Category Archives: 24

PCA Presentation (Dexter, 24, and the Torture Debate)

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Dramatic television has been a central site wherein the torture debate, specifically through the “ticking time bomb” scenario, has been enacted, perhaps most notably in the Fox network television series 24. Bush administration officials often cited the series and its hero’s use of torture to gain pivotal information as sufficient evidence that torture works, at times going so far as to suggest that torture was not only useful but a necessary tool in its “global war on terror.”  In waging this war (rhetorically and physically) the Bush administration relied on a logic that understood “America” and its mission as exceptional to justify the use of torture in its perceived “struggle for civilization.” This conception of the U.S as exception is related to both the myth of American exceptionalism and to the legal construction of the state of exception. The former argues that the American experience is unique. The mythology of Am. exceptionalism conditioned the construction of 9/11 as an exceptional moment in history, not because nothing like it had happened before in history, but because nothing like it had happened to the U.S. The event itself was also constructed as inaugurating a state of exception in which normative legal and moral structures could no longer hold. The question of torture (along with the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war and other Bush administration policies) has become a limit case in which the implication of exceptionalist thinking has played out.

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