How many of us condemn state-sanctioned torture by day but watch 24 by night? Apart from God, probably only a few marketing firms know the exact answer.
We do know that the Emmy award-winning Fox network drama ranks among the top 20 shows watched by the coveted 18- to 49-year-old market, and that recent ratings indicate that nearly 14 million households tune in on Monday nights. This is good news for Fox, but bad news for the American image abroad and, possibly, for the state of the American soul.
In case you're not one of those 14 million, every season counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer confronts a threat to national security in the span of 24 nail-biting hours, with each episode set as an hour in real time. Now nearing the end of its sixth season, Bauer and his colleagues at the Los Angeles counterterrorism unit have averted crises ranging from a presidential assassination plot to all-out nuclear holocaust on American soil. Each season introduces a new set of terrorist masterminds, most with Eastern European or Middle Eastern accents, many of whom are subjected to graphic interrogation tactics by Bauer as a means of procuring information to halt a scheme jeopardizing American lives. In almost every instance, the torture works.