TV shows like Homeland, 24 and Spooks have “glorified torture”

New research from Amnesty International has revealed that 29% of Britons think torture is acceptable - and the human rights organisation thinks TV is to blame

Spy dramas like 24, Homeland and Spooks have changed the way we think about torture, according to Amnesty International. 


TV shows depicting graphic scenes of violence as an interrogation technique have “glorified torture to a generation”, believes the human rights organisation. 

New research undertaken by the group has revealed that 29% of people in Britain think “torture is sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public.” 

That’s a higher percentage than Russia, South Korea, Brazil and Chile, although not as high as some nations, such as China and India, where 74% believed torture was justifiable, and America, where 45% agreed with the use of torture.

Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, has called Britain’s response “alarming” – and blames the TV shows we watch on a regular basis. 

“These findings are alarming, we really didn’t foresee this sort of response from people in the UK and it shows we have got a lot of work to do,” said Allen. “It looks from these results like we have placed panic over principle. People have bought into the idea that their personal safety can be enhanced in some way through the use of torture. That is simply untrue.”

“Programmes like 24, Homeland and Spooks have glorified torture to a generation,” she continued, adding: “But there’s a massive difference between a dramatic depiction by screenwriters, and its real-life use by government agents in torture chambers.”

These named spy thrillers are well known for subjecting their characters to brutal interrogations. The last series of Homeland showed a scene where a prisoner was subjected to sleep deprivation while 24 and Spooks have both sparked controversy in the past for their depictions of violent torture. 

The poll, which surveyed more than 21,000 people in 21 countries, was part of Amnesty’s campaign to Stop Torture