The Tea Party, Karma and Torture

Yesterday we heard from Virginia Psychology Professor Jonathan Haidt about how tea partiers aren’t crazy; they just believe in karma. Today comes word of research showing that those who support torture don’t care as much about gaining information as they do about getting retribution. From Miller-McCune:

New research by professor Kevin Carlsmith, a psychology researcher at Colgate University, and Avani Sood, a psychology graduate student at Princeton University, reveal an interesting facet about interrogation and torture. “What’s fascinating is that people often make claims that their moral decision is based on the potential utility of the torture,” Carlsmith says, “but in fact it’s all about giving people what they deserve.”

Another interesting finding from the study: Those who support torture  “make an a priori assumption that a detainee is guilty of some heinous act (e.g., killing U.S. troops), and is therefore deserving of harsh treatment.” Those who oppose torture “entertain the possibility of detainee innocence.”

To be clear, I’m not saying that all tea partiers want to torture folks or that they even want the U.S. to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m not saying that all conservatives want to do these things. A morality that focuses on karma, however, could easily lead people to embrace the harshest of interrogation techniques.

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One Response to The Tea Party, Karma and Torture

  1. Interesting. If you read detective fiction set in times or places in which the police could get away with abusive questioning (some of which qualified as torture), you get much the same attitude: the person being abused deserves the abuse, regardless of whether he’s guilty of the crime.

    Despite the fact that the United States criminal law is based on the principle of innocent until proven guilty, a lot of people tend to assume that anyone arrested is guilty — and that goes double for those grabbed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    That attitude explains why some prosecutors and others resist reopening cases based on DNA evidence: they’re already convinced the right person was convicted (and sometimes executed) and are unwilling to hear any facts that might contradict that.

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