24 and Torture

I heard a story today about the TV show 24 and its use of Torture. Agent Jack Bauer is known for doing what ever it takes to get information. He is always able to get the information that he is looking for by applying the right kind of pain. The idea is that he only has a matter of hours to save the world. Of course you would use torture in that situation. It is just too important not to.

Of course the real world does not work that way. Agents who have captives do not have a matter of hours to save the world from an over complex plot. They do not know that they have the guy who has the one piece of key intelligence they need. They do not know which of the people they capture have important intelligence and which have meaningless information.

The truth of the matter is that torture does not work. Most of the time when people are tortured they say whatever they think will get the torture to stop. It is not a matter of truth at that point, it is a matter of getting the pain to stop. It is like beating a confession out of a criminal.

In the story they talked about the effect of shows like 24 on soldiers. Without clear guidelines from the leadership, soldiers looked to shows like 24 on how to get information out of prisoners. The producers of the show say that this is not their fault. They say people in the real world have to know the difference between fact and fiction.

To be honest I am not too worried about the effect on US soldiers. If they are looking to shows like 24 as a guideline, we have much deeper problem with the military and military leadership. I am worried about what people from the middle east thing when they see this show. I am worried because it is hard to pull apart fictions and truths when you do not live in a society.

Charlie Rose asked Kiefer Sutherland about the use of torture. Kiefer said that torture dramatic device. It is a way to show the viewers how dramatic the scene is. This bothers me more than anything else. I think that torture is a weak plot device. I think it is lazy writing.

One my problems with the torture in 24 is that it is always okay for Jack Bauer to do whatever it takes. He never lives with the moral weight of torture. The audience would always choose to torture the person who has the information. The stakes are always so high that it is always worth torturing the prisoner. I think this is a bad thing. I think that it effects the kind of hero that Jack Bauer is.

I have the feeling that 24 will only change if there is a dip in the ratings.


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