Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

September 28, 2007


Filed under: culture, politics — codesmithy @ 7:58 am

The New Yorker has an excellent article about Joel Surnow, co-creator and executive producer of “24” and apparently friends with Rush Limbaugh.

I have never really gotten into the “24” craze, although I think I understand the appeal. The ticking time bomb scenario, the do-anything-it-takes hero. The disparity lies between those that see “24” as a compelling narrative for plausible real-world scenarios or a highly-idealized fantasy world. The fact that “24” character Jack Bauer has directly entered into presidential debate answers is indicative of its effect on the culture and shows the extent to which the line has been blurred.

“Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty” is incredibly instructive to what is occurring. “24” appeals to the myth of evil. Terrorists have somehow gained the upper hand on the forces of good, and it is up to the hero to fight them. Since, evil is inherently weak and only gained its position through some sort of trickery (like the bleeding-heart liberals that enable them), it caves when confronted by the hero who is willing to really fight them and demonstrates it by torturing them. The fact that the hero will not succumb to the same treatment is further proof of his righteousness.

This is an extraordinary narrative and makes for great drama and entertainment, however it couldn’t be more divergent from reality. First of all, the “terrorists” rarely see themselves as evil. For them, they are on the side of righteousness and we are on the side of evil. Americans tell ourselves that they hate us for our prosperity. However, that is turning a blind eye to the civilians we have bombed, the legitimate leaders we have overthrown and brutal dictators we have backed. Americans tell ourselves that the Islamo-fascists kill themselves for virgins they are promised in heaven, not to affect political processes here on Earth, not for the sake of loved-ones killed or countrymen still suffering.

The hard fact of the matter is that torturing a terrorist in a time-bomb scenario is especially prone to not working. Terrorists know they merely have to hold out for the specified amount of time. The torture would vindicate the beliefs that the enemies are evil, and that they are truly on the side of righteousness.

However, it also speaks to a larger world view: the best way with people who oppose you is with a stick and not a carrot. There is no need to raise the conscience of humanity, no need for dreams and appeals. There is no need for reciprocity and unalienable rights, just anything it takes to stay on top. We are exceptional, and the rest of the world is base. This is the superiority complex that tyranny is made of. It is not enough to preach of the great liberal values of this nation, we must live by them also. “24” does not possess that morality. It is a fiction, and how they present scenarios in it is the “Bizzaro World” to this reality and surely leads to dystopian end no matter how happy-ever-after it turns out on T.V.


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