A World Where 24 Is “Believable” and Orwell Is Misquoted


By Joe Campbell
September 1st, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]I know that defending torture is difficult as well as unconscionable – but just because an editor will publish such trash doesn’t necessary mean they are bad at their job. However, if the evidence from this past weekend is any indication, it seems they are. Pat Buchanan began his piece with a quote that has been famously and erroneously attributed to George Orwell:

Men sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

Buchanan tries to use this quote to defend the Orwellian abuse of language that John Yoo and other Bush administration members used to legally justify the proposition that torture wasn’t “torture.” I have the feeling that Orwell would have appreciated the irony. But more importantly, wouldn’t any editor take a moment to check if the quote was actually by Orwell? A Google search will quickly turn up the fact that it has been misattributed to him. Maybe I’m naive, but I would presume an editor – or someone – would take a moment to double check a citation.

Then of course Amanda Bowman in the Wall Street Journal explains the reason Americans watch 24:

[T]he Obama Administration is going to pay a big political price for indulging the civil libertarians of their party. The American television show 24 is in its 7th season because its portrayal of a life-and-death fight against terrorism in the face of political meddling appears to most Americans—and I would add Britons—both believable and justified. [my emphasis]

I like 24; I still watch it – one of a slowly dwindling number of Americans who still does. But anyone who calls it “believable” clearly isn’t familiar with the show. When Jack Bauer wanted to stop a terrorist in a van, he jumped in front of the van. Jack Bauer once died multiple times in a single episode – and was running around the next. Jack Bauer extracts the truth from his prisoners with surgical precision – whether by shooting them in the leg, electrocuting them, or whatever other means are necessary. (Bauer’s techniques were so ineffective and so unrealistic that the U.S. military actually sent a team to talk to the show’s producers a few years back.) To get people to talk – some of them innocent – Bauer has threatened babies and kidnapped and mock executed children. Every terrorist attack is financed and controlled by some convoluted plot involving nefarious American corporations seeking profits. Bauer manages to never eat or go to the bathroom in the 24-hour period covered by the show. Perhaps most unrealistically, Bauer lives in a world where nuclear weapons have gone off several times on American soil and spectacular terrorists attacks are common – yet the Congress in Bauer’s world insists on holding hearings that are more onerous than any held to this day by our Congresses, despite the respite from attacks in real life.

24 may be many things, but “believable” isn’t one of them.