Jack Bauer, torturing hero

For at least the last few years now, friends have been mentioning their suspicions that the popular US TV show "24" has a right-wing agenda of some sort, or at the very least legitimizes torture by showing its hero constantly "having to" torture terrorists to save LA from a nucler bomb or some such threat. Well, my conspiracy-minded friends, you were all right.

Not only has Human Rights Watch come out with a report that shows that 76 people (excuse me, terrorists) got tortured in "24" last season--and that there's been a huge increase in torture scenes on American TV since 9/11. But a new article by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker profiles the show's creator, Joel Surnow--a good friend of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter who has been invited to the White House and who keeps on a wall of his office a framed American flag that was raised in Baghdad. And who sees no problem with the US torturning its enemies.

If you read the article, you'll learn that the creators of "24" have actually been approached by army and intelligence officials concerned with the shows influence on soldiers and cadets and with the fact that it does not depict realistic interrogation techniques. You'll also learn that the "ticking bomb" scenario--which we are all so familiar with--comes from a French novel set during the Algerian war, a conflict in which torture was endemic. Another example of fact and fiction intersecting.

Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.