No character on TV uses torture more than Jack Bauer, the hero of the FOX program “24” which begins its 7th season on Sunday night. In Bauer’s hands torture appears to be the perfect tool to fight terrorism.Two years ago Human Rights First began to investigate how “24,” which has shown 89 scenes of torture in its first six seasons, influenced the thinking and the actions of young people in the armed services. They learned that some junior soldiers — even some interrogators at Guantanamo Bay — had copied abusive interrogation techniques they saw depicted on the program.
The Background: U.S. Policy Shifts Ushered in Abuse
Hollywood writers, of course, did not create the environment that led to the torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere; the U.S. government created this environment by authorizing coercive interrogation techniques, departing from the long-held absolute ban on torture and cruel treatment, suspending the Geneva Conventions, and by assigning soldiers to tasks for which they were not trained.
What Can Be Done: The Primetime Torture Project
Human Rights First has launched a project that seeks to limit the impact TV has on the way interrogations are conducted in the field and also the way Americans view torture. Working with military educators and prominent Hollywood producers and writers, Human Rights First is developing a training film aimed at educating junior soldiers about the differences between what they see on TV and the way they ought to act in the field. Human Rights First is also working to encourage those with control over creative content in Hollywood to consider portraying torture in a more nuanced, more responsible fashion.