(On a side note: I hate myself for the opening of my first sentence and swear that I do not start conversations this way. Alright. Proceed.)
A recent article in the New Yorker discussed “The politics of the man behind ‘24’.” In my opinion, the man, co-creator and executive producer of “24”, Joel Surnow, is a bit of a schmuk. Politically, I don’t really care where you stand as long as you form your opinions with some semblance of reason and factual knowledge. I admit that there have been times that Pat Buchanan has swayed me a bit on some issues. Buchanan, after-all is not an idiot by any means, whereas Surnow acts like he is.
Recently added to Keith Olbermann's list of "Worst Person in the World", Surnow has jokingly referred to himself as a “right-wing nut job.” Hahaha – Surnow is smarmy to boot. What a guy! The article describes a man who takes sickening delight in his radical conservatism: when he’s not eating dinner with Justice Clarence Thomas at Rush Limbaugh’s house, he is planning projects such as “The Half-Hour News Hour”, a conservative version of The Daily Show to be aired on Fox News, as well as a film aimed as a response to Good Night and Good Luck, a collaboration with a fellow purveyor of misinformed and irrational politics, Ann Coulter. Why? “I thought it would really provoke people to do a movie that depicted Joe McCarthy as an American hero or, maybe, someone with a good cause who maybe went too far,” says Surnow. And people call Democrats the party of reaction.
The main discussion of the article revolves around his show’s predilection for depicting torture scenes – often gratuitous displays of barbaric coercive tactics resulting in Jack Bauer’s getting the goods on the bad guys -- which if you have ever seen the show, are friggen awesome. The author cites statistics demonstrating the increase of torture scenes on television since September 11, 2001 (from four each year to over a hundred), and how these scenes increasingly portray the “good guys” as the torturers. While describing a meeting the executives from “24” (Surnow conspicuously absent) and U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, Dean of USMA at West Point, in which his concern for the show’s promotion of such tactics fell on deaf ears, the article also demonstrates expert opinion and official policy that prove the ineffectiveness of torture for interrogation.
I am digressing from my purpose here – the show itself, of which I have watched the first five seasons in a two week period, is great television, and at the end of the day, it remains just that. While it may have a slight influence on impressionable cadets at West Point, I do not believe that it will actually affect procedure. Also, watching Jack Bauer, for many Americans, is catharsis during this age of anti-American terrorism.
My beef is with Surnow and those, both liberal and conservative, that argue and aim to proselytize their political agendas with subjective belief and in the face of logic, facts, and objective proof. I’ll just let Surnow show you what I mean, and notice how he quickly reframes the discussion from the effectiveness of torture to what a brave man like him would do in a hypothetical and highly improbable situation:
“They say torture doesn’t work. But I don’t believe that. I don’t think it’s honest to say that if someone you love was being held, and you had five minutes to save them, you wouldn’t do it. Tell me, what would you do? If someone had one of my children, or my wife, I would hope I’d do it. There is nothing – nothing – I wouldn’t do.”
(For a response to this quote, please see Al Pacino's Soundboard and click on "Bah, what a big man you are...", fourth down in the right hand column)
Also, the companion video from The New Yorker: