Not even the elegant voice of Dame Helen Mirren can make the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture less horrifying. John Oliver recruited the legendary actress to record an audiobook version for Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, which focused on the disconnect between public perception of torture and its real-life applications.
According to a CBS News poll, 57 percent of Americans believe that “aggressive tactics provide information to prevent terror attacks.” Citing the Senate report, Oliver breaks down the grotesque details of such tactics, which include one game of “Russian Roulette” and five detainees being subjected to “rectal rehydration.” One man was even imprisoned through “mistaken identity” and ended up dying in his cell, likely from hypothermia. (Oliver tries to soften the mood by reading Beatrix Potter’s lighthearted The Tale of Peter Rabbit, but rectal infusion even winds up in the children’s story.)
The Senate report found that “enhanced interrogation techniques” were ineffective, so why do the majority of Americans believe it’s successful? Oliver argues that popular TV shows like 24 are partly to blame since they present a dramatized version that always ends well for good guys like Jack Bauer. The host ends by condemning torture, a process even North Korea called “brutal medieval.”
“If enhanced interrogation were not torture, which it is, and even if torture did work, which it doesn’t, America should not be a country that tortures people,” the host says. “Because it is brutal; it is medieval; and it is beneath us.”