Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is Torture Not Intended for General Audiences?

This poster has been censored by the
Motion Pictures of America Association (MPAA)
Alex Gibney's documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, which traces the pattern of torture practice from Afghanistan's Bagram prison to Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay. The image in question is a news photo of two U.S. soldiers walking away from the camera with a hooded detainee between them.

According to Variety An MPAA spokesman said:
We treat all films the same. Ads will be seen by all audiences, including children. If the advertising is not suitable for all audiences it will not be approved by the advertising administration.
Is the real reason for MPAA's objection is that the hood makes a documentary about torture seem more like a horror movie?

We can't have that.


  1. For whom is torture intended, if not for general audiences?

  2. On this topic (the MPAA), there's a great documentary called: This Film is Not Yet Rated.

    Well worth watching.

  3. THIS is censored yet I see (I assume) MPAA-approved movie images of carved up, tortured and naked women and doll faces nearly every day on the billboards.

  4. Now we can't have the movie people breaking the illusion Mr. and Mrs. Middleclass have of the US government being purer than the driven snow while it fights the barbaric hordes. That only evil dictators in bannana republics and oil kingdoms torture prisoners. You might finally tear them away from stuff like "Dancing with the stars".

  5. I don't know if it's a question of who holds a higher moral ground.

    Rather one rooted in realism and an intellectual one as well. The present legal framework is nowhere near prepared to deal with terrorism in the new age. Is there a need to have it adjust? Or is there a route needed to temporarily defeat an enemy?

    I know Dershowitch is in favor of it. Michael Ignatieff argues that torture can be temporarily tolerated in a democracy provided we do not betray our values. Dangerous balancing game indeed. The question is this: if a democracy uses torture and curbs civil liberties in the name of national security once the war ends will it revert back to full civil liberties? Do democracies tend to be flexible?

    That said, censorship does suck but how much does the public really need to know?

    Here's a hypothetical scenario: Let's say the war on terrorism is real. Let us further assume that it wages for years and is eventually "won" however victory comes to be defined. Years later, it is discovered torture was used and certain legal indiscretions were used but had been reverted.

    Will it look like a "small price to pay?" Of course, there is no doubt that these actions will unleash unintended consequences. Alas, such is politics - life.

    Does the end justify the means? In this case, extraordinary measures were used to defeat an extraordinary scourge. It's the degree of that "extraordinary measure" that needs to be explained better.

    I'm just saying.

  6. Took your advice, M.D.: Saw This Film is Not Yet Rated last night. Very 'angrifying'!

  7. Commentator, I'm not in the mood to entertain hypotheticals. Actually, I think I already dealt with it when I posted earlier. Maybe not.