Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Upside Of 24 (?)

Kevin Drum has an interesting post on Fox's 24 that makes me rethink some of my hostility to the show. When Kiefer Sutherland's character started engaging in torture as if it were a routine component of interrogation (this was early in the current season), the Cornerite crowd started going cuckoo for Kiefer. [Just imagine what John "kick one for me too" Derbyshire thought--ed.] However, if Kevin's summary is correct (I haven't seen the show, couldn't be convinced to, and will take his word for it), it turns out that all the uses of torture have failed to produce their hoped-for results.

Kevin concludes, first hesitantly and then with conviction, that the deep message here is that torture doesn't work.

He might be right. But (forgive me if I sound Derridean about this) the way the viewers of the show react to it has something to do with what the message of the show is; I wouldn't suggest that if we were talking about literature, but pulp entertainment for the proles is another sort of thing altogether.

So there are other possible configurations to consider:

1) The show's writers are trying to make the point that torture doesn't work. The viewing public interprets the show as an endorsement of torture.

2) The show's writers actually are endorsing torture and are too dumb to see that they have made the case against it. The public, also not the brightest bulbs on the Hannukah bush, take the same position as the writers. Everyone misses the point.

3) Despite the fact that the writers defend torture, the public takes away the opposite message: that torture doesn't work.

Just based on my hunches about the show itself and the Fox Network, I have to say that the scenario Kevin hopes will play out---the show is intended to be anti-torture and will be received as such---is too much to ask for. Scenario 1) is frighteningly likely (if the writers' motives are as Kevin says they are). But my guess is that it's either 2) or 3), and 2) is the likeliest of all.


At 2:46 AM, Blogger Dan said...

Considering you haven't seen the show, this is an absurd statement to make. The show has actually dealt with the negatives of torture and its misuse in two separate story lines (Sarah and the Defense Secretary's son). A similar point should be made about the Arab-Americans who complained about the depiction of Arabs as terrorists. The show at first seemed to be portraying many Arabs as terrorists, but then it honed in on 2 decent Arab characters who renounce terrorism. The show actually promotes very liberal views on both issues, it just takes awhile for that to become clear.

At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a prelude to my imminent continental perfect storm, please explain what you meant by "Derridean" -- i don't seem to understand your meaning, you unlettered ding-bat.

you know who


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