A reader writes:

As much as 24 has come to represent the torture-happy (or at least torture-supporting) segment of America, the interesting thing is that the show didn't start that way.  In the first seasons of 24, torture was a hotly debated issue among the characters that was agonized over by everyone involved.  Weeks would go by where the characters would debate the decisions that they had to make regarding torture or the rule of law.  Even Jack Bauer himself did everything he could to try to maintain his own soul.

However as the show progressed, torture became normalized and required, and standard legal requirements were treated as troublesome hurdles.

The fictional agency of CTU had an expert in causing severe pain without causing lasting damage on staff that routinely was called in, even in cases where those suspects turned out to be innocent, and nobody batted an eye.  Jack was often put in situations where he had to interrogate suspects on the spot and it was taken for granted those suspects wouldn't talk unless tortured.  Jack went from harsh threats, to actual torture, to shooting a suspect's wife in the leg to get him to answer.

I'm not sure what exactly to take away from this progression.  Partly, it came from the show's need to one-up itself in order to stay relevant.  The moral decisions and actions in the show had to become more shocking, and the show's need to act in an accelerated timeframe with enormous stakes meant that it acted entirely in the fever dreams of the far right.  But mostly, the show's support of torture came from a reflection of society.  Torture was no longer shocking to us - torture, inhumane treatment, and a disregard of legal norms in any situations related to terrorism are all accepted now, or at least treated as a valid point of view.

24 might share some guilt as the show that presented the pro-torture point of view in the best possible light and in the most extreme, clear-cut, and thus unrealistic scenarios.  But I don't think it acted alone.  There's a reason it was as popular as it was.  Just as the popularity of Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin represent America as much as they represent themselves, 24 is an accurate reflection of the times and views of much of America after 9/11.

Along those lines, this unembeddable Youtube from Human Rights First is a must see.

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