A reader writes:
Having never missed an episode of 24, I agree with the earlier writer that the normalization of more and more extreme acts of violence is part of the show's legacy. But what really struck me about the show was an outgrowth of a world, created by the 24 writers, where extreme institutional incompetence was the norm.
When Jack is "forced" to torture, it is because CTU, in spite of technology and extralegal authority beyond the wettest Cheney dream, never has more than one active lead. Add to this that they are staffed in every department with treasonous moles and ass-covering bureaucrats, and supported by field agents and cops who cannot even successfully set a perimeter around a suspect. For instance, the mastermind of Season Four, upon that a colleague had been captured, stalled his pursuers by calling in a lawyer from the snottily-named "Amnesty Global" to advocate for his civil rights.
The writers performed acts of superhuman gymnastics over the years in order to make Jack, week after week, the ONLY man who can be trusted, in the ONLY place where there is hope of stopping the attack, with ONLY minutes to work. The disaster MUST be of unimaginable scale and scheduled for only hours (or minutes) into the future. The villains MUST be so steely and self-assured as to laugh at the possibility of life in prison, or even a painless execution. Our normal institutions MUST fail.
That cocktail is effectively never replicated in the real world, where investigations unfold over months and years and involve so many puzzle pieces of information. And no one has perfect situational judgment here on Earth, where we have things like ambiguity. But it was the only fuel the 24 engine could accept once the producers elected to ride its formula as far as it would take them.
The show truly was the dramatization of Cheney's infamous One-Percent Doctrine.
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