Wednesday, May 26

Twenty Four: The Torture is Finally Over

I actually used to like the show "24" during it's first season, but when you have an essentially ridiculous premise - continuing to ratchet it up more and more eventually led the show to a very dark place.

But what's actually infuriating is how much the show's own creators have been in deep denial about what the show actually became...

24 Producer Howard Gordon on NPR's Fresh AIr

"To say that we've been some ... mouthpiece for some political point of view — it's not only specious — but I promise you, it is insane.

Insane? Really, you don't want to go there Howard.

Let's start with Laura Ingraham...

Ingraham: The Average American, Loves "24". In my mind that's as much of a national referendum on the use of harsh tactics on al Qeada as we're likely to get.

"Insane" eh? Maybe in that case. How about the political view of show creator Joel Surnow who is an open and devout Conservative.

For all its fictional liberties, “24” depicts the fight against Islamist extremism much as the Bush Administration has defined it: as an all-consuming struggle for America’s survival that demands the toughest of tactics. Not long after September 11th, Vice-President Dick Cheney alluded vaguely to the fact that America must begin working through the “dark side” in countering terrorism. On “24,” the dark side is on full view. Surnow, who has jokingly called himself a “right-wing nut job,” shares his show’s hard-line perspective. Speaking of torture, he said, “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?”

Surnow, for his part, revels in his minority status inside the left-leaning entertainment industry. “Conservatives are the new oppressed class,” he joked in his office. “Isn’t it bizarre that in Hollywood it’s easier to come out as gay than as conservative?” His success with “24,” he said, has protected him from the more righteous elements of the Hollywood establishment. “Right now, they have to be nice to me,” he said. “But if the show tanks I’m sure they’ll kill me.” He spoke of his new conservative comedy show as an even bigger risk than “24.” “I’ll be front and center on the new show,” he said, then joked, “I’m ruining my chances of ever working again in Hollywood.”

That show actually did tank, I haven't seen Surnow since.

Surnow’s rightward turn was encouraged by one of his best friends, Cyrus Nowrasteh, a hard-core conservative who, in 2006, wrote and produced “The Path to 9/11,” a controversial ABC miniseries that presented President Clinton as having largely ignored the threat posed by Al Qaeda. (The show was denounced as defamatory by Democrats and by members of the 9/11 Commission; their complaints led ABC to call the program a “dramatization,” not a “documentary.”) Surnow and Nowrasteh met in 1985, when they worked together on “The Equalizer.” Nowrasteh, the son of a deposed adviser to the Shah of Iran, grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, where, like Surnow, he was alienated by the radicalism around him. He told me that he and Surnow, in addition to sharing an admiration for Reagan, found “L.A. a stultifying, stifling place because everyone thinks alike.” Nowrasteh said that he and Surnow regard “24” as a kind of wish fulfillment for America. “Every American wishes we had someone out there quietly taking care of business,” he said. “It’s a deep, dark ugly world out there. Maybe this is what Ollie North was trying to do. It would be nice to have a secret government that can get the answers and take care of business—even kill people. Jack Bauer fulfills that fantasy.”

And that's not a "Political" viewpoint? Seriously. Because of Nowreateh hit piece on the Clinton Administration which Lied in order to blame him for 9/11, which was presented without commercials on ABC - I've been boycotting that Network for years. So I've never seen an episode of Lost, untll the final one. I have been watching "V", but mostly to see if ABC is using it as a way to blast the Obama Administration over Healthcare - which so far they really haven't been.

Back to Gordon.

Any fly on the wall and anyone who's been there would tell you the same. So unfortunately, look — the show is a show for one thing. It's a thriller in the vein of Bourne Identity or Rambo or Dirty Harry. And the hero finds the bad guy and shakes out of him where the bomb is.

Hey, um, Howard - THAT is a political point of view. It's a short cut, it's simple-minded, and frankly most actual interrogators say it doesn't work.

Here's what the Human Rights First says about "24"...

"24" shows more torture than any other program on tv. Over and over again the heroes of the program are shown using torture to "break" detainees.

Now certainly Hollywood deserves a certain amount of artistic license and leeway - they're telling a story, and the primary criteria should be "Is it a Good Story?" - but unfortunately for "24" some of what is "Good" has rarely included anything even remotely like reality.

But not according to Gordon.

Frankly, for the first five years, I don't think you could find a single article or op-ed piece that used the word 'torture' or described that this was somehow morally repugnant or corrosive or anything. I think what happened was, when Abu Ghraib happened and Guantanamo happened — the show certainly benefited from some kind of post-9/11 wish fulfillment; you had a guy who cut to the chase, who did whatever was necessary, and again there was some wish fulfillment involved — I do think the show experienced some of the blowback. We did understand that the climate had changed, because of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, it had changed. ... [A]nd it put us into a conundrum. Honestly, at the end of Season 6 — where Jack had been acting a certain way — we had a choice: Either we renounce the series and admit we're a bunch of torture-mongering, morally corrosive torture pornographers or we find a way of confronting this issue and this changed world that we're in. And, in a strange way, it gave us fodder for the seventh season."

Here's the thing that Howard really doesn't get... some of the events at Guantanamo and abu Ghraib happened because of 24!. That's not me saying that... that's what some of the people on the ground have said.

In his NPR interview Gordon admits that they did meet with actual interrogators and he laments that real interrogation takes time and involves building trust - not using pain management or fear. The inherent problem with "24" is that they don't have the TIME to accurately display that process.

So as a result, they've had to LIE TO US the entire time - and this has given a mistaken impression that you can "Shake it out of them" which has resonated even with our troops in the field.

For those who would argue that the ultimate fault for abu Ghraib belongs with military leadership, you would be correct. President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld threw out the rules, they literally tossed the Army Field Manual (which was written to be consistent with Geneva) Out The Window!. They then began experimenting with a series of "24-ish" techniques, and after experienced FBI interrogators in the field began to object - and threatened to Arrest the CIA Contractors who were mistreating detainees, they sought legal cover from handpicked DOJ lawyers - who didn't look at a single example of Case Law, or previous trials and even executions of people who has used Waterboarding in the past - to justify and rationalize these illegal and ineffective techniques.

The fact is that the soldiers in the field had NO GUIDANCE - almost nobody has ever done a dramatic telling of what a real interrogation actually takes, because it takes too long - so yes, they did look to the only examples they had available, and that was Jack Bauer.

Even after eight seasons and the intervention of the Commandant of West Point, in the end "24" still failed. They never once - NOT ONCE - depicted anyone being tortured who LIED JUST TO MAKE IT STOP, except for Jack himself (who just didn't say anything) or his brother (who didn't mention the involvement of Jack's Dad in that years plot). Nobody gave them bogus information and led them down a rabbit hole or into a trap, to the very end they maintained the delusion that torture is "Effective" when the fact is - it's not.

Via the Wapo.

Air Force Interrogator Matthew Alexander: I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse.

Thanks Jack, nice job.

In the finale of the show, Jack goes on a violent rampage to uncover a conspiracy which is being protected by the President herself. He kidnaps and tortures a Russian assassin who had killed his girlfriend, ultimately disemboweling him - he shoots Secret Service agents, kidnaps former President Logan and beats him until he gets the information he wants. After he's shot by his friend Chloe and captured, he bites off the ear of Logan's Chief Aide.

The entire point of Jack's rampage is his desire to derail a Peace Agreement between the U.S., IRK (Iran) and the Russian Federation. This betrays a deeply wingnutty point of view, distrust in the U.N. and the efficacy of international agreements. Jack feels that the Russians committed crimes (which they did) in order to block the agreement and he objects to Logan essentially blackmailing them into the agreement - so he goes on to commit a shitload of Crimes to prevent it including multiple counts of cold-blooded murder, and when the show ends... we're supposed to feel sorry for poor little Jack, now exiled, alone and on the run?

Frack That.

He's a butcher. A sadistic mad dog psychopath. Making that man a "Hero" has been an unspeakable atrocity.

And now it's over... good riddance.


Update There's one more thing I gotta address...

Gordon: I would hope that most people know the difference between fantasy and reality...

Dude, we just went through 8 years where most of the Bush Administration didn't know the difference between a "clear and credible threat of WMD" and a pack of bullshit, wrapped in lies (gained under tortore!!) and served on a forged Niger purchase order.

They didn't know that "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." was NOT a "Historical Document".

They didn't know that "The Levees might be Over-topped" might mean that New Orleans was about to become one big giant bowl of Toxic Gumbo!

Some of them still don't know the difference between and a Kenyan and a Hawaiian!.

Some of them still think Fascism and Marxism are the same damn thing as Socialism!

Some of them don't know the difference between a Civilian Court System that has successfully prosecuted hundreds of terrorist suspects since 9-11, and a Military Commission system that's only prosecuted TWO of them.

Some think "Miranda" is a dirty word and still don't realize that if you want to detain someone "indefinitely", they would have to be a P.O.W. in an ongoing conflict and that in a military interrogation the only thing they can legally ask under Geneva would be "Name, Rank and Serial Number".

Some of the still are still asking "Where's the Oil" - "The impact will be Mild" just as Louisiana is thinking that their new state bird is about to be become the Brown Oily Pelican.

I mean, there are probably some people who think Lost was just the Reality Show "Survivor X-Treme!" and are still wondering "Who got the $1 Million?"


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