Bauer’s fictional defense of torture and his fictional claims of its effectiveness are having very real consequences. Over the last two days, right-wing commentators have cheered Bauer’s belligerent Senate testimony, wondering how Congress could be so ungrateful to a torture advocate like Bauer. Often their commentary has been directed at critics of the Bush administration’s torture policies and suggests that the “average person” would approve of Bauer’s conduct.Maybe people need to drag themselves away from the teevee a little more and get out in the real world with real people. The fear culture that is gripping this country is not healthy. People grossly overestimate the danger to themselves and their families from criminals, terrorists, child molesters, kidnappers, and so on.
I'm not suggesting that these things aren't real or that there aren't precautions one should take against them. But when the perception of risk is out of proportion with the actual risk, we end up doing things like overprotecting children so they can't even go outside to play or giving up fundamental rights and freedoms in exchange for protection from overinflated risks.
I realize that crime dramas and such can be very compelling, but they're not real.
I'm reminded of a line by Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller about people misunderstanding media (my emphasis):
We believe violence is exciting in entertainment. In America we have the First Amendment; there are no censors. But there are anti-violence censorship letter-writers. They want to make sure you'll never see anything that they wouldn't want to see. They say that if we had nothing on TV but shows like thirtysomething and Growing Pains all the world problems would be worked out in an adult, peaceful manner. They don't understand EVERYTHING's fake on TV. Homer Simpson doesn't work in a nuclear power plant! Homer Simpson is just an actor!It seemed funny at the time. Perhaps, like many entertainers, he was just prescient.