[Marxism] Treason of the intellectuals

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon May 3 07:57:31 MDT 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."

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/02/magazine/02TERROR.html

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"


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