Monday, January 29, 2007

24 and the Perception of Terror

If you don't know what Fox's 24 is all about, you're pretty much way behind the times, but suffice it to say that it is a show that follows a day in the life of the most bad ass counter-terrorism agent out there: one Jack Bauer. Since the show is about counter-terrorism (located in the fictional CTU headquarters in LA), they need to constantly have terrorists to arrest and evil plots to foil. Naturally.

But the problem with all this constant terrorism on one of the nation's most popular TV shows is that it propagates the idea that a) terrorism is everywhere--there is a never ending supply of actual leads for Jack to follow, and, perhaps more dangerously that b) there is something that we can do to stop pretty much all terrorism threats. I don't exactly believe, as Oscar Wilde apparently did, that life imitates art, but I truly believe that the TV show 24 causes people to believe that terrorism is a bigger threat than it really is, and also that we can do much to stop these acts of violence. It would be pretty much impossible to stop somebody from walking on a train anywhere in the US with a homemade bomb and detonating it. I've been on trains down to New York all the time. There is no security. And there's nothing that anyone can really do to stop it, except try to not give anybody any reason to do so and hope for the best in humanity.

Look, I'm not trying to say that 9/11 wasn't tragic. And I can't blame the creators of the show for making terrorism seem worse and more rampant than it really is, because that is a part of their show. But I just can't shake the feeling that 24 is a big reason that people seem to worry more about terrorism than the environment, or why people become so anxious when they see the terror alert levels rise. The American public needs to work on separating fiction from reality, and if that means taking 24 a little bit less seriously, then so be it. Remember, it's just a TV show, America.

That said, I can't wait for next week's episode. What is Jack's brother going to do with him?