Olbermann Denounces '24' as Part of Pro-Bush 'Fearmongering' and 'Brainwashing'
Olbermann then posed a series of absurd questions to Robert Greenwald, producer of the comically anti-FNC movie, Outfoxed. His options for Greenwald: “Is 24 propaganda? Is it fearmongering? Or is it a program-length commercial for one political party?” Olbermann soon proposed that “if the irrational right can claim that the news is fixed to try to alter people's minds or that networks should be boycotted for nudity or for immorality,” then “shouldn't those same groups be saying 24 should be taken off of TV because it's naked brainwashing?” Suggesting some sort of Fox-White House conspiracy, Olbermann tossed up: “But does this not begin to look at this point like the blurring of the lines here,” between fact and fiction, “is deliberate?”
Of course, back in September the premiere hour of CBS's Jericho ended with a nuclear explosion caused by a terrorist attack on America. But that never bothered Olbermann. TV.com's page with a plot summary, and an image of the atomic cloud: “After a nuclear disaster caused by several terrorist attacks destroys most of America, residents of a small Kansas town must come to terms with a new and very different reality.”
As for TV networks using an atomic explosion for propaganda, what about ABC's 1983 movie, The Day After? TV Land in 2005 re-ran the 1983 ABC television movie about the impact of nuclear war as seen through people in Lawrence, Kansas. The film aired at the height of the "nuclear freeze" movement in protest of President Reagan's move to deploy new missiles in West Germany. For more, check the June 30, 2005 CyberAlert.And 24 portraying terrorist attacks hardly started this week with its sixth season. The program, in which each hour matches one-hour of elapsed time in the show that stars Keifer Sutherland as Los Angeles-based “CTU” (Counter-Terrorism Unit) agent “Jack Bauer,” debuted in November of 2001. The second season premiered on October 29, 2002 with a season focused on how, according to TV.com, “a Middle Eastern terrorist group known as Second Wave is planning to set off a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles sometime that day.”
In previous seasons, the hero Jack Bauer manages to prevent the ultimate goal of the terrorists, but setbacks occur along the way. And that's all that happened in Monday night's show. During a raid to capture a group of terrorists, one managed to set off the suitcase nuke taken from Russia, but while it is the biggest attack in 24 history, with 20 hours to go in the series which will air Monday's at 9pm ET/PT through May, it is surely not the much deadlier ultimate goal of the terrorists which Bauer and CTU will strive to thwart.
(Olbermann's citation of NewsBusters: “Right-wing Web sites leaving no doubt as to what they think viewers should take away from this fictional attack. Case in point: NewsBusters.org says this scene, quote, 'should be required viewing for all media members who question what's at risk and whether there really is a war on terror,' and accuses the media of undermining the Bush administration and, quote, 'downplaying the seriousness of terrorism.'")
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth took down Olbermann's paranoia as expressed on the January 16 Countdown:
Olbermann, in opening teaser:
"And the never-ending fictional war waged on TV. Is 24 just entertainment or is it propaganda designed to keep people thinking about domestic terrorism to keep us scared?"Olbermann, before commercial break at 8:12pm EST:
"24 is back. It dropped the bomb literally. Al Gore makes a movie about global warming and gets smeared as a fearmonger. Fox portrays a fictionalized America riddled with terrorists, which helps keep part of the real America convinced we might really be riddled with terrorists. And it wins five Emmies and two Golden Globes? Gripping drama or thinly veiled propaganda?"Olbermann, during the commercial break:
"Suicide bombers in the cities of America, suitcase nuke detonated in Los Angeles. The fear is fictional on the series 24, but is the intent to spark real fear among real Americans? Fear that can be turned into political gain. That's next. This is Countdown."Olbermann, setting up the 8:17pm EST segment:
"It's a familiar tactic for grabbing and holding the public's attention beloved by both the Bush administration and, just as another example, Fox News Channel. Step one: fear. And if step one does not work, step two: more fear. In our fourth story on the Countdown, it is also evidently how the producers of the Fox series 24 plan to keep viewers during the show's sixth year, as evidenced in the first 30 seconds of the season premiere."
[clip from 24 showing bus explosions]
Olbermann: "If that wasn't enough to scare or outrage you, the rest of the four-hour, two-night show opener featured a mall attack, a would-be suicide bomber on a subway, and a successful suicide bombing on a passenger bus. Not in places where these things have already happened, but in a country called the United States of America. In case you missed the point, the show finished up with a nuclear weapon detonating in a major American city, literally conjuring up the administration's imagery for the war in Iraq, the good old mushroom cloud. Right-wing Web sites leaving no doubt as to what they think viewers should take away from this fictional attack. Case in point: NewsBusters.org says this scene, quote, 'should be required viewing for all media members who question what's at risk and whether there really is a war on terror,' and accuses the media of undermining the Bush administration and, quote, 'downplaying the seriousness of terrorism.'"
Olbermann: "At least the rest of us didn't make it into a sitcom. By that logic, of course, somewhere in this country there really is a cheerleader who will never die, there's at least one real-life talking dog, and a mother and a daughter who patter back and forth like the Gilmore Girls. Is 24 propaganda? Is it fearmongering? Or is it a program-length commercial for one political party? I'm joined now by Robert Greenwald, who made the documentary film Outfoxed. Thanks again for your time tonight, sir."
Robert Greenwald, Outfoxed: "Thank you. Nice to be with you."
Olbermann: "Most people obviously recognize the show's fictional, but how well does the fictionalizing of seemingly actual terror events, like subway and bus bombings, and sort of templating them over the United States' landscape, work as a fear tactic?"
Greenwald: "Well, we know how susceptible people are to fear, some of it with good reason. The tragedy, as we know, has been how this administration has played on people's fears and how Fox News and Fox in general has used it over and over and over again. As you say, people can tell the difference. This is fiction. What we're dealing with in the world at times is fact. You know, of course, the question is can this administration tell the difference given that every day we get a different reason about who we should be afraid of, why we should be afraid, and why we went to war."
Olbermann: "And the old line, of course, seems to apply here about people insisting TV does not impact the public's perceptions, and then you point out, 'Well, gee wiz, all those advertisers must have wasted every dollar they ever spent on television.' But if the irrational right can claim that the news is fixed to try to alter people's minds or that networks should be boycotted for nudity or for immorality, shouldn't those same groups be saying 24 should be taken off of TV because it's naked brainwashing?"
Greenwald: "Yes, well, I don't think those groups have ever talked about brainwashing, but it's a very good point because I think one of the most devastating things that has happened with that show has been the narrative that torture works, where over and over again they show that there's this ticking bomb scenario, which is a false idea to begin with, right, that you have one second to get X information to save all these people's lives, and the only way to solve it is by torturing somebody. We've seen the results of torture. It doesn't work and you get false information. And that's where the show and other shows like it really do a disservice because they affect a kind of narrative in a way that people throughout the country start to believe, yeah, well, I really don't like torture, but I better use it because it's the only way to save my country."
Olbermann: "John McCain did a cameo in the series and joked about torture afterwards. Senator Cornyn has now done a promo on Fox News about this series. And, of course, there was the love fest at the Heritage Foundation last year starring the producers, some of the actors, Secretary Chertoff from Homeland Security, and comedian Rush Limbaugh. I mean, we've had lines between reality and TV blurred before. There are the whole alternate universe quality to the West Wing. But does this not begin to look at this point like the blurring of the lines here is deliberate?"
Greenwald: "Well, it certainly seems to be that way. And, of course, when you have the Vice President and the former Secretary of Defense saying this is their favorite show, it does give you pause to wonder about what really is going on here. Now, I'm not a conspiracy theorist. But, of course, the fact that the show is on Fox raises all of our eyebrows. Now, having said that, you know, there's some very good execution in the show and that's what makes the sort of moral questions that you're asking even more important, and more important that people tell the difference, and that we raise hell when they cross a line that shouldn't be crossed blurring the fact with the fiction."
Olbermann: "Is there some tangible way that this could actually help a President who has relied, who has campaigned on, you know, our party will protect you and the other guys, well, you're on your own?"
Greenwald: "Well, I don't know what's going to help this President given where his ratings are. I don't know that an angel coming down would save him right now. But I think any time that one is using fear to create a concern among the electorate, to create a concern in our country and to motivate and push people and say you better be afraid, you better be very afraid, the more we keep hearing that message, I think the more we need to push back against it and ask the hard questions."