Moving Pictures
Nov 28, 2008, 08:20AM

The War on Terror on Television

Fox's 24 has had a documented impact on both the public and the military when it comes to torture: implicitly legitimizing it for the former, and offering tips for the latter.

"America wants the war on terror fought by Jack Bauer. He's a patriot," Joel Surnow, co-creator and executive producer of "24," said.




The actor shared with me some extracts of [principal executive producer Howard] Gordon's views. He told the actor that "I lack the conviction that torture is, under any circumstances, an unacceptable option". He lacked that conviction because "I lack the knowledge, I just don't know enough about the efficacy of torture". I've no reason to doubt that Gordon is a thoroughly decent man. He's smart; he went to Princeton. Through his work he would have access to a great number of lawyers, any one of whom would have told him, if he had cared to enquire, that torture is illegal in all circumstances. His own convictions, or lack of knowledge, are a total irrelevance.

 Gordon also told the actor about his belief that it was "essentially true that ... 24 posits that torture is a necessary evil that works and is therefore acceptable". There was also an indication of concern. "I would hate to think," wrote Gordon, "that I've somehow been the midwife to some public acceptance of torture."

 Well, the reality for Gordon, on the account given to me by Diane Beaver as well as others, is that he seems to have become the very midwife he feared. And not just to the public acceptance of torture, but to its actual use on real, living human beings.


Register or Login to leave a comment