Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's 2006... Happier New Year! :-) "24" Torturous Subplots Later, And Maybe, Just Maybe, We'll Figure Out We're The Terrorists...

'24' hours of torture-loving

Adam B. Kushner / Washington Examiner | January 26 2006

The new season of "24" has begun and my fellow devotees already have glowing things to say about it. I find the shows so compelling that I never watch them on network television; I wait for the DVD so I can watch them without interruption.

But when I finally get to watch this season, I will come to it with a new sense of skepticism. You see, "24" may not express overt political partisanship, but there's little doubt about its cheap, manipulative messages. For one thing, it rather dislikes people who express doubts about the efficacy, pervasiveness and immediacy of the threat posed by terrorism. Fair enough. For another, the show is ardently, unambiguously, proselytizingly pro-torture.

The arguments for using torture against our enemies in the war on terrorism are straightforward enough. They mostly involve utilitarian calculations of when we can dispense with human freedom in order to protect it. The arguments against using torture are much more subtle. They involve absolutist thoughts about morality and a priori notions of human worth and dignity.

The latter is the better argument. First, American political thought is based on the very concept of freedom protected by law - and it is inalienable, not just limited to American citizens. Second, even the most barbaric terrorists are humans and to dehumanize them specifically to justify torture is exculpate them from responsibility for their actions. Third, it is better - on the rarest of occasions where we have information about a possible strike and a prisoner we know can tell us about it - to break the law that forbids torture than to pass a law that allows it that will surely be abused. (Even though no such law currently exists, the rationale behind this line of thought has already led to abuses by the United States government all across the world; imagine if this sort of behavior were actually formally blessed by Congress.)

But this sort of argumentation about morality - heady and fundamental stuff to ponder in the war on terrorism - is simply trod upon in "24." It is reserved for indecisive, eggheaded technocrats who don't know what it's like to fight terrorists or stop their schemes. The protagonist, Jack Bauer and "24" writ large, are peddling the idea that these people - strawmen, really - are so misguided as not even to merit a counterargument. No, rebuttal in "24" comes by way of its bad guys.

Spoiler alert: What follows will give away essential plots from seasons one through four of "24." If you haven't seen them and think you might, you ought to stop reading now.

During the course of the show's run, there are at least a dozen characters who have been tortured, often in the very office where Bauer's character works, called Counterterrorist Unit. They often are tortured as a matter of first resort and, if they have any, they always yield useful information immediately. Here are a few examples:

Season two opens with a Korean man who, under torture, reveals that a nuclear attack is scheduled to hit Los Angeles that day. In season four, a professional (nonideological) accomplice to a terrorist network comes into the protection of an Amnesty International lawyer obviously meant to be well-intentioned but myopic; when Bauer gets rid of the lawyer (by pretending he has released the accomplice from custody), he recaptures the man and breaks several fingers until he gets useful information.

Season four even sees the secretary of defense, meant to represent a steely and smart man, approve the "interrogation" of his own son, who he believes may have had a role in his kidnapping.

None of this renders "24" any less of a compelling show. But it does make it easy for me and other viewers - even those of us with deep moral problems with torture - to forget not only that these hypothetical scenarios are unspeakably rare, but that torture almost never yields useful information (under coercion, a prisoner will say anything). I can't wait for the DVD of season five, but I know I'll be careful to watch for its manipulations.



The Lone Gunmen

Pilot Episode "predicts" 9/11

In a foreshadowing of the September 11, 2001 attacks, subsequent conspiracy theories, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the plot of the March 4, 2001 pilot episode of the series depicts a secret U.S. government agency plotting to crash a Boeing 727 into the World Trade Center via remote control for the purpose of increasing the military defence budget and blaming the attack on foreign "tin-pot dictators" who are "begging to be smart-bombed." This episode aired in Australia less than two weeks before the 9/11 attacks, on August 30.

This alone has made the DVD extremely popular for such a short-lived series (see below).


UPDATE: Filmed in January 2000, and aired on 3/4/2001, the makers of "The Lone Gunmen" show that the idea of crashing planes into buildings isn't anything new. As a matter of fact, their representation is eerily familiar given what we know today about the Wargames taking place on September 11th, 2001.

The Lone Gunmen Clip: Click Here


Freeview Video: Live In Studio With Dean Haglund

Alex is joined in studio by actor, comedian, inventor and former star of The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen, Dean Haglund about martial law in America and new developments in the September 11th cover-up. Dean and Alex swap stories on the CIA spying on Hollywood, government influence in television and more.

Click here for the free video clip.


BBC News

Monday, 8 October, 2001, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK

Army turns to Hollywood for advice

American intelligence specialists are reported to have "secretly" sought advice on handling terrorist attacks from Hollywood film-makers.

According to the trade paper Variety, a discussion group between movie and military representatives was held at the University of Southern California last week.

The group is said to have been set up by the US Army to discuss future terrorist activity in the wake of the attacks of 11 September.

Among those reported to have been involved were Die Hard screenwriter Steven E De Souza and Joseph Zito, director of Delta Force One and Missing in Action.

Other, more conventional, feature makers were also said to have been present, including Randal Kleiser, who made Grease.


Such a scenario - where the army turns to the creators of film fantasy for advice about real-life disaster - would seem an unusual, not to say unlikely, reversal of roles.

But Variety argues that there is much the masters of screen suspense can offer the US Army in the way of tactical advice.

In particular, says Variety, the entertainment industry can offer expertise in understanding plot and character, as well as advice on scenario training.

The US Army is also behind the university's Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT).

The ICT calls upon the resources and talents of the entertainment industry and computer scientists to help with virtual reality scenario simulation.

Variety reported that the ICT's creative director James Korris confirmed that the meetings between the film-makers and the US Army were taking place.

However, the paper added that Mr Korris had refused to give details as to what specific recommendations had been made to the US government.


Mother Jones Magazine

Operation Hollywood

News: How the Pentagon bullies movie producers into showing the U.S. military in the best possible light.

David Robb
Interviewed By Jeff Fleischer

September 20, 2004

To keep the Pentagon happy, some Hollywood producers have been known to turn villains into heroes, remove central characters, change politically sensitive settings, or add military rescues to movies that require none. There are no bad guys in the military. No fraternization between officers and enlisted troops. No drinking or drugs. No struggles against bigotry. The military and the president can’t look bad (though the State Department and Canada can).

“The only thing Hollywood likes more than a good movie is a good deal,” David Robb explains, and that’s why the producers of films like “Top Gun,” “Stripes” and “The Great Santini” have altered their scripts to accommodate Pentagon requests. In exchange, they get inexpensive access to the military locations, vehicles, troops and gear they need to make their movies.

During his years as a journalist for Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, Robb heard about a quid-pro-quo agreement between the Pentagon and Hollywood studios, and decided to investigate. He combed through thousands of Pentagon documents, and interviewed dozens of screenwriters, producers and military officials. The result is his new book, "Operation Hollywood."

Robb talked with about deal-making that defines the relationship between Hollywood and the Pentagon.



The Telegraph

'Gangster US' accused over torture

By David Rennie, in Strasbourg
(Filed: 25/01/2006)

An investigator for Europe's leading human rights watchdog accused America yesterday of "gangster tactics" in its war on terrorism, notably the illegal transfer of terrorist suspects to countries likely to torture them.

Dick Marty, a Swiss senator, told the Council of Europe that the US, with European complicity, had shipped possibly more than 100 suspects to countries where they faced torture.

"The entire continent is involved," Mr Marty told its parliamentary assembly.

He presented colleagues with an interim report dominated by newspaper cuttings and buttressed with evidence from an Italian inquiry into the alleged 2003 kidnapping by the CIA of a radical Egyptian cleric, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, in Milan.

Mr Marty said it was "highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware" of such abductions.

He accused Britain of particular complicity on the basis of a leaked secret memo from Sir Michael Wood, the chief legal adviser to the Foreign Office. In the 2003 memo Sir Michael asserted that there was no legal barrier to using foreign intelligence obtained under torture.

The document was handed to Mr Marty and the Council of Europe by Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who has become a fierce critic of British foreign policy. Giving evidence to the Strasbourg assembly, he said that, as envoy in Tashkent after September 11, 2001, he read CIA intelligence, shared with MI6, derived from torture sessions.

Later he said Britain was "much more deeply implicated" than other European nations in CIA extraordinary renditions, or the transfer of detainees outside normal judicial channels.

Several British members of the assembly, which gathers MPs from 46 countries, criticised Mr Marty's report.

Michael Hancock, a Liberal Democrat, said it needed to have "more substance. . . many of the issues are clouded in myth and a desire to kick America."

Denis MacShane, the former Europe minister, said the report had "more holes than a Swiss cheese".

The Council of Europe, which is independent of the European Union, was set up in 1949 as a guardian of human rights in Europe.



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