Did ’24’ Normalize Torture?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Jack Bauer finally meets Gary Bauer?

Maybe. In the wake of the release of the CIA torture report, the New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum made an observation on Twitter that the culture warrior would probably agree with:

She’s not alone in making this observation. Still, this is interesting to me, inasmuch as this reflects something social conservatives have long lamented: Hollywood values eventually impact public opinion — and ultimately — public policy. (If you’re into this sort of thing, I engaged in a lengthy Twitter debate with Doug Mataconis — a sharp libertarian writer and attorney — and some others. Check it out here.)

The bottom line for me, is this: We shouldn’t be surprised when the values Hollywood sells us (which often involve sex and violence) have an impact.

But liberals and mainstream media elites have mostly mocked the notion that TV, movies, or violent video games could impact mentally disturbed persons, while simultaneously celebrating the way shows like Will & Grace or Modern Family have made Americans more pro-gay in recent years.

Now, some are regretting the possibility that shows like “24” might have “normalized” torture.

This is not to make a normative value judgment. I suspect some of the values Hollywood has imparted are, in fact, salutary. But the point is that they can and do influence us.

Those who dismiss the notion that Hollywood’s glamorization of sex and violence has a negative impact can’t have it both ways. I’ll take this as a tacit admission that the values Hollywood sells eventually do have an impact — that politics is, as it is often said, downstream from culture.

Matt K. Lewis