Remediating the apocalypse

Kiefer Sutherland: PSA

"Hi. My name is Kiefer Sutherland. And I play counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer on Fox's '24'. I would like to take a moment to talk to you about something that I think is very important. Now while terrorism is obviously one of the most critical challenges facing our nation and the world, it is important to recognize that the American Muslim community stands firmly beside their fellow Americans in denouncing and resisting all forms of terrorism. So in watching 24, please, bear that in mind."

The PSA was organised in association with The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Reactions on fan sites were varied but strong.

The author of GOP and the City blog - an unidentified NYC male in the advertising industry - a big Jack Bauer fan who has suggested the institution of a Jack Bauer Appreciation Day was not impressed with Kiefer's PSA and in a posting headed "Jack is a sissy" he writes:

You mean to tell me that I could have seen that stupid P-Diddy Diet-Pepsi commercial one more time, instead I had to listen to Jack Bauer inform me that American Muslims are not bad. A friend of mine text-messaged me stating: "I was about to start killing muslims until Kiefer cleared things up just then".

CAIR and the Muslim Public Affairs Council wanted to address the depiction of the Turkish muslim family that is part of a sleeper cell in America hell-bent on creating a nuclear meltdown. The groups were concerned this portrayal would create a bias against American Muslims. This PSA was an insult to non-muslims because these muslim groups assumed that non-muslims would be angered by the plot in 24 and go out for some American-style retribution. Hello, we know Jack Bauer will either defuse the bomb, kill all the ninjas, cut off a fellow agent's arm, or even kill all the bad muslims to save the day. It's not like we believe anything we see on 24, it is a TV show. Radical muslims plotting terror in America is about the only thing realistic on 24. Where was the PSA during season three stating that not all drug cartels want to release a deadly virus in America? How about a PSA from the Governor Schwarzenegger stating that California is a safe place to live, there are no nuclear bombs detonating, and the state counter-terrorism units are not plagued by infighting, incompetence, and moles.

This reaction was typical of those who reacted negatively to the PSA. It was seen in terms of the broader discourses of "political correctness" and "special treatment" of "special interest" groups.

The notion that this is just a television show was also strong. Bozwell another strong critic of the PSA from an Australian conservative website steers his way nervously between a defensive concept of fantasy and a defensive concept of reality:

Dare I say it that just like the other groups portrayed in 24, Muslims these days have a lot to answer for? They actually do commit acts of I imagining this or what? What the hell is wrong with a TV show that takes a topical issue and turns it into a riveting drama?...

It is as though by getting Keifer to make this comment those of us that watch the show are assumed to be unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy. I am constantly told that there are a lot of Muslims that condemn the violence and the hatred and I already have my doubts about that because very few of them speak up it would seem--my point being that I can make up my own mind about such issues. In any case however, I put it to you all that a fictional TV show is not the stage upon which actors on behalf of Muslims should be making public comments. I also put it to you that Fox Broadcasting has succumbed to the sickening reality that is Political Correctness gone mad....

How unfortunate for me that I cannot even escape the Political Correctness forced upon me by this silent-apathetic Muslim community while watching one of my favourite TV shows...

The reaction on the official 24 weblog was also negative but less hysterically so. One exception was the post by a Nada a young Muslim:

hey i'm a muslim, i must say that it was really nice of kiefer to mention something good about us.. at least someone thinks not all muslims are terrorists, and that at least we can have some credit, and who said anything about special treatment, bull look at some muslim countries who are in wars now look at the treatment they are getting now. i aint pissed bout what u guys are saying, all that i;m saying is i hate terrorists .. whether they are muslims or non-muslims , cuz a terrorist is a terrorist and nothign can change that,. keep that in mind when u watch 24 ! ..

This web project is an evolving space exploring contemporary manifestations of the apocalyptic in current affairs and popular culture. It is being developed in association with my Ph.D. research and is both a research method and a presentation of that research. In exploring the apocalyptic I am particularly interested in mapping a series of multimodal mythic clusters that are evolving through a process of remediation which I identify as a key cultural logic for an age in which electracy is the new literacy of nomadic subjects. This hypertextual presentation foregrounds affiliational logic and although I hope the project accumulates meaning it does not seek to present a single, formal, linear argument. I have presented some of these ideas in more traditional academic formats in other places. Although the navigational choices are the user's own these tips may be useful. Feedback is very welcome.

Marcus O'Donnell 2005-2006