The other day, I posted an item about the inability of some pundits to differentiate reality from fiction by repeatedly drawing the Fox series “24” into the “Is there any justification for torture?” debate. Today, an arm of the conservative Media Research Center weighs in with a column somehow equating real-life torture with the “torture porn” genre advanced by the “Saw” franchise and its ilk.
Outrage over the torture memos is “a hard sell,” writes Colleen Raezler of the Culture and Media Institute (the MRC has no shortage of official-sounding subdivision names), “when Hollywood filmmakers continually unleash depraved violence labeled ‘entertainment’ on movie-goers.”
Frankly, it’s an understatement to say I’m no fan of those movies. But to make the absurd link between such dramatic excesses and the question of torture being used as a tactic by the U.S. government is so bone-headed it’s difficult to decide where to begin.
For starters, the “Saw” movies are watched by a very specific demographic — teenagers and young men — who for the most part couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the political implications of torture. So trying to connect the grisly genre’s popularity (albeit within a narrow, mostly non-voting demographic) with some kind of public endorsement is about as feeble an argument as one could make.
Second, the media — that is, movie critics and entertainment reporters — have for the most part repeatedly bashed “torture porn” for being vulgar and distasteful. The problem is that these movies are essentially critic-proof and — because they’re inexpensive to produce — profitable. Inasmuch as the MRC umbrella also encompasses the Business & Media Institute, one would think the group could appreciate an example of the free market at work.
Finally, and I hate to repeat myself here, it’s fictional. Just because people like watching James Bond brutalize villains doesn’t mean we’re all for the CIA adopting the same tactics. Raezler also conveniently ignores a number of dramas that have depicted torture in a more realistic manner, from “Marathon Man” to “Syriana.” Again, the fact that I enjoy those movies doesn’t mean that I think we should be performing dental surgery on suspects or extracting their fingernails. Indeed, merely thinking about either makes me cringe.
If Hollywood-bashing conservatives want to criticize the entertainment industry for cashing in on dreck, more power to them. Hell, regarding “Saw,” give me a pitchfork and I’ll join the parade. Still, anybody conflating that to actual torture might not qualify as an expert on water-boarding, but their reasoning is clearly all wet.