Presidents’ Day Reflections on Jack “BTK” Bauer
As a society, we’ve, for example, banned women’s nipples from the airwaves, apparently because of the grave threat they represent to the moral integrity of our nation. And I’ve heard more than one conservative commentator solemnly intone about the potential harm suffered by our children from an exposure to (gasp!!) Janet Jackson’s breast. And yet…here we are in the fifth season of a wildly popular television drama where the characters routinely enter a bizarre conscience-free zone which allows, even demands, them to subject absolutely anyone, from family and co-workers to potentially innocent suspects, to state-sanctioned sick, cruel, and inhumane treatment.
Moreover, the writers of 24 wear this gratuitous torture as a sort of red badge of courage, so that characters willing and eager to torture (in essence abandon their own humanity) are portrayed as jut-jawed and decisive pragmatists who are assiduously working to protect our people and way of life. Meanwhile, characters who feel in the least squeamish about this enthusiastic surrender to cruelty and darkness are portrayed as weak, indecisive, unmanly and unfit to lead. It makes it difficult to believe that this show is nothing more than part of a coordinated pre-propaganda effort, an attempt to condition our minds to accept the unacceptable and to uncritically admire those of us who do (How ironic that today is Presidents’ Day). We are being encouraged to become a cruel, barbarous, and bloodthirsty people, to become comfortable with that which we know in our hearts is wrong.
However, as adults we must recognize and accept the extent of our weakness and malleability and shoulder the responsibility for shaping our own character by critically scrutinizing what we allow ourselves to be exposed to. If not, we risk allowing others to manipulate us into surrendering our moral compass, rendering us no different from the terrorists against whom we struggle.
I, for one, want to believe that Americans can be different. Call me an amoral libertine, but I’d rather have my children exposed to 1,000 unrestrained nipples than one minute of a merciless federal agent viciously torturing a wounded female prisoner. And that’s why I’ve decided to say goodbye forever to Jack Bauer, CTU, and the sadistic barbarism masquerading as prime-time entertainment.