The U.S. military believes the television show 24 — which has become a foreign policy guide for the right — is sending inappropriate messages to the troops condoning torture:
The United States Military Academy at West Point yesterday confirmed that Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan recently travelled to California to meet producers of the show, broadcast on the Fox channel. He told them that promoting illegal behaviour in the series – apparently hugely popular among the US military – was having a damaging effect on young troops.
The New York Times noted, “Very little public scrutiny – much less protest – of violent interrogation is depicted” on the show. Numerous conservative pundits have cited 24 as a sanction for harsh interrogation practices. For example, radio host Laura Ingraham has said:
The average American out there loves the show 24. OK? They love Jack Bauer. They love 24. In my mind that’s close to a national referendum that it’s OK to use tough tactics against high-level Al Qaeda operatives as we’re going to get.
In a recent interview, actor Keifer Sutherland — who plays the lead character Jack Bauer on the show — noted, “You torture someone and they’ll basically tell you exactly what you want to hear, whether it’s true or not, if you put someone in enough pain,” he said. U.S. intelligence officials have said that torture is extremely ineffective. Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence has said, “I am absolutely convinced…no good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tell us that.”
David Danzig, the head of Human Rights First — an anti-torture non-profit group — argued, “The image of the U.S. and its military [being involved in torture] is being affirmed” by the torture practices employed in the show. Undoubtedly, the Vice President’s sanction of tactics such as waterboarding also contributes to that image.