December 12, 2014
As the CIA and Senate Intelligence Committee clash over whether so-called enhanced interrogation techniques are considered torture, another question arises: Have depictions of torture on TV and film helped convince us that it works?
Consider this warning that recently greeted viewers of ABC’s political soap opera, Scandal:
“The following drama contains adult content. Viewer discretion is advised.”
That label was slapped on the episode because of scenes like the moment when trained torturer Huck prepared to ply his trade on colleague (and soon-to-be girlfriend) Quinn Perkins.
“Normally, I’d start with the drill or a scalpel,” he told Perkins, who was bound and gagged, looking on in terror. “Peeling off the skin can be beautiful. Or removing fingers, toes; I like the feeling of a toe being separated from a foot. … I’m so sorry, because I’m going to enjoy this.”
Scenes like that have become a regular part of some popular TV shows and movies. People may disagree in real life, but in Hollywood, torture works.
From Kiefer Sutherland as hard-nosed government agent Jack Bauer on Fox’s 24, growling this threat to a bad guy: “You probably don’t think that I can force this towel down your throat. Trust me, I can.”
To Liam Neeson’s ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills, shocking a man for information in the movie Taken: “You either give me what I need, or this switch stays on until they turn the power off for lack of payment on the bill.”
There’s just one problem with these scenes, according to former FBI agent and interrogation expert Joe Navarro: “None of it works,” he says. “I’ve done thousands of interviews, and I can tell you, none of [the TV torture stuff] works.”
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