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The Gospel According to Jack Bauer?

Saturday, Sept. 30, 2006 1:50 PM

In the midst of this week's 'debate' about torture as a national value, conservative commentator Laura Ingraham remarked that, clearly, the American people approve of torture, because the television 24 draws high ratings, and the hero, Jack Bauer, is clearly unafraid to do what's necessary.

Ms. Ingraham's comment ranks alongside Dan Quayle's chastisement of Murphy Brown as a single mom. Not to mention espousing the silliness of a world where my inalienable rights include life, liberty, and a date with Kim Raver (Audrey Raines).

But if Jack Bauer's methods are to draw praise, if the fictional world of 24 is the way things ought to be, we should carefully consider the last 'day' in the series.

True, the primary threat was terrorists armed with deadly Centox nerve gas, but we should remember that it was President Charles Logan who conspired to put it in their hands, who lied continually throughout the series while offering platitudes and tough talk � and was, in turn, revealed to be part of a corporate/political cabal.

But more damning is a chilling end note to the season. Jack is lured out of view by word of a supposed phone call from his daughter � and disappears. He is kidnapped by several men, hooded and dragged away.

Jack wakes up in the cargo hold of a freighter bound for China. He has been beaten mercilessly, and the thugs surrounding him show every sign of lining up for more.

"China has a long memory, Mr. Bauer. Did you think we would forget?" says an old adversary. He makes clear that he intends to collect payment on the numerous wrongs Bauer committed while pursuing his work some time ago.

That's right. Jack Bauer, in turn, gets tortured. Beaten. He's clearly not an official prisoner, so he has no rights. There is no formal acknowledgment that he is even in Chinese custody.

Sound familiar? The putative villains of next season's show are doing all those nifty little things we just codified into federal law. Those charming qualities that conservative voices insist are necessary to win the war on terror, as if that war were a re-enactment of Lord of the Flies.

Regarding the resignation of Rep. Mark Foley over his apparent solicitation of a teenage Congressional page, it should be noted that the Republicans booed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi when she called for an investigation.

I guess it's not important. It's a distraction from the country's real work.

A distraction from the fact that people like Rep. John Boehner and (allegedly) House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert knew about this issue months ago, and said nothing. Nor are they the only ones.

The question of Foley's behavior was forwarded to the House Ethics Committee. Oh, wait, Congress isn't in session anymore �

What's that lump under the carpet?

And while I've said precious little about the current season of Survivor (mainly because I detest the show and its espoused mentality), conservative ideologue Rush Limbaugh suggested the racially-segragated tribe gimmick was ended after only two weeks because, 'the white tribe had to be winning.'

Why so many people in America worship this horse's ass is beyond me.

Consider that, if we were all given the power to vote people off the island, we're pretty much all assured of being on someone's list. And while terrorists might be first up on the hit parade, it wouldn't be long before conservatives or liberals get mentioned. Jerry Falwell would likely kick in a vote for gays and pagans; others would kick in a vote for evangelicals. And then it's illegal immigrants, Koreans, Islamics, short people, fat people, rap musicians, corrupt politicians, rude people, lawyers, Limbaugh, Hannity, Malkin, Rhodes, Franken, Moore, Bush, Clinton (pick one) ... we're a nation of hate-filled people.

My vote? Anyone who would play this stupid game. I'd sooner take Pascal's Wager.

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