City of Roses
|First of all, I am a big fan of the TV program "24", and started watching it through Netflix late 2005 and now am all caught up and this season is the first season I'm watching on television through season's end.
Anyway, on the January 16, 2007 edition of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann", the program's #4 story set up the debate: "Is 24 just entertainment or is it propaganda designed to keep people thinking about domestic terrorism to keep us scared?" Whether the program is: "Gripping drama or thinly veiled propaganda?"
Olbermann also suggested that the intent of "24" is to deliberately blue the lines between reality and television, and thus serves as a form of "naked brainwashing" comparable to the likes of the Bush Administration and the Fox News Channel.
He then went on to interview documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald for additional insight (who directed "Outfoxed", a film exploring alleged media bias on Fox News.) Here's the full transcript of the segment:
MSNBC: January 17, 2007: Countdown With Keith Olbermann Transcript
OLBERMANN: It‘s a familiar tactic for grabbing and holding the public‘s attention, beloved by both the Bush administration and, just as another example, Fox News Channel.Step one, fear, and if step one does not work, step two, more fear.
In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, it is also evidently how the producers of the Fox series "24" plan to keep viewers during the show‘s sixth year, as evidenced in the first 30 seconds of the season premiere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "24")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:America has been victimized again.Last night‘s terrorist attack in San Antonio is now the latest in this series of bombings that began 11 weeks ago in 10 different cities.Over 900 people have been killed thus far.And while no one is claiming responsibility for this wave of death, evidence points to Islamic militants.
Here in Los Angeles, the mood can only be described as tense and fearful, and the Department of Homeland Security is urging all citizens to report without delay any suspicious persons or activities.
We spoke with a department spokesperson who says, quote, "We don‘t want to start a witch hunt, but we would rather err on the side of caution than become the next target."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN:If that wasn‘t enough to scare or outrage you, the rest of the four-hour, two-night show opener featured a mall attack, a would-be suicide bomber on a subway, and a successful suicide bombing on a passenger bus, not in places where these things have already happened, but in a country called the United States of America.
In case you missed the point, the show finished up with a nuclear weapon detonating in a major American (INAUDIBLE) city, literally conjuring up the administration‘s imagery for the war in Iraq, the good old mushroom cloud, right-wing Web sites leaving no doubt as to what they think viewers should take away from this fictional attack, case in point, Newsbusters.org says this scene, quote, "should be required viewing for all media members who question what‘s at risk and whether there really is a war on terror" and accuses the media of undermining the Bush administration and, quote, "downplaying the seriousness of terrorism."
At least the rest of us didn‘t make it into a sitcom.
And by that logic, of course, somewhere in this country there really is a cheerleader who will never die, there‘s at least one real-life talking dog, and a mother and a daughter who patter back and forth like the "Gilmore Girls."
Is "24" propaganda?Is it fear-mongering?Or is it a program-length commercial for one political party?
I‘m joined now by Robert Greenwald, who made the documentary film "Outfoxed."
Thanks again for your time tonight, sir.
ROBERT GREENWALD, DIRECTOR, "OUTFOXED":Thank you.Nice to be with you.
OLBERMANN:Most people obviously recognize the show‘s fictional, but how well does the fictionalizing of seemingly actual terror events, like subway and bus bombings, and (INAUDIBLE), sort of templating them over the United States‘ landscape, work as a fear tactic?
GREENWALD:Well, we know how susceptible people are to fear, some of it with good reason.The tragedy, as we know, has been how this administration has played on people‘s fears, and how Fox News and Fox in general has used it over and over and over again.
As you say, people can tell the difference.This is fiction.What we‘re dealing with in the world at times is fact.You know, of course, the question is, can this administration tell the difference, given that every day we get a different reason about who we should be afraid of, why we should be afraid, and why we went to war.
OLBERMANN:And the old line, of course, seems to apply here, about people insisting TV does not impact the public‘s perceptions, and then you point out, Well, gee whiz, all those advertisers must have wasted every dollar they ever spent on television.
But if the irrational right can claim that the news is fixed to try to alter people‘s minds, or that networks should be boycotted for nudity or for immorality, shouldn‘t those same groups be saying "24" should be taken off TV because it‘s naked brainwashing?
GREENWALD:Yes, well, I don‘t think those groups have ever talked about brainwashing.But it‘s a very good point, because I think one of the most devastating things that has happened with that show has been the narrative that torture works, where over and over again, they show that there‘s this ticking-bomb scenario, which is a false idea to begin with, right, that you have one second to get X information to save all these people lives.And the only way to solve it is by torturing somebody.
We‘ve seen the results of torture.It doesn‘t work, and you get false information.And that‘s where the show and other shows like it really do a disservice, because they affect the kind of narrative and a way that people throughout the country start to believe.Yes, well, I really don‘t like torture, but I better use it because it‘s the only way to save my country.
OLBERMANN:John McCain did a cameo in the series and joked about torture afterwards.Senator Cornyn has now done a promo on Fox News about this series.And, of course, there was a lovefest at the Heritage Foundation last year starring the producers, some of the actors, Secretary Chertoff from Homeland Security, and comedian Rush Limbaugh.I mean, we‘ve had lines between reality and TV blurred before.(INAUDIBLE) the whole (INAUDIBLE) -- alternate universe quality to "The West Wing."
But does this not begin to look at this point like the blurring of the lines here is deliberate?
GREENWALD:Well, it certainly seems to be that way.And, of course, when you have the vice president and the former secretary of defense saying this is their favorite show, it does give you pause to wonder about what really is going on here.Now, I‘m not a conspiracy theorist.But, of course, the fact that the show is on Fox raises all of our eyebrows.
Now, having said that, you know, there‘s some very good execution in this show, and that‘s what makes the sort of moral questions that you‘re asking even more important.And more important that people tell the difference, and that we raise hell when they cross a line that shouldn‘t be crossed, blurring the fact with the fiction.
OLBERMANN:Is there some tangible way that this could actually help a president who has relied, who has campaigned on, you know, our party will protect you, and the other guys, well, you‘re on your own?
GREENWALD:Well, I don‘t know what‘s going to help this president, given where his ratings are.I don‘t know that an angel coming down would save him right now.But I think any time that one is using fear to create a concern among the electorate, to create a concern in our country, and to motivate and push people and say, you better be afraid, you better be very afraid, the more we keep hearing that message, I think the more we need to push back against it and ask the hard questions.
OLBERMANN:Maybe "Touched by an Angel" can make a comeback, as you just suggested it.Robert Greenwald, maker of the documentary "Outfoxed."Thank you for joining us tonight, sir.
It gets even more ridiculous by the way. Newsweek columnist Devin Gordon composed a scathing review of the new season of "24" last week, who writes the following on the second page of this two-page review:
* Newsweek: January 12, 2007 "It’s also, at its best, bracingly topical. Depending on your perspective, “24” is either a neocon sex fantasy or the collective id of our nation unleashed. The show debuted just a few months after 9/11, and its watchful, paranoid visual language was forged in that moment. The very first episode featured a terrorist blowing a plane full of passengers out of the sky. Subsequent story lines about Islamic fundamentalism, the torturing of innocents, biochemical attacks and atrocities broadcast over the Internet felt like they were ripped from the front page of The New York Times. The writers of “24” have always proven willing to brush aside an audience’s natural desire for relief so they can explore the murky, anxious territory of postdisaster scenarios. What happens after the nerve gas gets out? What happens after the president’s jet gets shot down?"
Generally, though I don't always agree with Olbermann in that his tone can be unsettling and that he resorts to the same sort of name-calling on his "Worst person In The World" segment, I admire Olbermann for speaking his mind even when his voice shakes as he does earnestly and feelingly on his "Special Comments", treats his guests on his program with utmost respect in allowing them to say all they want to say without butting it or interrupting, will show the footage of White House press conferences and interviews among other things in their whole, uncut form rather than just showing excerpts as other news programs do, and finally for his special blend of humor and pop culture that makes his program attractive to younger demographics in particular.
But the first thought that came to my mind after that segment last night was I felt Olbermann must not have seen a single episode of "24" in its entirety yet (and more importantly, a season of "24" in its entirety) thus he already discredits himself heavily with a deep misunderstanding of the program, and I also felt perhaps the only reason he criticized the program passionately on last night's "Countdown" was because Cheney and Limbaugh happen to be fans of the program or because it's a program aired on Fox (so is "The Simpsons" by the way) who of course Olbermann routinely criticizes these personalities.
Secondly, I happen to believe the writing team for "24" is quite fair-minded. Look, I recall one season a one-liner being blurted out by Secretary of Defense Keller to his rebellious son that read, "Spare me your sixth-grade Michael Moore logic."
that seems to suggest the anti-war extreme is naive. Yet, there's also writing that suggests the neoconservative "long war" extreme is insane too, examining closely constitutional issues, especially when last season President Logan was undermining civil liberties while also privately backing the attempt to set up a Gulf of Tonkin II in Central Asia with the Sentax nerve gas (not to mention in Season 2 Bauer tries to prevent a war with three countries in the Middle East, with the effort led by Vice President Prescott and oil company executives, where Prescott attempts to have his way by invoking the 25th Amendment against President Palmer, accusing him of being too weak against the terrorists)
Show star Kiefer Sutherland has even come out on several occasions at the end of a "24" episode, making statements of concern including this one during the controversial fourth season, defending the American Muslim community:
*"Hi. My name is Kiefer Sutherland, and I play counterterrorist agent Jack Bauer on Fox’s ’24.’ I would like to take a moment to talk to you about something that I think is very important. Now while terrorism is obviously one of the most critical challenges facing our nation and the world, it is important to recognize that the American Muslim community stands firmly beside their fellow Americans in denouncing and resisting all forms of terrorism. So in watching ’24,’ please, bear that in mind."
Also, during the fourth season, on the episode 7:00 P.M-8:00 P.M, for those of you who watch "24" also, you might recall the scene where Bauer is on the line defending himself against the McLennan-Forster army, and finds a sporting goods store at 7:18 P.M where he meets two Arab-American brothers named Naji and Safa, where Bauer asks the to flee in explaining he's fighting the terrorists responsible for setting off the EMP bomb. Yet, the brothers decide to stay with Jack and help him fight the terrorists, using all the ammunition and weapons they have to defend him, adding they want to do this because they want to fight the negative stereotypes they've endured their whole lives. Later in that same episode, at 7:37 P.M, the brothers tell Jack their father handed down the business to them after he died, and believe their father would have approved of what they were doing now helping fight the terrorists. Finally, after succeeding in the fight against the McLennan-Forster army, Bauer offers his thanks to the brothers by promising to get them help in putting their store back together.
Kiefer Sutherland has also regularly expressed his opinions condemning torture on programs, including "The Charlie Rose Show", saying: "Do I personally believe that the police or any of these other legal agencies that are working for this government should be entitled to interrogate people and do the things that I do on the show? No, I do not."
I just don't get the furor over "24" here. It's absolutely childish in my opinion. I think it's just as insane and childish as the furor some like Dan Quayle were making regarding "Murphy Brown" tearing apart American families and encouraging feminism among other things. When you really watch the show and get down to the crux of each season, it's clear to see the neoconservative notion of "long war" is depicted as equally as naive than those with "sixth-grade Michael Moore logic." We saw Bauer going after not only suspected terrorists, but American oil interests who were trying to twist Palmer's government into three wars at once in Season 2. We saw Bauer going after President Logan in Season 5 for conspiring to set up a smoking gun in Central Asia to justify a war there, and Bauer being projected as the voice of reason and truth that season. And already this season we've seen how far the federal government could go in trying to collect personal information just because everyone at an organization happens to be Muslim.
I think there's much evidence on the program that, on the contrary to what Gordon argues in his column, points to both the pacifist and neoconservative extremes being delusional in some sense at least.
But all politics and analyzing aside, "24" is ultimately just a TV show. A frickin' fictional TV show which I happen to be a big fan of and enjoy especially because Jack Bauer is a hero who is also just like all the rest of us; a hero who is yet as human as you can get, who copes with the loss of his murdered ex-wife, missing his daughter Kim and watching her grow up so fast, the emotional and psychological trauma he now bears after being incarcerated for 20 months in a Chinese prison camp and all the torture he had to bear in there, watching many of his close friends die in action (sometimes forced to kill himself under pressure from terrorists), and especially in a sensitive post-911 climate we all are looking for some hero out there who can leave us assured we're safe and sound, and I believe the reason why "24" has become so immensely popular is because Jack Bauer is a most convincing hero, who epitomizes the heart and mind of an ordinary American just trying to protect his country and his loved ones, unabashedly and honestly.
What are your thoughts here on "24"?
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other"