Treason of the Intellectuals


posted to on May 3, 2004


A couple of weeks ago the reality TV show "Fear Factor" had a special sleep deprivation episode in which contestants vied against each other by eating maggots, swimming in tanks filled with eels, etc. but only after not having slept for 36 hours. One wonders if imperialist mouthpiece Michael Ignatieff might have been watching this show around the time he was preparing the NY Times Magazine article that ran yesterday. As part of a defense of the bipartisan "war on terror", he defended draconian policies, including the judicious use of torture:


"…we need a presidential order or Congressional legislation that defines exactly what constitutes acceptable degrees of coercive interrogation. Here we are deep into lesser-evil territory. Permissible duress might include forms of sleep deprivation that do not result in lasting harm to mental or physical health, together with disinformation and disorientation (like keeping prisoners in hoods) that would produce stress."




Although nothing could possibly embarrass this Harvard professor and "human rights" expert, who is exactly the kind of faculty member that belongs at an institution run by the atrocious "Let Africans Eat Pollution" Lawrence Summers, this is about as close as you can come. Keep in mind that fellow Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has already recommended torture to extract information from suspected terrorists. Of course, given the standards of the post-9/11 legal system, it seems doubtful that anybody would pay attention to the sort of niceties proffered by Ignatieff.


Despite his assurances that sleep deprivation is no big thing, people outside the imperialist pimping circuit are generally aware that this is *torture*. Just look at the governments that have used it. It was used by the Japanese army during WWII against POW's, just as it was used in Stalin's gulags. It is completely understandable, given the accelerating decline of American civilization, that Michael Ignatieff would feel an affinity for such practices. According to Human Rights Watch, an outfit that ostensibly overlaps with Ignatieff's own at Harvard, the countries that use sleep deprivation are uniformly thuggish. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Burma are all very fond of the practice.


It is clear that Ignatieff draws the line at permanent damage. In other words, if sleep deprivation does not lead to psychosis or other serious long-term psychological damage, what's the big deal? You can very easily understand what happens next in this line of reasoning. Wouldn't it make sense to extract information from terrorist suspects through beatings or electric shock just as long as there is no permanent physical injury? Okay, you might want to draw the line at cutting off somebody's ear, but what's wrong with hooking up somebody's testicles to a car battery as long as the juice is not kept on for very long. Sort of like a "Fear Factor" stunt on steroids.


The moral and intellectual decay of American and Western European intellectuals over the past couple of decades will deserve scrutiny by scholars of future generations. Just as we try to understand what made Martin Heidegger an obedient stooge of the Hitler regime, others will try to figure out what makes a Harvard "liberal" pimp for torture. Surely as we do today, they will draw inspiration from words such as these:


Imagine an observer of the twelfth century taking a bird's-eye view of the Europe of his time. He would see men groping in the obscurity of their minds and striving to form themselves into nations (to mention only the most striking aspect of the realist will); he would see them beginning to succeed; he would see groups of men attaining consistency, determined to seize a portion of the earth and tending to feel conscious of themselves as distinct from the groups surrounding them. But at the same time he would see a whole class of men, regarded with the greatest reverence, laboring to thwart this movement. He would see men of learning, artists and philosophers, displaying to the world a spirit which cared nothing for nations, using a universal language among themselves. He would see those who gave Europe its moral values preaching the cult of the human, or at least of the Christian, and not of the national, he would see them striving to found, in opposition to the nations, a great universal empire on spiritual foundations. And so he might say to himself: "Which of these two currents will triumph? Will humanity be national or spiritual? Will it depend on the will of the laymen or of the "clerks".


Julien Benda, "The Treason of the Intellectuals"