UPDATE: ’24’ To Tamp Down The Torture; Only Because It’s ‘Feeling A Little Trite’

Here’s the best evidence for a TV show boycott I’ve seen recently. Because, way too often, that medium’s producers and writers forget the very real consequences their shows have on the perception of America both abroad and at home. So, in “Whatever It Takes” in the new issue of The New Yorker, journalist Jane Mayer looks at the effect of those prevalent torture scenes in Fox TV’s 24 orchestrated by its self-professed “right-wing nut job”, co-creator and executive Joel Surnow. joelsurnow.jpgI’ve just read the article, and I gotta say that Surnow comes off as one of Hollywood’s biggest assholes. He told Mayer, “We’ve had all of these torture experts come by recently, and they say, ‘You don’t realize how many people are affected by this. Be careful.’ They say torture doesn’t work. But I don’t believe that.” But the facts are clear: 24’s regular depiction of torture as an interrogation method has touched off a culture clash between its producers and top military / law-enforcement officials over its effectiveness. Mayer reports: “This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind ’24.” Finnegan…was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country. [They] had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers.” 24torture.JPGAccording to Finnegan, misperceptions spread by 24 had made it “increasingly hard to convince some [West Point] cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not.” The experts told 24’s producers that contrary to the impression offered by their show, torture is not just illegal, but also unreliable. Of the show, Joel Surnow says, “Our only politics are that terrorists are bad.” But Mayer points out that “many prominent conservatives speak of 24 as if it were real.” A friend of Surnow’s joked that the conservative writers at 24 have become “like a Hollywood television annex to the White House. It’s like an auxiliary wing.” (Surnow and several others from the show even attended a private luncheon at the White House.) How tragic for TV audiences that, just like that White House crowd, here’s another right-winger who won’t let the facts get in the way of his ideology. There’s only one recourse: stop watching 24.