Dostoevsky and Cheney, again by mattsteinglass
May 14, 2009, 2:22 pm
Filed under: Human Rights and Torture, Literature

I keep coming back to this sense that the narrative frame one needs to look at what happened with Cheney and torture policy is that of Dostoevsky. What are we seeing now with the conservative utilitarian argument for torture but a rehash of “The Grand Inquisitor” from the Brothers Karamazov, explaining the ironclad utilitarian case for re-crucifying Jesus? I noted earlier Raskolnikov’s disturbed rationalization of murder, driven by a confused combination of need, responsibility, and anti-humanist despair; his admiration for force, decisiveness and Napoleon resonate eerily with neo-con dismissal of the “evidence-based community”, their assertion they could make the world they wanted through sheer force of will.

And there’s a deep connection between Dostoevsky’s horror of the mechanical determinist worldview — the Underground Man’s world of “piano keys” and the “Crystal Palace” — and the fantasy of the all-seeing, all-knowing national security state, its computers data-mining every email and phone call, its streetcorner cameras, satellites and flying drones videotaping everything, everywhere. Because only in such a transparent and determinist world can utilitarian justifications for torture work. In the real world we live in, we know that nothing is predictable, and that the voice that whispers in your ear that it is just and morally necessary to torture the man in front of you — that you know with certainty that he is a terrorist, that he holds information that will save millions, that his life is less important than the lives of a thousand or a million, that the ends justify the means — is the voice of the Devil.


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[…] merry adventures in torture and gulags comes from the land of the ice and snow. We’ve already covered Dostoevsky. Today let’s talk Victor […]

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