New Yorker on “24”: Does It Say Torture Is O.K.?

200pxjoelsurnow_1In their issue next week, the New Yorker profiles Joel Surnow, right, the conservative executive producer of Fox’s “24,” in which he says, a bit flippantly, “Isn’t it bizarre that in Hollywood it’s easier to come out as gay than as a conservative?”

But much of the piece centers on the show’s depiction of torture — and whether it promotes it as an acceptable form of inducing suspected terrorists to give up information. Jack Bauer has used torture, everything from knifing suspects to threatening murder, to stunning success in stopping ticking time bombs. So last November U.S. Brig. Gen. Patrick Finnegan visited the set along with three experieced interrogators to make the case that the show promoted illegal and unethical behavior and was adversely affecting the training of real soldiers. “I’d like them to stop,” Finnegan says. “They should do a show where torture backfires.”

Surnow wasn’t at the meeting, as he was preparing for his upcoming counter to “The Daily Show” called “The Half Hour News,” which airs on Fox News on Feb. 18. But he says, “We’ve had all of these torture experts come by recently, and they say, ‘You don’t realize how many people are affected by this. Be careful.’ They say torture doesn’t work. But I don’t believe that. I don’t think it’s honest to say that if someone you love was being held, and you had five minutes to save them, you wouldn’t do it. Tell me, what would you do? If someone had one of my children, or my wife, I would hope I’d do it. There is nothing—nothing—I wouldn’t do.”

Kiefer Sutherland is said to be worried about the “unintended consequences of the show,” even though he didn’t agree to be interviewed for the New Yorker piece.

Writer Jane Mayer, by the way, also interviewed Surnow’s friend Rush Limbaugh, and asked him about it. “Torture? It’s just a television show. Get a grip!”

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