Torture image

The US military is irked. They say that special agent Jack Bauer of ’24’ fame and his interrogation methods are giving it a bad name. They want Jack (played by Kiefer Sutherland) to cut out the rough stuff.

Apparently slapping around the bad guys is not how the US military wants to be seen. Jack, of course, has shot, suffocated, electrocuted and drugged suspects. He tells them things such as “You are going to tell me what I want to know – it’s just a matter of how much you want it to hurt.”

It isn’t the first time Jack has been in trouble. Two years ago the Muslim Council of Britain asked media watchdog Ofcom to investigate whether ’24’ breached broadcasting rules governing the representation of minorities.

Of course, you have to say these things to get the job done and save the city of Los Angeles (I guess he’s still trying to save LA, I haven’t watched it since season 2).

Muslims are taking complaints about the drama ’24’, which features a family of Islamic terrorists, to media watchdog Ofcom asking it to investigate whether the show breaches broadcasting rules.

This time, the US top brass are taking it seriously enough to send a Brigadier General, Patrick Finnegan, to meet with producers at the Fox-produced show to put across their message that the methods shown in ’24’ are having an impact on troops in the field and on America’s reputation abroad.

Clearly, the US is not so worried about its secret CIA detention centres in Eastern Europe, used for unlucky terrorists or for those who made it to Abu Ghraib or the Caribbean luxury of Gitmo. It is reported that more than 700 investigations have been carried out by the US Army involving prisoner abuse and 25 detainees have died in American custody.

According to the New Yorker magazine, Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, who teaches at elite US military Academy West Point course on the laws of war, said of the producers: “I’d like them to stop. They should do a show where torture backfires… The kids see it and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about 24’?

“The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do.”

Also involved in the campaign to force a change is campaigning body Human Rights First, which has launched a campaign against torture real and TV torture.

According to HRF, post 9/11 torture on TV is on the rise. No surprise, really, that the number of shows dealing with it has risen, from the likes of ‘Spooks’, the David Mamet produced ‘The Unit’ on Bravo, ‘The E-Ring’, ‘Sleeper Cell’ and the critically acclaimed remake of ‘Battlestar Galactica’, which has had torture and suicide bombers, with The Guardian saying it is the “only award-winning drama that dares tackle the war on terror”.

David Danzig of HRF, said: “I think there is no question [it is having an effect]. We have spoken to soldiers with experience in Iraq who say, for young soldiers, there is a direct relationship between what they are doing in their jobs and what they see on TV… It’s the same abroad. The image of the US and its military [being involved in torture] is being affirmed.”

The New Yorker has a story about Joel Surnow, the show’s creator and a self-described “right-wing nut”. Not only was Surnow visited by Finnegan, but by three top military and FBI interrogators.

Gary Solis, a retired law professor at West Point, told the New Yorker that his students would frequently refer to Jack Bauer in discussions of what permissible in the questioning of terrorist suspects.

“Jack Bauer is a criminal. In real life, he would be prosecuted.” Yet Solis said the motto of many of his students was identical to Jack Bauer’s: “Whatever it takes.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that, after the meeting with Finnegan and the interrogators, ’24’ executive producer Howard Gordon has been filmed “for a Humans Rights First video” about torture that is expected to be used next autumn at West Point. Surnow, however, would not participate in the film. What right-wing nut would?