Tv's Jack Bauer Makes Torture Popular, Doctor Claimsby Contributor | 28 November 2008
24 character Jack Bauer is behind a glamourisation of torture, according to a new medical report.
Writing in the Lancet journal, Dr Homer Drae Venters of New York University claims the ruthless actions of the counterterrorism agent played by Kiefer Sutherland have led to an American 'approval' of torture.
It was reported last year that the United States military had contacted Fox television and the producers of 24 to ask that torture scenes be toned down, due to a worrying effect on young troops.
And according to Dr Venters, Bauer's uncompromising stance towards terrorists may have led to an increased tacit support for torture among the US public.
"Jack Bauer makes torture popular," he writes. "We are tempted by the glamour and raw charisma that we project onto Jack Bauer, the illusion of protection, and the lure of vigilante justice.
"But the raw truth of torture is that whatever the original motive, the torturer and the tortured are transformed into a perpetrator and a victim of violence. The torturer visits inhumanity on his victim, but also on himself and the surrounding community."
Dr Venters expresses concerns over the effect of 24 on the apparent 'increasing acceptability of torture in the public psyche'.
"Somewhere in the fog of war, terror, and politics, we have become accustomed to the idea of torture," he claims.
"Recent polling shows that American acceptance of torture is increasing, from 36 per cent in 2006 to 44 per cent in 2008. Additionally, more than half of Americans support torture in some situations, and an equal number support the practice of so-called rendition to other countries for the purpose of torture.
"During prime-time television, this approval of torture is generated and reflected by Jack Bauer, roughing up prisoners in a weekly struggle to protect the country."
Dr Venters calls for physicians to educate themselves about torture as a public health issue, to strengthen ties with human rights organisations and to approach the matter in "the least partisan manner possible".