Jack Bauer v. The U.S. Army


I've never seen one episode of 24.

This is not the result of an aversion to violence, or a protest of terror-related plots. No, I'm just holding out for the right time. Like that one present you hide Christmas morning, waiting patiently to open when everyone else is done. If ever I find myself hopelessly unemployed or battling mono, I'll be prepared entertainment-wise. Other programs in this category include The Wire and seasons nine through seventeen of The Simpsons.

But let's get back to 24. In particular, the recent New Yorker story by Jane Mayer about the U.S. Army linking Jack Bauer to Abu Ghraib.

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. Finnegan, who was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, arrived on the set as the crew was filming. 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." It had become increasingly hard [for Finnegan] to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by 24, which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, "The kids see it, and say, "˜If torture is wrong, what about 24?' " He continued, "The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do."

The creative team was not convinced. Now feels like the time I should weigh in with commentary. But like I said, I've never seen the show.

[Thanks to Justin for saying, "Hey, did you read that New Yorker article about torture and 24?"]