Saturday, February 27, 2016

Never a shortage of torturers

Tom Pride (a pseudonym) runs a satirical political blog titled "Pride's Purge", headed by this woodcut:

- which presumably indicates what he'd like to do the liars who rule us.

I was morbidly intrigued by the illustration. Was it some sixteenth century atrocity practised on a hapless South American tribesman? Was it one of those dreadful mediaeval European executions using molten lead?

No, not quite so bad as that. Image-matcher Tineye found me the whole picture:

(source: Wikimedia)
It's a waterboarding interrogation. But the eternal basics are there: the ruffian coolly willing to do dreadful things, the "potent, grave and reverend signiors" quietly instructing and recording, indicating by their weighty demeanour that this is a sad but necessary proceeding. Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.

It comes from a book, Praxis rerum criminalium (1554) by the Dutch lawyer Joos de Damhouder, "which he almost entirely plagiarised from an unpublished text by Filips Wielant and from other works." Joos himself is pictured as sober-solemn:
Joos de Damhouder (Pic source)
But here's the man whose work he plagiarised - Filips Wielant, a fellow Dutchman (and fellow lawyer) born in the previous century, and whose own book was published only posthumously in 1558, four years after de Damhouder's:
Filips Vielant (Pic source)

- a petulant, sadistic face if you ask me. Look at that mouth and those eyes. Perhaps in the century that intervened, eminent personages learned the value of portraits as propaganda, for this one reveals too much.

There is no shortage of such people, or of the villains prepared to serve them. There's always some excuse for torture, and a crowd that can easily be provoked into saying you can wire him up for me, haw-haw, damn towelhead.

“And yet our personal experience and the study of history make it abundantly clear that the means whereby we try to achieve something are at least as important as the end we wish to attain. Indeed they are even more important. For the means employed inevitably determine the nature of the result achieved; whereas, however good the end aimed at may be, its goodness is powerless to counteract the effects of the bad means we use to reach it.”  - Aldous Huxley, "Ends and Means" (1937).

William Blake: "A Divine Image" (pic source)


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Paddington said...

Depressing Saturday?

Sackerson said...

I look at some things to exorcise my fear. But it's relevant to today, with people's willingness to overlook Western governments' involvement in torture and indefinite detention.

Paddington said...

I agree, and the level of public support is appalling. I have spoken about this on our local radio.