Conservative Bastion
The only blog that can factually claim to shift the Bell Curve, along with the hearts & minds of America, to the right.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
The Politics of LOST: Detainee Treatment/Torture

This is the second segment of the “Politics of LOST” series. Today’s subject: torture, and detainee treatment. *SPOILER WARNING* If you have not watched the show, this post will probably not make any sense to you. Also, if you haven't watched the show yet, but plan on doing so in the future, you should probably stop reading now.

Torture and detainee treatment have become hot-button issues as of late. No, I’m not talking about Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. This is more important. I am talking about LOST. Yes, LOST has bestowed much wisdom on its viewership without anyone even knowing. How? I’m glad you asked.

Back in the first season, Shannon needs her inhaler for her asthma. Jack, Boone, and Sayid, all believe that Sawyer has her inhaler. Sawyer won’t tell them anything, one thing leads to another, and soon Sayid is torturing Sawyer to get the information out of him regarding the whereabouts of her inhaler. Jack and company eventually find out that Sawyer never had the inhaler to begin with.

There are several political messages in this sequence of events, some are overt, and some are more subtle.

First, it teaches us that good intelligence is paramount. The goal of the torture was a righteous one, but bad intelligence led the authority figures down the wrong path. Despite “common knowledge”, Sawyer did not have the medicine. In the end, wasting time and resources were all the castaways accomplished. Sounds like the liberal talking point for the Iraq War, especially if you substitute “the inhaler/medicine” for “WMD”.

The use of flashbacks to Sayid’s life in Iraq also helps make a point against torture. The flashbacks reveal the reluctance of Sayid to use torture and how he is affected by it once he gives into the pressure of his commanding officers. On top of that, he must torture a childhood friend/love interest. Seeing a likeable and courageous character tortured makes the point effectively. Not to mention, the idea of a woman being tortured is just creepy.

The overall message of this chain of events is that torture is bad and often useless. The characters learn nothing, they waste time, and they make enemies in the process.

Don’t go thinking that LOST is just liberal propaganda though. In season 2 the castaways catch one of the “others” and are not certain of his true identity. As a result, Jack and Locke imprison him with no due process and with no long-term plan with what to do with him. Here is an excerpt of the debate:

LOCKE: We can't hide him down here forever. Changing shifts around is going to get people asking questions. I just want to know what the long term plan is.

JACK: Well, John, let me ask you this: we don't have a long term plan for the button but we keep pushing it, don't we? Look, until we know who he is -- whether or not he's telling the truth -- we have to keep doing what we're doing. If you've got a better idea let's hear it.

It is important to note that Sayid physically and verbally abused the prisoner, and yet the overall consensus was that this form of abuse was valid. This is in sharp contrast to the previous forms of torture seen in show that were all portrayed as having crossed the line. These statements made by LOST appear to be contradictory, but it is not hard to reconcile the differences. Let me sum it up for you.

On one hand, LOST is against hardcore torture (mutilation, rape, etc.), but on the other hand, it seems in favor of torture-lite and does not mind the fudging of due process with enemy combatants. I concur.

Part I of the LOST series can be read here...
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