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March 18, 2005

New blog game: Give Mutiliation a Chance

Remember when ticking bomb scenarios were the hot blog game?

In a world where one suspect knows a dark secret and one cop has 10 minutes avert a cataclysm of Biblical proportions...

Good times. "Ticking bomb" scenarios aren't just for torture. You can mix and match, substituting theft, murder, or any depraved behavior that rings your intellectual cherries. It doesn't matter how likely it is that raping a nun is the only way to save a school bus full of small children. That causal connection is built into our thought experiment.

Your opponent might ask "How often does this situation come up, really?" (Poor sap, he'll never know what hit him.) "You intellectual lightweight!" you cry, "You underhanded cheat! You're not addressing my carefully honed thought experiment. Whazza matter? Aren't you man enough to stare nun rape in the face? Go back to your girlie-blog until you're ready to have an adult conversation." Should your opponent mutter something about how this is a stupid question, you can accuse him of being a typical knee jerk liberal who is out of touch with a post 9/11 era in which all thought experiments assume overweening importance.

I resolved to stop playing Ticking Bomb last year. I'm pretty sharp--set me up three or four times, and by the fifth time, I really think hard about jumping into the fray. Luckily, after a few more brisk rounds of Ticking Bomb, even the earnest and fair-minded liberals got bored with it. It looked like we were going to have to back to boring policy questions about extraordinary rendition and prisoner deaths.

Luckily, Eugene Volokh has taken the torture game to the next level: "You'd Enjoy Torturing Child Rapists To Death, Right? And If Not, What's Wrong With You?":

…I am especially pleased that the killing — and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act — was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging…

…I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness.

It's an exciting development for the armchair torture contingent. We've segued from "Could torture ever be an acceptable means to an end?" to "Torture is a morally obligatory punishment that the state should inflict on its own citizens, even if we have to rewrite the Constitution to do it."

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i am currently reading the edition from Beacon Press, adapted from the original serial articles published in Ramparts. i find it to be painfully historically relevant due to the fact that we are pretty much doing the same things now... [Read More]

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The following comes a post on dailykos.com. Professor Eugene Volokh (he teaches Constitutional Law at UCLA) has posted the following on his blog: I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice [Read More]

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» "Give mutilation a chance: an exciting development for the armchair torture contingent:" from RelentlesslyOptimistic
A few months ago, when I unhappily added a [Read More]

Comments

Sean,

It's a slot-machine reference. (I can't tell whether you got that or not, so forgive me if I'm pointing out the obvious.) Three cherries = jackpot = ringing noises from your old-school one-armed bandit.

Usage can be "that band rings my cherries" or "whatever rings your cherries" -- it works either way.

Thad, quit harassing the respectable citizens of the blogosphere!

"Informing" = "harassing"? When did that semantic shift happen?

"Dadahead, what part of "for a society to be a civil society, the state must have an absolute monopoly on physical violence" don't you understand?"

Well, I understand all of it. However, I object to it for two reasons: 1. it's scarily authoritarian and 2. it's not the case that the state has a monopoly on violence, at least not in the US and other (presumably) civil societies.


"Are you actually suggesting that if Jessica Lunsford's father had done what you suggested, he should not be convicted of murder?"

I wasn't necessarily saying that; all I was saying was that it would be, morally speaking, in a completely different category than Jessica's murder.

Now that you ask, though, I wouldn't convict him of murder, no. I would consider it a justifiable homicide if ever there was one.

"I would consider both acts to be sick and twisted. I don't really understand why you are interested in comparing magnitudes of condemnation."

Who cares why I'm interested in it? You can't compare condemnation? So you can't say, e.g., that blowing someone's head off is worse than punching them in the face?

Is it worse to kill an innocent 9-year-old, or to kill a child rapist/murderer?

It bothers me that this question even needs to be asked.

Who cares why I'm interested in it? Who cares why I'm interested in it? You can't compare condemnation?

I find making such comparisons to be repugnant. I would be willing to do so if I thought that something good or useful would come out of the exchange, but I don't see how it could. That's why I would like you to say why you are interested in such comparisons.

To me, it's like asking: Is it better to murder an 80 year old woman, or rape a 16 year old girl? I can't really see any good that would come out of pondering such a question.

--
Daryl McCullough
Ithaca, NY

It's not the case that the state has a monopoly on violence, at least not in the US and other (presumably) civil societies.

You clearly don't understand what "monopoly on violence" means. Vigilantism isn't legal in the US, nor is it legal in any civil society anywhere in the world.

Now that you ask, though, I wouldn't convict him of murder, no. I would consider it a justifiable homicide if ever there was one.

Again, you are advocating vigilantism, which is both morally reprehensible and completely destabilizing. Life isn't a Punisher comic book or an episode of Deadwood, dadahead. This is basic stuff. If you honestly can't see why it's important that the state have a monopoly on violence, I feel sorry for you.

Thad, you are assuming a highly controversial, statist ideology. I don't even know what the hell punisher or deadwood is, but this whole thing has nothing to do with vigilantism.

Thad, you are assuming a highly controversial, statist ideology

Dadahead, you are being spectacularly obtuse. The state monopoly on the legitimate use of violence is not controversial -- it the foundation of any civil society, just as much as free speech or representative democracy. The only alternative is vigilantism. This is basic, basic stuff.

his whole thing has nothing to do with vigilantism.

Excuse me? You just said that a man who takes justice into his own hands, brutally torturing and murdering his daughter's killer, is "justifiable homicide if there ever was one."

If you honestly think society would be improved by breaking the state monopoly on the legitimate use of force -- thereby condoning vigilantism, revenge killings, blood feuds, lynchings, and torture -- then I have nothing more to say to you.

The state monopoly on the legitimate use of violence is not controversial

Ever heard of anarchism? You may not agree with it, but seeing as how it is advocated by unquestionably intelligent and important thinkers (e.g. Noam Chomsky), you can't just dismiss it.

Ever heard of anarchism?

Oh, lordy. Here we go...

you can't just dismiss it.

Oh, no? Just watch me.

[PS I must have missed the bit where Chomsky endorsed revenge killing and personal vendettas.]

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