Not understanding fiction

We’ve been watching 24. We’ve watched series 1-5 and presently we’re close to the end of the truly awful series 6. Now, while it’s quite clearly the worst one so far, it has thrown up some interesting facts. Most notably the fact that American television producers refuse to name Moslem countries when a threat comes from them.

This is not a problem when the threat comes from Russia or China. They are named with great abandon.

In fact, the poor Chinese get a rotten deal, harking back to the dim, dark days of the Yellow Peril when everyone in the West was taught how bad the Chinese were. This was easily accomplished because the only information source available to people was the newspaper. The newspapers spread the fear and loathing with amazing alacrity and freedom.

And it wasn’t so long ago that the threat of a world held in the evil grip of communism had the Free West quaking to the extent that a lot of innocent people were condemned and vilified. This communism, of course, originated in the USSR, making everything Russian pretty much no-go. Particularly in America where civil liberties took a bit of a hit as a result of the fear.

But, of course, we’ve all grown up a bit, realising that it’s okay to criticise or portray people in a negative fashion, as long as it’s tasteful and has entertainment value. I’m being a bit sarcastic there…in case you didn’t realise. However, we HAVE come a long way from such films as The Mouse That Roared where the name of the country is made up and America learns how to make decent wine. But that’s fiction where the good end happily and the bad unhappily, to quote Miss Prism. Sadly, not everyone understands what fiction is.

Back to 24 and the basic premise of series 6.


There’s five suitcase nuclear devices which a man of some undefined nationality is going to set off in America, killing as many innocent people as he possibly can. His name is Hamri Al-Assad and we have no idea where he comes from, what he believes in or even if he drinks or not. He is aided and abetted by a Russian general called Gredenko who is in league with the Russian ambassador in LA. There is also a (ludicrous) sub-plot involving Jack’s brush with the Chinese consulate and subsequent torture with the chief protagonist returning and getting his hands on the triggering mechanism for the suitcase nukes in order to neutralise the Russian defence system.

All very exciting (though it’s not, really) and silly (which it totally is) but what interests me is the fact that while Russia and China are both named, where ever the terrorist comes from is defined as ‘Assad’s country.’ This is just ludicrous. I mean, seriously? ‘Assad’s country’? It’s like we’re all children.

And this reminds me of Bowling for Columbine, the documentary by Michael Moore. In it he discusses (among other things) the Culture of Fear perpetrated in the US. The philosophy basically goes that all the news is bad, all the baddies are really, really bad and everyone should be scared of everyone else by watching and reading as much bad news as they can. This instils fear and an ignorance borne of isolationist propaganda. It also keeps people in their houses and not moving freely.

However, back to 24…the fact that the terrorist’s country is not named means that the producers are, not so subtly, indicating that this thinly veiled Islamic extremist represents all Moslem countries and it’s right and proper that everyone should fear all of them. Either that or they’re just scared. Though, if that’s the case, why didn’t they just make up a country and a religion and use that? That’s what they used to do.

Of course, this goes a lot further than just American TV drama. All of us fear Islam because that’s what the extremists want. They love the fact that we’ve made up a word like Islamaphobia because it gives them free reign to say whatever they like while levelling it at us whenever they feel threatened.

And don’t get me started on ‘race!’ A religion is NOT a race! All humans are ONE race – the human race. FFS! Talk about being desperate to defend yourself.

Anyway, I didn’t meant to get all political. This post is really about the enigma that is Jack Bauer, superhero and unkillable CTU agent. You’ve gotta love the impossibility that is Jack.

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