THE REPORT AND THE TASK OF CRITIQUE:
TORTURE, EXPOSURE, AND THE SPECTACLE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
This essay critiques the anti-torture position of thriller movie The Report (2019).
From the conclusion:
"Let me be clear: The Report is an important piece of cultural production that attempts an important ethical task with a reasonable degree of success. ‘Truth-telling is an area where the perfect should not be the enemy of the good,’ writes Lucia H Seyfarth (2017, 134), quite reasonably, in her analysis of the SSCI report; ‘the report’s release was important and its achievements should not be downplayed’. The movie, too, represents an important intervention in the popular cultural torture debate that should not be dismissed out of hand, as it represents a meaningful and accessible corrective to the many aesthetic and narrative justifications for torture, such as 24 or Zero Dark Thirty, which circulate in popular culture with extraordinary frequency. It is, however, also a clear example of a process or pattern that we see throughout hegemonic popular culture in which limited critique acts to forestall more substantial forms of political criticism. It is exemplary of a rather narrow and depoliticized viewpoint from which to critique torture, in which torture is condemned because it is operationally ineffective, because it breaks legal norms, and because it lays the perpetrator open to reputational damage. Fundamental political questions about the relation between torture, power, and imperialism, so important for an understanding of the nature and historical meaning of war on terror torture, are subordinated to the spectacle of procedural accountability."