Tags: normalized | torture | Jack Bauer | 24

TV Show '24' May Have Normalized Torture for Americans

Image: TV Show '24' May Have Normalized Torture for Americans
Actor Kiefer Sutherland, left, and director and executive producer Jon Cassar attend the '24: Live Another Day' world premiere. (Rob Kim/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014 03:06 PM

Did the hit television show "24" starring Kiefer Sutherland as agent Jack Bauer, who often turns to brutal techniques to wrest information out of bad guys, "normalize" how Americans look at torture?

The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum raised the question in a twitter post, in which she stated, "Still p….d at the creators of 24, who normalized torture every single week," the Daily Caller reported.

She may be onto something. In the three years after the tragedy of 9/11, "24" was responsible for 70 out of 624 incidents of television fictional torture, the Parents Television Council told The Washington Post. Across the board, the torturers were more likely to be all-American good guys than Nazis, terrorists or drug cartel enforcers.

"Hollywood values eventually impact public opinion — and ultimately — public policy," the Daily Caller commented.

"Now, some are regretting the possibility that shows like '24' might have 'normalized' torture."

But unlike the recent findings in a five-year, $40 million Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, which described torture as largely ineffective in the real world, on "24," torture almost always works, the Guardian notes, and, for Jack Bauer, it works quickly.

The Post comments that in Television Land, "The tactics, like those of Jack Bauer in '24,' are often brutal and violent — incorporating electricity, knives, drugs, bare hands. But they’re unnervingly successful. Over eight tense seasons, Bauer, who operated under the edict of 'whatever it takes,' consistently beat answers out of obstinate terrorists, who almost always divulged vital secrets that helped foil terror plots."

In fact, in 2007, the producers of "24" actually held discussions with former interrogators, including some who worked at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. They were told that military and CIA interrogators emulated the torture scenes aired on shows like "24."

Tony Lagouranis, a former Army interrogator at Abu Ghraib, told the Times in 2007, "Everyone wanted to be a Hollywood interrogator. That's all people did in Iraq was watch DVDs of television shows and movies. What we learned in military schools didn't apply anymore."

However, Lagouranis agreed that torture wasn't an instantly effective method of interrogation. "It's an ugly thing," he told the Times. "You don't get neat, tidy answers like you do on television."

Dr. James Elmer Mitchell, a psychologist who designed interrogation programs for the CIA, told The Guardian, "The people who have this Jack Bauer mentality, I think, don't understand how intel networks work, how threat matrixes are put together, and how intel is used. I think this idea that you tape a guy's hands to the steering wheel and break his thumbs and he tells you where the bomb is and you go get it, is a fantasy.

"That's something you see on TV. That's not what really happens."

But as to whether torture or "enhanced interrogation techniques" can be justified, "24" producer Joel Surnow told the Post, "Isn’t it obvious that if there was a nuke in New York City that was about to blow — or any other city in this country — that, even if you were going to go to jail, it would be the right thing to do?"

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Did the hit television show "24" starring Kiefer Sutherland as agent Jack Bauer, who often turns to brutal techniques to wrest information out of bad guys, "normalize" how Americans look at torture?
normalized, torture, Jack Bauer, 24
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2014-06-10
Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014 03:06 PM
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