The Mass Psychology of Torture

William Mason writes at Counterpunch:

Torture has its gradations: from the most extreme forms (such as waterboarding) to the most subtle expressions (such as passive-aggressive obstructionism in relationships).

In its most heinous forms, torture consists of confining a helpless victim, who is subjected to physical pain and torment, emotional abuse, and various other degrading humiliations.  Prohibited by both international and domestic laws, the torture of suspected “terrorists” is nonetheless now widely condoned by most American citizens (or so it seems).

A kind of  “torture-of-the-week” riveted the audience of the popular TV series 24.  The disturbing film Dark Zero Thirty rationalized and depicted graphic torture—and was praised by critics and the public alike.  Why, so many observers have asked, do Americans today tolerate (or even approve) of the illegal torture so routinely administered by their own government?

Of course, Americans have long been desensitized to violence.  Everyday life is in itself brutalizing to any humane sensibility.  The average U.S. employee is stripped of her dignity on an almost-daily basis: penalties for lateness, nit-picking “performance reviews,” reprimands and unfair demands, the ever-lurking danger of the “pink slip,” mandatory overtime, and so on.

Without strong union representation (increasingly rare in the retrograde U.S. workplace), the individual often feels trapped and demoralized—with few (if any) options for escape.  Yet although a job, with all the daily frustrations it entails, is often humiliating, the un-employed person is even deprived of whatever modest status is conferred by “working.”

In short: human beings, to the extent that they still can defiantly assert their “humanity,” resent being treated as objects—objects to be “employed,” worked with maximal “efficiency,” and then discarded.

What do such frustrated, beleaguered Americans feel?  Quite often: resentment, even rage–and a desire for reprisal.  But who to blame?  Why not suspicious “foreigners,” such as “job-stealing” immigrants or “subversive” Muslims?  Angry, demoralized Americans may thus deny their sense of humiliation–and displace their vindictive rage, from their corporate overseers onto conveniently available scapegoats (like “suspects” held in indefinite detention).

As described by Freudian psychoanalysts, such humiliated individuals may seek to reverse their psychological status from victim to (vicarious) perpetrator–through a potent “identification-with-the-aggressor.”

From the demeaning feeling of being a “loser”–in a winner-take-all economic system– one may vicariously feel a satisfying surge of “power-over” those detained, harshly “interrogated” and stigmated (as possible “terrorists”).  Let us not forget the grinning, even exultant faces of the perpetrators at Abu Ghraib—“empowered” to dispense abuse and degradation–instead of receiving it.

Keep reading.

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  • echar

    When it comes down to brass tacks we only have us to blame for allowing it to go on. However the tea party fucktards who buy the word of people like Dead Man Walker wholesale do not help. Hey mainlining faux news seems like a reprieve from the indignity of being the butt of the joke of some penny loafer wearing, golf club attending piece of shit. Who was handed the keys to kingdom like the sports car daddy gave to them on their 16th birthday. Private school education be damned, may you rot in the hell you’ve created.

    Oh wait… that’s our role.

    There was a training video for a pet specialty store I had to endure, which is just sad that they train with fucking videos these days. Yet they expect enterprising results. Anyhow, in this video the trainer/talking head congratulates the trainee like they are a dog. Using positive reinforcement. I wanted to flip tables, that should have been sign right then to walk out, telling everyone to go fuck themselves. I lasted a year and at the end of that year, I hated almost everyone.

    Shoppers are the biggest assholes on earth. I cannot stress enough that you must never be an asshole to people in stores. They hate their lives and get paid shit. Then there was the results they would get back from the phone polls. They will use these polls to show the employees where the store needs to improve. How do they know if the person is not just spamming numbers? Who is to say if the stores is actually giving real statistics coming from these polls in the first place? The carrot over the head and leverage indeed.

    Unthinkable (spoiler)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOo9SeXdA-8

    • kowalityjesus

      I think my IQ dropped watching that propaganda, holy shit.

      You sound awfully choleric today. I think it is generally asinine to hate on the gentry, there are enough of them that are genuinely respectable. Classist stereotypes go both ways.

      • echar

        True, but there’s not enough of them using their resources and influences to change things. What’s the matter, did you have to take the silver spoon out of your mouth to wash out the bitter taste?

        • kowalityjesus

          how presumptuous! You’re pointing three fingers at yourself, my man.

          Universal access to quality and accurate information will catalyze more change than any heap of blame. Conscientious coolness will eventually trump fuddy-duddys, given a peaceful and transparent forum.

          • echar

            but I am angry! RAWR

          • echar

            but I am angry! RAWR

          • kowalityjesus

            That makes me sad, for I love thee.

          • echar

            I love you too Kowalityjesus.

          • jnana

            its not about blaming the rich, but warning them of the danger of “hell-fire” waiting for them.

          • kowalityjesus

            ach, ja God bless you. But as Keynes said (who I am as unlikely to quote as any):

            How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts
            the boorish proletariat above the bourgeois and the intelligentsia who,
            with whatever faults, are the quality in life and surely carry the seeds
            of all human advancement?

            now what was this article about again? lol

          • kowalityjesus

            ach, ja God bless you. But as Keynes said (who I am as unlikely to quote as any):

            How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts
            the boorish proletariat above the bourgeois and the intelligentsia who,
            with whatever faults, are the quality in life and surely carry the seeds
            of all human advancement?

            now what was this article about again? lol

          • jnana

            I’m sorry, but that’s just plain ignorance.
            What you may call boorish is a lack of unnecessary formality and the quality of being “down-to-earth” as Our Lord was an example of for us.
            And the bourgeois and intelligentsia are the cream of the crop? Pfffft.
            Prove it.
            And don’t preach to me of “culture”. The culture of the bourgeois is pure pretension at best. A mockery of Life at worst.

          • kowalityjesus

            It is indeed a reactionary comment to make, which I prefaced with a professed philosophical pivot from its purveyor, but your factious rebuttal brings the aphorism to mind “expect resistance.”

            Aristotle maintained that the middle class should be trusted with leadership in polity, as theirs is the avid disposition least prone to the atrophy of plenty and the absence of poverty. We may be thinking of different social archetypes for the same terms, but ‘those who must labor, but are not crushed’ are the blessed, the progenitors of progress imo.

            I believe God speaks to us through practicality. To attain power and wealth, then disdain its emptiness and disperse and serve it to those whose need is greater demarcates a high path. How the fuck can I say this and still follow Christ? but I believe pursuing and owning property can be in the service of God, as long as one remembers “he who would be first must be least.”

          • jnana

            Ownership of private property isn’t the way Jesus lived, neither is it the way His followers lived(see Acts). There should never be a rich Christian, in fact, no Christian should NOT live communally, unless they’re a hermit. This is the precise problem w/ the Church. The members aren’t living like Jesus or His followers(there are some, see Koinonia in Americus, GA or the Catlik Worker). Standards have dropped for some reason.
            “those who must labor but are not crushed” are blessed? is that one in the Beatitudes? far from it. we should all be laboring and not be crushed, but instead the rulers are sadists, and the middle class are complicit in their torture. I thought it was the persecuted who were blessed?
            What can be more practical than devoting one’s life for others, by sharing and working together? COOPERATION NOT COMPETITION.
            Any other interpretation of the Gospel(concerning capital) is a stretch at best, a bald faced lie at worst.
            The “church” can’t save yer soul, gotta work out yer own salvation.

          • kowalityjesus

            So Christians must always be disenfranchised? There is no role for anyone but the hunter-gatherer in Christian philosophy? Operation and progress in society must not occur given the schism that results against one’s spiritual wholesomeness? Christ incarnated on this earth to live and die as a man; to know our tribulations and to feel our necessities.

            It would be asinine to say that Jesus wants us to hold the proclivities of the rich, but it would be foolish for us to believe that God doesn’t approve of human perfection and excellence. I’m thinking of Bach. Bach wouldn’t have gotten to his apex without a heavy, heavy dose of earthly knowledge as well as divine gift. Now his music shall stand for millenia proclaiming his powerful, devoted relationship with Jesus. That is what I had in mind when I said “serving and donating”. We are all richer for Bach, and if he had kept it to his self, world history would be so much more disappointing. St. Francis of Assisi is a famous example of the kind of lifestyle you are talking about. Many saints lived this ideal of poverty and prayer, and performed numerous incredible miracles to their testament. I feel that I am not called to that lifestyle, although I take a page from their book whenever I am capable.

            You are correct that we spend too much time in our lives effectively lining the pockets of the wealthy. How do we change that?

          • jnana

            Jesus and St. Paul were hardly hunter-gatherers(St. Paul was a tentmaker, Jesus, a laborer). Neither was St. Francis. Living communally and/or wandering does not stop one from acquiring the “earthly knowledge” that can be used to share the gifts of life with others(although, I don’t know what you mean by earthly knowledge being separate from spiritual knowledge. for me, any knowledge that is true is spiritual) In fact, there would probably be more Bachs if we lived communally as Christians, sharing everything. And I can attest to being richer in “earthly” knowledge for having wandered in poverty. And you asked whether Christians should be disenfranchised. But you should know that St. Francis and his fellows were only Richer for renouncing excess. Sacrificing wealth is hardly a sacrifice. Have you read Thomas Merton? Specifically No Man Is An Island?
            I can also attest to enjoying the little I have MORE in proportion to the less I have. Its only fear and doubt and a certain natural selfishness that causes people to think otherwise.
            How do we cease greasing the gears that grind the poor? Form and live in communities that provide for All, from each according to his means, to each according to his needs, as determined by the Holy Spirit. I don’t think any laws have to be broken, nor am I saying not to pay taxes. Jesus Christ taught us how we may subvert the plans of the Powers.

          • jnana

            Jesus and St. Paul were hardly hunter-gatherers(St. Paul was a tentmaker, Jesus, a laborer). Neither was St. Francis. Living communally and/or wandering does not stop one from acquiring the “earthly knowledge” that can be used to share the gifts of life with others(although, I don’t know what you mean by earthly knowledge being separate from spiritual knowledge. for me, any knowledge that is true is spiritual) In fact, there would probably be more Bachs if we lived communally as Christians, sharing everything. And I can attest to being richer in “earthly” knowledge for having wandered in poverty. And you asked whether Christians should be disenfranchised. But you should know that St. Francis and his fellows were only Richer for renouncing excess. Sacrificing wealth is hardly a sacrifice. Have you read Thomas Merton? Specifically No Man Is An Island?
            I can also attest to enjoying the little I have MORE in proportion to the less I have. Its only fear and doubt and a certain natural selfishness that causes people to think otherwise.
            How do we cease greasing the gears that grind the poor? Form and live in communities that provide for All, from each according to his means, to each according to his needs, as determined by the Holy Spirit. I don’t think any laws have to be broken, nor am I saying not to pay taxes. Jesus Christ taught us how we may subvert the plans of the Powers.

          • jnana

            I would also like to add that what is called “operation and progress” by society is not necessarily actual progress. Would you trade your soul for the (modern)world? There are some things more valuable than “progress”. And a simple lifestyle is actually more enjoyable more fun happier and more peaceful. It is also less harmful to others, be they human beings or non-human beings. I have stayed in different spiritual communities(short-term only) and recognize how valuable they are, and of course, still fraught with many difficulties. In the U.S. today Christian Communal living is growing and it is vitally necessary, considering we can no longer depend on the state to support us and our interests. If interested, check out New Monasticism.

          • kowalityjesus

            your proposition, that “Bach”s would flourish in a communal environment is absurd. While I cannot account for the facts of Bach’s incredible genius, I will say your postulation holds no relationship to it, and smacks of deplorable communist dogma.

            We do not fight against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in high places. Our individual fights against sin are more momentous than the substitution of worldly figureheads.

          • kowalityjesus

            your proposition, that “Bach”s would flourish in a communal environment is absurd. While I cannot account for the facts of Bach’s incredible genius, I will say your postulation holds no relationship to it, and smacks of deplorable communist dogma.

            We do not fight against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in high places. Our individual fights against sin are more momentous than the substitution of worldly figureheads.

          • jnana

            “Communist dogma”?
            C’mon, the early church were communal. Why? Why did they hold communal living to be important? It was about abandoning selfish living and giving our all to God and our brothers and sisters. I’m not talking about some state sanctioned socialism or communism. No substitution of worldly figureheads. I’m talking about “Come out and be ye separate”. Let the world follow its course, give Caesar what is Caesar’s, but the church should create WITH God, to show the unbeliever the power of God’s Love. I don’t believe in imposing communal living onto individuals. I believe in building sacred communities of trust, of love, of whole-hearted devotion to God and our brothers and sisters.
            I understand that Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. I tend towards a dualistic understanding, almost Manichaean. I don’t expect the church to create a perfect world on this planet, but as members of the Body of Christ, we should be doing His Will.
            If we are lukewarm, He will spit us out. It is imperative that the church, the members of God’s body show this sick world what it means to live by the Holy Spirit. Why are you so much against this? Because the Roman Catholic Church is? Well, what about St. Francis and his early communities(not the corrupted ones that came later), didn’t he live by the Spirit? Well, he was a special saint, only a select few can do that, and I’m not one of them, someone else can do that, is that what you think?
            Really think about what I am saying here. This world is sick, people are soul sick, dying in ignorance, and the world is leading them astray. The harvest is ready but the laborers are few. People are hungry for real community, real brotherhood. Our families are falling apart, the traditions that need to be preserved are dying, and the traditions that need to die are thriving.
            But there is a glimmer of hope that’s growing. The Holy Spirit is spreading across the earth, and there is even hope for ecumenicism. It’s dependent on us as individuals to really devote ourselves to Love and Love’s Creator. I have seen some of these communities, and I’m not saying they’re perfect- yet. But I believe they are part of God’s plan in the age we’re living in, and they have been part of his plan since He appeared in the flesh as Jesus Christ. I hope I can be part of His plan, doing His Will my brief stay here.
            As I said, check out New Monasticism. It’s a book by Shane Claiborne(?), and those that identify as this “movement” are doing wonderful things and spreading the Living Gospel, AND keeping the flame of real ecumenicism alive. Of course, I think I’d still be a heretic in the eyes of many of them, but I came to Jesus Christ through non-canonical scriptures and from reading joseph Campbell, so I’m sure you would understand why.
            And yes, if all children were able to grow up with enough food to sustain proper brain functioning, we would undoubtedly have more “Bach”s. As I said, there should be no “rich” Christian, or rather, no poor Christian, no poor person. There is enough land to sustain us all. Do you believe you deserve more than me? Does Jesus Christ believe that?
            Just imagine what kind of example God’s people could be to others if we lived in Holy Spirit-filled communities as the church revealed in Acts. I believe that is how the Good News spread so fast in those ancient times.

          • jnana

            “Communist dogma”?
            C’mon, the early church were communal. Why? Why did they hold communal living to be important? It was about abandoning selfish living and giving our all to God and our brothers and sisters. I’m not talking about some state sanctioned socialism or communism. No substitution of worldly figureheads. I’m talking about “Come out and be ye separate”. Let the world follow its course, give Caesar what is Caesar’s, but the church should create WITH God, to show the unbeliever the power of God’s Love. I don’t believe in imposing communal living onto individuals. I believe in building sacred communities of trust, of love, of whole-hearted devotion to God and our brothers and sisters.
            I understand that Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. I tend towards a dualistic understanding, almost Manichaean. I don’t expect the church to create a perfect world on this planet, but as members of the Body of Christ, we should be doing His Will.
            If we are lukewarm, He will spit us out. It is imperative that the church, the members of God’s body show this sick world what it means to live by the Holy Spirit. Why are you so much against this? Because the Roman Catholic Church is? Well, what about St. Francis and his early communities(not the corrupted ones that came later), didn’t he live by the Spirit? Well, he was a special saint, only a select few can do that, and I’m not one of them, someone else can do that, is that what you think?
            Really think about what I am saying here. This world is sick, people are soul sick, dying in ignorance, and the world is leading them astray. The harvest is ready but the laborers are few. People are hungry for real community, real brotherhood. Our families are falling apart, the traditions that need to be preserved are dying, and the traditions that need to die are thriving.
            But there is a glimmer of hope that’s growing. The Holy Spirit is spreading across the earth, and there is even hope for ecumenicism. It’s dependent on us as individuals to really devote ourselves to Love and Love’s Creator. I have seen some of these communities, and I’m not saying they’re perfect- yet. But I believe they are part of God’s plan in the age we’re living in, and they have been part of his plan since He appeared in the flesh as Jesus Christ. I hope I can be part of His plan, doing His Will my brief stay here.
            As I said, check out New Monasticism. It’s a book by Shane Claiborne(?), and those that identify as this “movement” are doing wonderful things and spreading the Living Gospel, AND keeping the flame of real ecumenicism alive. Of course, I think I’d still be a heretic in the eyes of many of them, but I came to Jesus Christ through non-canonical scriptures and from reading joseph Campbell, so I’m sure you would understand why.
            And yes, if all children were able to grow up with enough food to sustain proper brain functioning, we would undoubtedly have more “Bach”s. As I said, there should be no “rich” Christian, or rather, no poor Christian, no poor person. There is enough land to sustain us all. Do you believe you deserve more than me? Does Jesus Christ believe that?
            Just imagine what kind of example God’s people could be to others if we lived in Holy Spirit-filled communities as the church revealed in Acts. I believe that is how the Good News spread so fast in those ancient times.

          • jnana

            And as for individual fights against sin, they are more easily won when we have a community to help us. Also, sacrificing selfish desires and loving others as God does can be more easily practiced in small local spiritual communities, especially communities with a shared purse, as was the community that was revealed to us by St. Luke in Acts.

            Could you tell me what happened to Ananias and Sapphira?

            if you don’t remember, here ya go:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ananias_and_Sapphira
            (a stunning painting by Raphael on this page, too)

          • kowalityjesus

            Thank you for your elegant and compelling arguments. I know I will not do it, however, until God places it before me. I will study and strive as best I can, but practicality is a beast which has thwarted the best laid plans of mice and men throughout history. God grant me the strength to try and be among those who follow Christ.

            “He who neglects what is actually done for what ought to be done, sooner brings about his ruin than his preservation … A man who wishes to live up to his professions of virtue in every circumstance soon meets with what destroys him among so many who are evil.”

          • kowalityjesus

            Thank you for your elegant and compelling arguments. I know I will not do it, however, until God places it before me. I will study and strive as best I can, but practicality is a beast which has thwarted the best laid plans of mice and men throughout history. God grant me the strength to try and be among those who follow Christ.

            “He who neglects what is actually done for what ought to be done, sooner brings about his ruin than his preservation … A man who wishes to live up to his professions of virtue in every circumstance soon meets with what destroys him among so many who are evil.”

          • jnana

            If you read the writing on the wall, you may realize its the most practical thing we can do. rome is falling…

          • jnana

            If you read the writing on the wall, you may realize its the most practical thing we can do. rome is falling…

      • jnana

        its not about stereotypes. its about those who have more than needed, hoarding their treasures, having the ability to share and make a change, not to mention benefitting their own soul, not doing it. Yes, many or even most poor, especially in the 1st world, would do the same, but they’re not in that situation, so how could they be blamed.

        • Monkey See Monkey Do

          Poor people within their current cultural framework would be induced to help, but money gets you status and gets you a new cultural framework, full of bloodsuckers and parasites. I dont mean ‘hate on the gentry’ like our good torie-sounding Jesus friend mentioned. It’s just that many find it hard to take a look outside of their little world, but i know there are some of the monetarily rich using it for good.

    • kowalityjesus

      I think my IQ dropped watching that propaganda, holy shit.

      You sound awfully choleric today. I think it is generally asinine to hate on the gentry, there are enough of them that are genuinely respectable. Classist stereotypes go both ways.

  • Deth Cree

    is this supposed to be scary?

  • Deth Cree

    LoL

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