’24’ Doesn’t Justify Torture

Monday nights at 9 p.m., millions of Americans tune in to watch ’24,’ one of the hottest shows on television. ’24’ depicts fictional character Jack Bauer, a federal agent who does whatever it takes to save the United States from terrorist plots of every type. Some viewers, however, are taking the series one step further than a simple means of relaxation from a long day at work. They are using it as a guide to interrogate and torture people. A Feb. 27 Newsweek article revealed that young American soldiers who watch the show actually believe that using torture techniques practiced by Jack Bauer will work. In fact, one soldier confessed that he and his fellow officers copied Bauer’s interrogation techniques while in Iraq.
When I first read the article I thought it must have been some sort of joke. How could military personnel believe that methods used on a television show would actually work in real life? The explanation turned out to be rather surprising. According to former U.S. Army specialist Tony Lagouranis, after soldiers were told the Geneva Conventions were obsolete, the military had no other formal training as far as interrogations were concerned. They were told to ‘be creative’ when coming up with ways to make the enemy talk. Since there was no guidebook provided by Washington, they turned to the only source they knew: ’24.’ Everything from the posture of the interrogator to mock executions, isolation, threats of rape and the execution of family members were used to make the detainees say what the soldiers wanted to hear.
Using television methods to perform a military task is not something that I approve of. Sure, they did not have any real training, but television should be the very last place our soldiers look for guidance.
First of all, television makes everything many times more dramatic then it really is so that viewers sit on the edge of their seats in suspense wondering what will happen next. Will she kiss him? Can he save the day? Is he really dead? What will they do now? Even so-called ‘reality’ shows go back and redo scenes or edit footage to shape a person’s character into one that the producers believe will draw in a bigger audience and have people talking about the show the next day. More importantly, it’s just a show, a work of fiction cooked up by some writers sitting in a studio hidden from the rest of the world.
No dramatic television show should ever be thought of as anything but fiction. In real life, interrogation scenes like those in ’24’ never happen that way, especially since many of the techniques that Jack Bauer uses are against the law. Interrogation tactics such as the ones used in ’24’ would most likely lead to false confessions. There is only so much torture a person can take, and once he or she reaches that limit, he or she will confess to anything no matter how ridiculous or how false it may be.
I don’t blame FOX Networks for what has happened. They created an artistic interpretation of what they believe is going on behind the scenes when the American people aren’t looking. Perhaps they could be a little more careful about how they portray certain events; however, it is not their responsibility to make sure the audience understands that it is all a work of fiction.
I blame the viewers. They should not be so gullible, and think that everything they see on the magic black box is really happening somewhere. A good audience member should be able to distinguish fact from fiction, and enjoy television shows without trying to reenact them.

Elizabeth Rico is a fourth-year English major. She can be reached at ricoe@uci.edu.