Fictive TV Torture Leading to Real Torture in Iraq, and Vice Versa

 [Human Rights] Group: TV torture [by Americans] influencing real life

by David Bauder

The advocacy group Human Rights First says there’s been a startling increase in the number of [American] torture scenes depicted on prime-time television in the post-2001 world.

Even more chilling, there are indications that real-life American interrogators in Iraq are taking cues from what they see on television, said Jill Savitt, the group’s director of public programs….

A former U.S. Army specialist who questioned prisoners in Baghdad’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison and several other facilities around Iraq…said he saw instances of mock executions like that in [the TV drama] “24.” Once, some fellow interrogators asked an Iraqi translator to pretend he was being tortured to strike fear in a prisoner, after they had just watched a similar scene on a DVD….

Prior to 2001, the few torture scenes on prime-time TV usually had the shows’ villains as the instigators, Savitt said. [Now torture on TV is used by the shows’ American “heroes”.]  In both 1996 and 1997, there were no prime-time TV scenes containing torture, according to the Parents Television Council, which keeps a programming database. In 2003, there were 228 such scenes, the PTC said. The count was over 100 in both 2004 and 2005.

They found examples on “Alias,” “The Wire,” “Law & Order,” “The Shield” — even “Star Trek: Voyager.”

There’s been a surge in general in the level of violence tolerated in prime time.

…Herrington said he’s concerned that much of what’s on TV is misleading.

Television interrogation frequently works to a ticking clock: someone needs to find out the location of a bomb from a prisoner within the hour or it will explode. That’s so rare in real life that it’s essentially mythology, he said….

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