Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Joel Surnow: snapshot of psychopathy (guest post by Uranus)

This is the stomach-turning, regurgitant thinking which hates liberty and loves killing. I read this horrible article yesterday and I'm still heaving. Joel Surnow is the co-creator and executive producer of the "popular" FOX series 24, which waves a penant for the torture of "terrorist detainees." Joel may be a big career success and have lots of hard-fought money, but he has a problem: he's a psychopath:

Not long after September 11th, Vice-President Dick Cheney alluded vaguely to the fact that America must begin working through the "dark side" in countering terrorism. On "24," the dark side is on full view. Surnow, who has jokingly called himself a "right-wing nut job," shares his show's hard-line perspective. Speaking of torture, he said, "Isn't it obvious that if there was a nuke in New York City that was about to blow - or any other city in this country - that, even if you were going to go to jail, it would be the right thing to do?"


This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind "24."


Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniors-cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by "24," which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, "The kids see it, and say, 'If torture is wrong, what about "24"?'" He continued, "The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do."


The "24" producers told the military and law-enforcement experts that they were careful not to glamorize torture; they noted that Bauer never enjoys inflicting pain, and that it had clearly exacted a psychological toll on the character. (As Gordon put it to me, "Jack is basically damned.") Finnegan and the others disagreed, pointing out that Bauer remains coolly rational after committing barbarous acts, including the decapitation of a state's witness with a hacksaw. Joe Navarro, one of the F.B.I.'s top experts in questioning techniques, attended the meeting; he told me, "Only a psychopath can torture and be unaffected. You don't want people like that in your organization. They are untrustworthy, and tend to have grotesque other problems."

Cochran, who has a law degree, listened politely to the delegation's complaints. He told me that he supports the use of torture "in narrow circumstances" and believes that it can be justified under the Constitution. "The Doctrine of Necessity says you can occasionally break the law to prevent greater harm," he said. "I think that could supersede the Convention Against Torture." (Few legal scholars agree with this argument.) At the meeting, Cochran demanded to know what the interrogators would do if they faced the imminent threat of a nuclear blast in New York City, and had custody of a suspect who knew how to stop it. One interrogator said that he would apply physical coercion only if he received a personal directive from the President. But Navarro, who estimates that he has conducted some twelve thousand interrogations, replied that torture was not an effective response. "These are very determined people, and they won't turn just because you pull a fingernail out," he told me. And Finnegan argued that torturing fanatical Islamist terrorists is particularly pointless. "They almost welcome torture," he said. "They expect it. They want to be martyred." A ticking time bomb, he pointed out, would make a suspect only more unwilling to talk. "They know if they can simply hold out several hours, all the more glory - the ticking time bomb will go off!"


Roger Director, a television producer and longtime friend, said that he "loves" Surnow. But, he went on, "He feels looked down upon by the world, and that kind of emotional dynamic underpins a lot of things. It's kind of 'Joel against the world.' It's as if he feels, I had to fight and claw for everything I got. It's a tough world, and no one's looking out for you." As a result, Director said, "Joel's not sentimental. He has a hard-hearted thing."


During three decades as a journeyman screenwriter, Surnow grew increasingly conservative. He "hated welfare," which he saw as government handouts. Liberal courts also angered him. He loved Ronald Reagan's "strength" and disdained Jimmy Carter's "belief that people would be nice to us just because we were humane. That never works." He said of Reagan, "I can hardly think of him without breaking into tears. I just felt Ronald Reagan was the father that this country needed.... He made me feel good that I was in his family."

Surnow said that he found the Clinton years obnoxious. "Hollywood under Clinton - it was like he was their guy," he said. "He was the yuppie, baby-boomer narcissist that all of Hollywood related to." During those years, Surnow recalled, he had countless arguments with liberal colleagues, some of whom stopped speaking to him. "My feeling is that the liberals' ideas are wrong," he said. "But they think I'm evil." Last year, he contributed two thousand dollars to the losing campaign of Pennsylvania's hard-line Republican senator Rick Santorum, because he "liked his position on immigration." His favorite bumper sticker, he said, is "Except for Ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism & Communism, War Has Never Solved Anything."

Although he is a supporter of President Bush - he told me that "America is in its glory days" - Surnow is critical of the way the war in Iraq has been conducted. An "isolationist" with "no faith in nation-building," he thinks that "we could have been out of this thing three years ago." After deposing Saddam Hussein, he argued, America should have "just handed it to the Baathists and ... put in some other monster who's going to keep these people in line but who's not going to be aggressive to us." In his view, America "is sort of the parent of the world, so we have to be stern but fair to people who are rebellious to us. We don't spoil them. That's not to say you abuse them, either. But you have to know who the adult in the room is."

Surnow's rightward turn was encouraged by one of his best friends, Cyrus Nowrasteh, a hard-core conservative who, in 2006, wrote and produced "The Path to 9/11," a controversial ABC miniseries that presented President Clinton as having largely ignored the threat posed by Al Qaeda. (The show was denounced as defamatory by Democrats and by members of the 9/11 Commission; their complaints led ABC to call the program a "dramatization," not a "documentary.") Surnow and Nowrasteh met in 1985, when they worked together on "The Equalizer." Nowrasteh, the son of a deposed adviser to the Shah of Iran, grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, where, like Surnow, he was alienated by the radicalism around him. He told me that he and Surnow, in addition to sharing an admiration for Reagan, found "L.A. a stultifying, stifling place because everyone thinks alike." Nowrasteh said that he and Surnow regard "24" as a kind of wish fulfillment for America. "Every American wishes we had someone out there quietly taking care of business," he said. "It's a deep, dark ugly world out there. Maybe this is what Ollie North was trying to do. It would be nice to have a secret government that can get the answers and take care of business - even kill people. Jack Bauer fulfills that fantasy."


Laura Ingraham, the talk-radio host, has cited the show's popularity as proof that Americans favor brutality. "They love Jack Bauer," she noted on Fox News. "In my mind, that's as close to a national referendum that it's O.K. to use tough tactics against high-level Al Qaeda operatives as we're going to get." Surnow once appeared as a guest on Ingraham's show; she told him that, while she was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, "it was soothing to see Jack Bauer torture these terrorists, and I felt better." Surnow joked, "We love to torture terrorists - it's good for you!"

These people are nuts! Sorry for the long quote, the article is long. Yes, Laura says watching torture is soothing, but doesn't say that she finds fantasizing she's the torture victim gives her a sense of sexual gratification. Anyway, that's my opinion. Who doesn't find comfort in people being torn apart, and lots of corpses? Joel is a textbook psychopath. The article talks about how he met and was inspired by other psychos, and found a way to spew this crazy nonsense. The producers and audience of 24 believe they run the world and that everyone loves oppression, and that they are the majority. They are many in number, but a small minority of the whole.


noise said...

There is a dehumanizing aspect to torture. Man reduced to animal status...human dignity discarded.

Is it a stretch to imagine Americans tortured by the state? No. Torture is a slippery slope policy. In fact the ultimate goal (of the Bush administration) may be to get Americans used to the idea that torture is necessary to ensure security. They get away with this BS because the corporate media refuses to call them on it and Congress is cowardly. Look at Padilla. American citizen. Tortured by the state. There will be plenty of that to follow if the Bush administration gets their way.

lukery said...

very disturbing Mr U.

thanks, i guess.

«—U®Anu§—» said...

I don't follow any TV series and never watched this. I knew what it was about. I didn't even mean to read the whole article. But, Joel is about my age, and how a guy can get so stupid while blundering his way into money is a little curious. Joel is old enough to have witnessed the political right for half a century, and anyone who'd join it after seeing it in action during those years is either irrational or has perceptual defects. In Joel's case, I'd say both; and it just goes to show you, you don't have to be mentally sound or emotionally stable to make real money--you just need to be darn lucky about offering the right thing at the right time.

Suzanne said...

Very good article. The psychopaths are the ones that are running, not only our government, but many governments of the world, if not all. And other psychopaths are drawn to this power structure. You have psychopaths becoming governors, mayors, policemen, psychiatrists, physicians, lawyers, professors. And on and on.

There is a very good article that discusses a book called Political Ponerology. It talks about this very thing. How psychopathy can take over the government and create hysteria and paranoia in a society, like has been done in the US.

We need to wake up to what the real danger is here. I highly recommend this article to everyone. You can find it here:

It is crucial to the survival of the human race. No kidding.