the return of jack bauer

I think it was two seasons ago that Kiefer Sutherland, portraying counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer, arranged to meet with an informant living under government protection. (He had provided evidence against a drug kingpin). Once they met, there were a few pleasantries, and, then, Jack promptly got to the business at hand — sawing off guy’s head and dropping it into a messenger bag. The whole scene probably took about two and a half minutes… Yeah, the guy was probably bad, but he wasn’t a terrorist, and the United States government had given him its word that he’d be protected. But, you see, Jack really needed his head, and that’s all that really mattered.

Jack needed this guy’s head in order to gain the trust of the man whom the informant had ratted out, so that made it acceptable. That’s the logic of “24,” which starts its sixth season tonight on Fox. The Bill of Rights is good and all, but sometimes the rules just need to be broken. (A few seasons ago, Jack had to murder his boss in order to save thousands of lives.) Anyway, I know it’s fucked up, but I love the show, and I’m anxiously awaiting tonight’s 2-hour premier. Yes, I feel dirty and disgusting for loving it so much, but I can’t help it. I’m addicted.

Is it a symptom of what’s wrong in our country, or is it responsible for it. I suspect it’s a little bit of both. Surely, watching “24” wouldn’t likely make people less accepting of torture. We’ve all seen torture work on “24,” and we’ve seen the millions of lives that have been saved as a result of it. But it would be unfair to suggest that “24” alone is the reason that there wasn’t any more fallout in the United States for the torture our men and women inflicted on the prisoners held at Abu Ghraib. And “24” can’t, by itself, be blamed for the fact that there weren’t riots in the street when it was reported that our President had referred to the U.S. Constitution as “just a goddamned piece of paper.” But, it’s clearly a part of our culture, and one can’t deny that, over the past five years, we as a people have become much more tolerant of torture, warrentless searches, phone tapping, mail reading, and all the rest of it.

At best the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights especially, are pieces of paper. At worst they’re anachronisms — anachronisms which could cost us our lives. At least that’s the message you take away from “24.”

In the last season, there was an ACLU attorney. He’d come into the LA office of the Counter Terrorism Unit to defend a person clearly guilty of planning a terrorist attack. I can’t remember the specifics. Maybe he was saying that they didn’t have any right to look through his client’s computer hard drive. Whatever it was, it was unacceptable. People – good Americans – were going to die. So, Jack did what he had to do. He knocked the ACLU fucker cold and went ahead with the interrogation. And we all know that he did exactly the right thing.

The fantasy is that we believe there are people that bright — that all-knowing — in our government. When we give up our rights, we do so with the belief that the agents looking over our phone records will be able to know instinctively that we’re on the right side. We don’t think about all the heads that have been removed unnecessarily.

So, what’s my point? I don’t know… I’m about to watch this show, and root for Jack Bauer, and it makes me feel a bit ill. In a few hours, I’ll be sitting on the couch, rubbing my hands together excitedly as he knocks out ACLU attorneys and saws the heads off of those that stand between him and his objective. I don’t know what it means for society, when someone as far left as I am starts salivating over this stuff, but it can’t be good.

I’m afraid we’re completely fucked.

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  1. mark
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I just got to the “New York Times” review of the premier. Here’s a clip that I think pertains to my post:

    …Torture, presented with gusto and almost no moral compunction, is an increasingly popular way of gathering intelligence on “24.” If anything, the new season seems even more intent on hammering home the message that torture is necessary in the war against terror, and that despite what some experts claim, torture works.

    At one point, Jack plunges a knife into a suspect’s shoulder, then relents, convinced that the man will not talk. A more ruthless associate disagrees and plunges the knife into the captive’s knee, ripping upward until the man screams out the location of his leader.…

  2. mark
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    And I guess it wasn’t an ACLU attorney. According to the “New York Times,” the name of the organization was “Amnesty Global”.

  3. mark
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    OK, one more interesting clip from that same article:

    …For obvious reasons, the series is a favorite of the Bush administration and many Republicans. Last season, Senator John McCain made a cameo appearance (despite his objections to torture)…

    How did I miss a fucking John McCain cameo? And what the fuck could he be thinking? Clearly at some point last year he must have decided that, to win the White House, he had to embrace torture. It’s really makes me sick to watch him cast asside his values as he enters the race. (He also voted in favor of Bush’s torture bill.)

  4. stevarino
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    I for one would like to see a return to more realistic television programs. Shows that portray the struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, as they truly are in everyday life. Yes, I’m referring to such classics as “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “Spongebob Squarepants,” and the brutal, uncompromising “Superfriends.”

  5. mark
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    He tore that fucker’s throat out WITH HIS TEETH! Did you see that shit?

  6. egpenet
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    … and no fava beans! Mmmmmm.

    It’s not black and white, right/wrong, win/lose … it’s not that we prevail, but that we endure.

    Jack says it best in the open … “I stayed alive in China, because I didn’t want to die for nothing.” Sounds like McCain to me.

    Human life on this planet has always been about enduring. That’s the key to Jack Bauer’s spirit. And it’s the question we face with Global Warming … not how we’ll BEAT it … but how will we endure as we confront the challenge.

  7. Dr. Cherry
    Posted January 15, 2007 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    24 is useful for allowing Americans to get comfortable with doublethink (a.k.a “reality control”).

    It’s the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

  8. t.d. glass
    Posted January 15, 2007 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I want to see him choke someone to death with the Constitution.

  9. t.d. glass
    Posted January 15, 2007 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Everything else is just foreplay.

  10. ol' e cross
    Posted January 15, 2007 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to see him soak the Constitution in oil, shove it down the terrorist’s throat, then light it causing the terrorist’s head to explode off his shoulders. You know, as a poetic metaphor.

  11. t.d. glass
    Posted January 15, 2007 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Great idea. I’d add to it that Jack should cram the Constitution down the terrorist’s throat with a crucifix, kind of like as if he were loading a musket.

  12. danandkitty
    Posted January 15, 2007 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I have been concerned about what 24 means since it came on the tee vee. I have avoided it because of the way that it appears to create an atmosphere that the war on terror is actually happening (albeit in a fictional tee vee show.) It worries me. I WOULD feel a lot better about it if Jack Bauer was killing vampires instead of terrorists.

    They should just cut the crap and change Jack BAuer’s name to JOhn McCain.

  13. mark
    Posted January 15, 2007 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Tonight’s double episode ended with the nuking of Valencia, California.

    And, it’s not related to the plot at all, but, according to an ad that ran during the show, they’re going to be selling DVDs of these first four episodes tomorrow. I’m curious to see how well they sell.

  14. egpenet
    Posted January 15, 2007 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    I have been to Valencia … oh, well. As long as they don’t bother Ukiah or Lake City, I’ll let Valencia go. If they need help selecting the other hour “visitor” targets, I wish they’d let us vote.

    Romulus is too close, but I’d put that in my top ten. Then, in no particular order, there’s Salt Lake City, UT; Howell MI, if they could keep the fallout from hitting Brighton; Sedona, AZ, just to get rid of the overdevelopment and help return the area to its pre-voodoo origins … which a nuke would do; Crawford, TX, just to give George another headache (nothin’ there but cows and red ants); the locker room of the Duke LaCrosse team, all damage restricted to the shower room and the coach’s office (Somewhere in North Carolina, wherever the heck THAT is); O.J. Simpson’s house in Los Angeles, CA (again damage restricted to O.J.’s king-size, fully-adjustable bed) … am I at 10 yet? …
    I might suggest Water Street, Ypsilanti, MI, only because it would help with the remaining demolition and would totally solve the remediation of all of the toxic waste at the site, and we’d get lots of Federal aid, maybe, unless Bush spends it all on Plan #2 … except the prevailing winds would close the Bomber Restaurant for a few years, which is NOT my plan … still thinking … OK … I have it … ignore all of the above, let’s put all four spare “visitor” nukes in Ave Maria City, just East of Naples … sorry Everglades … you’ll recover eventually … but that new development has GOT to GO … and who best to rid this country of crusader rabbit than the make-believe terrorists on 24? Yummy!

    Have another one for me. I’m off to dreamland. Good night.

  15. paulg
    Posted January 20, 2007 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    Wow, I had no idea 24 was about justifying torture. I’d seen a few commercial clips over the years and assumed it was just another “action drama.” Sounds like it’s time to shoot your television, Mark.

    Or try going cable-free. You’ll get used to it after awhile.

    I read the NYT review from the perspective of someone who has no clue about the show. I have to say I was disappointed- it was more a plot summary than a review. And it had a jarring writing style and was full of nonsequiturs, so it wasn’t even a good plot summary. I came away from it with the same level of enlightenment I had going in…

  16. mark
    Posted January 25, 2007 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    And, thanks to the internet, you can all now see counter terrorism agent Jack Bauer tearing out a man’s throat with his teeth!

    And I wouldn’t say the show is “about” justifying torture, Paul. That’s just a bonus.

  17. Dr. Cherry
    Posted January 26, 2007 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    It’s more of a vehicle for selling ideas to all of those mesmerized by the TeleScreens. Everyone can get together at the water cooler the day after and talk about how they hate terrorists.

    I think it’s Two Minutes Hate.

    And Osama has become Emmanuel Goldstein.

    Victory gin anyone?

  18. Sam Carson
    Posted August 26, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Near the end “24” appeared to be loosing some steam, but having joined the CTU from the very beginning I hung in. Jack to me is still one of my favorite hero’s and always will be. I am delighted to hear that he is returning. He might be a bit tired but he is not too old to play the game. Besides, he really doesn’t need to leap tall building in a single bound physically, the man has brain power and can when necessary save the world by wit and resourcefulness. Can’t speak for others, but I’ll sit and watch that anytime. “24” like “Person of Interest” is a thinking persons go to viewing. When I need a laugh with some crazy intel thrown in, I’ll tune into “The Big Bang Theory”, but when I want some brain cell exercise along with proving to myself I can still focus, this is where I have to be. I am not happy that the network is only giving us half a day, but that’s better than nothing. Besides, when the series first started some critics were says that “24” would most likely end up being called “13”, well gee …. seems that didn’t happen. So let’s give Jack our best and who knows ….. could be another really long 8 days.

  19. Miley Fan
    Posted August 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Jack Bauer would be helpless if confronted by this.

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