The second night of THE 24 EVENT was mostly less terrible than Sunday's two episodes. Despite knowing who Jack Bauer is, the new head of CTU failed to listen to Jack/Chloe's baseless lead. Jack ends up somewhere in Brooklyn/Bronx/Queens. He, all too quickly, finds the police officer that Davros had tortured in the previous episode. Both the officer and his wife had both been shot in the head. Jack is found at the new crime scene by two NYPD officers, who then hand corner and taze him. One officer believes that he is the killer, so instead of calling it in, he ties Bauer up in the basement of the home and proceeds to beat him. Jack is able to escape, after convincing the other patrol officer that he needs to inform CTU that one of the security officers at the UN is the assassin. Fred Prince Jr.'s character is able to stop the attack in the nick of time, and President Hassan escapes unharmed. CTU releases the journalist. Finally, FBI SA Renee Walker returns to brief CTU about a group of Russian mobsters they believe is connected to the attack on Hassan. CTU Chief Brian Hastings asks Walker to go back undercover to track down some nuclear material. Refusing to have her go solo, Bauer joins her. Walker takes Bauer to see an old contact in the Russian mob. When the contact refuses to help her, Walker pins his arm in a vice and cuts off his hand.
So, we have two acts of torture here, but neither fit into the neat categories I have been working with for the last three seasons. Until tonight, torture fit into three groups: Official Torture, Terrorist Torture, and Bauer Torture. Each group category had a set of unique tropes that marked it. These features revealed much about the characters and the show's producers. But now we have two acts of torture that are clearly outside of the above guidelines. Which raises the question, do I add a new, fourth category called "vigilante torture" or categorize under "Terrorist" Torture?
I think it could be argued that the two acts of torture in question could be counted as "terrorist torture" because they follow the primary tropes of terrorist torture. The police officer tortures Bauer because he is sick of 'cop killers' getting off on technicalities or because fast talking lawyers are able to trick the jury. To fix this problem he decides the best course of action is to physically beat Bauer. The cop gets his justice even as he ensures a potential cop-killer get off on a technicality. Like I have noted in past seasons, terrorists often torture people for selfish and sadistic reasons. Since Walker cut off the mobster’s hand in the last moments of the show, I cannot be sure what is going happen next. Walker is no longer with the FBI, but she seems to be operating out of revenge, and is therefore a type of official vigilante—as she was given the task by CTU. Neither of these characters are terrorists, however. Terrorism is "deliberate violence or the threat of violence directed at innocent non-combatants and governments to cause fear systematically to attract media attention for causes which may be political or ideological and which are viewed as coercive." a Terrorist, therefore, is one who commits organizes or assists in an act of terrorism. I do not believe that either the police officer or SA Walker fit this definition. The police officer was responding to a single event and it was a clear cause and effect occurrence. Walker’s actions cannot be fully analyzed yet, as her undercover operation is ongoing. Her actions, as Bauer has alluded to, are the direct result of a psychological trauma from her last undercover operation. Her actions, are therefore out of her full control and can be taken as defensive reactions—kill or be killed.
Since these two acts of torture cannot be classified as terrorist torture, a new category must be created. vigilante torture, therefore, is an act of torture committed by a party acting outside any official structure but is not Jack Bauer. While it appeaser that vigilante torture is geographically and structurally similar to terrorist torture, they are not the same. How this category will play in future episodes and what it means for a broader analysis of 24 - and torture in popular culture is let to be seen.
My thoughts about this new category are developing. I will be putting up another post in the next day or two updating my count with some analysis of each act as well as some more thoughts on the category. I would love some feedback. Leave me a comment or hit me up on twitter or facebook.