Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 22, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

TORTURE AND 24....Seriously, what's going on with 24 and its bizarrely casual use of torture this season? Here's a rundown:

In the first episode, Jack Bauer bursts into an interrogation room, shoots a captured terrorist in the kneecap, and then tells him there's another slug where that one came from unless he starts talking. He talks.

A couple of episodes later, CTU suspects that the Secretary of Defense's son knows something about the SoD's kidnapping, so it's off to the interrogation room for a few hours of torture. When the SoD is rescued, he's initially pissed off his son has been treated this way, but within minutes he's on board with the whole idea and the torture starts up again.

Next up is Sara, an attractive CTU agent suspected of treachery. She's immediately sent to the interrogation room for a tasering session.

A couple of hours later Jack and his backup team crash into a hotel room to arrest a terrorist's wife who's been shot. The first thing Jack's buddy does is grind his thumb into her gunshot wound and tell her to talk if she wants him to stop.

This week was a rare break from the torture routine, but in the previews for next week Jack apparently jury rigs some lamp cord, plugs it into an AC socket, and starts merrily torturing a suspect (who also happens to be his girlfriend's husband).

This has gone from merely bizarre to completely loony. What the hell is going on? I have a guess, but first, here are the results of the torture sessions so far:

  1. The terrorist squeals, but it's too late. The plot goes ahead as planned.

  2. The SoD's son provides no information. (Whether he's actually innocent remains to be seen, though.)

  3. Sara turns out to be wrongly accused. Someone else was this season's mole.

  4. Jack tells his buddy to back off. Instead, he gets what he needs by gaining the woman's trust and promising to find her son.

  5. We'll find out next week how this one goes.

Get the picture? Torture doesn't work. I was joking about this a couple of weeks ago via email with Jim Henley, but now I'm convinced it's true. At first it looked as though the writers had decided to portray torture as a routine interrogation device for use with terrorists, but now it looks like there's more at work here. The real goal is to convince America that torture is (a) revolting and (b) doesn't work anyway. Clever guys, these writers. I wonder if they'll convince anyone?

UPDATE: Jim responds. And thus does my sacred oath crumble into the merest dust....

Kevin Drum 1:38 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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