasn't horribly evil, it's that it wasn't UNUSUAL. If you want to talk about absolute numbers of people killed, then yes, Hitler is in the top four, after Genghis Khan, Mao, and Stalin. But absolutely numbers don't tell us about the impact on the average person's life -- they just tell us that more people were killed in the 20th century because there were a lot more people around TO kill. To know about the impact of killing, you need to look at the percentages. And in percentage terms, Mao and Hitler were pussies compared to earlier practitioners of genocide. Seen many Carthaginians around lately? Talk to Scipio Africanus.

My historical studies taught me to look at real people in actual circumstances, and so I am deficient in the ability to conjure worlds from the best of all possible statistics.

But sadly it does not appear to have taught you how to judge the state of the world using your reason rather than your emotion. You compare me to Dr. Pangloss, but I've never said this is the best of all possible worlds -- only that it is the best world thus far, for the vast majority of the human race, and not, contrary to your claims, the WORST world to date.

g said...

The man who makes his living playing with construction paper cut-outs made a joke. You sillies!!!

Gahrie said...

Since when did punishing prisoners (which presumably is the point of showing Hussien South Park) become wrong? Why is it wrong to punish prisoners? Prison is supposed to be unpleasant.

Theo Boehm said...

Revenant: Thank you for responding to my comments in a straightforward way. We will, no doubt, continue to disagree about the meaning of the 20th century, but in the end you had manners enough to reply to what I actually wrote, and not to continue to assure me that I have not read enough history books. And I will certainly consider what you have said to help sharpen my own thinking on the subject.

Gratuitous ad hominem attacks of the sort we've seen earlier on this thread, and which seemed to form part of your first comment, are too often the stock-in-trade of Internet "discussion." I want to thank you for not continuing in this vein, and for being, in the end, contentious but civil, so that we all might learn something.

Pasta-Riffic said...

Er..

You guys take yourselves WAY too seriously.

Lindsay Lai said...

This never happened. It was an Internet joke that everyone believed.

Beverly said...

I don't see why he'd be upset. It's a pretty awesome movie. If I'm gonna be imprisoned, I'd take watching South Park over not watching anything, or over actual torture.