The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

"Clash of the Titans" (2010)


I absolutely want terror suspects Mirandized. And not to protect THEM, either. If they did it, I could care less about them. It's about me, and you, and the rest of America. To me, those legal strictures exist to protect the society in multiple ways:

1) It is critical that, under stress, the legal system not break down. Passions run high--war time is a perfect opportunity for power grabs. Start by revoking rights to suspects, and you can end by taking them from everyone.

2) It is critical that the right people be detained, prosecuted, and convicted. Our legal system takes the inevitability of human error into account. Especially error when the "Others" don't look quite like us. History suggests that torture chambers are easy to fill with people who "look" like the public expects the enemy to "look." If they are innocent, this not only allows the actual guilty parties to escape, but alienates the very community we need to cooperate with us in providing information about radicals.

3) Police and military are high-alpha, territorial, high-testosterone types. I love them, and am honored to count many such high-alphas among my friends and teachers. The potential downside of their protective instinct is that they are more comfortable with violence--and more prone to consider it a tool. People who complain about male violence are usually perfectly happy to call those same males to protect them. The capacity to protect and the capacity to harm are two sides of the same coin. We want to protect these very specialized individuals from the ugly side of their own instincts. When there is a class of "others" it becomes very very easy for human beings to justify violence, and that can be horribly corruptive in an already dangerous situation. I would not put the souls of our warriors at risk because the citizens they protect demand blood.

4) Having been a member of a less-valued class, I am very aware that violence has been used to coerce confession in America (and everywhere else.) And also aware that those who suggest rights should be limited are more likely to wish to limit mine, as well. I cannot side with those people--I am too aware of what they say about people like me, when I'm out of the room.


If I give authorities the right to grab suspects and treat them badly, I give them permission to do that to me, or my family. I will not do that.

5) I see no evidence that physical coercion produces a higher quality of intel than other forms. And much suggestion to the contrary. When we remove legal strictures, the human drive for revenge finds it easy to burble to the top. We can never, ever forget that the natural state of mankind seems to include stripping the flesh from those who frighten us. This very urge can compromise our attempts at security by poisoning the information stream, jailing or killing the wrong people, and creating enemies where we might have had allies.

##

In general, then, the granting of rights to enemy combatants is NOT about protecting the enemy. It is about protecting the very fabric of society itself. When we throw those protections aside, the terrorists win. Fear shuts down the forebrain, leaving the desire for revenge and the thirst for blood...as well as a grasping for power as the weak roll over and expose their bellies: "protect me!"

Nanny state, indeed.

##

I saw "Clash of the Titans" on Sunday. It wasn't bad. It also wasn't the 3D version, which I understand blew chunks. Now, "Titans" was never my favorite Ray Harryhausen film anyway. It was decent, but I had the sense that he was growing uncertain of his ability to maintain a level of quality, and chose to quit while he was ahead. The most beautiful thing in the film--the Pegasus--was actually done by Jim Danforth. At any rate, the level of acting was as high as the original, the effects were "better" but less artful (there is something about the creakiness of Harryhausen's work that is endearing. He was simply an absolute master, arguably the greatest FX man in the history of cinema.) Overall forgettable. The fact that you can put a team of technicians to work to create fabulous images doesn't make it worth doing. Really, nothing to see here. A "C"

13 comments:

Marty S said...

I just turned of the TV, where I was watching a special report featuring Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano on the arrest of the suspect in the Times Square bombing attempt. They were extolling the concept of "See something, Say something" Which they credit with both saving lives in Times Sq and leading to the arrest. Now if one is honest, one can expect that citizen's will be more readily suspicious of people who look different(particularly Muslim) than of white people, so "See something, Say something" will result in racial profiling. Is this good or bad? Is profiling okay when done by ordinary citizens, but not law enforcement. Nothing is simple. Nothing is all good or all bad. In each case we must make a trade off of the good against the bad and determine what is really in the greater good.

Anonymous said...

If you see something then it's not a profile.

spaceoperadiva said...

Clash of the Titans 2010 really horrified me. I had an attachment to the original as a cheezy classic from my youth, but not so much sentimental attachment that an updated version of it that wandered a bit off-canon would have upset me.

It wasn't that the new version went off-canon, it was how it went off-canon-- by changing the storyline and eviscerating all the female characters. The original story's main conflict was an squabble between Zeus and Tethys, a crafty, bitter mama goddess with an axe or two to grind. Replacing that with the very Gnostic Zeus versus Hades may have increased the stakes, but it also eliminated a major female role. None of the goddesses even have speaking parts in the new version.

Io and Andromeda together make a weak substitute for the original version's Andromeda, who didn't snivel, knew her own worth and didn't let Perseus push her around.

Things like this make me think we're going backwards with women's roles in movies.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

*Applause* for your arguments against torture.

In re your point about the unreliability of information gained through torture.... it's plausible to me that they've got the right man for the attempted bombing in Times Square, but I'm not so sure that anything they say about him getting training in Pakistan is true.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Point 2) Torture doesn't just cause lack of cooperation from a community whose members are at risk of being tortured.

It can also cause active resistance.

Frank said...

the granting of rights to enemy combatants is NOT about protecting the enemy.

I agree with you under two conditions: 1) they were caught in the US through the investigative process and 2) they are US citizens.

Clearly if an "enemy combatant" was caught on the battlefield, the rules need to be different. We can not expect a soldier to have to preserve a crime scene or collect evidence or do any of the things a police officer would do when apprehending a suspect.

Having said that, I'm not sure how the Administration can justify a standing order to assassinate a US citizen as is currently the case with Anwar al-Awlaki.

And I am very concerned with the Administration's way of dealing with not adding to the body count at Gitmo: They kill them instead of capturing them. Now it would seem to me that whether or not you use "enhanced interrogation" techniques, it would be better to capture them and interrogate them rather than simply kill them because you don't want to have to put them at Guantanamo Bay.

Not to mention the fact that once you kill them, you have no way of telling if you were wrong about them or not.

Steven Barnes said...

Space Opera: I don't think we're going backwards. I think there are retro films.
##
Frank--gathering information on the battlefield is definitely beyond the portfolio of most soldiers. This will definitely decrease the effectiveness of prosecution, unless you catch someone in the act. The potential for problems is huge...but I think I largely agree with you.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"In re your point about the unreliability of information gained through torture.."

This assumes torture's in fact being used to obtain info. Often the "fact-finding" purpose camouflages its real intent: to demoralize insurgents and control the occupied population through terror. Its effectiveness in this application is also debatable and merits separate discussion.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I don't have links handy, but the US military has a profession of interrogation-- effective and without torture.

The method seems to be to play on the need for human contact while stubbornly pursuing every detail and contradiction.

IIRC, favors can be given, but basic needs are supplied.

You can't do this in the middle of a battle, but it's feasible soon after capturing someone.

Anonymous said...

"...People who complain about male violence are usually perfectly happy to call those same males to protect them..."

Depends on which people. For example, when a teen in the U.K. who complains about her father beating her or her cousin-husband raping her calls her male GSCE Writing teacher or male local constable to protect her, she's not calling "those same males" to protect her. The guys she's complaining about and the guys she's complaining to are separate people!

Anonymous said...

"...In general, then, the granting of rights to enemy combatants is NOT about protecting the enemy. It is about protecting the very fabric of society itself. When we throw those protections aside, the terrorists win. Fear shuts down the forebrain, leaving the desire for revenge and the thirst for blood...as well as a grasping for power as the weak roll over and expose their bellies: "protect me!"..."

I agree! It's the same way I'm against the death penalty - not that 0%of crimes ever *deserve* capital punishment, but that <100% of the relevant convictions get the right suspect convicted. CYA.

Anonymous said...

"'the granting of rights to enemy combatants is NOT about protecting the enemy.'

"I agree with you under two conditions: 1) they were caught in the US through the investigative process and 2) they are US citizens.

"Clearly if an "enemy combatant" was caught on the battlefield, the rules need to be different. We can not expect a soldier to have to preserve a crime scene or collect evidence or do any of the things a police officer would do when apprehending a suspect."

That's why POWs are covered under the Geneva Convention instead of Miranda.

Alishangds said...

What I do is mix some good quality store bought barbecue sauce with a little beef broth to thin it a bit. I have been using it for months now and also the effectiveness in the slimline fridge freezer is incredibly impressive. Traditional fireplaces (masonry fireplaces) as well as wood burning fireplaces today are notorious due to its inefficiency. The most practical fireplace safety feature is a screen or doors; these can also be used as added design elements. 4-liter collection tank