Wednesday, May 13, 2009
English Needs Another Word
On his Atlantic blog ("The End of the Torture Debate"), Ta-Nehisi Coates appears to consider the phrase "enhanced interrogation" a euphemism for torture. In this, he isn't alone, but I'd argue that, in the absence of a word that differentiates between things such as stress positions and thumb screws, "enhanced interrogation" is a legitimate phrase. When opponents of enhanced interrogation call anything other than asking a detainee politely for information "torture", they weaken their case.
You can argue that stress positions and other forms of enhanced interrogation (e.g., sleep deprivation, etc.) shouldn't be used on detainees at all. Or you can argue that their use ought to be carefully limited. But what's the point of calling it "torture"? I was doing stress positions last night, during my Club KO class: the plank position (pictured above), wall squats, holding the up position of a push-up (what we used to call in the Army the "front-leaning rest" position), etc. It was no picnic, but I can't call myself a victim of "torture" today. We need a better word for this sort of thing, one that differentiates it from, say, the rack. I nominate "sorture", as a portmanteau of "sort of" and "torture".
The photo above, of the woman in the plank position, comes from sheride.com.