Trekkies Against Torture

At first I giggled when I got the e-mail on one of my Amnesty International discussion lists.  “Trekkies Against Torture”, with a petition to sign.  “Yeah!  Trekkies against torture!” 

Why not?  I’m a bit of a Trekkie myself (grew up on the original series, I was 6 and had to be in my pajamas first before I could watch it the first season), and I’m definitely against torture.  I had already gotten tomorrow (maybe today by the time I post this, January 11) off to join Amnesty, the ACLU and others locally as part of the global protest to close down Guantánamo.

As I read more I started to realize there was a serious side to what seemed like a pop culture take on a serious issue.  Paul was talking about shows like 24 and Alias that glorify torture, with the relevant issue being that J.J. Abrams, who created and produces Alias is directing and producing the new Star Trek movie. There is a valid concern that Abrams will bring the justification of torture to Star Trek.

OK, you’re saying, but that’s fiction.  If you don’t like what they’ve done to Kirk and Spock in what is to be a prequel, just walk away, or don’t see it. While as a fan I have a deep repugnance to having my image of two of my favorite television heroes forever ruined in my mind and heart, and a deeper repugnance to torture in real life; well that’s the point, isn’t it?  This is just fiction.  Just a movie, and 24 and Alias are just tv shows, not part of the bigger picture.  Or are they?

What came to mind was a very chilling column I read by Leonard Pitts, Jr. the other day, talking about this very issue.  Talking as Paul is, and as I have heard others say, about how these shows (which I have never watched, not being a fan of modern tv) are selling the whole idea that torture is acceptable and sometimes needed and something our “heroes” do.  It used to be, and still is, in reality, something only zeroes would do.

What got me was this:

It’s telling that a number of politicians have lately cited as their model on terrorism issues Jack Bauer, the counterterrorism agent on the TV hit 24, who routinely tortures the truth out of bad guys as the clock ticks toward catastrophe. It’s not hard to understand the appeal. There’s a certain atavistic attraction to the Jack Bauer method, an attraction that bypasses the head en route to the gut.

Too bad, because had the head been asked, it might have pointed out that Jack Bauer is a fictional character on a TV show not noted for its realism. Using him as a guide to terrorism makes about as much sense as using Barney Fife as a guide to law enforcement.

And the very fact that Jack Bauer is invoked in the most crucial policy debate of our time tells you something about the state of the union going on seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks. In a word: scared.

It’s scary enough that the general public would buy this, but when we have “leaders” setting policy based on a fantasy television show, that is truly terrifying.

As a member of Amnesty International, I have heard from real torture victims.  I never thought our country would be condoning this (not openly). 

The more I think about it, the more I realize Paul is right in what he’s trying to do.  Since the debate for torture is being sold via pop culture, I think we need to take the debate against it to pop culture to.  As, indeed, it has in the past, though Star Trek over it’s incarnations, as Paul highlights on the website.  It would be a sad day if JJ Abrams returns us to before the beginning of this saga and undermines the foundations of humanity that echo through the series by building them on torture.

I think the fans should rise up and say no.

Live long and prosper!  (Couldn’t resist it.  )


2 thoughts on “Trekkies Against Torture

  1. Well said, thanks! We are up to 280 signatures and growing. Letters have been sent to all the actors associated with Star Trek (TOS up thru Enterprise). Abrams has also received a paper copy of the letter with signature. We need other sites and blogs to talk about this issue so it gets the exposure it deserves. Thanks again!


    “Torture has never been a reliable means of extracting information. It is ultimately self-defeating as a means of control. One wonders that it is still practiced.” – Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, in Star Trek TNG :Chain of Command Part 2”


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