The Right's Jack Bauer Fantasy: 'Clip the Electrodes to His Balls and Turn on the Juice'
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Credit where credit is due. The TV show "24" is probably the most significant piece of political drama in the last decade.
On one hand, it is very likely that Barack Obama got elected because America had already had a serious black presidential candidate (one season) and two black presidents (one season each). And he was always the most decent guy in the room. Often, the only decent guy in the room. Just like Obama.
On the other hand, there's torture.
* Terrorists are going to nuke Los Angeles in three hours.
* Agent Jack Bauer has a suspect who knows where the bomb is.
* If Jack Bauer tortures the suspect, he can force him to say where it is, get there in 2 hours and 59 minutes, stop the bomb, and save 10 million people.
* What should, what must, Jack Bauer do?
That's a no-brainer. Clip the electrodes to his balls and turn on the juice.
I don't know how many people have actually watched "24," but there's not a person in America who is not familiar with the "ticking-bomb scenario." It sounds so darn logical that it's hard not to buy into it. A remarkable number of people have.
Dick Cheney and Michael Chertoff (ex-head of Homeland Security) are big fans. They thought that they were directing real-life Jack Bauers.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said a Jack Bauer should not be prosecuted, because "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives."
If he were prosecuted, Alan Dershowitz has already laid out the defense!
As drama, the ticking bomb is thrilling. "24" is the "Perils of Pauline" on crack.
In reality, it is a pernicious and deceitful fantasy.
The reference point is, of course, 9/11. Before that day, we were soft and naïve. If only we had tortured someone, we could have stopped it. And saved American lives! That, of course, is utterly false.
We had quite enough information to have prevented 9/11. It had been gathered through normal and legal police and intelligence methods. It was not used due to bureaucratic infighting, ineptitude, incompetence, excess secrecy, and, most of all, the willful and pointed disregard of that information by Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush.
Now, we're smart and tough. We do torture light and outsource the really evil stuff. Has it worked?
In October 2001, the FBI put out a Most Wanted Terrorists list. It had 22 names on it. As of 2006, 17 of them were still at large. Including Osama bin Laden. Mullah Omar wasn't on the list. But he's the other guy we invaded Afghanistan to get. He's still around and actively leading the Taliban.
Yeah, well, I bet going "to the dark side" stopped a bunch of terrorist attacks.
None that we know of.
Yeah, of course not. When our secret intelligence services secretly foil a secret terrorist plot, it's gotta be secret! National effin' Security! Period. Dot. Exclamation point! End quote!
The Bush administration trumpeted every arrest, capture or kill they ever made:
- The Lackawanna Seven
- The Sears Tower Plot
- The Shoe Bomber
- Jose Padilla, who was going to use a "dirty bomb."
Each and every one of them sounded like a job for Jack Bauer when they were first announced. Then, somehow, all the "terrorists" they caught turned out to be inept losers. The terror plots turned out to be bull sessions, attempts to buy weapons from FBI agents or visits to Afghanistan long before 9/11.