Propaganda, Jack Bauer and 24

It marked a blurring of Hollywood fantasy with political reality that represented a sharp departure even in the no-holds-barred world of political campaign advertising.

WASHINGTON -- Jack Bauer, the fictional counterterrorism agent on the Fox Network's popular "24" show, hasn't actually waded into the debate on civil liberties versus terrorism surveillance as Congress considers making changes in the USA Patriot Act.

But during the most recent episode of the white-knuckle TV drama, viewers in the nation's capital saw a message drawing on the show's themes that was intended to influence real-life political debate in a highly unusual way.

During a commercial break while the fictional Bauer was desperately searching for canisters of deadly nerve gas that had fallen into the hands of terrorists, viewers saw an advertisement questioning the wisdom of senators who would "weaken" the Patriot Act. "What if they are wrong?" the commercial asked.