It started with CCTV news announcing on Feb. 28, that the 4 drug lords found guilty of murdering 12 Chinese sailors are to be executed.
The SCMP blogger John Kennedy blogged on March 1, with the above screen capture, that CCTV announced “broadcast live execution.”
Except, that’s NOT what the CCTV news announced. The Chinese caption in the image actually showed 2 different lines, 1 stating the 4 drug lords are to be executed, the 2nd stating “tomorrow direct broadcast with more details.”
Now, nowhere in the image there was a line of “broadcast live execution”. John Kennedy appeared to have suffered an episode of Dyslexia, where he mixed Chinese words from 2 different lines to form a meaning where it didn’t exist, but even Kennedy couched his own title with the more detailed description
CCTV plans to do a live broadcast AS the men are each given a lethal injection
which is somewhat inconsistent with his title of
CCTV ‘to broadcast live execution
As Eric Fish of “Sinostand” noted in his tweet on the same day as John Kennedy’s blog,
Live broadcast WHILE they’re given the injection does NOT mean they’ll actually air the execution itself. C’mon people.
But even with Eric’s clear showing of the inconsistency between Kennedy’s own description and title, the blogsphere the twitterverse were soon flooded with believers of the Dyslexic title of John Kennedy’s blog. That’s what happens when people follow dyslexic news titles. But what can one expect from people who get their news from 140 characters or less of 1 lines in Twitter?? Frankly, who would see any errors or inconsistencies from 1 liner dumb down news?
*But soon after the apparent “non-news” dyslexic news of a non-existent broadcast of the “live execution,” came the wave of the much waited for outrage of moral outcry.
No, there was no live execution broadcasted, but even if the broadcast was mere “pre-execution”, it was close enough to justify the outrage. Nevermind that “pre-execution” interviews were done before, in China, and even in US.
1 Surprise was an article from Rebecca Liao, a US lawyer, in the Atlantic:
In Broadcasting Lead-Up to Execution, China Ignores Rule of Law
The article reads like multiple sets of self-conflicting statements, leading me to suspect that more than 1 individual may have torn through the original article and added things that were not originally written by Rebecca Liao.
For example, 1 part states “What coverage of the trips to the execution site does reveal, however, is that China still lacks a culture that the rule of law requires,” when earlier in the article, “On Friday, legal experts ticked through each of the procedural safeguards to demonstrate that the criminals have been dealt with fairly, from appealing the sentence to considering mitigating circumstances that were found ultimately to not apply.”
I don’t know who wrote what, but it seems the facts suggests that China went through vigorous procedure of checklists to ensure that the “rule of law” was followed. Indeed, the article admits, ” the broadcast was perfectly legal. No execution was ever shown.”
So, what “culture that the rule of law requires” is China accused of lacking? (especially when the article also admits, “even in societies that pride themselves on their mature legal systems the question of live executions has hardly been settled,” when discussing US).
1 Chinese lawyer criticizing the Pre-execution interview was 斯伟江, who criticize the broadcast as “expanding” what Chinese laws allowed. He quoted the Chinese Supreme Court as having stated that “executions can be publicly announced, but not publicly displayed,” and then proceeded to interpret the Pre-execution broadcast as “public display.”
But what’s the difference? He doesn’t explain. However, he (and others) seem to imply that somehow, any thing viewed as INTENDED to display and show the punitive consequences in the EXECUTION is considered public display, and also “crass” and immoral.
By the same logic, the critics who boiled over their little tempest in the teapot were also putting the LIVE executions of the 4 criminals on “public display”. Indeed, many of the critics even previously discussed executions of other criminals that was not even discussed in Chinese media. Were they also putting the executions on public display?
If “PRE-Execution” media coverage is so horrible, (when the criminal is still alive), then WHAT about so many “POST-Execution” media coverages? (Case in point: Saddam and Gaddafi’s dead bodies were shown repeatedly in Western media. Were they not gruesome “public displays” served as revenge warnings of the animalistic nature??!) If you really want to discuss revenge warnings, showing dead bodies is far more gruesome and immoral than showing living bodies!
Was the Chinese government supposed to put in some media “blackout” after the death sentences were announced? I mean, seriously, would the likes of 斯伟江 and John Kennedy follow such an order, and NOT talk about or cover executions of prominent individuals? I am certain that they would do it in a heart-beat to the most excruciating details of horror, to discuss the cruelty of government policies. (And they do so, even in this case).
Oh, I have no doubt that people who brew little tempests of outrage seldom want the tempests blown back at them. Thus, they apply their own morality liberally, with moving goal posts. Their own stretching of definitions is “rule of law”, while mere information from others is too “crass”.
But here is the rub. MANY people have different views on the misbehavior of media people. Unless the critics can actually agree on what is the line of legality here, I don’t think their moral judgment is worth more than well, their own moral judgment, in “RULE of Law”.
And that’s really the point: It’s nice that you have personal morality when you are criticizing behavior of others, but that’s not “RULE of Law” in any country, especially when such issues are admittedly NOT settled in most nations.
And more specifically on the issue of a mature “culture” of rule of law, the Atlantic article stated,
This sort of culture acknowledges the more visceral forms of justice but also prizes a rational approach to dealing with crime and punishment. The focus of the criminal justice system should be on deterrence, punishing only insofar as society may benefit and recognizing the humanity of defendants regardless of the alleged crimes. Vengeance and assertions of might are unwelcome in this context.
I would agree to these statements in the generality in which it was stated. But let us look at the “culture” of “rational approach” of deterrence and punishment more in the specifics.
I would argue that PRE-execution interviews offer some last chance to the criminals. If they are to die as proper punishment, they should be given last chances to speak in public, to speak their own case, to ask forgiveness, to have their last dignities.
In CONTRAST, I would argue that in the Western media, POST-Execution media coverages are far more overly done and are vastly more egregious and grotesque in nature.
Again, as case in point, Saddam, Gaddafi, dead bodies “paraded” in media, over and over again, for DAYS and WEEKS.
This sort of POST-death “victory parade”, like Augustus Ceasar parading the bodies of Mark Antony and Cleopatra through Rome, simply de-humanizes criminals, even after death.
And Osama bin Laden’s death? Celebrated in movies and even CGI simulated animations of his last moments, repeatedly. Were these not the excessive display of “vengeance and assertions of might” by the Western media in pursuit of their “culture”???
I would argue that displaying a criminal’s LIVING moments actually humanizes him. And the fact that it spawned even some PUBLIC sympathies for the 4 drug lords, shows that the PRE-Execution coverage were NOT displays of “vengeance and assertions of might.”
YES, CCTV showed that these 4 people were REAL living people that were going to be executed. They were talking with some emotion and rationality, even repentantly at times. And the audience saw that they understood what they did. They were HUMAN BEINGS who made the terrible errors of their crimes, and the RULE of LAW says that they should be executed.
If that reality of a legal system that must PUNISH real living people is too HARSH for some, That’s too bad.
THAT confrontation of the REALITY of Rule of Law is also part of a mature “culture” of Rule of Law, a culture mature enough to actually understand what the punishment really means.
I think the FAILURE to confront that reality is actually the IMMATURITY of the Western culture, fed by the immaturity of its media and its system of de-humanizing its criminals. Rather than confronting the reality of its punishment systems, it punishes its criminals by tucking them away in the darkness and pretend that somehow the Western criminal system is “humane”.
The result of that system in US? Maturely putting away more than 1% of its population behind bars. I would argue that this high incarceration rate is a result of the legal system that de-humanizes the process of punishment, making the public and the criminals alike become insensitive to the actual punishments.
Furthermore, it spawns more cycles of other de-humanizing punishments, such as the Drone-kill lists and “collateral damages” in wars. Yes, when the legal system de-humanizes even one’s own citizens, why feel any sympathies for people outside of one’s borders??
I would also argue that the real reason why some in the West are so abhorred by the PRE-Execution coverage (like many were also disturbed by McVeigh TV interviews), is that when they watched the criminals alive, it is disturbing for some that they realized for the 1st time in their lives that their OWN legal system is so hopelessly de-humanizing, that they were afraid to allow their own condemned criminals like Tim McVeigh appear REAL and living on TV.
They wanted to simply characterize such criminals as “monsters”, and then just have them die in a chamber somewhere and then burnt (and if really hated them, have their deaths virtually paraded).
This is not a mature “culture” of rule of law in the West. The shrills of the Western media have NO real conception of what actual punishment in a legal system MEANS, (what it means to put some LIVING person to death or away in prison), or what “deterrence” means.
If you cannot confront the reality (the actual impact) of the punishment, then you have no understanding of “deterrence” or “justice”, you are just punishing because you vaguely believe that somehow the punishment will “deter” and serve “justice”.
The reality of the Western “culture” of rule of law boils people down to mere numbers, in years, cell space, prisoner numbers, counts, meal cost, uniforms, sanitation supply, and PERHAPS some new exciting Prison drama for TV/movies.
In this case in China, I think the PRE-execution coverage serves as a confrontation of the punishment under the Rule of Law. I do not see reasons to shy away from it.
(I draw the line at actually showing the execution itself, as the laws ban actual “public display” OF the EXECUTION. I would also draw the line for POST-death displays, virtual or real. Such displays would be just sadism and death voyeurism. POST-death displays are Sadism, in the very real sense of the word, since the original Marquis de Sade also made his living and hobby writing descriptions of deaths, to be replayed in the minds of true Sadists.)
Those whose nerves are too raw for the harsh realities, need not debate about “rule of law” any more. You won’t like the reality of it. You also won’t like the reality of your own “humane” “culture” that produced vast prisons and POST-death “victory parades.”