The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, April 23, 2005

What's Up with "24"? Jack Bauer as Torquemada

My favorite television show for the past four years has definitely been the real (sort of) time adventures of uber-agent Jack Bauer.  Watching Jack winding his way through an assassination plot, a hydrogen bomb threat, a bio-war dilemma, and now a multi-tiered terrorist threat has been a nail biting journey.  Interestingly, this season is the first time that Jack (played by Keifer Sutherland) has faced off with Muslim terrorists (Turkish, I believe).  Predictably, Muslim anti-defamation groups have protested.  Fine--that's their right.  Truth is, Fox has bent over backwards not to offend them, concentrating on Serbian terrorists, home-grown terrorists, and I-forget-what for the biowar threat.  No reasonable neutral observer could blame Fox for finally getting around to our Muslim brothers.  they even went so far as to include two Muslim good guys--gun store owners--in a shoot-out with Corporate mercenaries.  Believe me, in all the years I cringed at the depiction of blacks in film and television, such  balancing imagery would have salved my emotional wounds big time.
However, there is something else starting to bother me this season: torture.  There has been so much torture, and so many different types, that it's almost become a cliche.  the Secretary's son was tortured.  The Secretary was tortured.  Jack's girlfriend's husband was tortured.  I'm sure I'm forgetting someone else.  And last week a guilty-looking suspect was ALMOST tortured officially, but an "Amnesty International" lawyer (Jewish, no less) stopped the noble CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) officials from doing it.  Judging by coming attractions from next week, our cowardly vice-President (newly promoted to the Big Chair) will wilt at the idea of torture, and refuse to sanction more of it.  So our hero, Jack Baur, goes rogue and does a bit of free-lance finger-breaking.
You know, there is no level of violence that really bothers me, but I'm starting to wonder if there isn't a bit of an agenda here.  Conservatives complain about media and its Liberal bias, but this is starting to look like an attempt to desensitize the public to the excesses at Abu Garib.  The fact that this show is on Fox, notoriously biased to the Right, tickles my b.s. detector.  You know, I hope we have agents like Jack Baur, willing to die or be jailed to do what is right.  But when the President of the United States is basically tarred with the "coward" brush for upholding Constitutional rights (yes, he's painted as a coward before this, but that is transparent Writer's Convenience. Don't bullshit a bullshitter) there is something wrong.  If torture needs to be done, it should be in such an extreme case that the torturer WOULD be willing to go down for it.  Would I torture someone to save my family?  You bet.  Would I be willing to go to jail to do it?  Yep.  But I wouldn't want to live in a country where this was policy, where people wink at the torture of citizens with no criminal records.  If the act is done by patriots, they should understand that they are acting beyond the protection of the law.  They should be acting with the knowledge that, if they are caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of their actions.  If it isn't that important, if they aren't protecting the lives of their families and friends, or a country that they place beyond their own interests, then apparently it's not very important.
I have justified Jack's excesses (and there have been many) on the grounds that he was willing to take the same level of risk or damage himself.  The last season of "24" seems to me to be coming dangerously close to saying this is necessary, and good, as long as the "good guys" believe that they have the "bad guys."  Friends, that is the road to hell.  You agree with it now, because we are all frightened by terrorists.  But Amnesty International (and their Jewish lawyers) are not the enemy. And suggesting that they are, even in such an indirect fashion, is dangerous as hell.  I'm not entirely certain who it serves.  I am pretty certain they are not my friends.


Aaron H said...

its just fiction... and this season is the least believable by far, anyway. But great article

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muebles en castellon said...

This will not work as a matter of fact, that is what I believe.