New Poll Finds 59% Of Americans Support Post-9/11 Torture – Propaganda, Cultural Sickness, Or Both?

Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture, not even the ones recognized by the U.S. Government itself as innocent, not even the family members of the ones they tortured to death. Whether by design (most likely) or effect, this inexcusable omission radically distorts coverage.

Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that – despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people. It’s hardly surprising, then, that a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning found that a large majority of Americans believe torture is justified even when you call it “torture.” Not having to think about actual human victims makes it easy to justify any sort of crime.

– From Glenn Greenwald’s latest piece: U.S. TV Provides Ample Platform for American Torturers, but None to Their Victims

After reading about a new poll that shows 59% of Americans support post 9/11 torture, I’ve spent the entire morning thinking about what it means. Does this confirm the total degeneration of American culture into a collective of chicken-hawk, unthinking, statist war-mongering automatons? Alternatively, does it merely reflect the effectiveness of corporate-government propaganda? Is it a combination of both? How does the poll spilt by age group?

These are all important questions to which I do not have definitive answers, but I have some thoughts I’d like to share. First, here are some of the observations from the Washington Post:

A majority of Americans believe that the harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were justified, even as about half the public says the treatment amounted to torture, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

By an almost 2-1 margin, or 59-to-31 percent, those interviewed support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying they produced valuable intelligence.

In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.”

The new poll comes on the heels of a scathing Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which President Obama ended in 2009. The report concluded that controversial interrogation techniques — including waterboarding detainees, placing them in stress positions and keeping them inside confinement boxes — were not an effective means of acquiring intelligence.

This is important, because despite the Senate Report showing torture was not effective in acquiring intelligence (see: Revelations from the Torture Report – CIA Lies, Nazi Methods and the $81 Million No-Bid Torture Contract), the American public thinks it was. This is the power of mainstream media spin and propaganda.

Fifty-three percent of Americans say the CIA’s harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists produced important information that could not have been obtained any other way, while 31 percent say it did not. 

In a CBS poll released Monday, nearly seven in 10 considered waterboarding torture, but about half said the technique and others are, at times, justified. Fifty-seven percent said harsh interrogation techniques can provide information that can prevent terrorist attacks.

While the above is disturbing, if I felt that the culture is lost beyond hope and that my fellow American is akin to a zombified sociopath with no hope of awakening, I wouldn’t be writing on this website. I would have renounced my citizenship long ago and moved somewhere else. In contrast, I think there’s a lot to fight for in these United States and I think the war for freedom, civil rights and the rule of law can and will prevail. After all, I was admittedly more or less a zombie during the years immediately following 9/11 and for most of my time on Wall Street. If I was able to make such a profound transition (and countless of my friends have as well ), then there is always hope.

I continue to think that the vast majority of human beings are not particularly ethical or unethical. They are basically somewhere in the middle and thus very easily molded by propaganda. History pretty much proves this to be the case. My sentiments on the subject can be best summarized by something I wrote back in 2012 in the post: Humanity is Rising.

I have always felt that human disposition lies on a bell curve.  So let’s say for the sake of argument that 1% is just extraordinarily wicked, selfish, mentally deranged so along the lines of a Stalin like character.  Then let’s say the 1% on the other side is gentle, enlightened, and moral almost to a fault so a Gandhi like character.  Then the masses in the middle are not of any extreme disposition in either way, but are easily malleable and generally just “go along to get along.”  Well as far as recorded human history is concerned, the 1% of nasty, immoral parasites have dominated humanity through the various playbooks strategies that I and many others have outlined.  The 1% on the other side have generally been silenced or ostracized systematically by the control freak “leaders” and if that fails to work, they are simply murdered.  I mean even up until the 20th Century think about the kinds of guys that have been murdered.  Gandhi.  Martin Luther King Jr.  John Lennon.  Oh and if we want to go back a couple thousand years there was Jesus.  The list is endless.  Guys that talk about a higher level of consciousness and love and actually make inroads in society are murdered.  Yet no one ever seems to take a shot at the genocidal, sociopaths that run our lives through politics and banking (nor would I ever want that as I do not condone violence as a solution to a violent system).  Interesting isn’t it?  I think it is pretty obvious why this is the case.  The 1% on the decent side of the bell curve aren’t murderers.  The guys on the other side of it are.  

While certainly not giving the middle of the bell curve a pass for its unquestioned apathy and ignorance, I am convinced that the key variable here is information, which is why it is so imperative to conduct alternative narratives, and is why I spend most of my time working on this site. Glenn Greenwald’s recent piece in the Intercept helped to reinforce the impact of media propaganda in shaping public perceptions. Here are some excerpts:

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture, not even the ones recognized by the U.S. Government itself as innocent, not even the family members of the ones they tortured to death. Whether by design (most likely) or effect, this inexcusable omission radically distorts coverage.

Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that – despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people. It’s hardly surprising, then, that a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning found that a large majority of Americans believe torture is justified even when you call it “torture.” Not having to think about actual human victims makes it easy to justify any sort of crime.

This self-glorifying ritual can be sustained only by completely suppressing America’s victims. If you don’t hear from the human beings who are tortured, it’s easy to pretend nothing truly terrible happened. That’s how the War on Terror generally has been “reported” for 13 years and counting: by completely silencing those whose lives are destroyed or ended by U.S. crimes. That’s how the illusion gets sustained.

Thus, we sometimes hear about drones (usually to celebrate the Great Kills) but almost never hear from their victims: the surviving family members of innocents whom the U.S. kills or those forced to live under the traumatizing regime of permanently circling death robots. We periodically hear about the vile regimes the U.S. props up for decades, but almost never from the dissidents and activists imprisoned, tortured and killed by those allied tyrants. Most Americans have heard the words “rendition” and “Guantanamo” but could not name a single person victimized by them, let alone recount what happened to them, because they almost never appear on American television.

It would be incredibly easy, and incredibly effective, for U.S. television outlets to interview America’s torture victims. There is certainly no shortage of them. Groups such as the ACLUCenter for Constitutional RightsReprieve, and CAGE UK represent many of them. Many are incredibly smart and eloquent, and have spent years contemplating what happened to them and navigating the aftermath on their lives.

I’ve written previously about the transformative experience of meeting and hearing directly from the victims of the abuses by your own government. That human interaction converts an injustice from an abstraction into a deeply felt rage and disgust. That’s precisely why the U.S. media doesn’t air those stories directly from the victims themselves: because it would make it impossible to maintain the pleasing fairy tales about “who we really are.”

When I was in Canada in October, I met Maher Arar (pictured above) for the second time, went to his home, had breakfast with his wife (also pictured above) and two children. In 2002, Maher, a Canadian citizen of Syrian descent who worked as an engineer, was traveling back home to Ottawa when he was abducted by the U.S. Government at JFK Airport, heldincommunicado and interrogated for weeks, then “rendered” to Syria where the U.S. arranged to have him brutally tortured by Assad’s regime. He was kept in a coffin-like cell for 10 months and savagely tortured until even his Syrian captors were convinced that he was completely innocent. He was then uncermoniously released back to his life in Canada as though nothing had happened.

When he sued the U.S. government, subservient U.S. courts refused even to hear his case, accepting the Obama DOJ’s claim that it was too secret to safely adjudicate. 

There are hundreds if not thousands of Maher Arars the U.S. media could easily and powerfully interview. McClatchy this week detailed the story of Khalid al Masri, a German citizen whom the U.S. Government abducted in Macedonia, tortured, and then dumped on a road when they decided he wasn’t guilty of anything (US courts also refused to hear his case on secrecy grounds). The detainees held without charges, tortured, and then unceremoniously released from Guantanamo and Bagram are rarely if ever heard from on U.S. television, even when the U.S. Government is forced to admit that they were guilty of nothing.

This is not to say that merely putting these victims on television would fundamentally change how these issues are perceived. Many Americans would look at the largely non-white and foreign faces recounting their abuses, or take note of their demonized religion and ethnicity, and react for that reason with indifference or even support for what was done to them.

I’m not so sure this is the case, and in any event, we can’t know unless we try.

Keeping those victims silenced and invisible is the biggest favor the U.S. television media could do for the government over which they claim to act as watchdogs. So that’s what they do: dutifully, eagerly and with very rare exception.

Watching television is easy and addicting, particularly if you came of age before the internet. Television news is simply horrifying. On those rare instances when I catch a glimpse of it at the gym, I feel as if I have entered a bizarro world of idiocy and shamelessness.

Nevertheless, it remains true that a lot of the pre-internet generation still receives intellectual marching orders from the idiot-box. This is why I’m so curious to see how the Washington Post poll splits by age bracket. Either way, hope is never lost and the torch of liberty must remain lit and carried forward by those who care. That’s precisely what I try to do here at Liberty Blitzkrieg, and I ask you to do the same in whatever capacity you can.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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  • paul

    It’s actually 65% !

  • Prediction

    The United States of Rome will fall in due time. Give or take within the next 80 years. The runaway collapse appears to be inevitable, as it is throughout History.

    *The U.S. government goes on overseas adventures illegally invading countries and killing countless millions, because it can.
    *The U.S. supports terrorists mercenary armies in an attempt to illegally overthrow countries they don’t like, because they can.
    *The CIA tortures innocent people into giving false confessions, assassinates foreign leaders, or causes insurrections, because it can.
    *The Police can choke hold or shoot you to death for not “following the law,” because they can. In the case of Eric Garner, it doesn’t matter if you happened to be selling cigarettes desperately trying to support 6 kids.

    That artwork I always see on here in articles of Lady Liberty crying is a great metaphor. Like a Mother having lost all hope for her children.

  • Jungle Consciousness

    When cruelty seems like a good idea, people engage in cruel acts – and are proud of it.
    We hate them because they hate us because we hate them …
    Stop the vicious cycle of hate.
    It doesn’t matter who started first.
    What matters is who decides to stop it.

  • Sunny

    The CIA Didn’t Just Torture, It Experimented on Human Beings!!!
    http://truth-out.org/news/item/28103-the-cia-didn-t-just-torture-it-experimented-on-human-beings

  • Ms Miss

    Stupid Amexicans. Too many communists spreading their jewish hate ideologies.