Antonin Scalia Defends Torture In Certain Jack-Bauer-Approved Circumstances

As unlikely as it sounds, a recent international legal symposium in Canada's capital devolved into a philosophical debate over whether or not the star of a popular primetime Fox program had the right to employ cruel and inhumane torture tactics as a means to achieving a justifiable end—and the name Paula Abdul never once came up. No, visiting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was actually defending the morally ambiguous actions of 24's Jack Bauer, who'd think nothing of turning his own brother's Pain-O-Meter to 11 if it meant stopping the needless obliteration of another Valencia. From The Globe and Mail:

Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge's passing remark - "Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra 'What would Jack Bauer do?' " - got the legal bulldog in Judge Scalia barking.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent's rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand. [...]

What happened next was like watching the National Security Judges International All-Star Team set into a high-minded version of a conversation that has raged across countless bars and dinner tables, ever since 24 began broadcasting six seasons ago.

That Bauer—and, by extension, his self-described "right-wing nut job" creator Joel Surnow—should have such an ardent vocal defender in Scalia is not surprising, and yet there's still something inarguably surreal about one of America's most influential jurists carrying on about a fictional character as if he were a real secret agent out to save the world. And while there would be those who'd argue the Justice made some strong points, the same could easily be said of the other side, including a number of towering Canadian legal minds who sagely pointed to the far gentler techniques of one of their own, cherished TV characters, The Littlest Hobo, as the standard to which all renegade heroes should aspire.