‘The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do.’
– US Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan on TV’s 24
That students cite Jack Bauer in class at at least one top US law school is as wacky as the storylines that helped me give up on 24 after the first couple of series. But then perhaps we should not be so surprised that the would-be interrogators take their cue from television. Jack is a hero and they don’t have any real role models to follow… or do they?
That secret detention centres exist in countries where the United States’ own laws don’t reach is well known. And even in the European Parliament you can get slammed as anti-American for condemning the delivery of suspects to interrogators who use torture, but still don’t deliver evidence that will stand up in court.
One of the greatest tragedies of the war in Iraq is that the United States has been able to talk the talk when it comes to democracy, but unable to walk the walk. 24 is a drama of our time and would not be taken so seriously in class or elsewhere if the real news did not also portray a macho America prepared to do whatever it takes.