Since I don’t watch TV, I guess maybe I’m too easily shocked when I find out what kinds of crap people are watching. A recent New Yorker article about Fox’s 24 raises some very frightening questions about the psyche of the large segment of our population that devours this garbage.
24, for those as uninformed as I was, is a show about a fictitious counterterrorism unit, in which the “good guys” frequently use torture on the “bad guys”. Apparently the idea that good guys don’t torture people is no longer in vogue. And of course, since this is TV, the good guys always win. Torture works. It’s a great way to extract information from a terrorist when you have a “ticking time bomb” scenario.
It’s somewhat disturbing that so many people in our society apparently enjoy watching people being tortured. It’s also disturbing that, in spite of their claims that “It’s just a TV show”, it’s having an effect on people’s view of reality. In debates about real torture committed by US forces or their outsourcers, people frequently claim that it’s justified because it works, because they’ve seen it work on TV.
According to Tony Lagouranis, a former Army interrogator who served in Iraq:
DVDs of shows such as 24 circulate widely among soldiers stationed in Iraq. Lagouranis says, “People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen.”
Lagouranis was so concerned by this that he was one of a group who met with 24‘s producers and asked them to make changes. The group also included U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, who complained that the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. Finnegan suggests “They should do a show where torture backfires.”
I’m not a big fan of censorship. I don’t think the government should be able to force Fox to cut out this vile garbage. I don’t even think that Fox should be pressured to voluntarily self-censor their show. But I do think that this type of “entertainment” is far more damaging than an accidental glimpse of Janet Jackson’s boob, which is enough to cause a national outrage.
I’m also fairly certain that if the “liberal media” (which is apparently any network that isn’t Fox) was running a show that high-ranking military officials considered detrimental to US interests, and ignored requests to reconsider it, the Limbaugh crowd would be frothing at the mouth calling them “traitors” who “hate America”. But a show that glorifies the Bush-Cheney philosophy that torture is good when good guys do it is just peachy, even if the folks who are trying to fight this useless war think it’s harmful. Did I hear somebody say “Support the troops”? I guess not.