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Scalia: "I don't care about holding people. I really don't" and "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles!"

I kid you not. I know that torture-loving conservatives have a hard time distinguishing fantasy from reality, but this is ridiculous. From The Globe and Mail:

Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge's passing remark - "Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra 'What would Jack Bauer do?' " - got the legal bulldog in Judge Scalia barking.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Judge Scalia said.

Er, Judge? 24 is a TV show. And the military has expressed its displeasure to its (Israeli) producer, because the troops emulate 24's techniques, and they don't work. In fact, they believe that Scalia's jurisprudence is having toxic effect:

his past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind “24.” Finnegan, who was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, arrived on the set as the crew was filming. At first, Finnegan—wearing an immaculate Army uniform, his chest covered in ribbons and medals—aroused confusion: he was taken for an actor and was asked by someone what time his “call” was.

In fact, Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. “I’d like them to stop,” Finnegan said of the show’s producers. “They should do a show where torture backfires.”

But pragmatism means nothing to your typical conservative. Torture is the ultimate in enforcing deference, and so they like it.

"I don't care about holding people. I really don't," Judge Scalia said.

Even if a real terrorist who suffered mistreatment is released because of complaints of abuse, Judge Scalia said, the interruption to the terrorist's plot would have ensured "in Los Angeles everyone is safe." During a break from the panel, Judge Scalia specifically mentioned the segment in Season 2 when Jack Bauer finally figures out how to break the die-hard terrorist intent on nuking L.A. The real genius, the judge said, is that this is primarily done with mental leverage. "There's a great scene where he told a guy that he was going to have his family killed," Judge Scalia said. "They had it on closed circuit television - and it was all staged. ... They really didn't kill the family."

Not a dry conservative seat in the house, eh?


"I don't want to bypass the Constitution, but these are extraordinary circumstances."


"I don't care about holding people. I really don't."

The circumstances are always extraordinary, aren't they?

NOTE Oddly, or not, this story comes from a Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail, and it hasn't gotten any stateside coverage at all from our famously free press. Of course, after the Maher Arar affair, the idea of torture doesn't seem to Canadians like something that happens on TV to les autres:

Maher Arar is a 34-year-old wireless technology consultant. He was born in Syria and came to Canada with his family at the age of 17. He became a Canadian citizen in 1991. On Sept. 26, 2002, while in transit in New York’s JFK airport when returning home from a vacation, Arar was detained by US officials and interrogated about alleged links to al-Qaeda. Twelve days later, he was chained, shackled and flown to Syria, where he was held in a tiny “grave-like” cell for ten months and ten days before he was moved to a better cell in a different prison. In Syria, he was beaten, tortured and forced to make a false confession.

During his imprisonment, Arar's wife, Monia Mazigh, campaigned relentlessly on his behalf until he was returned to Canada in October 2003. On Jan. 28, 2004, under pressure from Canadian human rights organizations and a growing number of citizens, the Government of Canada announced a Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.

On September 18, 2006, the Commissioner of the Inquiry, Justice Dennis O'Connor, cleared Arar of all terrorism allegations, stating he was "able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada."

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hobson's picture
Submitted by hobson on

It's very strange. Millions of people have died or been willing to risk death to defend the ideas embodied in the Constitution. Not just soldiers but civilians too in all kinds of circumstances.

But this administration seems to be telling us at every turn that these ideas, which I always thought were the foundation of our country, are not worth dying for. They're no longer a source of our strength. They no longer make us great. They're dangerous to us.

You wonder why people bothered when you visit a military cemetary or you celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday. Why were these people willing to do it?

Well, we know that many of the people in charge of this country weren't willing to do it.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

See the quote below.

Many of the values inculcated in the United States' avid TV viewers by shows like Bonanza, Big Valley, Star Trek: TOS, and Quantum Leap, to name just a handful, were very liberal attitudes, very tolerant towards people and very positive about diversity, about respect for your neighbors, and strongly proactive about doing the right thing in the name of law and order, rather than being a bully in the name of might making right. Those values were taught the same way English was taught, and the same way standards of personal hygiene and proper clothing and popular culture were taught: by osmosis, while you watched your favorite show. It was a heady time to be alive, even if the TV was a B&W console model; the good guys won without becoming worse than the bad guys in the process.

Of course, back then the government didn't want us to be afraid of everything all the time, and everybody who didn't look and sound like George W. Bush.
Mr. Spock, of Vulcan, often quoted the King James Bible.

Nowadays, "Christian" networks vilify the lessons of the very shows they used to run (Bonanza was on three hours a night, six nights a week, on the station First United Methodist Church started in its basement in about 1993; a low-power broadcast, it has sadly since been discontinued. They offered "Hazel" and "My Three Sons" repeats after school, and confined their "preaching" to commercial breaks -- usually 30 seconds' ad for some local business followed by 30 seconds of reading from either the Bible or The Upper Room, and oddly, you were never asked for money for the church!) in favor of Focus on the Family's xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic tripe mixed with constant bombardment-level begging for donations.

"We are killers. But today, we choose not to kill." Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek: The Original Series

shystee's picture
Submitted by shystee on

You have to check out The Wire. Rent the series from Netflix or whatever. Do what you have to do. It's all about the drug war and politics in Baltimore. It's completely different from every other cop show. See this interview with the writer.

I agree with you about how TV shows reflect and affect the morality of any given period of time. I think The Wire is the alternative to 24 for our time: reality-based vs. right wing fantasy.

I came across this in a google blog search. Since writing 'The Murder of Maher Arar' a number of months ago, I've felt compelled to check in on occasion to see whether his name continues to ring out on the blogs.

I'm really an admirer of this kind of work being done...I'm going to link to this site on deadissue and hope that you might do the same.

Peace, Love and Acceleration