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I just love the television series 24. Spending 24 hours (well, if you include the commercial breaks) in the life of CTU (Counter Terrorism Unit) tough-guy Jack Bauer is an education. In a nutshell we get to see what many people in the world (especially in the middle-east) believe to be true: America is a country of evil scheming liars. Its politicians are corrupt, its agents out-of-control and ruled by the motto "the end justifies the means, at whatever cost".
The plot of the various series is rather predictable after 5 seasons (I'm watching series 6 now). Jack Bauer tortures people on almost an hourly basis, he is insubordinate and due process is not something that's high on his list of ethics. At least twice during a series he will have to work against the explicit orders of his superiors, often leading to warrants for his arrest. Sometimes he does this in collusion with the highest authority there is, the president or his most senior staff. He will also regularly let suspects escape and/or commit suicide. In the course of the show it is usual for Jack to fall in and out of favor with his boss/partner/co-workers on a regular basis. Jack is not averse to torturing his friends, family, co-workers, superiors or random strangers he suspects know "something". It is the atmosphere of casual torture that is probably most chilling, it's not that the acts themselves are graphically depicted (although they often are) it's the way it's presented as "just another tool in the fight against terrorism". To be fair the bad guys sometimes torture people too, though not half as often as the good guys do it.
You can also bet a month's salary that one or more people who are working for CTU are actually sleepers who are in collusion with terrorist organisations. People who hang around Jack also have a tendency to die a bit, though Jack is never blamed for this and always praised as the hero "who does what others can't or won't do". If you see a new colleague appear in the series you can be 90% certain that he's either 1. a terrorist, 2. a scheming scumbag who's working against Jack for political gains or 3. dead within 6 episodes. Occasionally you'll see someone who fits in neither of these 3 slots and turns out to be a new regular, but don't get too attached as the next series might well see them die horribly anyway.
The show is also filled with technical mumbo-jumbo of a most hilarious nature.
If Jack has a USB stick with an audio-recording he can play this when alone but when others have to hear the recording the USB stick has to be "digitally prepared". This offers the chance to hand over the data, which can then be corrupted by incompetence or bad guys.
Images can be enhanced almost indefinitely, a single pixel could turn out to hold enough information to reconstruct an image of the Mona Lisa. Likewise blown up hard drives can be hooked up to cellphones and the contents "piped over" to headquarters where geek-girl and social misfit Chloe can recover enough data from in between the half-melted bits and bytes to have the plot limp along for another hour before a more substantial lead can be worked in.
Lists of data (suspects, vehicles, whatever) are subject to arcane sorting rules and indexes, many of them incompatible from one workstation to the next, so care must always be taken, dull moments can be filled with stuff like this, it is also a good tension point between colleagues.
Intelligence satellites can be repositioned at will, though there is often a suspenseful 10 minutes between the request and the actual positioning. Once a satellite has been repositioned however you can be sure that you'll be able to pull up the data from the past 30 minutes with no problems whatsoever, the fact that is was looking at something else before is irrelevant.
Various wildly different things such as methods to keep in touch with people, conduct surveys, coordinate tactical response teams, filtering data, disk formatting requirements, data recovery etc etc are all referred to a "protocols". In fact any action that can be taken by someone can be described as a "protocol". This sounds good and makes actions and/or people sound more important than they are in terms of the actual plot, thus masking the fact that you still have 14 hours to go before everything is really truly resolved and that, likely, most of what's happening now will turn out to have been irrelevant, or a distraction at best.
In short, the show is filled with pseudo-nerd talk, that probably is best described by those immortal words, uttered by the little girl in Jurassic Park "I know this, this is Unix".
It is things like this that make for some excellent viewing. And makes you realize that there are people in America that do know why most of the muslim world despises America and would dearly love to see it fall in chaos. It is because those people think 24 is not a television show but a documentary. And, to be honest, after Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, who's to say what is reality and what is fiction.
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