Monday, February 12, 2007


Good article in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer about torture on 24. The article focuses on Joel Surnow, the show's co-creator and executive producer, who's a wingnut pal of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter (and who, we learn, shares Coulter's fondness for Joe McCarthy -- and would actually like to make a pro-McCarthy movie).

Surnow fancies himself a great patriot -- but his patriotism apparently has limits:

This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind "24." Finnegan, who was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, arrived on the set as the crew was filming.

... Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show's central political premise -- that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security -- was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. "I'd like them to stop," Finnegan said of the show’s producers. "They should do a show where torture backfires."

... Several top producers of "24" were present, but Surnow was conspicuously absent. Surnow explained to me, "I just can't sit in a room that long. I'm too A.D.D. -- I can't sit still." He told the group that the meeting conflicted with a planned conference call with Roger Ailes, the chairman of the Fox News Channel. (Another participant in the conference call attended the meeting.) Ailes wanted to discuss a project that Surnow has been planning for months: the debut, on February 18th, of "The Half Hour News Hour," a conservative satirical treatment of the week's news; Surnow sees the show as offering a counterpoint to the liberal slant of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Now, can you imagine if a left-leaning producer of a hit show did something like this -- blew off a meeting with a brigadier general who felt his show was harming America? Can you just imagine the outrage from the right? Can you imagine the trumped up, days-long drumbeat of manufactured outrage, accompanied by calls for the firing of the producer and for boycotts of the show's advertisers?

But Surnow's a right-winger with fans throughout the Bush administration (which, of course, doesn't agree with the general), so it's no big whoop.

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