Prime-time torture

Jack Bauer as a hero of our time
In an episode of the Fox television drama 24, the hero Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland) desperately needs information to protect national security. To get it, Jack knocks a man unconscious and ties him to a chair. Ripping the electrical cord out of a lamp, he applies the current to the man’s bare chest when he refuses to cooperate with Jack’s questioning. When Jack threatens to put the live wire into the man’s ear, the captive finally relents.

The nonprofit organization Human Rights First reports that before 2001, fewer than four scenes of torture appeared on prime-time television each year. Last year, there were more than 100. The show 24 has been instrumental in this change: in its first five seasons, 24 showed 67 scenes of torture, the majority of them performed by Jack Bauer.


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