Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The Ticking Time Bomb Scenario

If you're not familiar with the concept of the ticking time bomb scenario than quite simply it's a justification for torture:
I know what you're thinking, why the need to justify torture? Surely any human would turn their back on such tactics. But that's the time we live in, so desperate are we to protect our 'freedoms' (read:ourselves) and strike pre-emptively that we need to come up with a method to our madness.

The logic being that if you had a terrorist who knew the whereabouts of a deadly, killing device and you had five minutes to find out where it was to save the world, that torture would be perfectly acceptable. This is then used as a thin edge of the wedge to make the point that in some cases, torture is justified.

It's like a dot-to-dot but a really nasty one, perhaps the finished picture is the crushing of a child's genitals to extract the needed info.

All's fair right?

I stumbled upon this twisted justification as it is the driving concept behind a new play I'm starring in, which I'll tell you all about later but it's lead me to go into further depth on 'torture theories' and the whole science behind the use of torture.

I can't believe these are the times we live in.

Would you torture?


  1. Would I torture? Nah, because there are better and easier ways of extracting information from a prisoner. I was reading an article about a fellow who found himself arrested in Saudi Arabia on trumped up charges relating to terrorism (a few years back the Saudis were blaming terrorist attacks on Christians rather than radical Muslims).

    The police tortured the fellow for a confession. They beat him, deprived him of sleep, all the standard old stuff and he held his resolve. He was innocent. After a few months they allowed his wife or girlfriend to visit him. The visit went well, but after she left the police took him to a room and told him: "We have your girlfriend in the room next door and we are all going to take turns to rape her until you tell us what you need to know". He confessed immediately to the trumped up charges.

    Every person has their pain threshold, but it is a psychological threshold you have to break. In most cases, if you threaten those dear to your subject they will bend to your will. It is the same principle paedophiles use when they rape children: "Tell anyone about this and I'll come back and kill your mum and dad." The child remains quiet.

    Have they really got your girlfriend in the room next door? They've all ready beaten the soles of your feet until they've turned black. These guys are capable of anything. They might be bluffing? Do you really want to find out? Do you really want to hear her screams and their whoops of orgasmic delight as they egg each other on.

    The human imagination is a powerful thing...

  2. We do indeed, live in sad times..I wouldn't torture and I believe people should live with their consciences but as a mate always points out to me, some people don't have a conscience..which personally, I find hard to beleive cos I think deep down in people's hearts - a conscience does lie but it may've been lost for whatever reason. I guess, if you have 5 mins to save the world then torture does seem a sensible way of extracting info as quick as poss.Hmm.

    Quite apt you discuss this issue as, I watched Dead Man's Shoes last night and it turned my stomach, the way the guys were mistreating Richard's retarded brother..did they deserve their come uppance? I say no but mobmentality like that makes my blood boil..

    Interesting and contentious debate anyway

  3. did you have to put that abo gohreb picture up there dan?

    No. I would never torture under these or any other circumstances! and keep in mind that I'm not a pacifist, absolutely not.

  4. Sorry Mohamed, it was to make the point about the twisted nature of 'ticking bomb' thinking, we sometimes distance ourselves from the idea of torture.


  5. In a ticking atomic bomb scenario, I would torture. If I was right, and I saved millions of people, I'm sure no court would convict me. If I was wrong, I would be charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. My career would be in ruins, and I would be in jail, all because I broke the law.

    It has to be illegal to torture, otherwise it will be routine. If you are absolutely certain it will work and save millions, go ahead. It's still illegal, but you will likely get a pass. But in all the cases we've seen, it is not saving the world.

    First it's allowed to stop the ticking atomic bomb, then it's to save the kidnapped child, then to find the money from a big bank heist, and then it's to find out who insulted the President.


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