Saturday, January 20, 2007

Terrorism and "24"

I'm seriously hooked on the Fox show "24." I missed the first 2 seasons, while I was into "Alias," then went back and watched them on DVD. Stayed up late - nights in a row - because I couldn't get enough of Jack Bauer's body count and edge-of-the-seat action. Been watching ever since - won't miss an episode.

Media critic Elvis Mitchell pointed out on NPR's "Weekend Edition" today that "24" is pilloried by some as a "right wing fantasy." I know where he's coming from, because TV is fantasy - almost entirely - and because there are few pop culture references to the entire notion of terrorism inside these shores. (Friday's NBC hit "Law and Order" did cover the matter.) Such an acknowledgement of the reality of terrorism is considered by some as "right wing."

Muslims and Arab-Americans (not the same thing) are also concerned about the stereotypes and racism that "24" might foster. While Islamic terrorists were villians in past seasons, bad guys were also depicted as "Americans, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, ... and the fictional president of the United States."

But the "Season/Day 6" premiere puts some other questions in play, and from a range of political perspectives:
--How hawks at the elbow of the president could care less about civil liberties. For them, martial law is always a viable option.
--How there is a struggle within Arab politics and Islam between terrorism and violence on one hand, and negotiation and diplomacy. Yikes! Jack's right hand man in the field Curtis bought the farm because he could not fathom that a former terrorist would change his spots and work for peace.
--And critical to modern day terrorism - how regular American citizens will do anything to save their loved ones and preserve personal safety, believing... hoping against hope that this terrorist guy holding my family hostage will let them go if I just do what they say. (It was said by one observer that Americans love life, while terrorists love death. That will always give the evil among us an edge in negotiations.)

The turning point in American aviation after 9/11 is the fact that no American passengers will allow a plane to be hijacked again (in the foreseeable future). With the heroism of United Flight 93 fresh in our minds, rank and file US airline passengers will force the plane down before we let some crazy person take over our flight. That's why no one is successfully hijacking planes any more. One might suggest that the TSA is almost entirely needless because citizens are once again willing to preserve and secure the peace on board aircraft. (Of course, we do need to screen passengers just to keep the most flagrant offenders from skating on board too easily...)

Each succeeding season of "24" offers a smorgasbord of possible non-Muslim terrorist threats. Consider:
-Tax protestors.
-African-American nationalists (holdovers from the revolutionary days of the 70s.)
-Eco-terrorists serious about ending US dependence on oil "by any means necessary."
-More of the McVeigh/Nichols type, uber-patriots willing to accept some "collateral" damage as part of the "price of liberty."
-Narco-terrorists coming to the US in earnest, packing serious heat in their effort to "crack" the US dope market wide open.
-Eager Latin dictators working on some "payback" for the Bay of Pigs. This could be timely as the demise of Cuba's Castro is near, and the vision of global socialism is nearly extinguished. These south-of-the-border militarists could seek to put "America in its place" by creating fear and instability. (That is terrorism's only real weapon - fear.)
The possible story lines are endless.

Yes. Citizens are occasionally required to be heroes. In a dangerous time with bad guys always seeking to take it out on the innocent, there is a little Jack Bauer in all of us.

1 comment:

Mr Bob said...

don't forget to check out for live blogging of each episode and bro...they are hilarious, albeit a bit juvenile.

Well posted Steve, I think one of the appeals of 24 is that it combines fantasy with something people fear.

Also The tension between those who want to curtail some rights while we are at war and those who want to preserve them even if it causes casualties is a heady angle for a fantasy to take as well. I hope they carry on. So far they have made the extreme on both of those issues look out of touch, and I like that.

The part of the program that is "right wing fantasy" is when Bauer uses any means necessary to extract information from the terrorists. Hopefully those of us in the right wing (of which I am one) realize this is truly fantasy, however, I must confess I wish sometimes that perhaps we could remove the bad guys knee caps just to get him to talk.

Hopefully then (like me) we dismiss the idea as UnAmerican and UnChristian and hope to find the bad guys some other way.