Monday, January 12, 2009

Things I learned while watching "24" on FOX

posted by The Vidiot @ 11:13 AM Permalink

The show is well-written, entertaining and at times, suspenseful. However, you must keep your eyes open to the subtle messaging that you are being bombarded with. As they manipulate your emotions, they're inserting ideas; really bad ideas.
  1. Torture is OK for the right reasons because it saves lives.
  2. The torturer rationalizes and maybe even suffers emotional stress due to his use of torture and that makes him sympathetic and even respectable.
  3. Being known as a torturer makes it easier to extract information from those who have it because everyone knows "what they're capable of." And that's a useful thing.
  4. Only those who truly understand the torturer's line of work not only understand it, but appreciate, respect and fully support it.
  5. Any FBI agent can be tracked using their comm system.
  6. The president is under constant pressure to make life and death decisions every second of every day.
With respect to point six above, the level of pressure that a president is portrayed as having is unrealistic. No human being could physically withstand such pressure for one year, let alone four years or even eight years straight. Even though you may know that their dramatizing the work day of a president, part of you thinks "Well, the president DOES make life and death decisions, just not that many." You must think past the obviously theatrical presentation and realize the obvious; that the president is no more than a figurehead for powerful players. The show dials it up so you can dial it back a bit. They don't want folks thinking the truth: that the president doesn't have any real power and never has. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain....

For point five, the tracking of the FBI agent, what they didn't mention was that all of us have a comm system in the form of a cell phone that can be similarly tracked. Wouldn't want to raise that flag in anyone's mind, now would they? They made it seem like only a federal agent could be tracked. Yeah. Right. (And don't even get me started on the perfectly functioning database that brings up the most minute information on anyone they need to know about.)

The points on torture have always been the show's forte. They create these emotionally charged moments and when the torture happens, and people are saved, all is well and the torture seems right. Most folks probably don't even notice that the acceptance of torture is happening to them. Others might say "oh, I know it's a TV show for chrissakes. I'm against torture." But unless you really think about what the show is doing and how they're doing it, it'll be in there somewhere in your brain, dialing down your reaction to news of actual torture just a notch or two, inserting a little thread of doubt and acceptance, like "maybe they got good information out of them", and it's just enough to start letting torture (and the torturers) slide.

The trick of the show is this: dial up the atrocities and the shock effect so folks can draw them back down to what they think is reality. But, if you're really aware of what they're doing, you'll more than likely realize that dialing it back isn't what needs to happen, you need to reverse it entirely; torture is never right, the torturer more than likely feels no remorse, the president is a figurehead, the database NEVER works that well, EVERYONE can be tracked, etc. and so forth.

Get it? Good.

Update: Good article on new government admissions regarding torture in Slate.

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At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even worse, the show probably fed into torture being used at Guantánamo. From a Vanity Fair article:

During September a series of brainstorming meetings were held at Guantánamo to discuss new [interrogation] techniques. . . . Ideas [also] arose from other sources. The first year of Fox TV’s dramatic series 24 came to a conclusion in spring 2002, and the second year of the series began that fall. An inescapable message of the program is that torture works. “We saw it on cable,” Beaver recalled. “People had already seen the first series. It was hugely popular.” Jack Bauer had many friends at Guantánamo, Beaver added. “He gave people lots of ideas.”

At 4:06 PM, Blogger The Vidiot said...

well doesn't that just warm the cockles of your heart?

You know you're going down the wrong path if you saw it on FOX and agreed with it (unless of course it's the simpsons, family guy or american dad).


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