OFF THE GRID

Hannity Wants to Be the Face of US Torture

Apr 23, 09 | 9:28 AM   byMichael Wolff
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You wouldn’t necessarily think that the right wing would want to distinguish itself by its enthusiasm for torture, but that’s clearly the message Sean Hannity is gleefully sending by his offer to be waterboarded.
 
Before getting to torture’s attractions, let me make two points: My colleague at Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens, who is sometimes partial to right-wing positions, has already had himself waterboarded and written about it to vivid effect. So, Hannity knows he can do this with little risk. But the second point is that Hannity will never do it. I once filled in for the hapless Alan Colmes on the Hannity and Colmes Show, and Hannity spent the whole show completely obsessed with the placement of every strand of his hair. That guy's not going underwater (even for a major ratings coup).
 
Oh, and a third point: If he is going to do this, we ought to insist it be done to him 183 times—the number of times the US waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a single month—the terror being in the repetition.
 
(Sean Hannity, AP Photo)
But on to torture’s virtues:
 
Curiously, part of the old right-wing anti-communism catechism is that the Communists—the KGB, the Red Chinese, the Viet Cong (before this, the Japanese and the Gestapo were the torturers)—tortured their enemies. The military training on which we’ve apparently based our torture techniques was meant to help US soldiers hold up under the beastly and dehumanizing tactics (including waterboarding) of the commies.
 
Now that we are the torturers, the rationale changes. First of all, what we do is not torture—torture is what our enemies do; what we do is use interrogation techniques enhanced by American ingenuity.
 
It is important to use these techniques, and, come to think of it, any other techniques, even outright torture, because of…weapons of mass destruction. Of course you would torture someone if the alternative was your entire nation being wiped out, as well as civilization as we know it.
 
And then there is frontier justice, that venerable tradition. And then the less than human thing: Muslims don’t share our higher values, therefore, you have to speak to them in their own language.
 
And there’s the sentiment thing. The right wing has very clearly positioned itself against sentimentality (except if it involves abortions). Sentimentality is about emotions and abstractions and fuzzy thinking. Torture is a macho thing. To be a man is to be able and willing to do what you’ve got to do. (That's what Jack Bauer, another Fox hero, does.)
 
Right wingers who are also entertainers—as so many right wingers are—have an added incentive to prove their manliness (really, I can’t tell you how obsessed Hannity was with his hair).
 
Still, the right wing, and the Bush administration, somehow got this profoundly mixed up. The manly thing, the movie thing, the John McCain thing (of course, the right wing doesn’t like John McCain), the iron will thing, is to be able to stand up under torture.
 
You don’t want to be the torturer (Shep Smith, a Fox anchor, who seemed to realize this is not a good bit of positioning, lost it yesterday on air: “We are America! We do not fucking torture!”). Although, those cool, collected, sadistic sorts always do keep their hair in place.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com.
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