Bring Back the Birch and the Cat o' Nine Tails

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Dan Quayle once endorsed anti-satellite weapons on the grounds that "we could not have prevailed without them in Red Storm Rising." Now Cal Thomas is endorsing torture because without it, the bad guys would have nuked America in 24.

For a more thoughtful take on torture, turn to Tyler Cowen's recent thought experiment. For extra fun, pretend as you read it that you're Cal Thomas, and that you don't actually know anything that would interest an interrogator.

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  1. i’m beginning to think moustaches are a sign of mental illness.

  2. I’m amused by those who use 24 as an example of torture’s efficacy. When we’re absolutely certain that Mr. X is guilty (we’ve seen him commiserating with the terrorists in the previous scene, don’t you know) of course we’re all for breaking the bastard’s finger to extract the Nation saving information. The problem is it’s not always that simple. We usually don’t know who, what, when, where, or why. There’s no doubt that if we tortured every single suspect, the criminal justice system would move much quicker (none of that interrogation crap), but then again, I wouldn’t want to live here if that were the case.

  3. What the fuck does “dhex” means anyway? It really sounds retarded.

    Maybe you’re jealous because you don’t have enough man-juice to grow anything above those little purse lips of yours, sweety. A nice, bush ‘stach is the sign of a REAL MAN.. along with a bad haircut and cheap suits. Of course, you wouldn’t know anything about that, tough guy.

    What’s the matter? You going to cry now? You’re so lucky that you don’t work for me. I would be on you like Michael Jackson with a cub scout. You would be spending all day hiding from me in the ladies’ room, whining to the other girls.

  4. is this the friday fun link?

  5. Sort of like, “How to approach an IRS audit.”

  6. Um, if you read the spoilers it’s by no means clear that torture has even saved America on 24. Marwan still has that warhead somewhere in the mountains of Iowa (yes, I know, Iowa is flat, take that up with the writers), and he still has the launch codes. And according to the spoilers, he’s not just going to stare at his pretty warhead. He’s going to use it.

  7. Uhm, thoreau?

  8. oops, I shoulda known you were just typing slowly.

  9. America needs to establish a manned base in orbit around Alpha Centauri; the lack of an ability to visit the Alpha Centauri Planning Commission led to the destruction of the Earth in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

  10. Not to mention that a few innocent people have been tortured on 24 this season, including one that Jack tortured.

  11. Am I the only one to notice that the type of person likely to quote fictional movie and TV scenarios to justify real-life decisions just happens to be the same type of person who otherwise complains about the way Hollywood and The Damn Librul Media are destroying America?

  12. “…pretend as you read it that you’re Cal Thomas…”

    What a retched thought. Jesse, are you trying to lose me as a reader?

  13. pretend as you read it that you’re Cal Thomas

    Weird. I suddenly have a taste for Jesus, smooth jazz, and 1950s movie stars.

  14. Am I the only one to notice that the type of person likely to quote fictional movie and TV scenarios to justify real-life decisions just happens to be the same type of person who otherwise complains about the way Hollywood and The Damn Librul Media are destroying America?

    Well, it makes perfect sense. These are people that take TV fiction WAAAY too seriously.

  15. “What the fuck does “dhex” means anyway? It really sounds retarded.”

    it’s an old scotch word for “has a badly-trimmed goatee/moustache/face beard thingy”

    but a moustache on its own…INSANE!

  16. 24 is SO AWESOME. I love the show. I love everything about it. Especially LOVE Kiefer Sutherland who is so hot! I love the stories and I love that it keeps terrorism on the minds of the public who care to watch the show. Excellent, excellent.

  17. Mo-
    Yes, I know there are folks who take TV too seriously, but they could at least be consistent. Maybe TV is an insidious force destroying everything about America that is decent and good, or maybe TV is a wise oracle telling us exactly how we should live our lives and solve our problems, but how the hell can it be BOTH to the same jackass person?

  18. Oh, because he’s a jackass. I hate when my questions contain their own answers.

  19. Torture would be ?teh bestest way EVAR!? of dealing with Fundamentalist Christians. Think about it. We know that, sooner-or-later, some Fundie will be blowing up a Planned Parenthood or shooting an abortion provider, so we get a SWAT team to swoop down on a Baptist church in rural?anywhere, ?round up the congregation and apply electric shocks to their underemployed genitals until they give us some names. Any names will do, as long as they?re really Southern sounding: like ?Bobby Joe Puckett? and ?Effie Sue Lynch?.

  20. Maybe TV is both an oracle for good living when it endorses things that particular viewers want(like torturing “terrists”), and the instrument of societal destruction when it fails to condemn the things they hate(sex and gays). Sadly, I can’t find any conflict there.

  21. Am I mis-remembering, or do I recall actual military types (certainly not as well-informed as a FOX writer) saying that torture doesn’t work …

  22. BLG-
    Your memory is correct, but the explanation is simple: Army generals hate America.

  23. I think Fox should cross promote 24 with American Idol (like NBC used to do with their NYC-based dramas). For instance, whenever Scott Savol would sing, Keifer could come out on stage and break three of Scott’s fingers before shocking him on the chest with the remnants of a lamp’s power cord and yelling “TELL ME WHERE THE SINGERS WHO ACTUALLY HAVE TALENT ARE!”

  24. Jennifer,

    Thank you for the confirmation … and thank you for the explaination.

    I work with a guy who, in justifying Guantanamo, etc., said ‘it just depends on what you’re wiling to do to keep your country safe’. And there you have it. QED.

    The biggest coup for the supporters of exporting our violence is to get people to treat the support of our exploits around the world as some sort of patriotism pissing contest. Just put it out on the table, and see who’s is longer. Never, not once with this guy, did the question of ‘IS what you’re doing keeping your country safe?’ come up. Nope, if you’re not willing to put it into the wall, you just aren’t a patriot.

  25. The Regulator has my vote for president of FOX!

    I think Jack could end the competition by lifting Ryan Seacrest’s severed head out of a bag to show his loyalty to the audience. That and shooting a dazed and confuzed Paula Abdul through the wall she’d be cowering behind.

  26. regulator, you just got me laughing out loud!

    Brilliant!

  27. thoreau,

    continuing on the mountains in Iowa comment, I laughed out loud when I saw that one of the nuclear plants that were going to melt down was in Mesquite (or maybe Overton) NV. There are exactly zero reactors in NV, as the Yucca Mountain opponents remind us on a regular basis.

    I have to agree with you–this season has gotten more and more ridiculous as it has progressed. The early hours that had CTU workers screwing each other over was much more realistic.

  28. Many, if not most, of the torture used in Abu Ghraib and Gitmo was sexual in nature. One former soldier from Gitmo recently told “60 Minutes” that a female soldier pretended red ink was menstrual blood and smeared it all over a prisoner’s face. And of course, we have the many photos from Abu Ghraib of naked pyramids.

    Now Cal Thomas, who frequently says that the glorification of sex in our culture is one of the greatest threats to our children, our future, our livelihood, etc., is advocating such behavior? Is he aware of what is really going on over there, or does he think that TV shows like “24” represent reality?

  29. continuing on the mountains in Iowa comment, I laughed out loud when I saw that one of the nuclear plants that were going to melt down was in Mesquite (or maybe Overton) NV. There are exactly zero reactors in NV, as the Yucca Mountain opponents remind us on a regular basis.

    Well, it is, after all, fiction so they can put a nuclear reactor just about any where they want to serve the story needs. But putting mountains where none exist is usually considered crossing the line.

  30. Shawn-

    I think the season started off awesome when the threat was very personal for Jack and the Araz family was busy creeping me out. I mean, that woman could scare the hell out of me just by smiling and waving.

    Then it started to go downhill with the “remote control for every nuclear reactor in the country” bit. But that scary woman was still there, so it was OK.

    Then it hit rock-bottom when those defense contractors decided that if they want to make themselves look less suspicious they should set off an EMP and send commandos to kill a federal agent. “No, officer, we’re not part of Marwan’s terrorist cell. We have OUR OWN terrorist cell, thank you very much!”

    Since then it has remained full of holes, but at least it’s had some awesome scenes.

    Anyway, if Cal Thomas is basing his decisions on what works on TV then the best way to make his wife happy would be to have a bunch of gay guys make him over.

    Oh, and I like the idea about rounding up fundamentalist Christians on the premise that one of them might bomb an abortion clinic. Better yet, let’s send Kiefer Sutherland on a covert mission to break into the Vatican and kidnap the Pope. I mean, we know that some of his priests are child molesters, so let’s kidnap and torture him until he names names.

    Won’t somebody other than the dirty priests think about The Children?

  31. The excessive torture in 24 has been getting to me lately, I mean, it was kinda cool that Jack and the CTU gang were all bad ass and willing to do whatever it takes for a while (the first few seasons) but now its just gotten annoying, they interrogate a person for like a minute, decide they can’t break them and then bring in that super serum stuff that makes every nerve ending feel like its on fire, it’s kind of like how Law and Order has become more and more in love with state authority with every episode. Coincidentally my mother sent me an article about the torture in 24 and whether its good or bad, Amnesty International “applaud the show for educating the public on the horrors of torture” and it notes the ratings are up 20% this season. Yayyy for torture! The article goes on to mention that “they [Americans] may be getting the lesson that torture doesn’t always work from watching ’24’ Are we watching the same show? yeah it doesnt work when the person (SOD’s son, the girl falsely accused of treason) doesnt actually know anything
    Anyway, the article is from the April 11th New York Newsday by way of the Baltimore Sun, the only copy online I could find was a registration required.

  32. Don’t forget when Paul was tortured and turned out to not know anything.

    Or last year, when Nina was tortured and refused to talk. Instead she impaled herself on the needle so she’d be moved to a less secure medical ward and then tried to escape.

    My favorite torture scene is still the one from the second season, when Jack was torturing the rich blond girl who joined the Jihad. She seems like she can’t take any more pain, and then she breaks down and says “OK, I’ll tell you where the bomb is. It’s most definitely not here at the airport. It’s downtown. So take your entire team with you. And make sure none of your team stays at the airport. Because it’s not at the airport. So leave the airport at once and go find that bomb!”

    The bomb was found 10 minutes later at the airport.

  33. “Educating the public on the horrors of torture”…like we thought maybe torture wasn’t really that bad. How could anyone who knows what the word means believe that torture it is anything but…argh…torture! Argh! I can’t even ask the question properly, it’s so stupid!

    Another example of the phenomenon of people worrying about how other people are stupider than they themselves are.

    (I’m not claiming to worry, so I’m immune from my own charge here…right???? Yeah, maybe not.)

  34. Panurge-
    No, no, no, you don’t understand–folks of the Cal Thomas type only oppose sex when the participants are ENJOYING it.

  35. folks of the Cal Thomas type only oppose sex when the participants are ENJOYING it

    What about rape then? One party is enjoying it, the other isn’t. I guess that would be better than sex that both parties enjoy, but worse than sex that nobody enjoys.

    It would also mean that rape is no different from a lot of heterosexual acts, where women are frequently getting less out of it than the guy.

    Geez, once you start from the notion that enjoying sex is bad it’s easy to wind up in Dworkin territory.

  36. Cal Thomas thinks we should allow torture to find nuclear weapons in an American city. Fine. If that happens, I agree that we can go ahead and torture the perpetrators to recover the bomb and save millions of innocent lives.

    Several people from Abu Ghraib have been tortured.

    So where are the nuclear bombs?

  37. Then it hit rock-bottom when those defence contractors decided that if they want to make themselves look less suspicious they should set off an EMP and send commandos to kill a federal agent. “No, officer, we’re not part of Marwan’s terrorist cell. We have OUR OWN terrorist cell, thank you very much!”

    I too hit the floor laughing at that part. The idea that any major corporation would take on the feds with their own private militia just to save face is pretty ludicrous. However, I think it was included in order to make 24 look politically correct.

    For example, in the same episode, Jack teams up with a group of patriotic Muslims to kill the corporate goons. And regarding torture, they have several scenes where innocent people are tortured before it finally produces desired result. And in the end, the form of “torture” that Jack uses has more in common with a police beatdown rather that the clinical approach used on the earlier individuals. Not surprisingly, the only group beyond redemption is the evil Halliburtonesque corporation. Even the torture victim’s lawyer from “Amnesty Global” comes across more like a dedicated idealist, rather than a dangerous obfuscator.

    That all said, this season is probably the most focused and interesting 24 yet. Last season’s bizarre merger of Traffic (Mexican drug lords) and Goldeneye (fanatical ex-British MI-6 agent) was probably the low point of the series. And one of the smartest moves was axing Jack’s stupid daughter, despite the loss of eye-candy Elisha Cuthbert. I mean, just how many times can you shack up with guys of questionable character?

    And as an aside, ever notice just how easy it is to get a job at CTU? In the 24 universe, it seems like any old Joe off the street can walk in and get hired. I mean come on, is that hard to do a comprehensive background check? CTU seems to have no trouble getting to the private records of ordinary civilians.

  38. Hah, this is like the fad from last year, when conservatives were complaining about a fictional cartoon character in Doonesbury and puppet sex in Team America.

  39. deus-

    I think this season is even worse than the last one. The first and last stories last year were good, but the middle was awful. This year is just full of sloppiness.

    And I agree on how easy it is to get a job at CTU. Everybody is either a mole or completely crazy and self-centered. And the field agents are dropping like flies. I expect that next year the second-in-command at CTU will be Osama bin Laden, his secretary will be a mental patient in a straightjacket (“Not my fault I can’t type that memo. My hands are tied up!”), and the field agents will be end-stage leukemia patients, just to make them even weaker.

  40. The low point of the series was clearly Kim’s adventures in season 2, though I suppose you could argue that it was justified by the unintentional hilarity provided by the cougar.

  41. Yeah Kim was certainly a fucking idiot, and to add to that any joe schmoe getting a job at CTU, she got one! That cougar stuff was over the top, from a cougar into the arms of a madman(?) to a robbery, she just couldn’t win. And thoreau, you’re right about CTU field agents dying all the time, I thought these guys were supposed to be highly trained, but every time they accompany a main(ish) character somewhere they end up dying, it reminds me of a scene from that Arnold movie “Last Action Hero” In the beginning the kid goes to see one of the Arnold’s supercop movies and Arnold and a bunch of cops go to a house, the house explodes and the kid says ‘All the cops are dead, Arnold lives!’ or something to that effect. I like to imagine that I’m the main character in my life and that will keep me from suffering too much harm.

  42. folks of the Cal Thomas type only oppose sex when the participants are ENJOYING it

    What about rape then? One party is enjoying it, the other isn’t.

    OK, let’s put it this way: any sex where at least one person enjoys it is immoral.

    Never mind…

  43. What kills me every time is the incredibly toxic management style at CTU. It’s all petty infighting and bickering over who slighted who. Oooh, Tony made a decision and Michelle overruled him; it’s probably because she’s a cold bitch who’s overcompensating for her repressed feelings for him. Ooooh.

    I keep waiting for a character to walk in who has something resembling real management skill, but nobody seems to even realize there’s something wrong. With these bozos in charge of counter-terrorism, it’s no wonder terrorists have unleashed plagues, set off nuclear bombs, melted down a nucular power plant, and shot down Air Force One. I suspect that the writers have never had non-showbiz jobs outside of retail and food service.

    Also, no one seems to notice that Jack Bauer has gone batshit insane.

    On the other hand, I like Chloe. She’s got a disturbing personality, but at least she’s got a personality. I’ve been wanting to see Chloe with gun all season. Maybe next year she’ll be a field agent. Can you imagine the abject terror in the mind of someone stuck in the interrogation room as Chloe hooks up the electrodes, roles her eyes, and turns on the power? Eeek!

  44. Also, no one seems to notice that Jack Bauer has gone batshit insane.

    You just figured this out now?

    Chloe as a field agent? Chloe with a gun is every CTU employee’s worst nightmare!

    Somebody posted this on another forum, and I’m going to give my best rendition of it. Season 5 should go something like this:

    The following takes place between 2am and 2:05 am.

    A phone rings next to Jack’s bed. Jack wakes up and answers it.

    Jack: Hello?
    Voice: There is a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. You have exactly five hours to follow my instructions if you don’t want it to go off.
    Jack: OK, you need to think a little more carefully about this.
    Voice: Excuse me?
    Jack: Every year or so some asshole terrorist wannabe mass murderer makes me go 24 hours without sleep just so he can get his 72 virgins and/or make a ton of money and/or avenge his family. Well you know what? I’m tired of it.
    Voice: If you don’t do what I say the bomb WILL go off.
    Jack: Dude, don’t even try. I’m already getting dressed and getting out my gun. And I’m taking off the gloves this time. To give you some perspective, back when the gloves were ON I cut a guy’s head off, cut of MY PARTNER’S hand, and tortured my girlfriend’s husband. So if that’s how freaking insane I was back when the gloves were on, just imagine what I’ll be like now.
    Voice: Um, OK…
    Jack: So, are you sure you want to try this? Are you sure you want to go to all this trouble just so I can torture and kill you and thwart all your evil plans?
    Voice: Well, I guess….
    Jack: You just think about that buddy. Think about it really careful. Now, done thinking? Go put the kibbosh on this and LET ME GET SOME FREAKING SLEEP FOR ONCE!!!
    Voice: Um, yes, sir.
    Jack: And another thing. You’ve probably working for somebody else. Maybe a corrupt corporate executive or an angry foreign warlord or some other exotic mastermind. Am I right?
    Voice: Something like that…
    Jack: Well, tell him that he won’t be going to some resort minimum security prison. He won’t even be going to Abu Ghraib for the frat pranks. He’ll be going to a federal POUND ME IN THE ASS PRISON! And he’ll have the biggest, nastiest, horniest cell mate imaginable. That’s after I torture him, of course, and assuming I don’t kill him. Got it?
    Voice: I’ll tell him, sir.
    Jack: Finally, you probably have some help from inside the government. Maybe a CTU mole, or a corrupt intelligence director, or a rogue special forces team?
    Voice: We bribed some CIA agents.
    Jack: Well, tell them that I won’t use electric shocks on them, or cut through nerves, or any of that stuff. I’ll just tie them up and put them in a room with Chloe O’Brien for ten minutes.
    Voice: I don’t know who Chloe is.
    Jack: Trust me, they do. Tell them that they’ll have to be alone with Chloe unless they cancel their operation. Got it?
    Voice: Yes, sir.
    Jack: Good! No, for once, I’M GETTING SOME SLEEP!

  45. Actually, when asked who was funding him, the terrorist should have said:

    Voice: Senator Robert Byrd.
    Jack: What?
    Voice: We located our headquarters in West Virginia, and out of force of habit Robert Byrd got us a subsidy. It was pretty sweet. All we had to do was include a plug for coal in the curriculum at our terrorist training camp.

  46. Thoreau-
    Is it really a surprise to think that Andrea Dworkin and Cal Thomas have something in common? Both are convinced that they know what’s good for you, far more than you know yourself, and both would be perfectly happy to use coercion and force to make you behave properly. The exact DETAILS differ a little, that’s all.

  47. What kills me every time is the incredibly toxic management style at CTU. It’s all petty infighting and bickering over who slighted who. Oooh, Tony made a decision and Michelle overruled him; it’s probably because she’s a cold bitch who’s overcompensating for her repressed feelings for him. Ooooh.

    And this differs from our actual intelligence services how, exactly? Well besides the attractive people working there, of course.

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