Predictably, the New Yorker‘s feature article on the Fox TV program 24 is overly long and absurdly tendentious, but there’s some interesting information in it if you can wade through the political complaint. According to the New Yorker author, 24 is about one thing and one thing only: torture. A good two thirds of the article are devoted to a long and stupendously uninteresting discussion of the instances of torture that have been depicted in the several years that 24 has been on the air, along with the opinions of ex-military and police officers who argue that torture is never effective and never justified.

The author does touch on the obvious point that the program is a fiction, and a romance at that, but that doesn’t stop her from going on and on about how bad torture is and how 24 might create a new generation of torturers among U.S. military and police personnel, which strikes me as highly unlikely, to say the least.

Eventually, however, she gets around to writing about Joel Surnow, the show’s co-creator and executive producer, and he proves to be a very interesting fellow indeed. If the program has ever seemed to be politically right of center, that’s because Surnow is a full-blooded right-winger—he jokingly calls himself a "right-wing nutjob" and counts Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter among his friends, according to the author.

Surnow’s first successes in television came as a writer for Miami Vice and then as creator and guiding force behind The Equalizer, a supercool 1980s vigilante-justice drama starring Edward Woodward. (It doesn’t appear that the program is available on DVD, but an excellent film starring Edward Woodward is: The Wicker Man.)

The Equalizer had a decidedly right-wing attitude, and the New Yorker article summarizes some of Surnow’s political thoughts, which sound like what we might expect from the man who helped create The Equalizer:

During three decades as a journeyman screenwriter, Surnow grew increasingly conservative. He “hated welfare,” which he saw as government handouts. Liberal courts also angered him. He loved Ronald Reagan’s “strength” and disdained Jimmy Carter’s “belief that people would be nice to us just because we were humane. That never works.” He said of Reagan, “I can hardly think of him without breaking into tears. I just felt Ronald Reagan was the father that this country needed. . . . He made me feel good that I was in his family.”

Surnow said that he found the Clinton years obnoxious. “Hollywood under Clinton—it was like he was their guy,” he said. “He was the yuppie, baby-boomer narcissist that all of Hollywood related to.” During those years, Surnow recalled, he had countless arguments with liberal colleagues, some of whom stopped speaking to him. “My feeling is that the liberals’ ideas are wrong,” he said. “But they think I’m evil.” Last year, he contributed two thousand dollars to the losing campaign of Pennsylvania’s hard-line Republican senator Rick Santorum, because he “liked his position on immigration.” His favorite bumper sticker, he said, is “Except for Ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism & Communism, War Has Never Solved Anything.”

Although his program has been accused of parrotting the Bush administration’s attitudes in the War on Terror, Surnow differs strongly with the administration on the War in Iraq, the article notes:

Although he is a supporter of President Bush—he told me that “America is in its glory days”—Surnow is critical of the way the war in Iraq has been conducted. An “isolationist” with “no faith in nation-building,” he thinks that “we could have been out of this thing three years ago.” After deposing Saddam Hussein, he argued, America should have “just handed it to the Baathists and . . . put in some other monster who’s going to keep these people in line but who’s not going to be aggressive to us.”

I rather like Surnow’s analysis.

As to the program’s political stance, the article quotes Surnow as saying, "Our only politics are that terrorists are bad. In some circles, that’s political.”

Surnow’s newest project, the article reports, is a right-of-center comedy-satire program, the article notes:

“ ‘The Daily Show’ tips left,” Surnow said. “So we thought, Let’s do one that tips right.” Jon Stewart’s program appears on Comedy Central, an entertainment channel. But, after Surnow got Rush Limbaugh to introduce him to Roger Ailes, Fox News agreed to air two episodes. The program, which will follow the fake-news format popularized by “Saturday Night Live,” will be written by conservative humorists, including Sandy Frank and Ned Rice. Surnow said of the show, “There are so many targets, from global warming to banning tag on the playground. There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit.”

There is indeed.

Surnow sounds like an interesting and fun guy, attributes that shine through even the New Yorker‘s not at all sympathetic profile.