Hi, everybody! Hope everyone enjoyed their weekends. My 30th birthday weekend went just great, thanks to everyone who wrote or called to say Happy Birthday. I really appreciated it. Anyway my folks took me and whole gang out Saturday night to watch me gorge myself on sushi in a frigid Atlanta restaurant. We all had a good time so thanks to my muzzuh and fazzuh for that. The next day, Peggy's folks took the wife and I to a barbecue joint called Smokey Bones and presented me with, among other things, "Gears of War" as well as a customizable face plate for the 360. I got home and promptly printed out this drawing of Blinky and made it my new faceplate. Looks pretty cool, I think. Then we went to see "Hannibal Returns", but that's for another post.
Okay, onto the topic at hand, namely "24". This show, of which I am a fan, airs on Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox. The show, not surprisingly, skews right. Previously, in interviews with the press, the writers have been careful to assure viewers that the writing staff has its share of conservatives and liberals and no one ideology dominates the room, but it's still pretty obvious the right-wingers have more sway. I also know there's a fair amount of hypocrisy on my part for enjoying the many many scenes of torture depicted on the show, while at the same time deeply opposed to the practice in real life, but so far it hasn't swayed me from watching. I started watching this current season of "24" reasonably comfortable with these contradictions.
This article from The New Yorker, however, has got me thinking in a different way. Is it possible that "24" is normalizing the idea of an America that tortures where, just a few years ago (pre-Bush the Younger) it was a point of moral pride that Americans did not torture? Could my support of the show be perpetuating the myth that torture is effective and something that self-sacrificing patriots do to extract information? As the article reveals conclusively and horrifyingly, Joel Surnow (pictured), who is the executive producer of the show, is a self-described "right-wing whacko" who likes and agrees with Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, Roger Ailes, Lynne Cheney (whose a "big fan"), the President, Karl Rove, the Vice President, Joe McCarthy, and a host of other Republican low-lights. They seem to like him back. After reading the article, my kneejerk reaction is that I want to scrub all the seasons of "24" from my brain and curse it from the rooftops so loathsome and antithetical to my belief system is Surnow and his ilk.
That being said, I am a little hesitant to embrace the implications of this article whole-heartedly because the argument is, at heart, "don't put this on TV because look what it's making people do". Which is one of my least favorite arguments. Don't let them make violent video games because look at all the people it made my little Timmy kill. Don't let them put those curse-word lyrics on that CD because look what it's making my little Timmy say. The links between consuming those media and then perpetrating crimes is, to my mind, essentially zero.
On the other hand, the link between six years of a popular show like "24" in which nearly every other episode features a scene depicting extreme torture, and six years of an administration working non-stop to legalize torture for use by the U.S. military, maybe isn't so tenuous. According to the article, U.S. military brass had a pow-wow with the show's writers asking them to tone down the torture and find ways to make it more realistic because it was giving the military interrogators the wrong idea about how torture really works. That's a big deal. (Surnow did not, by the way, attend that pow-wow. He had a "meeting", supposedly with Roger Ailes. Shudder.) When Jack Bauer himself, Kiefer Sutherland was presented by this delegation evidence of the show's unintended consequences, he got worried because he's anti-torture himself. (As for Joe McCarthy-apologist Surnow? Not worried a bit.) (By the way, the writers agreed to change nothing.)
As the article references, many a rightist pundit has held up the popularity of "24" as a kind of unofficial referendum on where Americans are on torture, and in their eyes, the big numbers for the show mean America's pretty much for it. Now if it were just the radio fascists like Hannity, Limbaugh and Ingraham who were trying to equate "24"'s popularity with a silent majority concensus on torture, than I don't think it would be an issue. Ninety-five percent of what they say is bullshit anyway. But when the "Torture-is-AOK" crew at the Bush White House (like Cheney, Gonzales, Bush,) start using the show to push their pro-torture agendas, I start to get a little more than just queasy about tuning in myself every Monday night. It feels like if I watch "24", then the Bush White House wins.
Also, I don't want anything to do with enriching this Surnow character. In addition to the right-skewing "24", he's going to executive produce the new Fox News "comedy" show designed to be the answer to "The Daily Show", which sort of offends me on a visceral level. As if these Bush White House apologists could make something legitimately funny. This from the network that brought Dennis Miller onto "Hannity and Colmes" for a few minutes of stand-up every week. I caught a minute of that. Wow. Even the crickets withheld their chirping. (The fact is conservatism is inherently unfunny. It's something they have to learn to deal with. They get to be the unapologetic macho alpha-male assholes, and we get to be funny.)
Anyway, "24" airs tonight. "Two hours of Bauer" as they're saying. Ordinarily, I'd be hyped for this, but now all this Surnow stuff. . . I don't want to be led around by the nose by the New Yorker like a good liberal, either, but it gives me serious pause. I don't know.
Anyway, if you're a fan of the show like I am, I strongly reccomend this disquieting article. Let me know what you think.