Where’s the outrage?

Volokh Conspiracy readers either don’t think torture is a bad thing or refuse to believe the evidence that it’s being carried on by the U.S.

Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy, very much to his credit, breaks what had seemed to me near-silence among conservative and pro-war bloggers about re-emergence of the torture issue and the utter collapse of the (never very plausible) “few bad apples” theory.

Orin doesn’t discuss the issue himself: he merely links to a Publius post complaining about that near-silence and asks for comments. (One of Orin’s commenters mentions Sebastian Holsclaw of Obsidian Wings as an exception, but I don’t think he identifies as conservative. He joins the blogroll, from which he had been inexplicably absent, in the coveted “Who Knows” category. Belgravia Dispatch’s objections to torture have already been noted and praised in this space.)

But though Orin’s decision to raise the issue is praiseworthy, reading his commenters is enough to spoil your appetite for dinner. We’re not torturing anyone, and anyway torture doesn’t hurt so much, and if torture is going on it must be unauthorized, and in any case the SOB’s deserved it and aren’t protected by international law.

Moreover, most of the commenters think that their own failure to read the documents justifies their dismissing the truth as partisan storytelling, because it appeared in — gasp! — the mass media, and any way it’s all the Democrats’ fault because they hate Bush and America so much you can’t believe anything they say, even when it’s true. Naturally, there’s the obligatory reference to fraternity hazing.

The comment thread attracted at least one trimphant anti-war voice, but I counted only two conservative commenters who actually displayed some moral clarity.

Comments like those on Little Green Footballs wouldn’t surprise me, but I would have expected more from the Volokh Conspiracy readership. Well, I suppose that if I had to decide whether to admit that I’d just voted for four more years of torture or deny the whole thing, I’d be strongly tempted toward denial myself.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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