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Should The United States Execute Death Row Inmates Via Televised Decapitations?

Many years ago, writer Gore Vidal appeared on Johnny Carson's TV show (The Tonight Show). He suggested that death row prison executions should be televised.

Since the government contends that capital punishment is meant to be a deterrent for capital crime, it makes no sense that only a few people get to see them happen. After all, the idea of a deterrent is that when people understand the consequences of certain actions, they will make a decision to refrain from those actions, so they can prevent the consequences.

A common theme in the human potential movement (not to mention, marketing courses) is that people are motivated by pleasure on the one hand, and by the avoidance of pain on the other hand. Of the two, the avoidance of pain is significantly more powerful. (That is not to say that the desire for pleasure isn't incredibly potent. It just loses out to the desire to avoid pain.)

That being the case, Vidal brought up a salient point when he inquired as to the logic in having private executions, as opposed to live, televised productions of the killing of prisoners who have committed capital crimes. If you want to inspire people to avoid something, shouldn't you actually show them what they want to avoid?

If capital punishment is a deterrent, then the program would have to have a very strong effect on scores of millions of people who would watch the event as it was actually happening. It's one thing to read or hear that someone was put to death. It's another thing altogether to watch it as it's going down.

What better way of doing that, than by making the actual punishment, 'Must See TV'?

Vidal's suggestion came with a twist. He wanted to change the way the prisoners are executed. His idea amounted to, almost a Hunger Games approach to the reality TV show executions. However, instead of fighting other people, his idea was to pit a single prisoner up against a hungry lion.

At the time Mr. Vidal proposed this, animal rights activists were not as powerful a lobbying group as they are today, so he didn't mention any ideas about how to handle the people from PETA1) (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), who, no doubt would object to allowing the lion to go hungry before the actual show.

If memory serves, I believe Vidal may have suggested the prisoner might be able to fashion some sort of weapon in a vain effort to slow down the inevitable horror. PETA would definitely have a problem with that aspect of the production as well, but I'm sure that cooler heads would prevail and a compromise would be excepted, if this idea were to ever come to fruition.

Among those who like Vidal's idea, there are three basic groups. The first are all in, as is. They love it, Love It, LOVE IT. It's sheer genius, and there is no need to change a thing.

The second group feels that since, in the vast majority of hungry lion attacks on humans, the humans die fairly quickly, and they would prefer to have the pain of the execution process be a lot more drawn out; (more like hours instead of minutes.)

The third group feels the opposite from the second group, insomuch as they would like the death to be quick and painless. They feel that it's sick to actually torture another person, even in cases where the person tortured her victims before killing them.

They say that it's understandable to have the emotion of wanting to torture such criminals, but that it's sinking to their level, as a society, if we actually do it. They adamantly tell us that it would make the rest of us as sick as the criminal being executed if we acted on our emotions and tortured her to death, even if she technically deserves it.

However, they do agree with the other two tribes, in that criminals convicted of capital crimes should be put to death, instead of having the taxpayers provide them with 3 meals and a hot shower every day for the rest of their lives. Plus, they agree that society has a duty to kill such criminals, so that the rest of us will choose to avoid their fate.

Their only difference of opinion with the first two groups is that instead of Vidal's idea of the lion (or something worse), the criminals should be decapitated. They cite the state run decapitations in the Islamic state of Saudi Arabia as their model.

Anyone who saw Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 saw a clip of one such execution. An expert swords-person stood over a capital criminal who obediently had his head on the chopping block. In one majestic swoop, the sword cut cleanly through the neck and the head fell off, in the blink of an eye.

Now you see it. Now you don't. It's a dramatic image that you really can never un-see, and yet the criminal didn't even have time to feel pain. Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am. You have to admit, that would be compelling television. Perhaps they could call it, America's Most Headless.

Of course, the show wouldn't solely consist of heads rolling, nonstop. There would be stories about the crimes and the victims. There would be plenty of interviews with the victims families discussing how great it will be to see the culprit get her head lopped off.

Some people might say it would grow old fast, but would it really? Does seeing people get their heads chopped off ever become passee? If the ratings were to slip, the show's producers could regain viewership by adding a segment where the victim's family practices soccer with the demented criminal's head. (This should probably only be utilized for special events, for instance, those who committed the most horrific killings, or any type of killing of a young child, including cases of DUI.)

The producers, along with the US Justice Department would also need to decide on the manner of decapitation. Should it be like the Arabs do it, with a big guy who has so much experience, he never makes a mistake that would cause pain and take several swipes before severing the criminal's head?

How does a person get that much experience in the first place? Can they practice with watermelons or CPR dummies until they are perfect at it? Or do they just have to practice on the job and expect to have a learning curve? How would that affect ratings?

Perhaps they could hire the actual Arabs from Saudi Arabia if their government would allow it. If they balk, maybe George Bush could be persuaded to make a little diplomatic visit, and after a session of walking around, holding hands with one or another royal highness, they would acquiesce.

Of course, if we opted for guillotines, we wouldn't need an expert swordsman with experience at lopping off heads in one fell swoop. We could probably even get them made in the USA, and put some people to work.

The guillotine could be done in a manner that is more in keeping with our methods here in the United States. We don't want our executioners to know for certain that they killed the convict, just in case they ever wake up one day and think, “I get paid to murder people. This is just wrong. God is going to throw me in the lake of fire for eternity.”

The way it's usually done in the United States is with the use of multiple executioners. Two or more executioners perform the same action, but one of them actually is not doing anything to harm the capital criminal.

For instance, there are two switches for the electric chair, but only one of them is connected to the chair. Both executioners hit their switch at the same time. Neither one can be sure who actually murdered the convict.

With a guillotine, there could be multiple electro-mechanical switches. Only one would activate the blade. Keep in mind, the guillotine could be tested with objects that are proven to be much harder to slice through than a human neck. For instance, if it can cleanly slice through a bowling ball, there would be no chance of causing unnecessary pain in the convicted criminal.

Admittedly, there is a lot to work out, but every thousand mile journey begins with the first step. This is a journey well worth it, because we need to lower the crime rate. People are killing each other with reckless abandon.

Violent crime keeps getting progressively worse with each passing year, and we have to do something to scare people straight. We need something dramatic like live decapitations on national television to bring America back to its morality.

Oh, wait a second. Between the last paragraph and this one, I did some research. I'm afraid I'm going to have to walk some of this back. Please bear with me:

Crime, across the board, has decreased by a huge margin in the last 50 years. Homicides and violent crimes are actually down 50% in the past 20 years.2) It seems as if news shows are produced in a way to actually increase fear among the public, and to get people to think crime is getting worse, when in fact, it's happening less and less with the passage of time.

Furthermore, the evidence is overwhelming that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent to murder or any crime at all. A classic example is England in the 18th century. They would hang people for murder.

At one point, the government grew concerned about the trend of pick pockets who were robbing so many people. It's not so much that they cared about the victims. The main problem was it took away from the government's ability to collect taxes, since the pick pockets weren't being honest with the tax man, (if you can believe that.) So they decided to make the crime of picking pockets a capital crime. (That is, it would be punished by the death penalty.)

Not only that, but in the spirit of Gore Vidal's facetious suggestion to Johnny Carson, the hangings were made to be public events. They publicized them and enticed large crowds to come and watch convicted pick pockets be killed by hanging.

They were extremely successful in getting huge crowds, massive throngs of people. There were vendors selling food and other wares. Parents brought their kids. It was a giant party. Good times all around, (with the exception of the people who had to die that day.)

Well, it turned out that the government did not have many of these events. In fact, they changed the law back so that picking pockets was no longer punishable by death. The reason was because pick pocketing increased many times over. It seems that all the large crowds at the public executions of pick pockets, actually attracted a lot more pick pockets who made a fortune working the executions.

When countries abolish the death penalty, the general trend is an immediate reduction in murder, as opposed to the murder rate going up, or even staying the same. Canada reduced their homicide rate by 24% by abolishing the death penalty in 1976. The reduction has grown since then to a 60% reduction.3)

Surveys of criminologists show overwhelming disapproval of the death penalty in terms of it's effectiveness as a deterrent. Rarely do any studies show it as a deterrent. The odd ones that do are routinely disputed by the majority of criminologists as irrefutably flawed.4)

Virtually every study on the topic indicates there is no correlation between murder and the death penalty, except for the possibility of an increase in murder in places where there is capital punishment.

No one can say with certainty why abolishing the death penalty is likely to decrease murder, but some researchers attempt to explain it in terms of a collective consciousness. They say that when the government creates an environment where human life is not perceived as special, it has an unconscious, or sub conscious affect on their citizens, who go on to act as if human life, indeed, is not something to care about.

It even turns out that other reasons people give for backing the death penalty are simply inaccurate. For instance, it costs more to go through everything that is required before a prisoner can be executed, than it costs to house and feed her for life.

(Additionally, prisons are now more than ever, slave labor camps. Prisons, increasingly, are making money from the labor of their inmates. This doesn't, however, help the government, due to the trend of corporate, for profit prisons, that first make money from US taxpayers, before making money from the prisoner labor, but that's a topic for another conversation.)

Those who say, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, really are calling for society to become as sick as the sickest of our citizens. Nothing good could come from an official policy that creates jobs and trains people to enact the crimes upon criminals, that they committed on their victims.

It is one thing if society goes easy on a parent who murders the woman who murdered her child. It's something entirely different if the government hires people to rape rapists. If the goal is to get over such sickness, we can't become part of it.5)

Many, if not most nations of the world have abolished the death penalty, including the nations of Europe. They may know some things we don't know in the States, because they have outlawed most GMOs and required labeling on the few that are allowed.

The death penalty is increasingly thought of as barbaric. It is disproportionately applied to the poor as well as on minorities.

It just so happens to be irreversible. Thousands of prisoners have been exonerated of the crimes they were convicted of. Its true that those people can never get their time back, but when innocent people are wrongly put to death it is unacceptable.6)

A lot of people have a cavalier attitude and say that, while unfortunate, it does happen and that is just the breaks. No system is perfect, they tell us. What would be perfect is if a person who has that attitude ends up being framed for a crime, and sentenced to die. That's the breaks.

No civilized society should allow an innocent person to die. The death penalty system that allows it, is what is at fault. Even if the death penalty were a smashing success in deterring crime, it still shouldn't exist because it allows innocent people to be murdered by the government.

Yet, since it isn't a deterrent, that is one argument that doesn't need to be had. Interestingly, a lot of the people who are most in favor of capital punishment are self described Christians. Jesus was all about forgiveness.

He often hung out with people who had committed crimes. His one statement on capital punishment recorded in the Bible is, “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” He told us to forgive one another and to not only love our neighbors, but to love our enemies.

That doesn't mean we can't lock people up to keep them from harming us, but it does mean we aren't supposed to hate them and think of them only as their despicable actions. A lot of horrendous actions are taken due to mental illness, often caused by growing up around mentally ill people.

If mentally ill criminals who have done unspeakable things are locked away in places where their mental illness begins to heal, they will hate themselves more than we ever could hate them. If their illness can't be healed, so be it. Either way, we should lock them up for life.

However, it's not our job to make sure they go through life in the same kind of pain that they caused others. A lot of times people who have committed atrocities have gone on to be a deterrent for others, by being involved in prison programs like Scared Straight.

As David McGowan proves in his book, Programmed To Kill, most of the serial murderers in the United States have obviously been programmed by a dark force that is part of various intelligence agencies.7)

If we are ever going to heal as a society, it won't come from refusing to understand and deal with the cause of problems. it won't come from seeking vengeance & hatred, and living life ruled by the emotions of a child. It will come from being intelligent, being strong, being loving and being forgiving.

Politics | Political Philosophy | Crime

5) Actually, we've become the sickness. In Iraq, the US government hired contractors to rape children to force confessions out of their parents who could hear their children screaming in the next room., as part of their excursion in the Iraq war. Then they trained Iraq security to imprison and rape women and children to break the fighting spirit of men who are against the ruling government. It continues to this day. http://www.countercurrents.org/adriaensens291112.htm

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