Sunday, May 10, 2009

On Star Trek and Torture

I saw the new Star Trek on Thursday and loved it. I think this article short changes the movie a bit, taking it to task for a merely obligatory torture scene. In fact, I'd say any torture scene makes a political statement now; if the bad guys are torturing, the writer is saying something (Star Trek), and if the good guys are doing it (24), the writer is also making a statement. Star Trek only speaks out against torture by virtue of placing it in the arsenal of the bad guys and elevating the behavior of the good guy who resists. It's meager, but it's something. Still, when I came across this piece on an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I immediately remembered the episode which had a lot more to say about "enhanced interrogation techniques" than any fiction I've seen or read since (not counting re-readings of 1984). I recommend the piece, and a revisiting of the episode itself, if you have the time and means.


@bdul muHib said...

That was such a good episode, such a different time.

I think it was earlier in that episode, but it might have been another, where there was another key moment on torture- Picard stating with great obviousness that it has long been known that torture does not provide reliable intelligence, which is why it was abandoned by civilized societies long ago. What I am continually struck with in that comment, is that the writer's wrote it with out intended argument, but merely as descriptive- the bad guys (Cardassians) torture, the good guys don't, because it's wrong, and also because it is so obvious that it doesn't work. Our culture at the time, in the early 90s, was fully with them, without question.

How we've changed.

Benjamin Gorman said...

Sad but true. Worse, I don;t know if you saw the stats on the support of torture among Evangelicals. Very depressing. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Friedrich Nietszche, from The Dawn:

"What dishonesties of this sort are still perpetrated from protestant pulpits today, how crudely the preachers exploit the advantage that no one can interrupt them, how the Bible is pricked and pulled and the act of reading badly formally inculcated upon the people—all this will be underestimated only by those who go to church either never or always."

The "act of reading badly" has been magnified into the great sin of reading deceptively if anyone thinks Christianity could condone or justify torture of any kind.

@bdul muHib said...

An interesting parallel, in Star Trek as representative of changing culture- in the second season of TNG, Riker and Pulaski get cloned without their permission. They find the nearly fully-formed clones, still being "built" in tubes, and phaser them into nothingness. The culture is aghast, but there is no moral condemnation of their actions by Starfleet or the writers.

Fast-forward a decade, to about 4th season of DS9, in the post-Dolly world, and there are issues about clones being considered just as human as those that are naturally made, with a condemnation against those who would discriminate against people who are cloned. Our culture had changed so much, with the onset of a number of species actually cloned, that we now viewed cloning as more possible, and the killing of a human clone as morally objectionable.