Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 13, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

GOOD GUYS vs. BAD GUYS....Jane Mayer's New Yorker piece about Joel Surnow, the right-wing producer behind 24, has been getting a lot of well-deserved attention. The use of torture on the show has become so routine and so outlandish that even some Army officers are unnerved by the effect it's having. In a scene she describes, an Army interrogator tells the show's staff that "People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they've just seen."

But here's another observation about TV torture. It's alluded to in passing in Mayer's article, but an LA Times piece spells it out:

From 1996 to 2001, there were 102 scenes of torture [in prime time television], according to the Parents Television Council. But from 2002 to 2005, that figured had jumped to 624, they said.

....The increase in quantity is not the only difference. During this uptick in violence, the torturer's identity was more likely to be an American hero like "24's" Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) than the Nazis and drug dealers in pre-9/11 days.

Pre-9/11: torture is used by bad guys. That's one of the ways you know they're bad guys.

And today? Actually, nothing's changed. It's still how you know who the bad guys are. We just seem to have temporarily forgotten that.

Kevin Drum 12:31 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (86)

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Comments

"It's still how you know who the bad guys are."

Thanks for that Kevin!

Posted by: TreeTop on February 13, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

When I was writing for children's TV, we used to get all kinds of crap from the lawyers in Standards and Practices about "imitative behavior" problems. If we had a character climb a tree to get a frisbee down, we'd apparently be risking tens of millions of dollars in class-action lawsuits from every kid with a broken arm in the USA.

But for some reason, characters on "24" are allowed to stab people in the knee with a Bowie knife.

Question: is there some way that, say, Salim Hamdan can sue ABC for a few million bucks for inspiring the behavior of the people who have been unlawfully torturing him for the past 5 years? We're talking the mother of all imitative behavior suits, here.

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 13, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

"We have met the enemy, and ..."

Posted by: Thumb on February 13, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Really, when I think of how the right wing has corrupted the sense of morality of ordinary Americans, it's the acceptance of torture that stands out as the worst example.

I remember an era in which we were PROUD never to engage in torture, when we knew that that was something that made us good, and the other side evil: it was the thing that we would NEVER stoop to doing. The Nazis did it, the Commies did it, but never, ever, Americans.

And now?

We're living in a far less brave new world.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2007 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

And don't forget, the administration doesn't torture people for any other reason than because they want to. There are no high-minded reasons about effective interrogation or using it as a last resort. It's simple brutality, just because they can.

Posted by: jimbo on February 13, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Torture is the sadistic infliction of pain and suffering on prisoners by foreign enemies for pleasure. Democracies such as American or Britain do not inflict pain for pleasure; in fact they do not inflict pain on prisoners at all. They extract information from reluctant individuals temporarily detained by the application of scientifically calculated methods of humane comfort deprivation in the defence of freedom.

Posted by: Mike G on February 13, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

People keep talking about how much torture is featured in the New Yorker profile of Cochran. But to me the most interesting passage in the piece is this one about a torture and the ticking timebomb scenario:

"...Navarro, who estimates that he has conducted some twelve thousand interrogations, replied that torture was not an effective response. “These are very determined people, and they won’t turn just because you pull a fingernail out,” he told me. And Finnegan argued that torturing fanatical Islamist terrorists is particularly pointless. “They almost welcome torture,” he said. “They expect it. They want to be martyred.” A ticking time bomb, he pointed out, would make a suspect only more unwilling to talk. “They know if they can simply hold out several hours, all the more glory—the ticking time bomb will go off!”"

It seems to me, if I were captured and knew some bomb was going to go off, I'd almost welcome torture because then it would give me a chance to tell the authorities exactly where the bomb isn't going to be.

Posted by: Guscat on February 13, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with this post 100%. I am a retired Army interrogator and taught interrogation for the Army for a number of years.

I would go on training exercises and deal with reservists. They would do crazy stuff in the interrogation booth.

"Where'd you learn that? That's not the right way to do it. Who taught you that??"

"I saw it in a movie."

Ummmm......Wow.

I try not to get involved in this debate because it makes my blood boil.

Although living in South Carolina, I have spoken to Lindsey Graham about this and furnished information in case they ever need a reference regarding torture and interrogation.

Posted by: Dave on February 13, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

It is really ironic to see the current fetish for torture. It used to be that we prided ourselves on treating prisoners humanely. It was what made us better than our adversaries, the Nazis and Japanese Imperialists, then the Communists. They were the ones who believed that "the end justifies the means." How many times growing up did I hear that as an epithet? We were different, though. We portrayed ourselves that way and our military was taught that. Undoubtedly some harsh interrogation did go on, but the key is that our self image was that we were better than the torturers.

Now we have a generation raised on Rambo, electronic games and "24" who have as their motto "whatever it takes." That is just another way of saying that the end justifies the means. It is as wrong now as it was then. And it has the added value of portraying Americans to the rest of the world as thugs.

The really ironic thing in Jane Mayer's article is that since the "ticking timebomb" is a fantasy that does not occur in real life, there is time to use persuasion and trickery that interrogators have found time and again really do work even though they are slow.

But our guys were so enamored with torture, from the very top on down, that we got ourselves all kinds of bad information that sent waves of panic through society about attacks on apartment houses, shopping malls, factories, banks, etc that wasted countless hours of police time (Abu Zubaydah interrogation--see "The One Percent Solution."

The other thing I find ironic is that if history should have taught us anything, it is that religious true believers are the least likely people to fold under pressure. Think the Christians and the lions. In fact, it was the early Christian martyrs' resoluteness in the face of horrible pain and death that impressed the more thoughtful Romans. People who are willing (even eager) to be martyrs are thus the least likely to be broken by torture. Unless they are unstable or mentally disabled, like Abu Zubaydah. But they can give a lot of misinformation.

The whole premise of "24" is thus onsense on several levels, but it seems to be doing some real damage to some of its younger and more impressionable adherents, who think it is the way to go.

Just one more reason to fear for our country.

Posted by: Mimikatz on February 13, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

So, Kevin, do I assume you have quit watching 24?

Posted by: Yancey Ward on February 13, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you, Dave.

Unfortunately, most opinions on this question seem to be informed neither by logic nor by facts, but by the movies.

However, I'm curious about one thing: in accounts I've read by Vietnam POWs, they say that when tortured shortly after capture, they usually would wind up giving up some information. They'd try to keep it relatively harmless, and only tell the interrogators things they probably already knew. But since the interrogators were VC who generally already had excellent information on the US order of battle and positions, it was sometimes hard for them to give up only falsehoods. So it seemed that torture was to some extent a productive strategy for VC interrogators, in situations where they could verify the information (or make the captives think they could verify the information), and where the information was not time-sensitive and the captives did not expect to be dead soon anyway.

This obviously doesn't have much to do with the US's captive terrorists, especially if they a. don't mind dying, b. have info that can't be easily verified, or c. are involved in a "ticking time bomb" situation where they just have to wait the torture out. (This, of course, never actually happens, but even if it did.) Still, I'm curious about your opinion on whether torture can, in some circumstances, provide useful intelligence - though of course those tend to be precisely the routine battlefield situations where we say we would never use it.

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 13, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

It's just TV, Kevin, relax.

While you, and Kevin, and I might be able to tell the difference... there's a whole lot of other folks who can't, or won't.

It's okay to over-react, especially when you're dealing with crazy people.

Posted by: Darryl Pearce on February 13, 2007 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't you know, Kevin, that if Bush (Cheney) and I have approved of the methods, it really isn't torture?

So, quit lying.

Americans aren't torturing anybody and neither is Jack Bauer.

Posted by: Alberto Gonzales on February 13, 2007 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Pro-war advocates are torturers. Can I get an Amen from the Democratic presidential candidates?

No, I did not think so.

Posted by: Brojo on February 13, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

"...Navarro, who estimates that he has conducted some twelve thousand interrogations,"

Does he do 3-4 a day, or has he been doing this for the last 50 years?

Posted by: Nemo on February 13, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

and high profile chatter monkeys like chris matthews rationalized the use of torture by citing '24'.

Posted by: linda on February 13, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

It's just TV, Kevin, relax.
Posted by: Frequency Kenneth

Then why do pussies like yourself keep insisting it isn't that bad?

Posted by: Nads on February 13, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Forcing those captives to watch O'Reilly was beyond the pale.

Liberal media? More and more right wing shows - this 24 garbage and then the constant re-runs of Law and Order disparaging defense counsels - And is Olbermann the last liberal working on cable?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 13, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

I try not to get involved in this debate because it makes my blood boil.

WTF man, you're exactly the kind of person that needs to be mucking it up in this debate. And it boils the blood of anyone with a human heart.

Posted by: Boronx on February 13, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

See? During the immoral Clinton years, only immoral people got to use effective techniques for extracting information. Now, in the Christ is King era, us good Christians get to use effective techniques on immoral people.

Jesus Wept.

Posted by: thersites on February 13, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

We stopped watching broadcast & cable TV years ago. We have a young daughter and we don't want her anywhere near this stuff. My Republican wife & I, a Dem, are are in full agreement on this.

Instead we watch a lot of old movies. Now, THAT's entertainment!

Posted by: Big Red on February 13, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

It's okay if our kids see regular scenes of torture on prime time television--just make sure they don't see any bare boobies!

Posted by: Ringo on February 13, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Torture is for the impatient.
Whatever happened to Patience being a virtue?

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on February 13, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

There are some of us who have never watched 24 due to reviews of its violent content.

Nor am I comfortable with how well we train the Future Murderers of America with the detailed information on CSI and same.

And torture isn't only overseas or done by qualified interrogators. Kids and animals are daily the victims of physical actions, in this country, of a degree that equates to torture but is calmly called abuse. Torture is about power, all else is secondary.

FrequencyKenneth: Try volunteering at an animal shelter for a while if you have the guts. That is something you can do right here at home, without signing up for the military. Perhaps your puritanical outlook on the effects of TV might be revised a bit after a taste of the hellish ways animals die at the hands of humans.

Posted by: Zit on February 13, 2007 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Tagalog Cassidy helped sanitize the idea of internment camps, and FOX sanitizes the notion of torture through its show '24.'

And?
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on February 13, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

For once, Kevin, you seem to hit on a target that most of us generally agree on. I found only 3 pro torture, & no rants. This will probably change over the next few hours. But it is really encouraging to see so many against it. There may be hope for Americans yet.

Frankly, torture does not work. If it did, there would have been many more trials scheduled from Guantanamo & other "camps". What attacks have been prevented have been from good old intelligence work.

On the other hand, exposure to scenes of torture & experiments in the early 60s have proved that exposure to it creates torturers.

Thanks again for your insight.

Posted by: bob in fla on February 13, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

That was a good article by Mayer, and made me question my viewership of 24, though I'm not giving up on it yet, just mulling it over.

Posted by: Jimm on February 13, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

A weird moment in my class last week: a woman (British) when she realized I was American asked me if I knew the show 24. I told her no, and she went on to tell me how much she loved it. I told her I'd heard it was VP Cheney's favorite show. She shut up about it then.

Posted by: KathyF on February 13, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

But a slip of garment during Super Bowl brings outrage to the nation. Talking about family values...

Posted by: Jörgen in Germany on February 13, 2007 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Mimikatz,
the ticking time bomb:
We had a related case in Germany. A young man abducted a boy for ransom. The police caught the young man and questioned him. He said the boy was in an underground seclusion and the police concuded from the description that the boy was in danger of suffocating within hours.
The police chief of Frankfurt threatened the young man with torture. The man then admitted to having killed the boy already.
The police chief was later convicted and then pardoned.

Posted by: Jörgen in Germany on February 13, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK


RINGO: It's okay if our kids see regular scenes of torture on prime time television--just make sure they don't see any bare boobies!

It's when you combine torture and boobies that the real fun starts!

But leave the kids out of it. Oh, and never spank them...because that's for adults, too.

In other words, I'd watch a show called 24/7.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 13, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

What's usually forgotten about Jack Bauer is that he's portrayed as a broken, troubled man. Everyone around him ends up hating him, and he hates himself. He realizes he has to act like a villain in order to be a superhero.

More problematic was when Captain Janeway threw a guy in an airlock and threatened to blow the hatch. (Yes, this was cited in the study.) Viewers recoiled in horror, but this event had no repercussions on the show (indeed, the character eventually got promoted to admiral).

Posted by: Grumpy on February 13, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Nice ending!

Posted by: klyde on February 13, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

It's just a form of entertainment in a world where nothing matters. Pass the hydrogenated oils, please.

Posted by: Kenji on February 13, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

I've heard from the left for years that pictures and videos are protected by free speech and don't really make anybody do anything.

I've been told "If you don't like it turn the channel."

Does this outrage against torture on TV mean that you agree with the right wing now? If so it is a welcomed change in the Progressive mind set.

But lefties won't do it because they are hypocrites.

It would be really bad if they showed all the torturous things which happen in the Muslim world. Or the video of Daniel Pearl. Or torture which maims it victims.

Cut the fake outrage Kevin, it doesn’t work.

Booksfoe, it was character who was not the American that put the knife through a terrorists knee. You must have been watching some other "24" this year.

Jack shoots people in the leg if he wants something. Above the knee of course.

Posted by: Orwell on February 13, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Torture is a logical outcome of the conservative ethos. In a world divided into good and evil and dominated by the virtue of raw power, human rights, the rights of man and constitutions do not exist. In a sense the world is too dangerous to put a limit on the actions of those who protect the nation. Evil requires evil. Or, if you like, the nature of politics necessitates amoral action. It is by no mistake that after 30 years of conservative politics the US is now a state sponsor of torture and unprovoked “preventative” war. It is also no mistake that it is first in executions among the developed nations and first in the percent of the population behind bars. Conservatives in power also seek to discipline every moral degenerate from the poor on welfare to women having abortions. Although this is counter to the liberal Constitutionalism on which the United States was founded, it comes as no surprise.

Posted by: bellumregio on February 13, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK


GRUMPY: What's usually forgotten about Jack Bauer is that he's portrayed as a broken, troubled man. Everyone around him ends up hating him, and he hates himself. He realizes he has to act like a villain in order to be a superhero.

And since superheros only exist on the screen, portrayals of their angst is equally unreal. The actual human beings engaging in such reprehensible behavior are likely to be far more broken and more troubled than any audience could endure watching--or even reading about, for that matter. But if you've got the stomach for it, here's a real-life example.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 13, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Just as torture can be encouraged by 'entertainment' so can cop-killing, adultery, theft, revenge, irresponsible parenthood, mysogyny,police brutality, bigotry, abuse,....

One of the major rifts between the left and the right stems from the left's unwillingness to admit that fact. We hide behind the first amendment and tolerate the promotion of things that should be contemptible. No wonder they think we have no values. Appeals are made to the worse angels of our nature because it is easy and profitable. Government censorship is not the answer,of course, but that doesnt mean we have to passively accept and finance such garbage; it also doesn't mean we have to remain silently outraged.

Americans want to be entertained 24/7. Novelty is expected and hard to come by, so the envelope is constantly being pushed.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on February 13, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

jayarbee: It's when you combine torture and boobies that the real fun starts!

Well, it's "Death By Sex" week on SPIKE TV (they're airing episodes of CSI that featured someone getting snuffed from kinky sex, which, I'm guessing, includes every episode ever made).

And since the US Army is probably that network's biggest advertiser. . . .

Hard to believe, but things might get uglier.

Posted by: Dwight on February 13, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK


MICHAELl7843853 G-O IN 08!: Just as torture can be encouraged by 'entertainment' so can cop-killing, adultery, theft, revenge, irresponsible parenthood, mysogyny,police brutality, bigotry, abuse,....

The behaviors you list are almost universally discouraged within the storylines in which they appear by means of bad outcomes for persons engaging in them. There's a big difference between encouraging a behavior by presenting it as a force for good versus the dramatic depiction of very negatively connotated or criminal behavior which is later punished.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 13, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Jack Bauer is not a superhero; he is much closer to a reluctant Übermensch who must transcended the limitations of conventional morality in the process of self-realization.

Posted by: bellumregio on February 13, 2007 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

If torture worked so well then shouldn't Germany and Japan, which employed torture, have had better battlefield intelligence during WWII than America and Britain, which didn't? And yet the reverse was invariably true.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

The behaviors you list are almost universally discouraged within the storylines in which they appear by means of bad outcomes for persons engaging in them.

Posted by: jayarbee

In general, you are correct about network TV, although police brutality, verbal abuse, and adultery often have no consequences. I used the term entertainment in order to include movies, music, art... I certainly should have put greed in the catalog of bad behavior.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on February 13, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Orwell and the Strawman

A tedious read, full of bilious and juvenile commentary and utterly devoid of any connection to the real world.

Posted by: Google_This on February 13, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Does this outrage against torture on TV mean that you agree with the right wing now? If so it is a welcomed change in the Progressive mind set.
But lefties won't do it because they are hypocrites.
Posted by: Orwell

Consistency is a good quality. And Orwell (the irony of this monker considering his postings, still amuses) is nothing if not consistent. As per his usual MO he consistently avoids the part of Kevin's posting that is most problematic, namely that the US Army finds the depictions of torture on "24" problematic:

    This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind “24.”...
    In fact, Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. “I’d like them to stop,” Finnegan said of the show’s producers. “They should do a show where torture backfires.”

So Orwell, what would you like to say to General Finnegan? Is he a hypocrite? Is his outrage fake? Please enlighten us.


Posted by: cyntax on February 13, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

It should be kept in mind that torture forms of interrorgation, as they are being used within the show "24", are being done typically in the crisis context of racing against a literal ticking bomb. The kinds of alternative suggestions made by the anti-torture expects in this article (i.e., building a trust factor with the person) are not realistic in such extreme scenarios. Torture may very well have its limitations, but the time-sensitive storylines in the show do not lend themselves to more subtle, open-ended methods.

To suggest that this show should conform to more reasonable methods would make the credibility of the show laughable in execution. Yet this is exactly what these experts are suggesting for the writers of the show to start to model.

Posted by: Craig on February 13, 2007 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

It may be "just television", but when the dean of West Point makes a personal visit to complain about the effect the show has on his cadets, I think we need to give this a little more consideration.

Unfortunately, even though the cadets are told by their professors that these methods are ineffective and illegal, they still aren't convinced. Perhaps the situation needs to be addressed a bit more bluntly:

"Real heroes endure pain,
cowards inflict pain"

Posted by: Alan on February 13, 2007 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

>>It would be really bad if they showed all the torturous things which happen in the Muslim world. Or the video of Daniel Pearl.

So are you saying torture is bad or only when "Muslims" do it?

>Or torture which maims it (sic) victims.

Classic. Your qualification speaks volumes. Torture which doesn't maim its victims...I assume that includes waterboarding, breaking bones, inducing hypothermia, and mock executions -- why that's just frat-house hijinks. Only one problem, how many prisoners have been beaten to death in US custody during interrogation? Or is "torture which maims its victims" worse than "torture which kills its victims?" At least you seem to acknowledge that there actually is a victim involved in torture.

Anyway, I thought the Leader's line was "We do not torture?" You are contradicting the Leader here, aren't you? Why don't you support the troops and why do you hate America?

Posted by: jimmy on February 13, 2007 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

To suggest that this show should conform to more reasonable methods would make the credibility of the show laughable in execution. Yet this is exactly what these experts are suggesting for the writers of the show to start to model.
Posted by: Craig

What's laughable is your failure to understand that the ticking time-bomb scenario also doesn't work:

    “These are very determined people, and they won’t turn just because you pull a fingernail out,” he told me. And Finnegan argued that torturing fanatical Islamist terrorists is particularly pointless. “They almost welcome torture,” he said. “They expect it. They want to be martyred.” A ticking time bomb, he pointed out, would make a suspect only more unwilling to talk. “They know if they can simply hold out several hours, all the more glory—the ticking time bomb will go off!”

Does reality ever factor into anything you guys think about or say?


Posted by: cyntax on February 13, 2007 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

So many TV shows promote the passive acceptance of fascism by the use of paranoid fantasies that make the world seem so overwhelmingly dangerous that only the government with unrestricted power can save it. Maybe that is why so many in the younger generations believe that there are too many freedoms.

Posted by: Neal on February 13, 2007 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

torture always works: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070213/ap_on_re_us/prisoner_abuse_cia

Posted by: otto on February 13, 2007 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Great post. The last paragraph was really poetic and well-written. It's an excellent point.

Posted by: Luke on February 13, 2007 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

That show always looked boring and loud.

Posted by: Theanine Breakfast on February 13, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

I'm much more offended by the torturous soap-opera style plot lines and ridiculous plot devices in /24/.

Posted by: Disputo on February 13, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

I'm also tired of sitting down with my 5-year-old son to watch a basketball game, only to get inundated with death images from coroner/cop TV show promos and torture scenes from "Saw III" advertisements.

What a sick country we are right now.

Posted by: GullyFoyle on February 13, 2007 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

only to get inundated with death images from coroner/cop TV show promos and torture scenes from "Saw III" advertisements.

Agreed. Is it just me, or have TV ads for the most horrible horror movies up a thousand-fold over a few years ago?

Posted by: Disputo on February 13, 2007 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

I'm also tired of sitting down with my 5-year-old son to watch a basketball game, only to get inundated with death images from coroner/cop TV show promos and torture scenes from "Saw III" advertisements.

The promos for the current crop of what I call torture pornography movies drive me insane. I simply cannot believe what the networks allow to run during prime-time when advertising "Saw" and its sadistic offspring -- lots of quick cuts of flesh being sliced, torture, innocent victims screaming. If I had seen that as a child I would have been severely upset, and I can't believe there hasn't been a bigger outcry about it. Why don't the various Christian groups who are always so happy to denounce a flash of nipple turn some of their abundant free time to getting this garbage off our screens? A promo of people moaning during fucking gets them incensed -- and yet a promo of people screaming when being carved up by a power saw doesn't seem to bother them all too much....it's absolutely revolting, and a sign of a sick and debased society that we tolerate this filth.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2007 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

Sadly, I think part of the torture fetishism on 24 is a case of art reflecting life. After all, what's different about now versus prior to 2001: the Daniel Pearl murder, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition and CIA black sites. Likewise, we heard about people being tortured with electric drills in stories from Iraq before we saw it on TV.

So, there's not only more torture on TV, there's more torture in real life as well.

Posted by: Joe Bob on February 13, 2007 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

bellumregio: "Jack Bauer is not a superhero; he is much closer to a reluctant Übermensch who must transcended the limitations of conventional morality in the process of self-realization."

Eh. Same thing. And boy, has Jack transcended.

Posted by: Grumpy on February 13, 2007 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

The former Israeli Mossad agent on NCIS is always bragging about the people she has or would kill, and her skill at extracting info via torture. Of course, she's one of the good guys.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on February 13, 2007 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

cyntax--

Another point about the "ticking time bomb" needs to be made. Not only is the scenario implausible for the obvious reasons you bring up, there is another deep problem with it.

If there really ever were a ticking time-bomb that was about to kill thousands of people and someone really thought that torture was the way to stop it, then it's likely the torture would occur anyway. Then what would happen in a normal, law-abiding society would be that the torturer (if found out) would be put on trial. The jury and judge would have to determine that he was guilty, but then in this particular case they would probably opt for a light sentence, given the circumstances.

That is how the law works, and that is why it is so, so stupid to even give an inch on the torture matter when it comes to what the law says and what public discourse encourages. Vague and exceedingly rare exceptions should not be built into the law itself. If neccesary, the exceptions can be taken into account in an open trial.

Posted by: kokblok on February 13, 2007 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who does not like a particular TV show has a sure fire remedy- don't watch!

Posted by: mhr on February 13, 2007 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

I've watched half a season before, and the full season of "24" last year.

Yes, it is contagiously exciting but at the same time ultimately irritating as there is no realistic story line, just a comic-book sense of reality and heroism that is particularly one-sided. It descends to the most trivial level of Hollywood nationalistic politics.

mhr, I can see why you would enjoy this program and never question a single word or action.

As a le Care reader, I like my thriller to hold somewhere close to a reality that relates to our present world and a plot line that holds up to at least some critical scrutiny.

We are not all children of US propaganda, nor believe that all the "good guys" are on one side.

However, we can watch some drivel, enjoy it for what it is and criticize it also. We don't all have to be wing-nut believers. I also watched "The A-Team" and enjoyed that drivel, too. Don't ever remember that relating to real life, either.

Posted by: notthere on February 13, 2007 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

Booksfoe, it was character who was not the American that put the knife through a terrorists knee. You must have been watching some other "24" this year. - Orwell

I said "characters on '24'" are allowed to plunge a Bowie knife into a guy's knee. You're saying the non-Americans on the show aren't actually characters, or something? What are they, scenery? Props? Incidentally, are you an American? You don't seem to write idiomatically correct English. Not that there's anything wrong with not being Ameican - but it does mean you can be locked up and tortured at the President's pleasure.

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 13, 2007 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

'm also tired of sitting down with my 5-year-old son to watch a basketball game, only to get inundated with death images from coroner/cop TV show promos and torture scenes from "Saw III" advertisements.

mhr responds: Anyone who does not like a particular TV show has a sure fire remedy- don't watch!

uh, yeah, whatever.

Posted by: snicker-snack on February 13, 2007 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

So, there's not only more torture on TV, there's more torture in real life as well.

I absolutely agree with the conservative troll who says liberals need to stop claiming that media don't influence action, and who take a maximalist free-speech approach to Hollywood pornography and splattergore. Such positions simply defy common sense -- and visible fact. There's a case to be made that there is nothing wrong with porn because there is nothing wrong with sex, but the idea that media doesn't influence behavior is ridiculous. And the most pernicious influence of media, by far, is its encouragement of warlike sentiments and violence. The kids who roared into Baghdad on their Strykers described themselves as feeling like they were playing "Grand Theft Auto". Do we think they were lying? We on the left have got to stop serving as flacks for the sex-and-violence merchants in the entertainment industry; the reflexive statement that you can "just turn it off" or that "it's only a movie" is as servile a kowtowing to corporate interests as are right-wing claims that SUVs are not causing global warming, or that guns don't kill people.

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 13, 2007 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe --

the first instinct is to agree with you but then I look at the range of media out there, what I have chosen to watch and what my adult daughter watches now and how we both disect it.

So it could be what you watch. It's also the frame within you watch it.

I'm not sure you can save mhr or Al or the others by not allowing them to watch tripe. They have never been given the critical ablility to discern. Viz. all their written submissions here. Case proven.

The propaganda starts a lot earlier and is generational. You'd actually have to create a positive force to show these people how they perceive the world.

With some people, logic and persuasion doesn't work. They are the product of their own propaganda. That's where the brown shirts came from.

Posted by: notthere on February 13, 2007 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on February 13, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

It's just TV, Kevin, relax.

-- Did you seen front page of Major News Papers yesterday? The Senate is going to introduce bill banning torture... That’s not TV. That is going to be in high school history books in 10 years.

And lets look back for a moment to one of our founding fathers. George Washington strictly enforced a no torture policy amongst his rag tag group of revolutionaries. He took a principled stand not to let Americans become the monsters that the Brits had become.

George Washington. George Bush.

That’s not TV. That is tragic.

Posted by: troll_bait on February 14, 2007 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

OK, Hollywood loves the Dixie Chicks and Nashville in general despises them. We have a culture war problem in the U.S.A. You can call me a brown shirt if you like, but I have spent some time in Spain and think that Franco was a far greater blessing to that country than he was a curse. Likewise, Castro and red-shirt Hugo are idiots worthy of the strongest opposition to their programs. Always they were, always they will be.

I am going to stick with the traditionalist side of things because I believe that the heroic nationalist, frontier expansionist phase of American history had many, many positive, God-blessed aspects driving it all. In fact, Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheistic intellectual traditions are positive historical determiners.

Not only that, but George Dubya Bush is a good man and I will clasp him to my bosom and defy you moronic twerps forever, and the day after if need be. . .

Posted by: mike cook on February 14, 2007 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Well Mike, I don't agree with anything that you've got to say. And by that I mean anything at all. But it's honest, and heartfelt. I appreciate that.

Not much else to say but that.

Posted by: troll_bait on February 14, 2007 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, well there is one more thing I could say. My roomate is from Nashville. And he thinks you're probably right. 55% of Nashville residents probably share your sentiment. But he and his family don't agree with anything you believe either.

Thought that might be useful.

Posted by: troll_bait on February 14, 2007 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

So what? If you're looking for musical taste, you don't look in Nashville -- you go to Memphis.

Posted by: Disputo on February 14, 2007 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

mike cook,

Well, since you can't vote in 1930s Spain or present-day Venezuela, it doesn't much matter what you think about these nations' leaders. If you want to support coup d'etats against democratically-elected governments (whether the Spanish Republic or Chavez's Venezuela) my guess is you'll run into quite a bit of opposition.

I doubt many Spaniards would agree with you about Franco. I agree that some tend to idealize the Loyalist cause, but the fact is that even when you take into account their numerous warts, they were still far better than Franco. The key again is that the Loyalists were defending the democratically elected government of Spain against a military usurpation. One would think that a fan of "democracy-building" such as yourself would be in favor of that. Furthermore, most of the advances you saw in Spanish society have taken place in the years since Franco's death. Franco would roll over in his grave to see what has become of Spain today under his successors.

You might as well have taken a visit to China and reported back that because its economy is booming, that means Mao was "the best thing" that could have happened to China.

Posted by: kokblok on February 14, 2007 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

You might as well have taken a visit to China and reported back that because its economy is booming, that means Mao was "the best thing" that could have happened to China.

Posted by: kokblok

Ummm...if you trot on over to China Digital Times you'll find a current piece arguing pretty much that very issue: Mao, as cruel as he was, set the table for the current (destructive, over-heated and unsustainable) economic development.

From International
Relations Center:

'China's Other Export'

'Currently, over 1,800 ocean-going fishing vessels under Chinese registry are fishing
the waters near 40 countries in three oceans. Competition for the shared fish stocks
of the China seas has intensified considerably over the past 20 years as fish catch
rates have declined due to pollution and over-fishing. Many species in the China
seas have declined so precipitously they now face total extinction.'

http://fpif.org/fpiftxt/3978

Posted by: MsNThrope on February 14, 2007 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Love it when Mike Cook hits the sauce and then posts - Helps the liquor industry in the Emerald City.

Mike, try some of the many fine Spanish wines which have been produced since Franco departed - and yes, he is still dead. Franco put a grip on their wine industry which led to a long period in which only mediocre wines were produced.

Imbibe and post anew.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 14, 2007 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

I am going to stick with the traditionalist side of things because I believe that the heroic nationalist, frontier expansionist phase of American history had many, many positive, God-blessed aspects driving it all.

Sure, just ask the American Indians...if you can find any, that is....

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2007 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Burp, actually I only drink working class wine that comes in a plastic box something like a child's lunchtime juice. The thing about Franco as I have said many times before is that he adroitly kept Spain neutral during W.W.II and even saved some Jews when he could. That covers a lot of sins.

But more to the topic of torture, today's sensitive lefties seem to label as "torture" anything that makes a prisoner uncomfortable. In that light the nation they really need to examine is Japan, which boasts of a 99.92% conviction rate. A full 95% of people detained confess to anything and everything alleged!

If you are arrested in Japan they won't leave a mark on you, but in five weeks you will break down and confess to whatever. This pernicious system has worked on American military personnel stationed in Okinawa and Japan for years. Please don't be accused of raping a prostitute--you will confess before all is said and done.

On what scale is the whole nation of Japan compared to the few hundred prisoners in Guantanimo?

Posted by: mike cook on February 14, 2007 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK
Then what would happen in a normal, law-abiding society would be that the torturer (if found out) would be put on trial.

Or would be pardoned, reducing the problem to an after-the-fact political evaluation of the specific circumstances by the legislature and electorate, rather than a before-the-fact overbroad hysterical fear-induced grant of excessive power to the executive.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2007 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK
I'm much more offended by the torturous soap-opera style plot lines and ridiculous plot devices in /24/.

I'm not offended by much in 24 because I don't watch it; if I want to watch TV, there's plenty of better stuff on.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2007 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

>>>I am going to stick with the traditionalist side of things because I believe that the heroic nationalist, frontier expansionist phase of American history had many, many positive, God-blessed aspects driving it all.

Sure, just ask the American Indians...if you can find any, that is....

Well, certain Native Americans conducted torture on a systematic scale, and a lot of good it did them!

Posted by: Xenos on February 14, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK
And the most pernicious influence of media, by far, is its encouragement of warlike sentiments and violence.

Even were this true, the correction for bad ideas—and that includes media images—is good ideas, not regulation.

The kids who roared into Baghdad on their Strykers described themselves as feeling like they were playing "Grand Theft Auto". Do we think they were lying?

That two things feel similar does not mean that one encourages the other; whether they are lying is absolutely immaterial, since even assuming they are telling the truth doesn't support the causal link you are trying to claim here. Certainly, vivid graphic (particularly interactive) digital portrayals of violence will produce some of the same feelings as actual experiences of violence. That's hardly surprising; but it does not mean that, e.g., the Iraq War is the fault of Grand Theft Auto.

We on the left have got to stop serving as flacks for the sex-and-violence merchants in the entertainment industry

If you feel like you are being such a flack, you should certainly feel free to stop; if you mean "other people" instead of "we", perhaps you should not abuse the first person.

the reflexive statement that you can "just turn it off" or that "it's only a movie" is as servile a kowtowing to corporate interests

No, its a statement of the facts. You can, in fact, turn the TV off. Fictional entertainment products are fictions. These are facts. If people are not prepared to adequately deal with fictions, the problem is one of parenting and education and needs to be addressed that way, not by denying freedom of expression, or free access to material, to all of society because some people can't handle it.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

mike cook--

Re: Franco's neutrality in WW2.

That's kind of a strange thing to like Franco for. Usually a patriotic American tends to like those nations which fight as our allies in a common cause more than those that sit out wars, but whatever. My guess is that Loyalist Spain could have been very valuable on the Allied side. Sure, their army wasn't much to speak of (although it certainly would have been stronger had the Civil War--which Franco started-- not just happened) but having a friendly land base from which to launch operations after the fall of France could have made a big difference.

Maybe so, maybe not. I guess it's fine that you say it was reasonable for Spain to stay out the war, just as it was reasonable for Switzerland and Sweden to do so (Switzerland is routinely vilified for this decision, of course, even though they too saved their Jews in the process and probably had less direct connections with Hitler than did Franco). But I wouldn't say this was a decision anyone should robustly cheer. I mean, Roosevelt and Churchill could have also decided not to get involved in WW2 and thus avoided the possibility of being conquered and having their Jews be killed as well. I don't think that anyone would have seen such a course of action as such a great thing, though.

Posted by: kokblok on February 14, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

What the...? I wouldn't have sauntered into this thread had I not been solemnly informed there would be no spanking.

Posted by: shortstop on February 14, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

A promo of people moaning during fucking gets them incensed -- and yet a promo of people screaming when being carved up by a power saw doesn't seem to bother them all too much....it's absolutely revolting, and a sign of a sick and debased society that we tolerate this filth.

It just goes to show that humans have more common ancestry with chimps than with bonobos...

Posted by: obscure on February 14, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK
I mean, Roosevelt and Churchill could have also decided not to get involved in WW2 and thus avoided the possibility of being conquered and having their Jews be killed as well.

Well, the UK could have and didn't; the US did choose to remain officially neutral in WW2 right up until attacked by Japan, and didn't declare war on Germany until after Germany declared war on the United States.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2007 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

so (Switzerland is routinely vilified for this decision, of course, even though they too saved their Jews in the process and probably had less direct connections with Hitler than did Franco)

To say the least. Hitler was threatening to invade Switzerland to get to France before he went through Belgium, and kept Switzerland under constant threat throughout rest of the war, whereas he sided with Franco during the civil war (I guess that everyone has forgotten about the Nazi's destruction of Guernica) and negotiated with Franco to join the Axis powers at the onset of WWII, but Franco's demands for support were too high. Even so, Franco provided the Nazis non-military support after the fall of France.

Franco didn't fight with his fellow fascists in WWII (mostly because he had destroyed his country during the civil war), but he was certainly not neutral.

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