Spoon-Fed Morality

by Patrick Appel

Jonah Goldberg claims that because TV series and movies show good guys torturing bad guys to get information these cultural products are "tapping into and reflecting the popular moral sentiments." Anonymous Liberal rightly whacks him:

When you are shown unequivocally that the person being tortured is an evil mass murderer and that the person doing the torturing is a pure-hearted hero -- and you are then shown that the torture in fact leads to the disclosure of information that saves a bunch of childrens' lives -- it is no wonder that viewers are prepared to morally absolve the torturer. That moral conclusion is being spoon-fed to them in the form of a highly-stacked utilitarian calculus. The thumb is pressing down quite hard on the scale. If, on the other hand, you were to tell a different story, say one involving a detainee of questionable guilt being brutally beaten to death with a flashlight (as described in the IG report), you would likely elicit a very different emotional response.