Conservatives continue to use Fox's 24 to support hawkish policies

››› ››› ANDREW IRONSIDE

Cal Thomas is the latest conservative figure to use the TV show 24 to forecast a nuclear attack on the United States. Conservatives have also looked to the TV series for justification of aggressive interrogation procedures.

In his January 30 syndicated column, Cal Thomas attacked "ideologically decrepit" Iraq war protesters and claimed: "Unlike Vietnam, the Islamofascists won't leave us alone if we leave Iraq before stability is established." Discussing the possible consequences of exiting Iraq, Thomas referenced Fox Broadcasting's TV series 24: "Watch the TV drama '24' for what could be our prophetic and imminent future with a nuclear device exploding in major cities. Having concluded we don't have the stomach to fight them on their turf, they might understandably deduce we are even less willing to fight them on ours."

Thomas is not the first conservative to use 24 to forecast a nuclear attack on the United States. On the January 16 edition of Fox News' The Big Story -- airing a day after the premiere of 24's sixth season, in which "terrorists detonate a mini nuclear bomb in downtown Los Angeles" -- host John Gibson stated: "Well, certainly may be fiction for now. But 24's Jack Bauer has it right. People need to wake up to the possibility of nuclear attack." Gibson later asked: "Is 24's faux suitcase nuke bomb a real wake-up call for America? Should we take this as an early warning sign that something like this could happen here?" Jack Bauer is the show's main character, a member of the fictional "Counter Terrorist Unit."

Conservatives have also looked to the TV series for justification of aggressive interrogation procedures. On the September 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, discussing what constitutes torture and its use by the U.S. military when interrogating terror suspects, conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham told host Bill O'Reilly: "The average American out there loves the show 24. OK? They love Jack Bauer. They love 24. In my mind that's close to a national referendum that it's OK to use tough tactics against high-level Al Qaeda operatives as we're going to get."

CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck has also referenced Jack Bauer when talking about the interrogation of terrorist detainees. On the September 7, 2006, edition of his CNN Headline News program, Beck responded to a report confirming "the existence of secret CIA prisons" and "the use of an alternative set of procedures when questioning terrorists," saying: "I want a Jack Bauer out there. ... It's the tactics and the programs that we don't know about that make me sleep well at night." Other examples of Beck's enthusiasm for the character include:

  • On the November 30, 2006, edition of his CNN Headline News program, Beck responded to an email that asked about the "ill treatment of our prisoners in Guantanamo" and asserted: "Now me, I'm for more Jack Bauers. The Jack Bauer that has to extract information."
  • On the September 25, 2006, edition of his CNN Headline News program, Beck claimed: "I think, really, most of us would like a Jack Bauer from time to time. The reality is a lot of these guys have information that could potentially save thousands of lives. You've got to do what you've got to do." He later asked former U.S. Army interrogator Mike Ritz: "Yes or no, does Jack Bauer exist in America, a guy like that?" Ritz said, "Sure," and Beck responded: "Love you."

Also, as Media Matters for America documented, on the January 17 edition of Fox News' Your World, private investigator Richard "Bo" Dietl used 24 to justify the use of racial profiling when searching for terror suspects. Discussing an incident in which 40 American Muslims were barred from boarding a plane, Dietl told host Neil Cavuto and guest Imam Sayed Hussan al-Qazwini, leader of the Islamic Center of America and one of the 40 Muslim passengers: "The fact of the matter is -- I mean, you don't watch 24 on Fox TV? They're out there. They're out there. There are cells out there. We have to protect ourselves against it, as Americans."

From Thomas' January 30 column:

This is the doctrine of the privileged and the pampered. It is salvation on the cheap. It makes the protesters feel good, even righteous, but does nothing to solve the problem, which isn't the United States, but a very real enemy that intends to kill us. Unlike Vietnam, the Islamofascists won't leave us alone if we leave Iraq before stability is established. They will send more fanatics to our shores. Watch the TV drama "24" for what could be our prophetic and imminent future with a nuclear device exploding in major cities. Having concluded we don't have the stomach to fight them on their turf, they might understandably deduce we are even less willing to fight them on ours.

From the January 16 edition of Fox News' Big Story with John Gibson:

GIBSON: Well. The big security story tonight, terrorists detonate a mini nuclear bomb in downtown Los Angeles, the plan to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans: fact or fiction?

Well, certainly maybe fiction for now. But 24's Jack Bauer has it right. People need to wake up to the possibility of nuclear attack. This isn't only coming from Hollywood.

The reality is, a major European bank is now issuing a warning about a possible strike on Iran's nuke program. And in Washington, there's fear about Iran's nuke capabilities, of course, and fear the U.S. will open an Iran warfront, which could lead to more terror attacks here.

Is 24's faux suitcase nuke bomb a real wake-up call for America? Should we take this as an early warning sign that something like this could happen here?

Joining me now, Mike Baker, a former CIA operative. Also, national bestselling author Brad Thor, author of the book Takedown [Atria, 2006]. So Brad, did -- a lot of people watched 24 last night, and yet we're seeing these things pop up in the headlines all the time. Should we take it seriously?

From the November 30, 2006, edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: George in Barbados writes in: "Glenn, Bush administration and the American media always paint a terrible picture of the beheadings and other horrible crimes being committed in Iraq, yet they try to downplay the ill treatment of our prisoners in Guantánamo. Let's not forget the horrible things the Marines did to the prisoners in Iraq. Isn't that somewhat hypocritical?"

Uh, no, I don't think so. I mean, look, no conservative that I know was tougher on Abu Ghraib than I was. It shouldn't have happened, and it should definitely never have been downplayed. That legitimately hurt us in Iraq, and it was pointless.

Now, me, I'm for more Jack Bauers. The Jack Bauer that has to extract information, that's one thing. But Lynndie England taking pictures of, you know, a naked pyramid? That was just stupid and pointless. But to compare that to a beheading of an innocent worker or a soldier who was kidnapped is a little over the top. Maybe it's just me.

From the October 10, 2006, edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: Ed writes in from Tampa: "Glenn, relax. On North Korea, everything is going to be OK. This situation is all a setup by Fox television to promote the new season of 24. Remember, Jack Bauer was kidnapped by China, so he's already in the area, and he's going to take care of North Korea and their bomb. P.S.: Been here from day one."

Wow, so you're the one that's been sticking around from the beginning, huh? Thanks, Ed. I hope that you're right. We need some real-life Jack Bauers right about now, minus the hot daughter that almost gets thousands of people killed every season.

From the September 25, 2006, edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: But because the specific techniques are so secret, the bill instead uses terms like "serious and nontransitory mental harm, which need not be prolonged." What? Can I use the extreme sleep deprivation, or not so much? Because most of us, I think, would like to just sit back in our cozy living rooms and say, "Well, the interrogators should just ask those guys, you know, where the next attack's gonna be. Ask them nicely. Maybe offer them a lollipop. How can they not talk?"

I think, really, most of us would like a Jack Bauer from time to time. The reality is a lot of these guys have information that could potentially save thousands of lives, and you gotta do what you gotta do.

[...]

BECK: OK. Mike, really, time just for a yes-or-no question. Yes or no: Does Jack Bauer exist in America, a guy like that?

MIKE RITZ (former U.S. Army interrogator): Yes. Sure.

BECK: Love you. Thank you. Back in a minute.

From the September 13, 2006, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: What I'm trying to tell you is this -- the average American sitting at home is not engaged on a daily basis like we are.

INGRAHAM: Right.

O'REILLY: Doesn't know what the truth is. Doesn't know.

INGRAHAM: Well, I'll tell you one --

O'REILLY: Go ahead. Go ahead.

INGRAHAM: I'll tell you one thing, Bill. The average American out there loves the show 24. OK? They love Jack Bauer. They love 24. In my mind, that's as close to a national referendum that it's OK to use tough tactics against high-level Al Qaeda operatives as we're going to get. OK?

The idea that you're going to give, as Ted Koppel [then-host of ABC's Nightline] said the other night, hoagies and Cokes to all the people who are being interrogated, that might work. They might give a lamb kebab to some low-level Al Qaeda person in Gitmo, and that might work.

From the September 7, 2006, edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: Next, you probably heard that President Bush yesterday acknowledged, for the very first time, the existence of secret CIA prisons, along with -- how ominous does this one sound? -- the use of an "alternative set of procedures," end quote, when questioning suspected terrorists.

So the real story today is very simple, at least for me. For some reason, nobody is saying this. Well, at least nobody on television is saying this. Here it is. "The Real Story." Thank God. It's these types of things, the stuff that we usually never hear about -- unless we read The New York Times -- that actually makes me feel more secure.

I want a Jack Bauer out there. I love seeing cops doing bag checks on subway stations. Let's be honest. It's the tactics and the programs that we don't know about that make us all sleep real well at night. Earlier this year -- I should say, unless you're a bad guy.

Earlier this year, Osama bin Laden said, quote, "Death is better than living on this earth with the unbelievers among us." How do you possibly fight against that kind of mentality with conventional tactics? The answer: You don't.

How do you fight an enemy that violates the one rule of war -- that life is better than death -- that the rest of us live by every single day? You can't. And so you've got to do what you need to do to survive.

The president said these "alternative procedures" and secret prisons have saved American lives. He said they have saved -- or stopped plots designed to occur inside the U.S. Things like downing of airplanes, bombing office buildings, and potential biological attacks. Things we've never heard about.

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