I like both Low's original...
...and this cover by Robert Plant and the Band of Joy.
A unionized public employee, a member of the Tea Party and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, then looks at the tea partier and says, "Look out for that union guy – he wants your cookie."
The Grandson: A book?
Grandpa: That's right. When I was your age, television was called books. And this is a special book. It was the book my father used to read to me when I was sick, and I used to read it to your father. And today I'm gonna read it to you.
The Grandson: Has it got any sports in it?
Grandpa: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...
The Grandson: Doesn't sound too bad. I'll try to stay awake.
Grandpa: Oh, well, thank you very much, very nice of you. Your vote of confidence is overwhelming.
Just over two years ago, right around the time I reported that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in a month, many of you chipped into the “Marcy Wheeler fund” to support my work; that generosity paid my way until a short time ago. Here’s what that support made possible.
Between May 1, 2009 and yesterday, by my rough count, I wrote 525 posts on torture. I unpacked the torture memos, the CIA IG Report, the OPR Report, and thousands of documents released through FOIA. I showed the bureaucratic games they used to set up our torture program, early efforts to place limits on things like mock execution, followed by more bureaucratic and legal means to get away with violating even those limits. I showed how they hid documents and altered tapes to hide evidence of their torture. I showed how, after CIA and parts of DOJ tried to put limits on torture in 2004, they again used bureaucratic tricks and ridiculous legal documents to reauthorize it. I’ve tracked DOJ’s kabuki claims to investigate torture (though bmaz gets credit for forcing DOJ to admit John Durham’s torture tape investigation had run out the clock on Statutes of Limitation). And I’ve tracked the Obama Administration’s successful efforts to suppress all evidence of torture. And all the while, I’ve relentlessly pushed back against the torture apologists’ lies.
Of course, while writing about torture is a major part mapping out the decline of the rule of law, it’s not the only part. Since May 2009, I’ve written almost 200 posts on wiretapping, almost as many on our Gitmo show trials, posts about state secrets, drones, fusion centers, the forever war metastisizing around the world. I’ve written about Wikileaks and Bradley Manning’s treatment and the banksters and the auto companies.
To the Captain and to the numberless others who rule like him every personal affront or grievance undergoes a transmutation, it’s framed as something that happens not to them personally, as individuals, but to the cause. This is of course convenient if you have any power at all – the power to rat someone out to the police, the power to go rummaging in their secrets and a public platform for exposing them, the power to withhold a job or a ration card or a promotion or a signature. The exercise of malice and envy and contempt becomes a necessity of virtue. This transformation of the personal into the political is convenient in another way: it keeps up the supply of enemies (and the system depends on the steady supply of enemies) by creating new pretexts for identifying them, and it offers opportunities for the display of righteous zeal.
To destroy your own guilt is nearly impossible; it requires a return of the rejected self that people demonstrate again and again that they cannot do. It is easier to destroy innocence, to destroy the idea of innocence first, which enables the destruction of actual innocents. For this result, contempt is necessary, and there is always a lot of that floating around in search of a worthy object. Once you have overcome your guilt at the suffering of others from poverty, deprivation, and injustice, contempt for them comes naturally: they have imposed on your good nature, and they will do it again at the least opportunity. So it becomes necessary to distinguish between the deserving poor and the undeserving, and for the latter more deprivation, more hardship, is the best remedy. When it comes to that, even the deserving poor had best be kept strictly in line and taught not to expect too much. This is why, in Jane Eyre, Mr. Brockehurst and his well-fed, well-dressed daughters could visit Lowood School and looking upon its ranks of half-starved, beaten-down, dispirited orphans and daughters of impoverished clergymen, see nothing but their own goodness.
They are also, of course, destroying witnesses and evidence against the day when it all collapses. On that day, forced at the point of a gun to admit that crimes were committed, the guilty retreat into a sort of twilight of willful amnesia about their part in the crime: they didn’t know what was going on, that they had no choice, and they always acted with the best of intentions and never had any other kind. Their exact relation to the machinery of crime will be hard to define, although it will always somehow be clear to them that they were victims, too, and that they are now doubly victims because they find that the world does not think as well of them as they wish to think of themselves.