Those of us who have enjoyed the many varied series of 24 have been sad to see its decline this year. But maybe it is just as well. This season the torture porn was scaled back a touch, in favour self mutilation (people chopping off their own hands for a change). But it is the use of torture in the show which has most people concerned. Not because it is in itself unpleasant to watch (it is certainly dramatic), but more that it seems to create a built in apology for torture in actual warfare situations. Not to mention in other TV shows (what are th chances on that plane crsh their would be TWO world class conmen AND A QUALIFIED TORTURER*?).

However when an actual US Supreme Court Justice cites Jack Bauer’s success in the show as a justification IN ITSELF for torture, the world has gone nuts. And I quote:

“Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent’s rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.
“Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?” Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. “Say that criminal law is against him? ‘You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don’t think so.

“So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought we believe in these absolutes.”

Now I think we should believe in these absolutes – say – a touch more than we should believe IN A FICTIONAL TV CHARACTER? Why does torture work in 24? Because it is written that way. Why doesn’t it work in real life? Because people will say anything – especially what you want to hear – to stop you torturing them.

Has Justice Scalia not noticed that a nuclear bomb has not been detonated on US soil in the last year? That a large number of nuclear reactors have not gone critical on the last few years. That the sitting President has been George Bush and not David Palmer / Charles Logan / Jim Out Of Neighbours / Wayne Palmer / Noah Daniels. Indeed the sitting President has not been assassinated, or tired to start a world war (okay – insert satire here). Perhaps he would also like to comment on where he SUPREME JUSTICE SCALIA was when the US decided to give Jack Bauer up to the Chinese to be tortured? Oh, he doesn’t want to say now? Why? BECAUSE JACK BAUER IS NOT REAL!

Coming soon though, Justice Scalia will endorse Columbo’s methods of questioning: just irritate them until they confess. Circumstantial, schmercanstancial.

*I believe Syed has at least a BTEC Level 3 in Information Gathering Via Pain Infliction.