Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Constitution According to Jack Bauer

Every now and then Rickey likes to hop up on the soapbox. Now is one such time--gird your loins and fix your hair. At a recent discussion panel, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (yeah, that guy) decided it would be a good idea to reference 24 as legal precedent in an argument. Indeed, to quote Bad Boys II, shit just got real. Here’s a fun-filled excerpt of what Scalia had to say about the 24 universe:

"Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," "Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?"

"Say that criminal law is against him? ‘You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so.”

You can find the rest of the article here. Read it, its good stuff.

Ok, for a second, let’s put aside the apparent fact Scalia seems to think that mental and/or physical torture can yield useful intelligence. Forget the fact that in the tv show, when Jack Bauer casts aside the law, he acknowledges it and accepts the potential consequences. Forget all those silly tidbits. Here’s the meat of the issue: you have to be completely bat-shit crazy in order to cite a fictional television character in a constitutional argument. Back in the day, Rickey attempted to write many term papers, citing "Family Circus" cartoons as supporting material and did he get away with it? No sir. So why does a judge in the most powerful court in the nation get a free pass for this?

See, most of us are stable enough to distinguish fiction from reality. While watching 24, we happily succumb to the fantasy that if Jack Bauer can save L.A., then by all means he should be free to torture whoever he wants. He's not a real person. So therefore, it is perfectly acceptable for a fictional Jack Bauer to torture fictional terrorists. (Frankly, we, the viewers kind of encourage it). But here’s where the line has to be drawn: you can’t allow Jack Bauer to exit the television set and torture real people. That would be bad. Can you imagine living in a world where a real Jack Bauer actually existed? No one would be safe—not even your goldfish.

Call us nuts, but Rickey gets a little nervous when Supreme Court Justices start thinking that the topic of fictional superheroes is perfectly reasonable to introduce into panel discussions about the legality of torture. (pesky international laws such as the Geneva Convention, on the other hand, are to be discarded as un-American of course). Make no mistake; this is merely a strawman argument to justify torture in your usual, non-critical interrogation scenarios.

Nonsense like this is why we need a 10 year term limit for Supreme Court Justices. Furthermore, what Rickey can't figure out is why conservatives are so deeply afraid of the legal process of our nation. Why is the highest judge in the land convinced that our legal system can't cope with a situation like this? It has in the past, and it will continue to. You'd think a reliance on what has always worked pretty well would be a natural tendency of a "conservative". Not so much apparently.

But hey, what else would we expect from a guy who ruled that counting all the votes in Florida in 2000 would somehow violate George W. Bush's due process rights?

10 comments:

G said...

Whooaaa down boy. First of all it looks like Scalia wasn't "citing" Bauer as precedent while writing an opinion, but merely using him as example as part of a panel w/ Canadians discussing the use of torture. Second, do you honestly believe torture is never essential - under any circumstances? I know Bauer is fictional but I'm not above crackin' some knuckles if some terrorist bastard is in custody. I know the arguments (due process, etc.), but I think many of those constitutional principles been abused by SACKLESS ACLU lawyers.
p.s. Its great to have someone from the left in here to get us thinking - I love it!

G said...

You want to see a real nut job judge? this guy quoted John, Paul, George and Ringo in a sentencing memo....
http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2007/0601071beatles1.html

glockspeak said...

AMEN RICKEY. **batsh*t crazy** lol, love it

Rickey Henderson said...

Granted G, he wasn't writing an opinion, but the man still was attending a scholarly conference and using a fictional character as the basis for an argument. It struck me as silly, that's all.

Concerning the "ticking bomb" scenario that you mentioned, yes, in principle, I would would endorse torture if it prevented a terrorist attack. Hell, anyone would. But using that hypothetical is a bad way to make a case for "agressive interrogation."

Once you set the precedent that you're willing to torture the bejeezus out of someone, you're screwed. Demonstrating you're willing to do it just once makes it legally easy for it to be done to many many more in the future. And then we become the bad guys in all this, right?

Besides, hasn't Jack Bauer himself shown the darker side of torture and what it does to the human condition? Ah crap, now I'M using 24 to make an argument...

Sally Jo said...

I'll take a 24 quoting justice over one who makes justifications based on international law...aka Breyer and Ginsberg.

glockspeak said...

once more rickey "batsh*t crazy"

G said...

Touche Rickey - I agree that we can't just indiscriminately torture suspicious characters. But I do think that has to be some leeway given to those on the front line dealing with known terrorists. In any event, I loved the Batshi! crazy article - made me laugh out loud and I even emailed it to a few friends. You and Adam are both gifted writers - keep it up.

Rickey Henderson said...

Indeed, when exactly did the Geneva convention become something to chuckle about like some red-headed stepchild?

AmyV said...

I know a red-headed stepchild. I think her name is Geneva. She's rather conventional.

Oh, just forget it.

Adam said...

Amy V made a funny! :)

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