head of deakin law school advocates torture

A case for torture - Opinion - Our reflex rejection of torture needs to be replaced by recognition that it can be a moral means of saving lives. Also: Linkfrenzy 2005.05.17 / Heh. Yeah. - Now, matters are worse: The head of the Law school at Deakin University, Mirko Bagaric, advocates the use of torture.

I really don't know what to say. It could be that Bagaric and his co-author Julie Clarke simply wanted their names all over the news; or perhaps they have produced an extremely poor articulation of the idea that you have to discuss even unpalatable concepts.

Sadly, I don't think the latter is the case based on Bagaric's opinion piece. It is a series of very shaky arguments which fundamentally assume things like a) the author will never be tortured, nor in fact would any innocent person be 'accidentally' tortured; and b) that human nature is not a factor - that people would adhere to rules about when it is acceptable to ram needles under someone's fingernails. The article tries to compare torturing someone for information with shooting a hijacker who has a gun to an innocent's head. There's no comparison - the gun-to-head scenario is an extremely clear situation, whether the gun is loaded or not. The theoretical 'we must torture information out of this person to save a life' is riddled with problems... not least the fact that people will admit anything at all to make torture stop.

Torture cannot be endorsed or even given a shred of permissability. Bagaric and Clarke argue that we should allow torture to end torture. Somehow they think that if we make it ok to torture sometimes that people will stop torturing the rest of the time. I can only assume they've so completely lost touch with reality that they can't see how utterly insane their argument really is.

They don't believe in a slippery slope; they claim that the floodgates are already open. While torture does happen on a daily basis in this horrible world, torture is condemned by most nations - this certainly does not constitute open floodgates in my view. Cases of torture are viewed with horror; people expect open uses of torture to be stopped and covert torture to be discovered and stopped. Many people disagreed with the latest Iraq war, but did agree that at least it ended the torture and murder of Saddam's regime. Nobody can argue that they thought the rest of the world would think they were doing the right thing by torturing someone.

It is worth noting that The Age has published a rebuttal piece: A deeply flawed case for power abuse - Opinion - By the conclusion of Not Enough (Official) Torture in the World, Bagaric and Clarke have successfully convinced themselves of the morality of torturing even innocent people, should they possess relevant information. Their article is a deeply silly argument, but it is also a profoundly sinister one. ... Rather than defending official torture, our academics should be defending the victims.

So... do Bagaric and Clarke truly think it's morally sound to have state-endorsed torture, or did they just want some cheap headlines? Well... their email addresses are still available in public; as are their photos (see the staff profiles for Bagaric and Clarke). It could simply be a requirement for all staff to have these details online; but it also suggests either a supreme arrogance or a fundamental expectation that people will agree with them. Given their smug academic smiles, I suspect they're sitting back somewhere thinking how they are operating on a higher level of intellect and the plebs are just too stupid to understand them.

At the end of the day, it is a phenominal day when someone who teaches on the topics of human rights and moral philosophy can arrive at the conclusion that torture is a great idea. I'd almost prefer to think the whole thing is just the most base and foul media manipulation. While it is morally abhorrent to advocate suffering just to get your name in the paper; it's marginally less horrific than the idea these people truly want to see a world where torture is considered morally correct.

No matter what the motivation, Bagaric and Clarke have produced an essay so flawed it wouldn't pass an introductory philosophy assignment. Their premise is based on utterly unrealistic assumptions, their arguments are not sound and their conclusion is reprehensible.

I would say that I hope Deakin will fire their hate-mongering carcasses; however I don't really expect it to happen. I would expect the University to bunker down, citing 'academic freedom' and let their bloodthirsty academics defend their publication.

Meanwhile, anyone who is considering studying law might like to cross Deakin off their list.


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