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Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Should the world watch?
An internet company says Americans should have the right to watch the Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh die by lethal injection.
Entertainment Network Incorporated wants to broadcast the execution live on the internet on a pay-per-view basis.
The US Government says the execution will be relayed on closed circuit television to survivors of the 1995 bombing and victims' relatives but has barred all broadcasts of the event.
ENI are appealing against the decision and David Marshlack, the company's chief executive, said it was every taxpayer's right to see the execution.
Should the execution be broadcast on the internet? Or should only the relatives be permitted to watch? Would you watch?
This debate is now closed. Your reaction:
The American system is far too based on retribution, and as a result has spawned a vindictive, bloodthirsty society. This must stop!
I'm all in favour of the broadcast of McVeigh's execution. I want to watch it; it will be fun.
Is it just the case of some person/company trying to be clever and push the borders of media/history - for all the wrong reasons? I don't think watching a guy being killed will help anyone; it's like medieval times.
Of course people will watch. We never see death HAPPEN - we see it faked (films) and we see the bodies - Srebrenica, Dachau, the road to Basra. If death IS caught on film - eg JFK's - we all want to see it again, and again, and again. Drive along any motorway: witness the morbid desire of normal people to examine a pile-up on the other carriageway. Death fascinates us - it's a once in a lifetime experience. If you think people will become bored of it, remember - the pornography industry makes billions from depicting a very commonplace activity...
Richie, Northern Ireland
If the company offering this as entertainment say any money will go to the victim's families then let them broadcast it. Why not let some good come from such a hideous crime - it would probably be the last thing Timothy would want.
It should not be broadcast. The truth is that if it is broadcast it will garnish major league ratings. Humans like to think they are high-minded and that we have evolved. We are still essentially a bunch of savages. We like to see accidents, we all watch the guy breaking his leg in football (either variety), we all slow down at accidents on the highway to see what happened. We are curious about death and our own mortality. If someone emailed you the video, you would watch out of a morbid sense of curiosity. Why not if you could watch by yourself and have your own little piece of moral decadence - wouldn't you? Personally I just want to know what he says before he goes. I don't see any way that he could justify his actions.
If one of your 10 (Christian) Commandments says: "I should NOT kill", then why take someone else's life away? Execution is wrong. It is a method of taking someone else's life. Life sentences should be introduced like we do in Europe. Only God can take life away.
Surely knowing he is dead is enough - what does anyone have to gain from actually seeing it happening?
Neil Halliday, United Kingdom
I don't understand how the US government can claim that it's right to kill someone, but wrong to let people watch.
I don't see what relevance broadcasting an execution has to this supposed judicial system. Is it going to make his punishment any sharper? I thought this was supposed to be punishment for the guilty, not quick relief for the bored. We shouldn't be validating his actions with cheap immortality in the media. What's next - a pithy catchphrase before the final gasp? A quick song and dance number before they throw the switch?
We have sunk to a new low and are teetering on the brink of the lowest circle of Hell. Watching death as entertainment is way beyond mentally sick disgusting.
In a country where schools are no longer safe, but threatened by a possibility of being massacred by a classmate seeking revenge, the last thing we should uphold is an execution made public that supposedly satisfies revenge.
The US judicial system is not here for revenge, but justice.
To cheapen the deaths of the victims in this way is both immature and damaging for a society that loves to consider itself civilised.
I believe this murderer should be punished publicly because his crimes were so disastrous that they affected the whole nation. Therefore the whole nation should be able to feel closure for the loss these people in Oklahoma City have felt.
Nick Gunning, UK
I would personally love to watch this creep die for killing 160 of us Americans. My sympathy to victims and families.
Absolutely not. It's not entertainment. All the public need to know is that the duties of the state officials have been properly carried out. There is absolutely no benefit in putting this on TV. It's a known fact that the death sentence is no deterrent, so the only reason to broadcast such an event is morbid gratification.
And countries like America think Saudi Arabia is barbaric in having public executions. At least there it's free!
Drew, Pittsburgh, U.S.A.
Is it not true that the American citizens who believe most strongly in limiting the power of the state, are also the greatest proponents for state executions? Surely this is the ultimate sanction a state can have -- legalised power of life or death of its citizens? It's this kind of hypocrisy makes the public broadcast of this death penalty sentence for entertainment possible in the USA.
This is so disgusting! That Internet company should be ashamed of themselves.
How barbaric - I'm in favour of the death penalty, but this type of voyeurism is not called for. This is just someone somewhere trying to make a fast buck.
Dan Reichart, Chicago, USA
Legalized murder indeed! Those are words crafted by those too weak to see to it that justice is served and killers of the innocent forfeit their lives as just punishment for their crimes. I personally have no desire to watch a lethal injection. A hanging, on the other hand...
That we're debating whether to broadcast an execution to the general public is definitely a sign of the times that we live in. And the fact that there is a demand for such a televised event only highlights what a by-and-large voyeuristic, made-for-TV society we've become.
Never, never, never. It is immoral to kill another human, and obscene to either broadcast it - in whatever medium - or to watch. Are we humans really stooping so low as to ogle the wanton murder of another, regardless of their crime? I am all for severe sentences for criminal acts, including murder, but never the death penalty. Even if the murderer had no right to kill others, that does not give the rest of humanity the right to kill him, nor to treat that 'legalised' murder as a spectator sport. I weep and pray for those states and countries that maintain the death penalty, and I find it sickening that there should be those in the media who feel it is OK to show a man being put to death.
Ashley Beniston, UK
I personally feel a mixture of things: On the one hand I deplore execution and don't understand how any civilised country can entertain such a "punishment". On the other hand, I am actually curious to see what happens and how it is done. Would I watch myself? No probably not, but I do feel that if McVeigh's execution isn't broadcast, it's only a matter of time before someone else's is. It does reflect badly on the state of American society though, in more ways than one!
In the US, when there is an execution, there is always a huge crescendo leading up to the event, but the day after, the execution is largely forgotten. People move on and the media for once find no point in running the story much further. The execution of McVeigh should be viewed only by the family and a few officials. To show it live on television would by no means provide any "closure" to America. The sole motive for broadcasting the execution is sick entertainment; a ratings boost for the networks. Unlike every other execution, they'll be able to show this one over and over and over, and people will watch. In turn, it will incite a greater level of rage in underground anti-government organisations who already see McVeigh as a martyred patriot. To broadcast his execution will elevate him in their minds to something of a martyred god, making those people a far greater threat than ever before. Then again, the media want this, don't they? It gives them more blood and agony to broadcast.
Amanda Bradley, Seattle, USA
The worst thing the US government has been doing for years, is murder. The death penalty is no way to bring justice to a human. Once this man is dead, his troubles are over. He should be sent to prison room with nothing except food and a single light bulb.
The sick thing in all this is that the media want to broadcast it. Now, the only reason they would broadcast it, is because they know it will entertain people, and people who watch, will be entertained by a real murder. If children saw this, they would remember murder as being entertaining, which is why they have a high murder rate.
I don't think the execution should be televised because that is exactly what McVeigh wants. He has had enough attention already. We should focus our energy on the victims' families. He should die in seclusion.
Where has the morality in human behaviour gone in this world? Are we
trying to popularise and glorify a criminal's mindframe and mindset. Isn't
this the height of pathos that even the public wants to be a part of this
Sajjad Khan, USA
Only in America could they extend 'rights' to the level of watching an execution on TV. No doubt this will give the media great debates with opinions by all manner of experts, social, religious and self-appointed. By all means televise it, you don't have to watch.
America is one of only a few countries in the world to still carry out a death sentance. Incarceration for the rest of my life in solitary would be my idea of hell, killing someone is quick (although not painless). The death penalty does not act as a deterent or this bombing would not have happened. The UK ended public executions over 100 years ago, using technology to watch some die is sick and deeply wrong. What will we learn from the first web broadcast of an execution?
Paul B, UK
A lethal injection is what your vet gives your beloved and dying family pet to avoid suffering.
Timothy McVeigh should live and suffer - he deserves a life that would discourage others from following his example.
I can't believe that any person would want to watch another human die! No matter how bad that person is. Are we so desensitised that this kind of behaviour is now normal? The thought of purposely watching a person die turns my stomach. I say "NO" to televising McVeigh's execution!
Simon Cameron, UK
Since I don't even believe in the death penalty in the first place, I think it would be very immoral and wrong to broadcast such an event.
June Ho, Malaysia
I think the execution should be on Pay-Per-View and have all the proceeds go to the survivors and the victims' families.
I would certainly not watch the execution. On the contrary I am of the opinion that instead of putting him to death he should be put into prison for life so that he can repent for his sins.
Rather un-PC I know and Amnesty Int'l who I admire wouldn't let it happen, but my theory on modern punishment (which would ideally apply to McVeigh) is as follows.
Victorian prisons were actually a rather technological approach to criminals - the ability to build large prisons was efficiency itself and a world away from the inhuman conditions of the medieval dungeon. We are still maintaining this particular penal model in the third millennium when we should, in fact, take advantage of the technological advancements we have made with virtual reality or drugs to REALLY deprive people of their liberty, protect society etc etc. Death is too easy (clearly) and also too finite - stick some hallucinatory drugs inside them and put them on a drip.
Linda Ward Selbie, Canada
A disgusting crime was committed but I cannot see the legitimacy of such a public execution. I do believe that we still live in a civilised community.
What is in the public interest, and what interests the public, are not one and the same. Broadcasting an act, which in itself has so clearly failed as a deterrent, panders to the very lowest of human achievement. The first word in the name of the company that wants public broadcast rights (Entertainment) says it all. If McVeigh is to be truly punished, let him be denied the notoriety he so obviously seeks.
Remember the film the Running Man? Well it smacks of this idea. The next thing we will see is some sort of weekly soap where innocents shall be put to death for our entertainment. No, it shouldn't be shown and in my eyes America is becoming a sick nation.
The web site would not be making any money from
this broadcast. A small charge by
credit card is being made to verify
age and any profits made are being
donated to victim charities.
Why not let his execution do some
McVeigh wants his execution broadcast so that he can, in his eyes, martyr himself to a cause.
Why give this killer a new forum? And as far as the death penalty itself, critics from countries that just passed legalised euthanasia don't have a leg to stand on. It's okay to take the life of an elderly person who can't live without a respirator, but it's not all right to take the life of a killer who called the death of toddlers "collateral damage"?
If McVeigh has no right to live, then he should certainly have no right to choose whether or not his execution is televised. I was living in the Oklahoma City area on April 19th, 1995. I volunteered at blood drives, and handed out water to rescue workers. I witnessed the implosion of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and smelled the air that reeked of the tragedy yet, under NO circumstance would I watch this execution. I agree that Timothy McVeigh should die as a result of his actions, but to allow him to make a mockery of our country by turning this into a media event is absurd. I think that the victim's families should have a right to choose whether they want to view or not, but no means should this become a public spectacle.
I suppose bombing and mass destruction
are horrendous crimes, unless you call it war. Then you can kill all you want. For example what was the point of the Nagasaki bombing? Didn't Hiroshima make the point? Could it possible be that the bomb that killed thousands of people was dropped not to end the war, which was already over after Hiroshima, but to demonstrate US power? Of course this couldn't be murder, because as we all know that second bomb was justified. Yeah, right!
A criminal, murderer and terrorist must be killed in same way as he or she killed innocent people and it should telecast on all TV channels so that no other person dares to do any act of terror. This is the only way to stop crime - look at the example of Saudi Arabia which has an amazingly low crime rate and literally zero AIDS cases.
We are all voyeurs. If public hanging were bought back - the crowds would be enormous. If gladiator contests were bought back, the ratings would go through the roof.
Don't fool yourselves, underneath the thin veneer of civilisation, we are still barbarians!
How can people be in favour of execution,
yet not be in favour of having it televised,
especially when McVeigh has agreed to it?
Execution is a horrible, ugly thing, and
those who support it (as well as those who
do not) should have the right to
know exactly what they are looking at,
and that it isn't completely pretty.
I would watch if the punishment fit the crime. But his victims died by truck-bomb while he will merely be put to sleep like an old dog.
Anyone who supports the death penalty but doesn't think that the execution should be shown on television is guilty of sticking their head in the sand. All supporters should feel obligated to watch and then reconsider whether they still believe that the death penalty is a humane way of punishing a fellow human being.
Clive, Oklahoma City, USA
Outrageous. What is the U.S thinking??
The crime committed by McVeigh is barbaric and hence he should have been publicly hanged or shot. This would have served as an example for people who think blowing up hundreds of people is justified to make a socio-political or personal point. There is no harm in screening his execution, however it should be nationally televised and no party should financially benefit from it.
I would not watch the execution broadcast as it could make a martyr of a vicious murdering terrorist who has no remorse for his crimes. I do feel that in addition to the survivors and victims families being allowed to watch, that they should permit the rescuers who were at the Murrah Building to watch. It might bring them a certain sense of closure. I have met a number of the rescuers who were there that day. I know of at least one who has recurrent nightmares about dead babies. If watching the execution would help these people, it should be allowed.
I have mixed feelings about the death penalty. Although I agree that the system cannot support all the criminals, who are we to terminate a life? Is it up to us? I think he should spend the rest of his life in jail, forgotten and alone...
We punish criminals only because they endanger the community. We shouldn't enjoy their punishment though. I am absolutely against showing it on TV or Internet.
One must remember that it was McVeigh's request that his execution be public. He stopped the appeals process and apparently wants to get his death done with as quickly as possible to facilitate his being crowned as a martyr by anti-government radicals; his death being televised would further cement his place in their hearts. It would be a grave mistake to do anything more than allow those wishing closure to view his execution - although I doubt that it will help ease the pain of their losses.
As a taxpayer, I'd rather see him executed then have to pay for him to live the rest of his life in a Federal prison somewhere. By that I mean I don't want my money going to feed, clothe and house the man that slaughtered more than 180 innocent people.
I'm just worried it might attract the wrong crowd. The next Timothy McVeighs. I don't think anyone needs to see what has to be done. Show us the black smoke and we'll be off.
Mark Clift, UK
I don't know what all the fuss is about. It's going to be broadcast on the Internet and unless you log on to the website you won't be seeing it. In this situation we all have a choice to either log in or not.
Go for it, make the pictures available to the public, bring out their lowest instincts, just do it. After a couple of executions, the sight of someone dying through a "simple lethal injection" will not be sufficient anymore. Not enough blood, not enough action. The public will ask to be allowed to see hangings and deaths in the electric chair, which are so much more gruesome and spectacular. It might even go wrong, picture that, what a audience puller, here's something to talk about the next day in the office; "Oh, you haven't seen this one? Don't worry, it's saved on my hard disc, I'll mail it to you", and before you know it, we'll be back to the middle ages, with public executions, but 21st century ones mind you, with a few sound and light effects. The killer as a superstar... No, seriously, they have lost it completely!
It does seem strange to me that a society where death is so taboo, and where the word is avoided by all sorts of euphemisms like 'passed away', there is a clamour to see an execution live on the net. And I certainly do not think this should be at the request of the murderer. He needs to be thinking hard about what is going to happen next.
Karl, South Africa
Many people in support of the death penalty never really think about the issue, but sadly many have and still come to support it. I think this is one thing that, no matter how popular it is or becomes, it just shouldn't be. God forbid my convictions were put to the test, but more death can't be the answer. I would be for televising or webcasting the execution if I didn't know so many people would relish it. There are some things you don't give people on a platter. I want it broadcast for all those who support this punishment, and I want it kept private because of those same people.
Revenge is such a Christian emotion, isn't it? Baying for someone's
blood and the right for it to be taken seems eminently civilised, particularly if they are guilty of an atrocity. Nothing wrong with watching the Christians being thrown to the lions, eh? Communities have the right to decide on murder as a punishment, but please don't mention your God and civilisation in the same breath. The taking of someone's life without their permission IS murder, whatever the justification. If you can't face up to that, your society shouldn't be permitting it.
Hey! What's on TV tonight? Great! An execution! Get out the popcorn and beers and let's have a ball. This is obscene. Capital punishment is obscene and degrading for all involved.
McVeigh is already considered a martyr by many for his beliefs. Why reinforce this fact by allowing a network broadcast?
I agree with the majority of the comments made in this discussion. However, I am surprised at how many have reacted to the prospect of people wanting to watch the execution. The point is that there are lots of people that would like to watch it and they would watch it regardless of the crime, country, race, creed, gender, innocent or guilty. I am not one of those people, but it's worth pointing out that they are a large minority. Let's also not forget the number of public executions that go on all the time outside the USA - less people complain about these so why the big fuss now.
The "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" brigade may feel better after they have had their "fix" of revenge on the 16th May. They might even get a bigger dosage if they watch Mc Veigh's execution on TV.
But in a year or two, will the pain of loss of their loved ones be any less?
The man did an evil, terrible thing. Nothing can bring back those he took way. However the question over whether the world should watch is just one more variable in one more American tragedy. America does not want to admit it but she is in love with violence. One more school shooting? Roll out the politicians and let them mouth some more vague statements designed to satisfy everyone and no one at the same time. One more workplace murder? The same story - empty, hypocritical, quasi-religious rhetoric from yet another mealy-mouthed politician. The truth of the matter is plain to all. Whether America chooses to see it is another matter altogether.
Gus McGhee, Scotland
This presupposes there to be a deterrent effect in broadcasting an execution. Historical evidence from the days when public hangings in Britain were common suggests that, on the contrary, this gruesome event incited more violence among bloodthirsty spectators than it ever deterred - hence the end of the public gallows.
When will we ever learn that violence breeds violence?
If it would deter one more murderer from committing this monstrous act then yes perhaps it would not be a bad idea, unfortunately I doubt it would have that effect. Do we really want gladiatorial rituals via our PC monitors? Personally I do not.
In the 21st century I hope we are civilised enough not to require this type of "entertainment".
I do not support execution but if you are do it properly, hang, draw and quarter him in front of a live audience - the notion that lethal injection is civilised because it is painless is absolutely ludicrous. Yes show the execution live let people know what execution is - barbaric and useless, the death of McVeigh will not bring one relative back and I doubt whether it'll make anyone feel any better!
McVeigh should not receive a platform
from which to increase his visibility. It
is already unfortunate that his name
is better known than those of his
victims. If the families really want to watch,
that is their choice, but I do not want to
see this thing turned into some sort of
ghoulish spectacle, we already have
so many strange voyeuristic forms of
"entertainment". I don't understand
the fascination with such things myself.
For the record, the US stopped public hangings in the early
20th century to stop the violence
that followed these public events. I doubt
that this would ensue from a televised
execution of the sanitised sort, but don't
see this as an excuse to make it a form
17 Apr 01 | Americas
12 Apr 01 | Americas
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