Torture TV

TV Legitimizing Torture and disregarding civil rights: "Sadly, for  decades the media model for a hero has been the rogue cop who lies, cheats, steals, bashes heads and generally trashes the rights and often the bodies of guilty and innocent alike, to catch some vile thug.  From James Bond, to the Beverly Hills Cop, to the latest episode of "Law and Order," media cops have little use for such archaic concepts as "constitutional rights," "your home is your castle," or "innocent until proven guilty."

"In the magical world of fiction, if torture isn't being just used to prove that the Big Bad  is indeed big and bad (or that the Anti-Hero is indeed anti), it works as an instant source of 100% reliable information. The information extracted under torture is always accurate and important, even if the interrogator himself starts with no information at all and so has no way to know if the prisoner is telling the truth or lying. The possibility of having the wrong person, who will say anything under torture whether they know anything or not, will be excluded. Often as not, the victim is then released with no consequences to them if they lied. " - tv (Torture Always Works)

See also:  Aggression & TV

TV Very Effectively Promoting Torture

"Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind “24.”... Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers.


Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniors—cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by “24,” which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, “The kids see it, and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about “24”?’ ” He continued, “The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do.”"

- New Yorker (Feb 2007) via Digby

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"It’s a choice viewers are more willing to consider following the consumption of shows like "24," found a recent American University study by scholars Erin Kearns and Joseph Young. The researchers showed 150 students harsh interrogation scenes from the show. Sometimes the method worked, rearing key clues. Other times, the scenes were cut short before the students could determine whether the method had been successful. Then they interviewed the students on their opinion. It turned out the scene’s resolution - whether information was uncovered or not - mattered a great deal. "These results indicate that dramatic depictions of torture where it is shown to be effective can change both stated attitudes about the practice and willingness to behaviorally support torture via signing a petition in support of it, while merely being shown torture regardless of its efficacy does not change willingness to behaviorally commit to stated beliefs," the report said. It later added: "This may suggest that being primed on torture leads people to believe that it works."" - Stars & Stripes (Dec 2014)

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"Professor Amy Zegart of Stanford University’s Hoover Institute commissioned the YouGov survey. She attributes the growing support for extreme counterterrorism tactics to popular culture, specifically shows like “24” which depict torture as necessary for maintaining national security. The poll investigated viewing habits of respondents and found that 84 percent of frequent spy TV watchers are willing to assassinate terrorists compared to 70 percent of infrequent watchers. Meanwhile, 38 percent of frequent watchers believe waterboarding is right, compared to 28 percent of infrequent watchers."  -  Salon (Oct 2012)

Pro-Torture Propaganda

"The number of scenes of torture on TV shows is significantly higher  than it was five years ago and the characters who torture have changed. It used to be that only villains on television tortured. Today, “good guy” and heroic American characters torture — and this torture is depicted as necessary, effective and even patriotic." - Human Rights First 

"The CIA’s insidious Hollywood propaganda: New report highlights alarming details about “Zero Dark Thirty”" - Salon (Sept 2015)

"“24? returns: Is Dick Cheney programming Fox? " - Salon (May 2013)

"Meanwhile, promoters of torture get to hoodwink journalists, authors and Hollywood producers while selectively declassifying material and providing false information that fits their narrative. The creators of “Zero Dark Thirty” attempted to document the greatest global manhunt of our generation. But they did so without acknowledging that their “history” was based on dubious sources. The filmmakers took the “firsthand accounts” of a few current and former officials with an agenda and amplified their message worldwide — suggesting to Americans in cinemas around the country, and regimes overseas, that torture is effective and helped lead to Bin Laden. There is no suggestion in the movie that another narrative exists. " - The New York Times (Feb 2013)  via  Crooks and Liars (Feb 2013)

"7 Ways “Zero Dark Thirty” Excuses Torture" - Alternet (Jan 2013)

"Zero Conscience in “Zero Dark Thirty”" - The New Yorker (Dec 2012)

"Presented with the movie’s liberal-pleasing feminist overlay, you root for her to compel the men to do what men would do naturally if they weren’t so constrained by modern technological and bureaucratic and constitutional hurdles: find the motherfucker and blow his fucking head off. As a moral statement, Zero Dark Thirty is borderline fascistic." - New York Magazine (Dec 2012)

"At least the contestants in the French show acquiesced to torture reluctantly and even with resistance, rather than with the demented pleasure, vicarious sensations of power, 24-type entertainment, and primal arousal which many disturbed individuals on the American Right derive from it. " - Salon (March 2010)

"The fictional space of 24 sanitizes Jack Bauer’s use of torture by making it quick and effective, almost surgical in its precision and measured character. It lacks the lengthy timeline of real-world torture. Bauer has mere minutes to extract information and stops torturing as soon as that information is forthcoming. This differs from the real-world situation in which torture extends for days, weeks, months, and years." - Jump Cut (2010)

"Torture Chic: Why Is the Media Glorifying Inhumane, Sadistic  Behavior?" - Alternet (Feb 2009)

"The Right's Jack Bauer Fantasy: 'Clip the Electrodes to His Balls and Turn on the Juice'" - Alternet (Feb 2009)

"With New Season Of 24, Right Wing Falls In Love With Torture All Over Again" - Think Progress (Jan 2009)

"We are supposed to feel bad for Jack Bauer, the lead character on FOX's hit show "24." Only he and a handful of his colleagues, it seems, have the moral strength necessary to do what has to be done. While Senators whine and his superiors wring their hands about what is "right," Bauer acts and saves the nation." - Huffington Post (Jan 2009)

"Did Dick Cheney Ghostwrite This Season of 24?" - Mother Jones (Jan 2009)

"McCain named 24 as his favorite show on his facebook page. The show has done more to advance the Bush White House defense of torture than anything else in the American media. According to its "ticking time bomb" scenario, the only way to stop terrorists from exploding a nuclear weapon in the heart of an American city is to torture them into revealing their fiendish plot." - Huffington Post (Nov 2008)

"This fictional counterterrorism... has his fingerprints all over U.S. interrogation policy. As Sands and Mayer tell it, the lawyers designing interrogation techniques cited Bauer more frequently than the Constitution." - Slate (July 2008)

Report: Jack Bauer "Gave People Lots of Ideas" at Gitmo - Mother Jones (April 2008)

"This week's Republican debate was a Jack Bauer impersonation contest."  -  L.A. Times (May 2007)

"Here's the best evidence for a TV show boycott I've seen recently." - Deadline (Feb 2007)

"Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind “24.”... Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers" - New Yorker (Feb 2007) via Digby

"Is Torture on Hit Fox TV Show “24” Encouraging US Soldiers to Abuse Detainees?" - Democracy Now! (Feb 2007)

The Politics of TV Torture - Deadline Hollywood Daily (Feb 2007)

"In "24," Sutherland plays special agent Jack Bauer, head of the Counter Terrorism Unit. He fights some of his biggest battles not with the dark-skinned enemies trying to nuke L.A., but rather with the light-skinned do-gooders who think the head of the Counter Terrorism Unit should follow the rules." - Alternet (Jan 2007) 

"The show is much more successful than the White House at making the case for torture. Its ratings have gone steadily up over the last five years, while Bush's ratings have gone steadily down." - The Nation (Jan 2007)

'24' gives Bush crowd the man of the hour - Journal Sentinel (Jan 2007)

24 & The Myth of the Ticking Time Bomb - Alternet (Sept 2006)

Softening Us Up for Torture, 24 Hours at a Time - Infowars (Sept 2006)

Is Fox's 24 an Advertisement for Torture? - PopMatters (March 2006)

24 Legitimizing Torture (Himmlers of Hollywood) - The Guardian (Jan 2006)

'24' hours of torture-loving - Prison Planet (Jan 2006)

24 as Pro Torture Propaganda - Media Matters (May 2005)

Normalizing Torture on '24' - The New York Times (May 2005)

Torture becoming entertainment:

"Why 'Torture Porn' Is the Hottest (and Most Hated) Thing in Hollywood"  -  Advertising Age (May 2007)  and  Inter Alia (May 2007)

"Torture: Just another plot device... This is because 12 years in the Soviet gulag taught him that torture is "the professional disease of any investigative machinery," which if not suppressed, destroys or alienates the people most skilled in extracting information and reduces interrogation to "a playground for sadists."

Words to ponder when watching American movies and television nowadays. Until recently, scenes of torture were rare - brief, horrific flashes meant to evoke pure evil. But ever since Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" (1992) made casual cruelty look cool, the trendier bad guys have been slicing and dicing at will."  - (Dec 2006)

"Now Playing at Your Local Multiplex: Torture Porn" - New York Magazine (Jan 2006)

"'Hostel' Lodged Into Top Spot"  -  Box Office Mojo (Jan 2006)

"Torture's Long Shadow"  -  The Washington Post (Dec 2005)

"The number of torture scenes on the networks last season grew at a rate almost double the previous two seasons."  -  The Christian Science Monitor (August 2002)

Video Games & Torture

"Grand Theft Auto V, one of the most expensive computer games ever made, has caused outrage among human rights groups for including a torture scene in which the player must pull teeth and electrocute an unarmed man... Players must complete the scene to finish the game and are offered a selection of torture implements, including sledgehammers and electric cables to use on the victim. If his heart stops, a shot of adrenaline restarts it." - The Guardian (Sept 2013)

"How Evil Should a Video Game Allow You to Be?" - The New Yorker (Sept 2013)

"If you watch the video section in the clip, you will note that the torture scene is scripted. To complete that level you torture the person. Your only decision is if you want to spare his life or kill him." - Fire Dog Lake (August 2013)

The Real Purpose of Torture

""Politicide is the practice of wiping out an entire political movement," he writes. "The murders here are accompanied by torture and rape on an industrial scale, committed on a catch-and-release basis. When those who survive, terribly injured, limp home or are carried or pushed in wheelbarrows or on the backs of pickup trucks, they act like human billboards, advertising the appalling consequences of opposition to the tyranny." The people of Zimbabwe named the campaign simply "The Fear" — hence, Godwin's title."  - NPR (March 2011)

"Professor Benkler, echoing the point that I've repeatedly emphasized as I believe it to be the most important one, said "Manning's conditions were being used 'as a warning to future whistleblowers'."  - Salon (April 2011)

Animal Torture Videos

"The next great First Amendment battle in the Supreme Court concerns, of all things, dogfight videos." - The New York Times (Sept 2009)


"Psychologists and Torture: Accountability Still Awaits" - Psychologist Today (April 2013)

"John's whistleblowing was compounded by the fact that in 2009, defense lawyers for Gitmo detainees obtained the names and photographs of some of their torturers--information to which any normal criminal defendant would be entitled. In true Justice Department fashion, it launched an investigation not of the torturers, but of who revealed the torturers. Justice found that no crime was committed by the defense lawyers, but gave the CIA a consolation prize: John Kiriako's head." - Daily Kos (Jan 2013)

"Chicago “Torture” Cop Jon Burge Sentenced: Was Justice Done? " - Talk Left (Jan 2011)

"The Complicity of Psychologists in Torture" - Psychology Today Blog (April 2011)

"What constitutes torture? New research finds the answer varies with the level of pain one is currently feeling." - Miller McCune (April 2011)

"TV Makes the Case for Torture" - tvSmarter Blog (Jan 2010)

"The  Ticking-Time-Bomb Argument" - tvSmarter Blog (March 2010)

"A Short History of Torture" - tvSmarter Blog (Jan 2010)