Monday, July 28, 2008

Mistaking Television for Reality

The opening paragraph of of this Newsweek article (HT Mark Shea) strikes me as ridiculously exaggerated, but... I don't even know what to say about the rest of it. Just wow:

The most influential legal thinker in the development of modern American interrogation policy is not a behavioral psychologist, international lawyer or counterinsurgency expert. Reading both Jane Mayer's stunning "The Dark Side," and Philippe Sands's "Torture Team," it quickly becomes plain that the prime mover of American interrogation doctrine is none other than the star of Fox television's "24," Jack Bauer.

This fictional counterterrorism agent—a man never at a loss for something to do with an electrode—has his fingerprints all over U.S. interrogation policy. As Sands and Mayer tell it, the lawyers designing interrogation techniques cited Bauer more frequently than the Constitution.

According to British lawyer and writer Sands, Jack Bauer—played by Kiefer Sutherland—was an inspiration at early "brainstorming meetings" of military officials at Guantánamo in September 2002. Diane Beaver, the staff judge advocate general who gave legal approval to 18 controversial interrogation techniques including waterboarding, sexual humiliation and terrorizing prisoners with dogs, told Sands that Bauer "gave people lots of ideas." Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security chief, gushed in a panel discussion on "24" organized by the Heritage Foundation that the show"reflects real life."

Somebody tell me this is fiction. Read the whole thing.


majorsteve said...

Ken, let me reassure you. Jack Bauer is fiction and this story is fiction. The CIA, the military, perhaps even the FBI do not look to Jack Bauer to decide what to do. The producers of "24" however, do consult with retired for story lines and progressions. Ken you said "somebody tell me this is fiction". It's fiction.

Ken Brown said...

I realize "24" is fiction, and I'm certain the article's claim that Bauer is "the most influential legal thinker" is pure bunkum (like I said "ridiculously exaggerated"), but the quotes by Beaver and Chertoff are startling.

What I wish were fiction was that the US military really does use torture techniques, not (like Jack) outside the law, but justified as though it were legal.

Anonymous said...

But isnt "jesus" an entirely fictional character too.

Made up way back when, by the then dominant "religious" power faction to justify and extend their worldly power and privilege.

And as a means of eliminating the "heretics" who had other equally valid understandings and interpretations of Saint Jesus of Galilee.

And as a means of "justifying" their conquests of every one else. And the wholesale murder and theft that that process always involved.
All done in the name of bringing "jesus" to the entire world.

That process of conquest, theft and murder is continuing now, even as you read these words.

Ken Brown said...

I'm sorry, Anonymous, but you are badly mistaken. Jesus was not "made up... by the then dominant 'religious' power faction to justify and extend their worldly power and privilege;" he was a man who was killed by the "dominant 'religious' power faction" in Roman Palestine, and for 300 years it was Jesus' followers who were killed as "heretics" (actually, the Romans called them "atheists," since they denied the pantheon).

I will grant that after Constantine, the Church often became identified with similar political power, with predictably deplorable results. But you will be hard pressed to find a significant idea or movement (religious or secular) that hasn't been abused in that way at various points in history.

I'm curious what Christians you believe are "even now" engaging in "conquest, theft and murder" in the name of Jesus.

In any case, I assume we both agree that those who justify conquest and torture on the basis of any story, fictional or otherwise, abuse their position and are utterly deplorable, and this is as true today as it was in Medieval Europe, or Revolutionary France, or Stalinist Russia, or a thousand other places.