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February 28, 2005 6:27 PM   Subscribe

So I finally got around to watching 24, Fox's Golden Globe winning prime-time show. I normally don't go for shows like that, but I'd heard about the controversy surrounding this season's story line. I was pretty damned shocked when the hero decided to spark up some electrodes and torture one of the terrorists to get information out of him. Apparently, this is nothing new for the show. Can anyone think of a precedent for this type of heroic depiction of torture? On a network tv show?
posted by es_de_bah (100 comments total)

 
Hi. My name is Kiefer Sutherland. And I play counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer on Fox's 24. I would like to take a moment to talk to you about something that I think is very important. Get your own blog.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:31 PM on February 28, 2005


guys, watch out, it's the terror tag
posted by jimmy at 6:37 PM on February 28, 2005


*craps himself*
posted by matteo at 6:39 PM on February 28, 2005


Please tell us more about your television viewing habits!
posted by naxosaxur at 6:39 PM on February 28, 2005


Was there any moral ambivalence displayed by any other characters?

I ask this because perhaps it's just a setup for a future plotline questioning his actions.

But to your original question, not that I can think of. there have been cop shows that show police brutalizing prisoners (like Law & Orde and NYPD Blue) but usually there's some moral complexity applied to the situation. Probably the closest would be the episode of Homicide where Detective Kellerman shoots drug lord Luther Mahoney when Mahoney's gun is down. And again, that came back to haunt him.
posted by jonmc at 6:41 PM on February 28, 2005


I remember a very special episode of the Golden Girls that featured genital electrocution. I'm not sure what the circumstances where anymore. There's also the infamous water torture episode of Blue's Clues.
posted by Doug at 6:43 PM on February 28, 2005


Did you watch the Academy Awards last night? That was torture.
posted by casu marzu at 6:43 PM on February 28, 2005


Dude. Jack Bauer has done way worse things on that show. 24 is fucking awesome.
posted by chunking express at 6:44 PM on February 28, 2005


Well, it is Fox we're talking about here. Are you surprised about the jingoist, at-any-costs plotline?
posted by AlexReynolds at 6:44 PM on February 28, 2005


I remember a very special episode of the Golden Girls that featured genital electrocution.

We're talking about political torture. That sicko Estelle getty did it strictly for kicks.
posted by jonmc at 6:45 PM on February 28, 2005


Someone's forgotten that '24' is only fiction and is taking it way too seriously.
posted by tapeguy at 6:49 PM on February 28, 2005


Ah yes, Tapeguy, that's what they said about "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
posted by NickDouglas at 6:57 PM on February 28, 2005


Kevin Drum looks at the outcomes of this year's 24 torture sessions.
posted by aaronetc at 6:57 PM on February 28, 2005


es_de_bah posted " Can anyone think of a precedent for this type of heroic depiction of torture? On a network tv show?"

Zell Miller at the Republican National Convention?

That was on all the networks.
posted by orthogonality at 6:57 PM on February 28, 2005


That sicko Estelle getty did it strictly for kicks.
posted by quonsar at 6:57 PM on February 28, 2005


That's right Q, and don't even get me started on that hosebeast Bea Arthur. That woman has more kinks the a chiropractor's office after a limbo tournament.
posted by jonmc at 7:01 PM on February 28, 2005 [1 favorite]


tapeguy: I don't want to bog down your point like a boring professor here but while it is fiction, the mass media of the day defines our stereotypes and heroes.

When our heroes are defined as people willing to shrug off one of the most defining elements of any civilized society - nevermind the fact that short, painful torture as a means to extract the truth rarely works - what does that say about the culture who is willing to accept those values in its heroes?

I'm not going to argue that civilization is a universal good, because it clearly destroys any hope of natural selection functioning as intended (which may be the crucial design flaw of our species), but wantonly inflicting pain on another sentient regardless of the reason or the cost of not doing so strips away our humanity, and in fact makes us less than beasts. If a society must resort to torture in order to survive, then perhaps that society does not deserve to survive.
posted by Ryvar at 7:02 PM on February 28, 2005


I don't feel so bad about leaving a chatty non-comment!
posted by greasy_skillet at 7:02 PM on February 28, 2005


The hit show Lost had a torture scene a few episodes back (bamboo under fingernails, administered by a former Iraqi soldier along with his new friend, the American doctor) . Apparently America is making a nice transition coming to grips with torture... a bit of prime time depiction does a lot to dull the senses.
posted by stp123 at 7:06 PM on February 28, 2005


On an episode of Lost a few months ago, a doctor and a former member of the Iraq Republican Guard torture a man because they think he's hording asthma medication.

I don't know if I would call it heroic, and it certainly wasn't for King and Country, but it was a shocking thing to watch on network television.
posted by incomple at 7:07 PM on February 28, 2005


Well, what do you know.
posted by incomple at 7:08 PM on February 28, 2005


American cop shows have a long history of Dirty-Harry-style vigilantism, inherited from Westerns. Is this distinctly American or can anyone provide European examples?
posted by NickDouglas at 7:09 PM on February 28, 2005


Alias also likes to torture its main characters.

Anyone remember int the 2nd season when Rutger Hauer oiled up Victor Garber's legs--all the while nattering away to him about old times--before applying the electricity?

That was kinky man. Kinky.
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:09 PM on February 28, 2005


cue all the people who don't own a television for the sole purpose of constantly telling people they don't own a television.
posted by jeffmik at 7:10 PM on February 28, 2005


Okay, this is a pretty borderline post, but if we get that out of the way, I think we can have a pretty interesting discussion of a marked change in mindset by the American public about the use of torture to suit our purposes.

Maybe it is the constant election year barrage of "This is war", or perhaps leftover revenge fantasy from 9/11 or the constant metronome body count from Iraq, but I've heard some pretty dehumanizing statements from people who I would normally consider to be logical and moralistic people.

It usually go along the lines of "Perhaps there are times in history in which we have to become less than our ideals in order to preserve our way of life."

Comparisons to the 'unfortunate by possibly necessary' acts against Japanese/American civilians during WWII are often brought up.

Now, I don't agree with what the state that this administration has brought us down to, but is there ever a situation in which it is 'okay' to discard your morals to preserve your freedom.

Believe it or not, this last weeks Battlestar Galactica brought the issue into stark relief. A cylon was found among the fleet and Starbuck was sent to 'extract' information.

The methodology she used was strikingly similar to accounts that have trickled out of the Guantanamo gulag.

Even that fact that the prisoner is a Cylon, and therefore 'a machine, not human' parallels the dehumanization that has occurred with people of middle eastern decent becoming 'terrorists, not human'
posted by PissOnYourParade at 7:13 PM on February 28, 2005


There's also the infamous water torture episode of Blue's Clues.

LOL
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 7:14 PM on February 28, 2005


I remember an episode of NYPD Blue where a pedophile was suspected of holding a child hostage in his apartment. During the interrogation, he bobs and weaves until Lt. Fancy loses it and charges into the interrogation room, takes off his watch, and rolls up his sleeves. The suspect cowers in a corner and gives up the location.

That seems to be to be a far better televisual exploration of the moral complexities of the useof violence (or the threat thereof) than a show like 24 which has a rather obvious political agenda.

American cop shows have a long history of Dirty-Harry-style vigilantism, inherited from Westerns. Is this distinctly American or can anyone provide European examples?

In The Name Of The Father was set in England, and it had some rather gruesome torture sequences. The urge to brutalize is not determined by geography.

Side Note: I remember reading a Gary Larson collection where he says that some of his darkly humorous dealing with torture prompted letters to him from Amnesty International. He said that the letters "raised his consciousness," but also asked "Does The Wizard Of Id get these letters?"

perhaps leftover revenge fantasy from 9/11 or the constant metronome body count from Iraq

This is important, I think. Art can often provide catharsis, when the protagonist or hero does what we would like to do to a wrongdoer but can't because of legal or moral restrictions. Escape valve or tacit approval? Good question.
posted by jonmc at 7:16 PM on February 28, 2005


Jack Bauer actually fell asleep about eight hours into season 1, and everything since then has been a dream. It's important that you realise this, otherwise next week's episode (in which Jack tortures a giant squirrel for information about the Nut Master, before going undercover at an inverted funfair filled with tiny sparkling nuns) may seem just a little off.
posted by flashboy at 7:17 PM on February 28, 2005


Also, in the next room, mrs. jonmc is watching The Bachelorette which is my own personal standard for televisual torture.
posted by jonmc at 7:19 PM on February 28, 2005


24? Is this something I would have to own a television to know about?
posted by Quartermass at 7:22 PM on February 28, 2005


i thought about it being an iffy post, and i suppose I should have used a less diary-esque tone...my bad...but i do think it's a worthy topic of discussion and of interest to people here.

American cop shows have a long history of Dirty-Harry-style vigilantism, inherited from Westerns.
-nick douglas

I agree, though I think you'd be hard-pressed to find examples that were this disturbing. And you know that the people involved with the show knew that, given the context, such scenes would spur allusions to abu gharib.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:24 PM on February 28, 2005


Good point.
posted by NickDouglas at 7:25 PM on February 28, 2005


Yes Jack's done worse, in season 2 he sawed a guys head off. Great show.

I've noticed one torture technique Jack hasn't used yet, the naked pyramid. Like at Abu Ghraib troops got the prisoners to pose in a naked human pyramid. Like could you imagine Jack telling Tony "They're not talking? Have you tried a naked pyramid?"
posted by bobo123 at 7:27 PM on February 28, 2005


I remember an episode of NYPD Blue where a pedophile was suspected of holding a child hostage in his apartment. During the interrogation, he bobs and weaves until Lt. Fancy loses it and charges into the interrogation room, takes off his watch, and rolls up his sleeves. The suspect cowers in a corner and gives up the location.

I think that was The Shield, actually. A show that often incorporates torture, and is probably my favorite show on TV now. I'm against torture in real life, but I'm all for it on TV.
posted by Doug at 7:27 PM on February 28, 2005


I think that was The Shield, actually.

I don't know if it was on The Sheild, but it was definitely on NYPD Blue. I admit that a part of me was cheering the cop on, while another part of me realized that was because of the manipulation of the plotline and acting, but on the other hand, that's srtistic liscence, right? Art isn't obliged to provide us with role models, merely reflect reality, right?

Big questions.
posted by jonmc at 7:30 PM on February 28, 2005


That FX show The Shield seems to be about an angry cop who regularly kicks the asses of presumably bad people, unbound by the paperwork and mollycoddling of America's quaint legal system. In the one episode I watched, the protagonist headlocked and shoved a bong down the throat of a smelly dirty pacifist marijuana user just to force him to reveal the whereabouts of some person.
posted by newton at 7:33 PM on February 28, 2005


jonmc,
Art isn't obliged to offer us role models, but if often tries to. I don't think 24 is trying to "hold a mirror up to society." Bauer isn't a realistic cop or agent, he's an action hero.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:34 PM on February 28, 2005


I'm against torture in real life, but I'm all for it on TV.

So why are you watching "24" when Omarosa's on "Fear Factor" on another channel?
posted by wendell at 7:38 PM on February 28, 2005


I don't think 24 is trying to "hold a mirror up to society." Bauer isn't a realistic cop or agent, he's an action hero.

Which is why I think he's a bad example to use for an interesting dilemma. Bauer is not someone most people can relate to, and the subject is charged with way too many political connotations for it to be an effective exploration of an important topic (how important? William T. Vollman just published a multi-volume treatise on the subject).

Andy Sipowicz, Mike Logan, and Mike Kellerman are much more believable everycops that we can imagine ourselves in the shoes of, and the people they lose their patience with are people we can imagine ourselves losit it with, thus making it more emotionally riveting, cogent, and less politically trnsparent.
posted by jonmc at 7:41 PM on February 28, 2005


Until I see some nipples, it's all good in the hood.
posted by superchicken at 7:41 PM on February 28, 2005


In the one episode I watched, the protagonist headlocked and shoved a bong down the throat of a smelly dirty pacifist marijuana user just to force him to reveal the whereabouts of some person.

Yeah, and then an episode or two later the victim of that police brutality turned it around and took out his oral frustrations on another cop. That's the thing about The Shield, the violence almost always has unintended consequences.
posted by Lokheed at 7:42 PM on February 28, 2005


Torture on tv and its not the news? Hmm, gotta be to soften public sentiment on torture.

Damn, the whole world is one huge conspiracy theory.

Lokheed, are you sure that was the same guy? I don't recall them looking the same and the guy who made the captain blow him had the chipped tooth. Maybe I missed it but damn, I wouldn't put it past the show. But you are right, violence in one show almost always has a downstream effect in another episode. Part of the reason the show is so well done.

I'm a huge fan of The Shield and Michael Chiklis (next appearing as Ben Grimm in the Fantastic Four movie! hot DAMN!).
posted by fenriq at 7:46 PM on February 28, 2005


jonmc, I'd love to watch that scene from NYPD Blue now. It sounds almost exactly like the scene from The Shield, and since NYPD is a zillion years old I'm sure that came out first. Man.

There is usually a pretty clear moral justification for the protagonist to use torture in almost any of these shows. On Lost the torture was to save the life of an innocent girl. On The Shield/NYPD Blue torture was used to save the life of a child. 24 goes to ABSURD lengths to justify Jack's "tough" decisions. In the scene bobo123 describes, Jack Bauer kills a man and cuts his head off. Right before this the man describes to Jack how he's a child rapist, and due to a technicality he is going to go free from prison and rape again and there is nothing anyone can do to stop him.

Real life isn't so simple, and perhaps it is a bad example for people to consistantly see images of torture only on those who "deserve" it. I'm able to separate fact from fiction, so I choose to assume that everyone else can as well.
posted by Doug at 7:47 PM on February 28, 2005


newton: I think your missing one point though, in 24 Jack is the all american hero doing everything for sweet sweet liberty. In the shield the Vince is a dirty cop who takes money from one drug dealers to go hard on opposing drug dealers.
posted by Iax at 7:48 PM on February 28, 2005


Believe it or not, this last weeks Battlestar Galactica brought the issue into stark relief. A cylon was found among the fleet and Starbuck was sent to 'extract' information.

I'm glad this was brought up, along with the emphasis that the "bad guy" wasn't human. I found the episode, and the serious questions it raised, fascinating as well as chilling.
posted by malaprohibita at 7:50 PM on February 28, 2005


Well, it is Fox we're talking about here.

The same network that's been running The Simpsons for 15 years...
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:50 PM on February 28, 2005


posted by jonmc :

Was there any moral ambivalence displayed by any other characters?

I ask this because perhaps it's just a setup for a future plotline questioning his actions.


I think this should be the factor that determines whether or not 24's focus on torture is appropriate. Even if it is for entertainment's sake, I think the use of torture without any reflection by a protagonist presents cause for concern.
posted by Crushinator at 7:54 PM on February 28, 2005


I'm able to separate fact from fiction, so I choose to assume that everyone else can as well.

That's the key. In the NYPD Blue scene. most people can identify with the rage(at least somewhere in our limbic system)* that drives Fancy to charge at the suspect, but we also realize that it's make believe, so it's a harmless cthartic pressure release. In 4 it's laden with political agendas (NTM contrived), so it's a lot muddier and less effective.

*I've been known to make rageful comments about pedos, terrorists etc. here, but I'd like to make it known that it's not that I think violence and torture against such people is morally right, just that I have extreme difficulty relating to people who don't at least momentarily feel that urge. See this comment by amberglow here. He's momentarily tuned into the station that the cop characters on those shows are hearing. His closing words show that he realizes that such a reaction is often wrong and ineffective as often as not.
posted by jonmc at 7:57 PM on February 28, 2005


The point about 24 isn't really about catching the bad guys, though - it's about Jack's own personal descent into hell. As the Kevin Drum link above said, the torture never really works very well - and while I don't agree that it's actually a devilishly clever script device to suggest the futility of torture as a workable information-gathering method, I do think that it's necessarily implicit that it's a Bad Bad Thing. Throughout all the series, Jack is constantly forced further and further outside of societal norms in a desperate attempt to salvage some normality. And it's always a futile attempt - every breakthrough and every happy ending is cruelly undercut, leaving him worse off than before. Torture is just one another example of leaving everything he's trying to save behind (and not just on Jack's part - remember Palmer's decision to torture of his security adviser guy in season 2, which was a very clear symbolic fall from grace, and a decision which proved completely useless and which returned to bite him on the ass).

...in 24 Jack is the all american hero doing everything for sweet sweet liberty


No, no, he's not. That's the whole point. The show's about the complete impossibility of such a character even existing.

The message of 24 isn't so much that "torture is good and useful", it's more "everything we do is utterly hopeless and we're completely fucked because the very creation of humanity was vile and terrible mistake". Which is why it's fun!
posted by flashboy at 8:07 PM on February 28, 2005


Doug, in The Shield Mackey did more than roll up his sleeves and threaten the pedophile. He beat him with a phone book. Also, if I remember correctly the pedophile didn't have a captive but had information about another pedophile who did.

In any case, cops threatening or beating suspects is common enough in police dramas that I don't believe The Shield required any inspiration from NYPD Blue (or vice versa). Even if you restrict the theme to pedophiles, it's happened multiple times on Law & Order: SVU.
posted by Axaxaxas Mlö at 8:08 PM on February 28, 2005


I think that in Alias (keep in mind that I've only seen up to half-way through the second season) Jack Bristow has used various torture means and killed people basically for crossing him while working for the CIA. I am sure that he is has done some torturing on screen as a member of SD-6, too.

I don't watch 24 and so don't know if Jack's actions are as extreme as Jack Bauer's.
posted by synecdoche at 8:17 PM on February 28, 2005


What flashboy said. I think you hit it perfectly: the show is mostly about Jack's (standing in for the USA, perhaps) descent into hell. It's about crossing lines that supposedly separate us from the bad guys. The scene where Palmer orders the torture was a perfect example.
posted by goatdog at 8:42 PM on February 28, 2005


i suppose I should have used a less diary-esque tone

Hint from Heloise: Avoid using multiple "I's" in front page posts.
posted by mediareport at 8:49 PM on February 28, 2005


Avoid using multiple "I's" in front page posts.

Unless your username is Ricky_Ricardo.
posted by jonmc at 8:51 PM on February 28, 2005


ask metafilter.

'nuff said.
posted by furtive at 8:52 PM on February 28, 2005


(Spoiler Ahead)

The interesting thing for me about the BSG episode, was that by the end of the episode Starbuck had come to regard the cylon as human. She's upset when the president decides to have the cylon killed after promising it amnesty in exchange for information. The cylon's ability to suffer, and to endure suffering humanized it.

It started out as a classic "we must get information x out of subject y before bad thing z" justification for torture episode, and ended by exploring not just the dehumanization nessasary in torture, but also how the tortured could still manipulate the torturer.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:58 PM on February 28, 2005


They're more graphic about it nowadays, but I seem to recall Jim Rockford tied up and bitch slapped a few times. Or Captain Kirk writhing under alien torture -- didn't they even have special theme music for those scenes? Philip Marlowe was administered drugs and locked away in a phony insane asylum while trying to get info from him. Or is the point that the supposed good guys are doing it?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:00 PM on February 28, 2005


The message of 24 isn't so much that "torture is good and useful", it's more "everything we do is utterly hopeless and we're completely fucked because the very creation of humanity was vile and terrible mistake". Which is why it's fun!
posted by flashboy at 8:07 PM PST on February 28

Maybe seeing more of the show would change my mind about it. Not that "humanity was a vile and terrible mistake" is really a much more palatable theme. I wonder how many regular FOX viewers will see it that way, though, especially when FOX news pops on right afterwards and recontexualizes all of the themes.
posted by es_de_bah at 9:03 PM on February 28, 2005


The same network that's been running The Simpsons for 15 years...

I'm not so sure the one program which happens to — now only very occasionally — have a non-Fox political ideology is the best counter-example.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:05 PM on February 28, 2005


What would happen if CAIR, et al, spent less time addressing fictitious Muslim terrorists on television and more time addressing actual Muslim terrorists responsible for 1900+ terrorist acts just since 9/11?
From 9/11/01 to 2/08/05 there have been:1905 major Islamic terrorist attacks involving loss of life noted on this site. By our count, the number of attacks that CAIR has acknowledged and condemned is 5.

posted by dhoyt at 9:23 PM on February 28, 2005


Battlestar Galactica, Enterprise, Alias, NYPD Blue, The Shield, Six Feet Under, Oz... the hits (and cracks and the zaps) just keep on comin'

So is this all some political statement that says "Torture bad"?

Or is it merely "That's how it is. Get used to it."
posted by Zoom at 9:24 PM on February 28, 2005


the one program which happens to — now only very occasionally — have a non-Fox political ideology

By which you mean, I guess, that That '70s Show, Cops, American Idol, Family Guy, The O.C., My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss, and The Bernie Mac Show share a political ideology. Does America have a Fascist Libertarian Nihilist Absurdist Populist Party that Fox is shilling for? Who'd they back in '04? An Al Sharpton/Alan Keyes crossover ticket?
posted by gompa at 9:24 PM on February 28, 2005


The message [is] everything we do is utterly hopeless and we're completely fucked because the very creation of humanity was vile and terrible mistake

I haven't read the book, but I catch episodes here and there from time to time - isn't this The Bible you're thinking of?
posted by TimTypeZed at 9:28 PM on February 28, 2005


I've seen a few episodes of 24, though I didn't see the one mentioned in the post.

In the context of the series, it means something completely different: They frequently pose the question of whether torture is legitimate, and every time I've seen it there is a debate on the show and it never works out as planned.

In one episode, the Sec'y of Defense has his own son tortured (I don't remember the outcome, but I don't think he had any info for them).

In another, an employee of the intelligence agency that's the focus of the show is fingered as a traitor who has crucial info that could save lives. A computer security analyst says there's 'no way' anybody could have broken into her computer and planted the evidence. Her own boss, who she knows well, orders her tortured. It turns out she was framed after all.

On one hand, it brings up a fundemental issue with torturing suspects -- who says they're guilty? The executive branch? A fundemental tenant of our liberty is the executive can't determine guilt; we have the judiciary and juries for that.

A bit unrealistically, the mistakenly tortured employee returns to work that day, a little worn but very functional.

And finally, where do they find these security analysts? Geez.
posted by guanxi at 9:38 PM on February 28, 2005


Isn't this like at least the fourth season of 24? And the metapanties are getting all in a wad now? Just damn...
posted by spilon at 9:43 PM on February 28, 2005


If MetaFilter was a Media Studies course -

Compare and contrast: two fantasy-liberal Presidents of impeccably good judgement and moral standing, both making decisions which cross significant and unpleasant ethical thresholds. President Palmer orders one of his own senior staff tortured in 24; President Bartlett orders the assassination of the Qumari minister in The West Wing. How much did they agonise, how symbolic was it of some kind of moral decay, what level of ass-biting returnitude did it entail? That sort of stuff.

If you could do that comparing and contrasting without giving away too many spoilers for the end of The West Wing's Season 4, which is we're at in Britain right now (Jesus christ! His daughter's just been kidnapped!), that'd be even better...

The manner in which the traumas of the major characters in 24 represent America having a really fucking bad day does vary, I think, between several different states. Sometimes, I'd agree, it does seem like excuse-making ("but we had to do it"); sometimes it seems to be extolling the necessity of hope, even in hopeless situations (Jack never actually gives up, always believes that some good may come of this, yadda yadda); most often, though, it does just seem to be despairing, a cathartic wallowing in a post-9/11 sense of "nothing now can come to any good". Like the scene (season 2?) when Jack has to tell Kim, over the phone, exactly how to shoot her attacker to make sure he's dead. As scenes of resolution in which the vulnerable protagonists finally escapes go, it's pretty sodding bleak and horrifying, violating everything it's supposedly trying to save. (Much like the second season of The O.C.)

isn't this The Bible you're thinking of?


Yeah - I prefer their earlier stuff. That thing totally jumped the shark after all the begetting shit kicked off.
posted by flashboy at 9:47 PM on February 28, 2005


One more vote for Ask.Metafilter.Com. Too many question marks.

Oh, and an article about 24 that's pretty good.
posted by gsb at 10:50 PM on February 28, 2005


Well, I care more about this than where Fiona Apple has been.
posted by notmydesk at 10:53 PM on February 28, 2005


In L.A. Confidential, Russel Crowe's character tortures someone in an interrogation room to force them to reveal something. As I seem to remember that film readily discusses cops on the verge, cops that "know how to get things done", etc.
posted by Panfilo at 11:46 PM on February 28, 2005


What would happen if CAIR, et al, spent less time addressing fictitious Muslim terrorists on television and more time addressing actual Muslim terrorists responsible for 1900+ terrorist acts just since 9/11?


does this 1900+ include "collateral damage?"
posted by Hat Maui at 11:58 PM on February 28, 2005


your number is crap, dhoyt.

it presupposes that these incidents happened in isolated vacuums, not the utter warzones they actually occurred in.

and if you want to count all these as "terrorist" incidents then you must include iraqi civilian deaths as such.
posted by Hat Maui at 12:09 AM on March 1, 2005


and if you want to count all these as "terrorist" incidents then you must include iraqi civilian deaths as such.

After all this jingoistic Fox flag-worship crapola I can only count up to 24. Sorry.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:27 AM on March 1, 2005


By which you mean, I guess, that That '70s Show, Cops, American Idol, Family Guy, The O.C., My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss, and The Bernie Mac Show share a political ideology. Does America have a Fascist Libertarian Nihilist Absurdist Populist Party that Fox is shilling for? Who'd they back in '04? An Al Sharpton/Alan Keyes crossover ticket?

Hmm...

Cops: Uniformed officials beat up on minorities and poor people.

O.C.: Rich kids fuck around and do nothing and stay rich, breed the next generation of fuck-and-do-nothing poor rich kids.

American Idol: Let's turn our American democracy into a mechanism for deciding on future second-string cruise boat singers.

Even ignoring Fox News, there seems to be a message in there somewhere.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:34 AM on March 1, 2005


Er, I know that this episode has been shown in the US, but it hasn't been shown anywhere else in the world. Please consider putting a spoiler alert on stuff like this in the future.
posted by adrianhon at 1:36 AM on March 1, 2005


Yes, I double second adrianhon's comment -- spoiler alerts etc. I had no idea the husband was a bad guy, even though he looks like a sleazy baddie, and plays by type in bad films like Reindeer Games. Bad!
posted by gsb at 1:48 AM on March 1, 2005


Apart from questions about the location of this post, I'm happy to see it. I wondered myself, after seeing season 2 (of '24') whether there was some deliberate propaganda going on about torture.

I liked season 1 so much I bought the 3-season set. I find the show not suitable for depending on a broadcast, and my partner and I enjoy seeing how many hours we can be persuaded to view in a single day. Season 2 left me less happy.
posted by Goofyy at 2:12 AM on March 1, 2005


For future reference, how's about a spoiler warning for front page posts? For those of us outside the US, who haven't caught up yet? It doesn't matter for this one, as "Jack tortures someone to get information" is as much of a 24 spoiler as "everyone sings a happy song" is for The Wizard of Oz...

The thing about torture on 24 is... well, it's TV, for one. The bad guy is sitting in a chair, openly laughing at how he'll never tell them where the X is to stop the Y that will kill loads of people. They know that if they kneecap him or strap on the electrodes, they'll get the info. Plus, we, the audience, have seen him planting the X or releasing the Y, so we know he definitely did it. The good guys have to do it, to save lives. And the bad guy is evil. Openly, sneeringly, happily evil. I'll never tell you where the bomb is! Ha ha ha! What are you going to do? Put me in priso- (BANG) AAAGH! Okay, okay, it's in a toilet cubicle, here's the address!

In real life, it's not that easy. Someone could be an evildoer with vital info, or they could be an Afghan farmer in the wrong place at the wrong time. Torture is wrong - and useless, obviously, I'd tell you anything if you threatened me with it, I'd make up whatever you wanted to hear. But on TV and in the movies, we know the bad guy is evil, and we want to see the hero punch his lights out or blow him up or strangle him with his own intestines. As soon as we see him in the interrogation room, you're begging Jack to go crazy and scare the shit out of him. It makes us feel good, because he's getting what he deserves. If the situation was that simple, if we absolutely *knew* the guy was guilty and was holding something back, something that could save millions of lives, then sure, we might slap the guy around a bit. But in real life, we can never know that, and it's frustrating. Bad guys get away with it, and good guys get killed. TV and movies let us kill the bad guys with a clear conscience, and sometimes show us that it doesn't always work out as well as we'd like.

24 rocks. It's fast, it's harsh, it's brutal, and Jack Bauer is a badass. I'm as lefty as they come, but I want my fictional bad guys to get their asses kicked.
posted by ralphyk at 3:34 AM on March 1, 2005


What would happen if CAIR, et al, spent less time addressing fictitious Muslim terrorists on television and more time addressing actual Muslim terrorists responsible for 1900+ terrorist acts just since 9/11?

What would happen if Fox, the White House, et al, spent less time addressing fictitious Muslim terrorists on television and more time addressing actual Muslim terrorists responsible for 3,000 deaths on 9/11?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:58 AM on March 1, 2005


What I find annoying is that the real world debate about torture really doesn't focus on torture utilized for intelligence.

While no one can admit it, there's no one actually out there worrying about what's happening to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed these days, or what would happen to someone who was picked up and suspected of actual knowledge of a ticking bomb.

What happened at Abu Ghraib and what is being alleged to have happened at Guantanamo is something entirely different -- prison guard sadism. It's not politics, or law enforcement, or intelligence, but simply a dark side of human nature which manifests in poorly managed prisons everywhere and in all times. There's something about locking people up that brings out the worst in a certain kind of person, and the results if that kind of person isn't closely supervised are predictable.
posted by MattD at 4:07 AM on March 1, 2005


The manner in which the traumas of the major characters in 24 represent America having a really fucking bad day does vary, I think, between several different states.

24 isn't "America having a bad day," it's "neocons having the best day of their life." Intentional or not, this show is warblogger porn.

It's a place where torturing a suspect should be the first response to any difficult situation, and even when it yeilds nothing it's morally justified. It's a place where America is actually under attack by Muslim terrorists on America's own soil, and that every fear the government placed on us is accurate and correct as opposed to a massive scare tactic. It's a place where every woman in power is, at the minimum, an evil conniving bitch.

Instead of some girl with huge tits telling you through the screen she thinks you're so hot and wants to fuck you so bad, right-wingers have Jack Bauer telling them how right their veiws about killing all the brown people are. It's satisfaction for the poor saps who can't get any of that action in the real world, because, like porn, in the real world the people they fantasize about dominating actually have dignity.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:17 AM on March 1, 2005


i do think it's a worthy topic of discussion and of interest to people here.

It's not about the discussion, it's about the freakin links
posted by Mick at 4:59 AM on March 1, 2005


It has to be about the discussion, Mick. Nothing would be more damning than our silence.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:09 AM on March 1, 2005


oh snap!

XQUZ just played whack-a-mole on Mick.
posted by quonsar II electric boogaloo at 5:15 AM on March 1, 2005


I don't think some of you get that it takes place over 24 hours (as opposed to weeks or months), or the context, like trying to prevent hundreds of nuclear reactors from melting down.

There's a difference between fictionalized torture to avert a specific threat, and the crap that it seems we are aware of. Abu Gharib is nothing compared to what we are probably doing in the air or in torture-friendly countries. And as it stands right now, we don't know whether or not torture has averted a specific threat. The problem will be if the storyline doesn't have any consequences for torture applied to innocent people, like the female CTU agent, or (maybe) the Secretary of Defense's son.

posted by rzklkng at 5:29 AM on March 1, 2005


I agree with XQUZYPHYR -- 24 is nothing more than jingoistic American hero crap that panders to the absolutely worst elements of our democracy. Remember that episode when Jack kidnaps the president and slices one of his nuts off to get him to give an unsolicited donation to the African poverty relief fund? That shit was fucking awesome.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:49 AM on March 1, 2005


the religionofpeace.com site linked by dhoyt, for those lucky enough not to have opened it, shows a picture of a burning bus with the caption, "Are you burning with the Peace of Islam?"

wingnut humor. a class act, as always, d.
and after all, how dare CAIR argue that Muslims should not be discriminated against? why they don't just enjoy the crusade?

bah.

anyway, I'm joining the Chiklis bandwagon too -- he's so good in The Shield (it's ballsy that, in the very pilot, the lead actor in a cop show shoots another cop in the face because he wants to rat him out) and he's the perfect choice for Ben Grimm
posted by matteo at 5:55 AM on March 1, 2005


Weird, I must be a closet American, right-wing, racist, porn-obsessed, pro-war sadist.

I was fairly sure I was an English, left-wing, tolerant, porn-obsessed, anti-war normal bloke.

Thanks for clearing that up, XQUZYPHYR!
posted by ralphyk at 6:03 AM on March 1, 2005


It's satisfaction for the poor saps who can't get any of that action in the real world, because, like porn, in the real world the people they fantasize about dominating actually have dignity.

*pops in True Lies*

*grabs some kleenex*
posted by Cyrano at 7:01 AM on March 1, 2005


XQUZYPHYR, I don't think that's really fair to 24. Of it's four seasons, two (1st and 3rd) didn't involve Muslim terrorists at all -- Season One's bad guys were Serbians and an American turncoat spy, and Season Three's bad guys were Mexican drug-dealers and an English turncoat spy.

In Season Two, the Muslim terrorists turn out to be dupes for a western oil company (if I recall correctly). Season Four has featured Muslim terrorists and (now, halfway through) appears also to be converting them into part of a broader conspiracy of a U.S. Defense contractor. Sounds like Michael Moore porn, if anything...
posted by MattD at 7:12 AM on March 1, 2005


American Idol: Let's turn our American democracy into a mechanism for deciding on future second-string cruise boat singers.

Man, didn't it suck when Clay got more popular votes but Ruben won the electoral college?
posted by Cyrano at 7:18 AM on March 1, 2005


To return to the question:
"Can anyone think of a precedent for this type of heroic depiction of torture? On a network tv show?"

I can recall being about ten years old, and somebody on Mission Impossible was torturing a suspect, and took a moment to explain to another supposed 'good guy' that "Rights aren't for scum like him [the suspect]".

And even at ten, I'm proud to say that I recognized that rights are ESPECIALLY for people those in power view as "scum like him" .

I'd like to say that I shut it off and never watched it again, but, back in the '60s there wasn't anything else on. Besides, I was ten.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:36 AM on March 1, 2005


See, this is what happens when questions on ask.metafilter.com are limited to one per week....
posted by eas98 at 8:58 AM on March 1, 2005


What happened at Abu Ghraib and what is being alleged to have happened at Guantanamo is something entirely different... -MattD

Really good point.
But remember how everyone mistook saddam for a 9/11 terrorist with weapons of mass destruction? It works both ways. Torture with a muslim equals the most significant torture with a muslim in recent collective memory. Maybe.
Though looking at this all in light of Guantanamo Bay is a whole 'nother mess of masochistic fun.
posted by es_de_bah at 8:59 AM on March 1, 2005


Fox the television network isn't the same as Fox News - the only agenda Fox Television has is to commission very good series, and then eviscerate them and cancel them early.
posted by jb at 9:14 AM on March 1, 2005


Look, here's the scenario:

The country's nuclear powerplants are about to meltdown and kill millions and millions. Your choices are a) trust that the person is telling the truth or b) zap the heck out of the person hoping that they do have something to say.

So far the shock torture has been getting the job done. The person walks away just fine, just a little shaken - guilty or not.

Such as last night. The guy wasn't hiding anything, but wasnt really helping out. Once jack zapped him with 110 the guy dug deaper and put a little more effort into helping.

I regularly stick my finger into a light socket to get me going.
posted by tomplus2 at 9:40 AM on March 1, 2005


The hit show Lost had a torture scene a few episodes back

And the troubling violence without remorse is not just about "torture" per se. For instance, during another Lost episode somonee blew away a "bad guy" who'd already been captured, yet none of the other characters (or many fans, from what I've read) were disturbed by his vigilante actions.

I've just started watching 24 this season, and had mixed feelings about enjoying what seems, on the surface, like a Bush Admin wet dream. However, I think there's room to argue whether it's just violent action show with black-and-white storylines, or a tale with more subtle moral questions.

Bauer isn't a realistic cop or agent, he's an action hero.

That's true. This season, he's also been involved in at least three major Bad Guy Shootouts, and it's only 6 p.m. of that 24-hour day. :) It's a violent show, period.

But fans seem enthralled by the bad guys too, especially the TerroristMom. In addition to the plot to melt down a zillion nuclear reactors, she killed her son's teenaged girlfriend. So what does the audience's love of the TerrorMom antagonist signify? Desensitization? A hidden affilation for terrorists?
Or merely the natural tendency of audiences to be fascinated by complex villians?

Even if it is for entertainment's sake, I think the use of torture without any reflection by a protagonist presents cause for concern.

One interesting note - as far as I recall, the only people in the show that US agents have tortured are Americans or Brits suspected of having information or collaborating. We've yet to see a scene of a suspected "Muslim" terrorist being tortured.

For instance [SPOILER], Bauer tortured his girlfriend's estranged (British) husband while she watched, horrified. The scene was somewhat from her POV, which highlighted the stark and questionable violence of his actions.

I have found all the torture scenes horrendous. But OTOH it's not necessarily being depicted as an action without consequences.
posted by NorthernLite at 10:17 AM on March 1, 2005


Cops: Uniformed officials beat up on minorities and poor people.

O.C.: Rich kids fuck around and do nothing and stay rich, breed the next generation of fuck-and-do-nothing poor rich kids.

American Idol: Let's turn our American democracy into a mechanism for deciding on future second-string cruise boat singers.

Even ignoring Fox News, there seems to be a message in there somewhere.


Sure is: There are large enough groups of Americans who enjoy 1) watching the most sensational and tawdry aspects of day-to-day police work, 2) watching pretty people in beautiful surroundings screw each other (and screw each other over), and/or 3) watching average dolts from across the country be ritually humiliated by a pretentious English prat, to sell commercial time during their broadcasts at premium rates.

Still, Alex, this exercise in trying to contort all Fox Network programming to fit into a neocon mold is a hoot of a party game:

That '70s Show: An extended cautionary tale in the social cost of the druggie and feminist excesses of the 1970s. In the grand finale, Donna will leave Eric for a truck-drivin' lesbo and Ashton Kutcher's character will die of a speedball overdose.

Family Guy: An object lesson in the chaos that will result if lib'ruls get their way on genetic engineering and stem-cell research (matricidal genius infants, quick-witted talking dogs).

Playing It Straight: A cinema-verite experiment designed to prove that there's no such thing as a sixth sense called "gaydar," and that therefore there's nothing "natural" about homosexuality.

The Simple Life: Best understood as a celebration of the righteousness of the Bush Administration's tax cuts. (Rich people inhabit the environments of poor people to prove that they're inherently better people.)

King of the Hill: Might as well be a tourism video for Crawford, Texas.

Oh, and all y'all busy reading the surface text of 24 clearly don't know the first thing about Straussian philosophy. 24 is best understood, from a gnostic point of view, as a sly extended argument in favour of drilling for oil in ANWR.

Also: everything - everything - that airs on HBO is propaganda for the gay agenda in one form or another. And freemasons run CBS.
posted by gompa at 10:40 AM on March 1, 2005


Just to elaborate on what MattD said, torture is globally used not so much for extracting information, but as a form of political repression. The point of torture is for the stories to get out, for dissidents to know that if they step out of line, it could happen to them. It's a political tool that works by fear, in other words a form of (in most cases, state-) terrorism.
posted by signal at 11:59 AM on March 1, 2005


I'll admit I am an avid 24 watcher, but I think MattD makes an important point that is getting overlooked. Season One's terrorists are mainly Serbian. Season Two has some Muslim terrorists who are actually working in a larger plot for the benefit of an American oil corporation. Season Three is about a Mexican drug family and also involves some Europeans. Season Four is really the first season to show Muslims as the bad guys, and at this point in the season it looks like they're not even the ones behind the bigger plot. Hey, maybe for Season Five they'll have Chinese bad guys, and I can try out for a part! I'd be so psyched to get my ass kicked by Jack Bauer.

24 has in its long history consistently surprised me with how anti-conservative its plotlines have been. This is most evident in Season 2, where: 1) the Muslim groom who is initially suspected of being a terrorist is actually completely innocent; 2) his super white bride is the real terrorist; 3) the American oil company is the main bad guy; and 4) there's even an foreign agent from one of the Middle Eastern countries (Jordan, IIRC) who turns out to be one of Jack's greatest allies in the season. At times, I was actually shocked that Fox even showed that season.

The forums over at Television Without Pity have been discussing the issue of torture this season ever since they started doing that sensory disorientation thing to the Secretary of Defense's son. Personally, I don't think the season is done exploring the point yet. You could certainly see the moral judgement Audrey was putting on the electrocution of Paul as she watched - and there were hints last episode that Audrey was so disgusted by Jack that she's starting to like Paul more again. We'll see where it goes...
posted by swank6 at 3:22 PM on March 1, 2005


that's some funny shit, gompa
posted by firemouth at 7:58 PM on March 1, 2005


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