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If there was a bomb hidden somewhere in a major city, and you had the person responsible in your custody, would you torture them to get the information needed to stop the bomb exploding, preventing a devastating terrorist attack and saving thousands of lives?
This is the ticking bomb scenario — a thought experiment designed to demonstrate that torture can be justified.
In How to Justify Torture, cultural critic Alex Adams examines the ticking bomb scenario in-depth, looking at the ways it is presented in films, novels, and TV shows — from Batman Begins and Dirty Harry to French military thrillers and home invasion narratives. By critiquing its argument step by step, this short, provocative book reminds us that, despite what the ticking bomb scenario will have us believe, torture can never be justified.
Alex Adams is a critical writer and novelist living and working in the North East of England.
“As passionate as it is rigorous… Anyone sickened by the global re-emergence of torture as a “tool of justice” will find resources for resistance here.”
“A must-read book for anyone interested in how the authoritarian turn since 9/11 has been legitimised in popular culture.”
“A timely, thoroughly compelling critique that deserves the widest possible readership.”