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TV torture: My column for New York magazine

New York magazine just published a column I wrote about the omnipresence of torture in today’s hit spy shows — and how it eerily mirrors the real-life debate over the US’s use of torture. Here are the first two paragraphs:

In the season opener of the spy show Alias, the heroine, Sydney Bristow, was captured and, in the delicate argot of espionage, “interrogated.” The villain shackled her to a chair, strapped a gas mask on her face, and hooked it up to a hose. Then he filled the mask with water—drowning her on dry land as she writhed helplessly.

It was a chilling scene, and not simply because of the violence itself. I realized I was watching a variant of “waterboarding,” the near-drowning torture the CIA has reportedly used on suspected terrorist detainees. I’d read about it in coverage of the Guantánamo hearings that very same morning. And that was hardly the first time a spy show had mimicked a real-life scandal. For the past three years, shows like Alias, 24, and MI-5 have provided a perverse mirror of the real-life response to terror: They’ve reflected, and sometimes eerily predicted, the rise of torture as a government policy.

You can read the rest of the piece online here! Or, bien sur, if you live in New York, you can rush right now to the newsstands and get a copy. Heh.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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