Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

As Obama Administration censors torture photos, what happened in those photos still exists

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Originally published on on Thu, 05/14/2009 – 10:46am

Censorship is something we greatly abhor in our society, but there is one main reason why censorship ultimately doesn’t work: what you censor still exists.

Those who like to censor or enjoy censorship play this game where if you can’t see what is being hidden, it magically goes away. This literally works for babies, but even they outgrow it right away.

We know there are pictures of torture. And we were promised we would see those pictures, but the decision by the Obama Administration not to let us see them doesn’t mean the pictures — and the torture that produced them — don’t exist.

The videos that were produced and subsequently destroyed during the Bush years don’t mean that the actions on those tapes never happened.

Magically pretending that something that you may find unpleasant doesn’t exist is by and large an immature reaction to the world of reality.

And censorship isn’t limited to the political world, either. Some people believe prostitution will go away if only that darned Craigslist eliminates its “erotic services” category. But we know that isn’t true.

Censorship is easy to do, can make you feel self-righteous, and a very clean decision. Reality takes more effort, can also make you feel self-righteous, and is very messy.

In the Vietnam War days, we didn’t really have a true idea of what was going on there until we saw the TV coverage, and it changed the impression of the war to people back in the United States. Same goes for the Pentagon Papers.

Dick Cheney and his ilk are enjoying the idea that we won’t release the photos of the torture. After all, if we can’t judge for ourselves, determining the ramifications of torture — no matter what we believe — becomes much more difficult.

Those who think torture is wrong and illegal won’t have their minds changed by the pictures. But those people who aren’t sure — the same ones in the 1960s thinking the Vietnam War was one thing when it was another — they are the audience who needs to see those photos.

The United States is tops among democracies in what we censor, but the rest of the world knows more about what is going on with our own country than we do. And in a democracy, that is unforgivable.

We like to think that as a people, we can handle what we did and what the world has to offer. But time and time again, as Americans, we seem afraid that we really can’t handle the truth. And this truth is unpleasant. But burying our heads in the sand doesn’t make what we do go away; it just means we have our heads are out of sight.

George W. Bush has said “We don’t torture.” Above all, Bush needs to see those photos, and maybe — but not likely — after he sees those pictures, even Bush would decide that we did torture.


Written by democracysoup

May 14, 2009 at 10:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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