The Trial of Jack Bauer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The character of Jack Bauer in the popular FOX television programme 24, a rogue American intelligence agent who frequently resorts to torture to attain his objectives in the fight against terrorism, has been noted for his frequent citation as a cultural reference in debates surrounding the American prosecution of the War on Terror. This chapter argues that Bauer resonates with television viewers, pundits and politicians because his character exploits connections between acts of tortureand narrative, legal and philosophical concepts that are metaphorically interrelated in Western thought. Torture is a test for Bauer, a situation that allows his character to reveal the meaning of patriotism in post 9-11 America. In 24, patriotism, masculinity, liberal ideology, the bureaucratic state, and many other things are on trial, their utility in a world changed by spectacular violence put to the question. In this chapter, I will trace the interrelationships between these concepts in Western thought and argue that the effectiveness of 24 is predicated upon the show’s ability to access this intersectionality. To the extent that Bauer is a repository of different attitudes concerning the U.S., the world, and notions of effective and ineffectivegovernance, references to his narrative arc and that of 24 can be used by citizens and representatives as a substitute for more reasoned assessments of the morality and effectiveness of torture in our current geopolitical moment of asymmetrical warfare and militaristic hegemony.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCrafting Media Personas
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781848884120
ISBN (Print)9789004370487
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • 24
  • identity
  • media rhetoric
  • narrative and politics
  • personalization of politics
  • torture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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