No. 31

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Take all your self-awareness, pack it in a tiny jar, and lock it up in Gitmo.


I know that 2018 feels like the year of the Bad Take, but, in 2011, General Michael Hayden wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal called "Birthers, Truthers and Interrogation Deniers" that would rival any of the many Bad Takes published today. He attempts to discredit critics of torture, which he euphemistically refers to as "enhanced interrogation," by associating them with birthers (people who believe Obama's American birth certificate is fake) and truthers (people who believe 9/11 was an inside job). If I was prone to believe in conspiracy theories, I could probably convince myself that Hayden had been fooling around on a website called Fallacy Files, fallen in love with guilt by association and equivocation, and set himself the challenge of writing an op-ed whose argument is built entirely on those two logical fallacies. Don't worry, logicians, I'm not about to commit the fallacy fallacy, in which I argue that someone is wrong simply because he committed a logical fallacy. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, the sun still shines on a dog's asshole every now and then, and it is possible to arrive at the right conclusion even if your logic is flawed. Hayden, former CIA director and current Media Darling Big Boy Trump critic, defined "interrogation deniers" as "individuals who hold that the enhanced interrogation techniques used against CIA detainees have never yielded useful intelligence." His definition has two major flaws. First, "enhanced interrogation" is just torture and torture is illegal, so whatever intelligence it yielded is, legally, fucking useless, which has been at the heart of the dilemma with our prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Second, critics of torture don't claim that torture never yields useful intelligence, if you define "useful" as something like "practical" or "reliable" or "credible." We don't want to use torture because it's wrong and illegal. Setting aside morality and legality, torture is also sometimes ineffective; torture sometimes yields useful intelligence and sometimes yields bullshit intelligence, and it can be hard to tell the difference. As even Trump has learned, thanks to General James Mattis, now the Secretary of Defense, there are other ways to get information out of people. General Mattis reportedly (according to Business Insider, among other outlets) got Trump to shift his stance on torture, at least slightly, with the help of one succinct sentence: "Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I'll do better." Hayden's definition was misleading, his argument disingenuous, and I'm picking at it today because he's running around talking about lies and "post-truth" and has bullshitted his way to a book deal.

In a fucking tweet, Michael Hayden—apologist for torture, director of warrantless wiretapping, enemy of civil liberties—refers to his new book, The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies, as his take on, among other things, "post-truth." First, the obvious joke: the publication of this book is the real assault on intelligence, as if we're supposed to be dumb enough to take what he says seriously—oh shit, a bunch of supposedly intelligent people do take him seriously. Age of lies my ass—Michael Hayden oversaw the CIA during the Golden Age of Lies. Michael Hayden has no credibility as a critic of post-truth. He's a fucking post-truth icon. What Mark E. Smith was to post-punk, Michael Hayden is to post-truth.


Recommended reading: "Stop treating former CIA chief Michael Hayden as an arbiter of truth," by Trevor Timm, published in the Columbia Journalism Review.

Note: I haven't read Hayden's new book. It hasn't quite been published yet. Maybe I'll read it later and change my mind and kiss his ass like a respectable TV journalist. If you want to know more about torture than people like Hayden really want you to, The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture was published in 2014 by Melville House. If you decide to buy it via the link below, Malarkey Books will receive a very small amount of money through the Indiebound Affiliates program. You can also buy it, in paperback or electronic form, directly from Melville House: https://www.mhpbooks.com/books/the-senate-intelligence-committee-report-on-torture/.

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©Alan Good 2018