Jack’s back, and he’s taking on Julian Assange.
After 8 seasons and a four year hiatus the first two episodes of ’24: Live Another Day’ have caught up with current affairs nicely. Jack traces former co-worker/tech-guru Chloe O’Brien to a hacker haven operating out of London which in the words of her new friends ‘just acquires information and disseminates it.’ Jack retorts ‘you make it sound like what you do is benign, but we both know it isn’t.’ Sound like someone we know?
The debate over Wiki-leaks plays out on our screens, events occur in real time:
Chloe – At least im doing something to fight against it
Jack – How, by leaking classified information, military secrets, people are out there dying in the field Chloe
Chloe – Intelligence agencies keep secrets because what they’re doing is criminal
Jack – You’re smarter than that
Jack has always operated in a clandestine world where secrets are kept, and acts are done, by a man at least the audience entrusts with doing the right thing, and anyone who gets in his way, like people who leak secrets, are fair game. When 24 was at it’s height the NY Times published an unauthorized series of essays detailing the political theology and cultural magnetism of ’24.’ Author Jerome Copulsky wrote:
“When Bauer operates against his orders and beyond the law and conventional morals in order to interrogate a suspect – employing torture to obtain crucial information – we understand that he is merely doing what is necessary to fulfil his patriotic duty.”
The latest episodes maintained the traditional 24 motifs of ‘enhanced interrogation’ and panoptic surveillance and like Season 8 had a strong focus on drone warfare. Jack is no stranger to controversy and with the vast majority of entertainment media treating the actions of the US government with barely concealed contempt, if that, Jack takes a very different tack.
Though Jack is not alone. ‘Skyfall’ villain Raoul Silva leaked military secrets and the identities of undercover MI6 agents because he was pissed with Judi Dench’s M. The film saw Bond heroically defeating Silva, alleviating chaos and restoring order. For England, James.
‘The Dark Knight,’widely lauded as the greatest comic book film of all time, was simply ’24’ on steriods. Batman mercilessly pounded the Joker to find out what happened to Rachel while Gordon and Gotham PD stand on the other side of very thick glass, not to mention dropping Maroni from a three-story building as an incentive to spill his guts. Wayne goes solo to kidnap Lau from Chinese soil because the US can’t extradite him, not unlike Jack raiding the Chinese consulate in Season 4 to extract a national without the Chinese knowing.
And then there’s Batman’s ‘let’s turn every cell phone into a sonar emulator and map out Gotham to find the Joker’ which would have broken more laws than there were Presidents on 24. Jack is catching on, but its not just the appeal of watching someone do what it takes to get the job done, it’s watching him do it alone.
Jack, Bond, Batman, they’re all loners who sacrificed so much to do whats right, and they have all lost their nearest and dearest, Teri, Vespa/Tracey, Rachel, in the name of duty. ‘Secrets of 24’ goes on to say:
“We trust his intuitions,intentions and judgements…knowing that he is simply doing what is necessary to keep his nation safe…the lone man who stands outside of the system, battling evil and bureaucracy in order to protect society. Everybody wants a hero.”
Sound familiar? Jack is a hero to many, but by the same tack so is Julian Assange. While so many praise Jack for his vigilante approach and willingness to operate outside the law and government to protect it’s secrets, others laud Assange for his efforts to expose government secrets at great personal risk. Assange is no stranger to sacrifice, having been stuck in the Ecuadorian embassy for years; at the cost of his personal life taking a vigilante approach to his stated goal of exposing government actions and ensuring accountability.
In a sort of Karla-esque ‘We’re not so different, you and I’ way Jack and Julian, while very much on opposite sides of the coin, attract very similar followings by people who genuinely believe, like the protagonists themselves, that they and their counterparts are doing what is necessary to advance society and keep us safe.
I’ll be watching out for Jack Bauer and the new 24. Maybe Julian Assange is too.