Torturing Americans

     Jon Haidt, after doing some research, finds that you can sum up human morality with five concepts: do no harm, fairness, purity, loyalty and obedience.  The responses he received from tens of thousands of questionnaires, including respondents from many different countries, show that liberals strongly believe in the first two, a bit more than conservatives, while conservatives put the last three on par with the other two, perhaps even putting them over fairness.

     The topic of the day is "What are we to do about the American torturers?"

     Releasing the pictures will do harm.

     Fairness, or justice says that the torturers, those who ordered the torture, and those who crafted legal rationales for torture, should all be punished.

     All the liberals I know want to both release the pictures and punish the transgressors.

     All the conservatives whose opinions I've read want to both hide the pictures and not to prosecute any Americans.

     If both sides are advocating something wrong, as I suggest they are, and I believe a fair understanding of Haidt's moral framework confirms, then I consider this a win for me and Haidt.


Harm: The first harm I thought of first was to the people that the Great Bush Tragedy put in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I also realize that there is sometimes a need to protect the victims. If your face were shown in a naked, human pyramid would you necessarily want the picture released to the public? This is an extension of the idea that in rape and sexual molestation cases, sometimes there is harm to the victim if all the evidence is made completely public. There is a third group which will be harmed by the release of the photos, the group harmed the most so far, the Iraqis and Afghans. For surely if attacks against Americans are stepped up, the lethality and brutality of the American response will be stepped up even more. This is obvious when you realize that we've killed or wounded many times the number of Iraqis as they've killed or wounded coalition troops. I don't know the comparable numbers for Afghanistan.

Purity: Releasing the pictures will put yucky thoughts in the minds of millions. You do not want to see videotape every time some lunatic does something horrifying. Whether or not you are allowed to see the videotape is orthogonal to purity.

Obedience: The conservatives don't see a problem with people following orders, even wrong ones, or are at least willing to balance the wrongness of the act with what they perceive as the wrongness of not following orders.

Loyalty: The conservatives are loyal to Americans, and are willing to ignore punishment if those who are to be punished are our allies, or at least are willing to weigh that loyalty against the prospect of punishment.

1 comment:

JSN said...

Sent by Jonathon Haidt, via e-mail:

this is a nice graphic way of showing the foundations in action, and being negated.

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