UPDATE: The AP has silently removed the offending quote. This just strengthens the point: Journalism is dead at the AP.
There has been a bizarre flurry of outrage today as convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner opted, as is his right under Utah law, to be executed by firing squad as opposed to the more commonplace lethal injection. Gardner murdered an innocent bystander(why are bystanders never guilty?) as part of a failed escape attempt.
Though I do not share their opinion, I respect those who have principled objections to the death penalty, and understand their positions. That is not what we see here. Death penalty opponents have adopted a disingenuous strategy of attacking each method of execution as cruel and unusual, in an effort to achieve a de facto elimination of the death penalty when they do not have the political or judicial support to achieve an actual elimination.
Judging by the quotes from death penalty opponents, it is far more civilized to be bludgeoned to death with the plowshare of the sterile surgical implements of lethal injection, than to be stabbed by the sword of the military firing squad.
One quote was particularly incomprehensible. The AP reports that
Lydia Kalish, Amnesty International’s death penalty abolition coordinator for Utah said her organization opposes the state’s effort to see Gardner executed. But despite Utah’s strong religious roots – it’s the home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – most here support the use of the death penalty.
“I think in Utah, when it suits their purposes, they go back to the Old Testament and the ‘eye for an eye’ kind of thing,” Kalish said. “These people may be the worst of the worst, but if the best we can do is repeat the same thing, it’s so obviously wrong.”
The AP’s reporter, Jennifer Dobner, begins by stating that support of the death penalty is in contradiction with religiosity. Upon what basis this statement is made is unclear. It is possible that this is indeed true of Ms. Dobner’s own religious tradition, but her audacity in extrapolating it to others is shocking. It is typical of a peculiar sort of moral relativism, which allows only for those moralities of which one personally approves. She attempts to support her statement with an incomprehensible quote from Ms. Kalish, a “death penalty abolition coordinator,” who begins by impugning the piety of Utah residents who apparently only adhere to their religious traditions “when it suits their purposes.” She continues on to equate the cold-blooded murder of an innocent bystander with the punishment of an evil murderer after 25 years of due process.
Though Ms. Dobner references “a debate over what critics see as an antiquated, Old West-style of justice,” she manages to complete her article, a fine specimen of objective reporting, without including a single quote from a supporter of the firing squad as a method of execution.
There are those, myself included, who lament the impending death of the newspaper. Articles like this one are the necrotizing flesh on the dying body of the journalistic enterprise.
Though I support the death penalty, I would not be particularly concerned should it pass from the law of this land as the result of reasoned arguments and consistent positions. Man’s capacity for logical thought is the foundation stone upon which civilization was built, and upon which it persists. It is paradoxical that those who would tell us that the death penalty must be abolished as an uncivilized relic of a bloodthirsty time would assert their claim as an appeal to man’s basest instincts. The case must be made as an appeal to reason, or not at all.