Thursday, August 27, 2009

How to counteract 24, and a one-act that attempts to do it

Ryan Sager (via the Dish): "We’ve come to intuitively believe that virtually every torture situation is a ticking time bomb and that torture always works. Because that’s [what we see in the movies and that's] our most salient experience with the issue."

I've recently been reading some David Foster Wallace, and specifically an essay he wrote about the effects that television has had on our society. While I was reading this essay, I kept thinking about how most people derive their ideas of terrorism from shows like 24. Liberals wishing to combat this should work to counteract this perception within the media--my idea would be to mock 24 mercilessly. The good news is that it might be the most mockable show on television: it has hardly a trace of ironic self-awareness that might deflect the mockery, and is rather an overheated, earnest, and frequently unbelievable and ridiculous show that's borderline fascist. (And McArdle can bite me--there's only so many terms one can use to a show so authoritarian, militaristic, xenophobic, etc. I'm not using fascist here to invoke the holocaust--think in the Franco sense), and I get the sense that 24 will eventually wind up being a sort of punchline like Miami Vice, an embarrassing symbol of the excesses of its era. That is my dream.

So, I think having a scene like this in some popular show or movie satirizing 24 would go a long way:

INT. GITMO INTERROGATION ROOM. LT BAUER and MOHAMMED, a suspected terrorist, are talking.

LT. BAUER: You're gonna talk, Mohammed, God as my witness.

MOHAMMED: Allah will triumph over your God, infidel! And my name is Razib ibn Faisal, idiot!

LT. BAUER: Very well, Mohammed. Now I'm gonna torture you. (He makes a scary face.) Yup, that's right. According to John Yoo, it's legal!

MOHAMMED: I will never talk!

LT. BAUER: Okay. (Picks up a belt-sander.)

MOHAMMED: Okay, I'll talk! I'LL TALK! The bomb is in a yellow Ford Pinto parked under Chase Manhattan headquarters.

LT. BAUER: (incredulously) Why a Pinto?

MOHAMMED: Of course, because nobody would ever go close to such a thing, for fear of exploding themselves!

LT. BAUER: Ah ha! Well, that wraps things up. I just have one question.


LT. BAUER: Why did you give it up so easily? If you had held on for another 20 minutes, we'd both be dead, and you'd get your 73 virgins, and we'd be able to milk this storyline for another episode. Now, we're going to have to come up with some bullshit subplot about my daughter or something, and you're going to be lucky to get your wife for eternity.

MOHAMMED: Which one?

LT. BAUER: The oldest one.

MOHAMMED: (horrified) Oh, NO!

LT. BAUER: Hell yeah, son! Don't mess with the U.S. of A.!


CAPTAIN: Bauer, where is the prisoner?

LT. BAUER: In stockade. Why?

CAPTAIN: Because that Pinto he sent us to didn't have a bomb at all! Just a bunch of wires and Play-Doh!

LT. BAUER: I don't understand. I thought I asked very clearly for him to TELL ME WHERE THE BOMB IS! And I brought out the trusty beltsander! This shit always works!

CAPTAIN: Oh, you blew this one, Bauer. Do it again, and I'LL HAVE YOUR GUN AND BADGE! Luckily, we had good intelligence sources tracking the cell that located the bomb in a Sbarro's in Times Square. We defused it in time.

LT. BAUER: (After a beat) That is shocking.

CAPTAIN: Mmm, yes.

LT. BAUER: I mean, why would you get some sort of assembly line-manufactured industrial foodstuff chain restaurant when New York has the best pizza in the world? Terrorists, ha! More like Philistines!

CAPTAIN: Well, they are tourists!

LT. BAUER claps a hand over his boss's back, and both laugh heartily.


The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.