The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 21, 2014

A week where Colbert moved on, and all but the anti-Castro diehards moved on.

And Sony? Think of it this way: A Japanese company with offices in California was hacked. Several terabytes of data were copied from its internal networks and some was put on file sharing sites. One of the items copied was The Interview, a film produced in Canada that is a comedy about killing a current (although illegitimate) head of state. Tons of other data were stolen, like social security numbers, payroll data, and internal emails, all of which might have been the real targets of the hackers.

Sony is a wonderful object lesson. A few rogue hackers, possibly affiliated with North Korea if you believe the FBI, have forced the company to cancel the movie. The larger issue is that America is no longer free to watch bad movies. The problem for the US is that cyber warfare is cheap and effective. Unlike our military, it isn’t capital intensive, and it can’t be defeated with aircraft carriers and nukes. Yet, the new Congress will probably vote for more jets and tanks.

The tools used to hack Sony are well known and in the public domain. Sony has lousy internal network security and has been hacked before. It’s time that dysfunctional corporations like Sony, invest in protecting themselves. It isn’t the government’s responsibility.

Hollywood, that bastion of free speech, heads for the exits:

COW Sony

It hurts to give up when you are so close to, what, exactly?
COW Cuba

Mr. Obama’s unilateral action on Cuba shows his callous disregard for his lame-duckitude. It also shows his disrespect for the Constitution, Christianity, and everything Americans hold dear.

Cuban economy is about to change:

COW Costco

Colbert packs up, heads towards Letterman:
cOW Colbert

Another idea we need to put behind us:

COW Thied Bush

The Torture Report was a mixed message:

COW Not Who We are


America: Fearful and Dysfunctional

It didn’t take long for America’s pollsters to get feedback about the CIA’s torture program. Pew interviewed 1001 people from December 11-14. 500 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 501 were interviewed on a cell phone. About a third each were Republicans, Democrats and Independents. The results are surprising:

• 51% of the public think the CIA methods were justified.
• 56% believe that torture provided intelligence that helped prevent terrorist attacks.

Here are the top line results:

Pew Torture surveySo, according to a bare majority of the American people, torture is justified, and it works.

Before 9/11, most Americans were against torture. Yet here we are. The drumbeat of propaganda and our deep need to justify what America does (America is good, therefore America does not do evil), has coarsened the country.

And the public is less concerned about the methods used by the CIA, and way more about the Senate committee’s decision to release the report: As many call the decision to publicly release the findings the wrong decision (43%) as the right decision (42%).

A large majority of Republicans (76%) say the interrogation methods used by the CIA after 9/11 were justified. Democrats are divided – 37% say the methods were justified, while 46% disagree. About twice as many liberal Democrats (65%) as conservative and moderate Democrats (32%) say the CIA’s interrogation techniques were not justified.

Young people also are divided over the CIA’s post-9/11 methods: 44% of those under 30 say that the torture methods were justified, while 36% disagree. Among those 50 and older, 60% think the methods were justified. The over 65 group had the highest agreement at 62%. You can review the detailed survey results here.

While we could quibble about the form of the questions asked, every demographic had at least a plurality in favor of torture: men and women, young and old, white and non-white. The exception was Democrats, who did not believe that torture was justified, although they believed it was helpful.

• 65% of liberal Democrats said torture was not justified
• 25% said torture was justified

The opinions of conservative and moderate Democrats were much different: 48% say the CIA interrogations were justified compared with 32% who say they were not.

What does this say about America?

The physical damage done on 9/11 was nothing compared to the psychological damage to the US population. It has seemingly unleashed a latent fascism. We got nuked emotionally, we haven’t recovered, and we may never recover.

We are propagandized to an incredible degree. While people must ultimately take responsibility for their own opinions and actions, the media industry is bent on shaping perception and they are very good at it. Think television isn’t influential? Last night, the Wrongologist’s local TV news covered the hostage situation in Sydney, Australia. But the facts were used only as a jumping off point: The vast majority of the talking head’s time was spent quoting people from the DC security apparatus regarding how such attacks could happen here, how such attacks mean that we should to be hyper vigilant. This continual spinning up of average American’s fears about terror creates a response that isn’t easily calmed.

In post 9/11 America, our politicians have decided that the ends justify the means. They understand that instilling fear pays dividends politically. Their message to the people is that “any means necessary” is acceptable in order to keep us safe. At first, it was the gradual erosion of free speech and habeas corpus. Then, the “collect everything” mode of the NSA.

Now, for the majority of Americans, its “OK, torture if you have to, just keep me safe.”

Those people who think torture is justified are good people who have lost their moral compass, or whose compass points only in a bad direction. This is the dark side of moral relativity: the greater good can lead to terrible outcomes like torture. People do bad things all the time, particularly when they think the good produced outweighs the bad. If a few people’s suffering creates enough “good” (for the rest of us) and that good outweighs the suffering of the few, then, we guess that we should have no issue with it. Thus, torture is now acceptable to the majority of Americans.

And when you look closely at the Pew numbers, although “only” 51% think torture is justified, 20% didn’t have an opinion, so only 29% really think torture is wrong.

Ain’t that America: Fearful, and Dysfunctional.

Smell that American Exceptionalism!