You may have seen the headlines: “Michael Moore defends Zero Dark Thirty” (That is the controversial film that many say justifies torture). Going to the source, though, I find that what Mr Moore said was far more nuanced than that, and in fact in one statement gets to the heart of the matter, which is rejecting consequentialism:
But back to the controversy and the torture. I guess where I part with most of my friends who are upset at this film is that they are allowing the wrong debate to take place. You should NEVER engage in a debate where the other side defines the terms of the debate – namely, in this case, to debate “whether torture works.” You should refuse to participate in that discussion because the real question should be, simply, “is torture wrong?” And, after watching the brutal behavior of CIA agents for the first 45 minutes of the film, I can’t believe anyone of conscience would conclude anything other than that this is morally NOT right. You will be repulsed by these torture scenes because, make no mistake about it, this has been done in your name and mine and with our tax dollars. We funded this.
If you allow the question to be “did torture work?” then you’ll lose because yes, if you torture someone who actually has the information, they will eventually give it to you. The problem is, the other 99 who don’t know anything will also tell you anything to get you to stop torturing – but their information is wrong. How do you know which one of the 100 is the man with the goods? You don’t.
But let’s grant the other side that maybe, occasionally, torture “works”. Here’s what else will work: castrating pedophiles. Why don’t we do that? Probably because we think it’s morally wrong. The death penalty sure works. Put a murderer in a gas chamber and I can guarantee you he’ll never murder again. But is it right? Do we accomplish the ends we seek by becoming the murderers ourselves? That should be our only question.
What Moore does say, and which is not apparent, is that the film will affect anyone the same way that it did him. It’s pretty obvious that this is not true, and that defenders of torture see it as justifying their (consequentialist) contention that “torture works”. Nor is it obvious that the filmmaker and the actors see the film as denouncing torture (why, Jessica, why?)
Now if only Mr Moore, who is Catholic, can bring the same insight to abortion, another act of violence that is justified by a consequentialist argument….