Back to News & Commentary

Accountability for Torture…on TV

Share This Page
September 25, 2009

Hopefully you’ve at least set your Tivo to record Law & Order tonight at 8 p.m. EDT on NBC, because tonight, Jack McCoy and his team of assistant district attorneys attempt to hold high-level Bush administration officials, including Dick Cheney, accountable for torture.

Today, Glenn Greenwald posted an interview with René Balcer, Law & Order‘s executive producer and lead writer, about why he wrote the episode, which includes lots of real-life details about the Bush torture policy. One reason Balcer gives:

I was kind of embarrassed by how some in my community of writers and producers and television heads sort of irresponsibly embraced torture by having their heroes use it as a supposedly effective means of getting information, and how some of these same writers-producers were sort of peddling lies even in the face of the Defense Department sending experts to talk to them to kind of enlighten them on the realities of torture. So I started doing episodes about the subject about four-five years ago for my other series, Criminal Intent, about the co-opting of the medical community to participate in torture. So, that was all sort of the preamble of what led to my doing this episode.

Greenwald also asked Balcer why he thought mainstream entertainment tends to glorify torture. Balcer responded:

Either ignorance of the whole subject of torture…having your hero twist somebody’s arm to find the code to open that secret door is very dramatic, and they do it out of ignorance. Some of them do it out of willful ignorance and the case you cite about 24 when the DOD sent interrogation experts to talk to the producers of 24 to sort of give them a fact basis for their shows, the executive producer of 24 refused to meet with them. He was quite happy to wallow in his own ignorance and really didn’t want to hear the facts from the people who are actually conducting the interrogation.

It’s a fascinating interview, so be sure to give it a listen. And then tune in and watch Law & Order tonight on NBC at 8 p.m. EDT.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page