aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Transplanted Media Reality
Over the weekend I read in passing of the Dutch Big Organ Donor Show reality series. The ratings grabbing gimmick was that the winner would get a life-saving kidney; the shock turned out to be that the show was a purposeful hoax. The purpose? To get the policy changed in Holland from an opt-in organ donor program to an opt-out program (which is something of the norm in Europe).
I didn’t see it so I can’t say. But listening to the Chairman of BNN Networks, Laurens Drillrich, describe his idea and how they did it to commemorate a colleague who died of a kidney-related disease, I was persuaded of the legitimacy of the tactic. If you still have any doubt, consider this observation:
We had a very clear message, which was about organ donorship. Our message was not let’s try and see how far reality television has gone, because to a large extent we as BNN also contributed to that. We’re not hypocrites. We’re not going to complain about that.
It does say something about ways that you have to find to try to attract attention. It’s very clear that if we would have done a documentary about the three contestants - the three contestants were real kidney patients and they are on the waiting list - if we would have made a documentary with these three people to show their lives and to show their suffering, we would have had an audience of maybe 60,000 or 70,000 people and we would have had one or two small articles in a newspaper.
Now people talked about this show and about organ donorship constantly for a full week, and we had a 1.7 million rating, which is extremely high in Holland. So in that way, it does say something - that if you want to get your message across, very traditional things do not work any more.
Does anyone doubt that’s true? Thus, given the media landscape we all must live in, the idea was brilliantly effective.
Genarlow’s cruel and all too usual punishment
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
When the Georgia Supreme Court denied the appeal of Genarlow Wilson last December - acknowledging, in the judges own words, sympathy “to Wilson’s argument regarding the injustice of sentencing this promising young man with good grades and no criminal history to ten years in prison without parole and a lifetime registration as a sexual offender because he engaged in consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old victim only two years his junior” - there was discussion that his 10 year sentence was not cruel and unusual punishment.
I disagreed. Sadly, I no longer do.
Today, in our ostensibly “free” country, we lock up more people than any nation in the world (Putin’s Russia is #3, Castro’s Cuba #7). Here in George Bush’s America we have redefined cruelty so that the once feared “Soviet-Style ‘Torture’” has become a legally permissible and American administered “Interrogation technique.”
While our culture, aided and abetted by our market-driven media, increasingly sexualizes and fetishizes our kids, we apparently find it easier and more acceptable to criminalize them than to help them through the very real struggles of their extended adolescence:
[Teens] often lack fine tuning in their sense of judgment. [Temple University professor of psychology Dr. Laurence] Steinberg’s research shows that adolescents facing tough decisions in experimental settings don’t give much weight to the long-term consequences of their actions. He finds a troubling discrepancy between some of the rules that society imposes on teens, especially as they relate to juvenile justice. In some states, a 13-year-old can be tried as an adult for a capital offense, but can’t vote. If we don’t think he’s responsible enough to vote, asks Dr. Steinberg, is it reasonable to hold him to adult standards of legal responsibility? He and [University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine professor of psychiatry and pediatrics Dr. Ronald] Dahl agree that parents and other adults have an important role to play in helping teens through the years to adulthood.
I want to live in and foster an empathetic and rationally just culture. The sad fact is that’s not America. Here it is no longer considered cruel and it is far from unusual to abdicate our responsibility to our progeny. Instead, I live in a culture that’s happy to turn its back, lock them up, and throw away the key.
LATER - A legal reader of Andrew Sullivan:
[T]he comment by your correspondent that the court lacked the authority to release Wilson and that General Baker is the only person standing up for the rule of law is deeply flawed. This was a habeas petition, and Georgia law gives the county containing the prison exclusive jurisdiction to determine habeas petitions. Additionally, section 9-14-48 of the Georgia Code requires that habeas relief be granted “to prevent a miscarriage of justice.” Section 9-14-42 makes clear that the judge has the right to decide the case on grounds of both the Georgia Constitution and, more importantly, the US Constitution. In this case, the judge found Wilson’s sentence to be not only a miscarriage of justice, but also “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the 8th Amendment of the US Constitition. That conclusion, by the way, is one that is supported by a number of US Supreme Court cases, most notably Salem v. Helm (1983), which defined even a prison sentence as cruel and unusual if it was overly harsh compared to the underlying offense, the sentences imposed on other criminals in the state, and the sentences for the same act in other states. Wilson’s sentence would seem to be excessive under each of these tests.
The gAy bomb
I remember hearing this years ago. It turned up in the news again last week in California:
A Berkeley watchdog organization that tracks military spending said it uncovered a strange U.S. military proposal to create a hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting.
Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 that military leaders had considered, and then subsquently rejected, building the so-called “Gay Bomb.”
Maybe you’ve heard that Judge Robert Bork is suing the Yale Club for $1 million in damages for injuries he sustained in a fall as he climbed to the podium there last June. The case has been called exceptionally silly and it doesn’t even come close to explaining why punitive damages would be warranted.
My headline is lifted from Ampersand who helpfully dug up this Bork quote from the March 9, 1995 Washington Times:
Our expensive, capricious and unpredictable civil justice systems present precisely the kind of conflicting and costly state regulation of commerce that the Commerce Clause was designed to solve. Lawsuits, verdicts, settlements and the insurance necessary to defend and indemnify against them, are driving up the cost of goods and services everywhere, and consumers are paying the bill. The litigation explosion has no respect for the state lines because commerce and insurance are now national. Interstate commerce and trade have become the principal victims of a runaway liability system.
Courts are now meccas for every conceivable unanswered grievance or perceived injury. Juries dispense lottery-like windfalls, attracting and rewarding imaginative claims and far-fetched legal theories. Today’s merchant enters the marketplace with trepidation - anticipating from the civil justice system the treatment that his ancestors experienced with the Barbary pirates.
Comments Amp, “it is difficult to imagine Robert Bork the judge having much sympathy for Robert Bork the plantiff.”