Friday, October 4, 2013

What Grand Theft Auto 5 Can Teach Us About Torture

In today’s society, violent video games and their effects on children’s psyche are a significant concern for parents and regulators alike. Even more prevalent is the debate over the use of torture by governments and individuals throughout the world. The recently released game Grand Theft Auto 5 brings each of these issue into the forefront – not only does the game feature violence and the use and sale of drugs as its predecessors did, but it also features the use of various forms of torture. Over the course of the game, the player partakes in waterboarding, electroshock, pulling teeth, and other forms of violent information extraction as part of the criminal missions they must complete. In a post 9/11 world where many Americans support torture, such actions have become acceptable, and are even approved of under the guise of “keeping America safe”. It is not surprising, then, that Grand Theft Auto has taken to torture among its many other unsavory acts. That’s not to say that Grand Theft Auto is not an enjoyable game, but there is a significant distinction between general criminal activity, killing, and torture, and the use of torture concerns me much more. Personally, I do not believe that torture is a successful or acceptable method for acquiring information, as oftentimes the information received is false or the victim is injured beyond repair. Harming people – sometimes even innocent people – in the name of information does not work. Any information obtained cannot be verified, and whatever knowledge the victim was willing to disclose could have easily been withdrawn in another manner through non-damaging bargaining. Permanently disfiguring someone will not produce proper information – confessions and tips obtained under duress are seldom truthful and rarely result in knowledge that is actionable. It is for this reason that I cannot support torture – victim’s lives are ruined and the government or individuals participating end up with nothing to show for it. 

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