The attorney general of the weird state of Utah used Twitter—a social networking tool that I once used to announce my first-ever crown installation—to comment on the process of killing a condemned man.
Yes, an empowered government official of an actual state sent out brief messages to inform readers on the progress of a state-sanctioned killing.
Mark Shurtleff wrote, “WARNING! This page informs on real world of crime and punishment. ‘If u can’t stand the TWEET, get out of the TWITCHEN’ Harry Truman”
He also called the situation “solemn.” Yes, obviously, his mood was sober and respectful of the awesome responsibility of representing the power of a stateful of citizens putting a man to death in a ritual Shurtleff made sound like a soccer match.
Did Ronnie Lee Gardner deserve to die? I don’t know. I’m not big on the law of the talon, the “eye for an eye,” “life for a life” justification for capital punishment; Gardner killed two other men—shouldn’t we have killed him, brought him back to life, and killed him again? Or if the punishment should fit the crime, maybe we should have shot him in the face.
Did he deserve to have his death treated like a sideshow? Or a meal at a restaurant—I’ve read uncountable tweets about what people are eating, and usually it makes my mouth water. The death tweeting turns my stomach.
If this is justifiable, why don’t we televise executions so everyone can more directly partake in the vile emotions of revenge and self-justification? Or just stone them in the public square…
Shurtleff expresses some outrage on behalf of the victims Gardner was convicted of murdering: “Astonishing that no retweet whiner express outrage that Gardner shot 2 men in the face, & a cop; nor one word of empathy for their families.” But as Mathew N. Schmalz, professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross, points out in his Washington Post blog post, Shurtleff never mentioned the victims by name.
“… to mention attorney Michael Burdell or bartender Melvyn Otterstrom by name would have been to recall their lives and the devastating toll of their deaths, something that the staccato register of tweets could never convey. What Utah’s Attorney General does instead is offer something akin to a play-by-play commentary–and a concluding invitation to his upcoming news conference, live streamed over the web.”
“Retweet whiner” tells me this man—an attorney general of an entire state, remember—has no respect for opinions that differ from his own self-righteous anger. The tweeting itself shows me that he has trouble accepting the adult responsibility his position requires of him. And the news conference, live streamed over the web, reveals that any notion of “empathy” for the family of the condemned man (if there was family; usually there is) would strike him as distasteful at best.
Schmalz seems to think Shurtleff is a religious man. Schmaltz writes, “Recognizing that it is a ‘solemn day,’ Shurtleff tweets, ‘Utah will use most extreme power & execute a killer. Mourn his victims. Justice.’ Later, Shurtleff declares in reference to Gardner’s fate: ‘May God grant him the mercy he denied his victims.’
If this is religious sensibility, I’m glad I’m an atheist. And if I’m wrong, then may “God” grant Shurtleff mercy for his sins.
And thanks to everyone for having the mercy to not murder me.
Utah just became third to Texas and Florida on the list of places I will never live.
Shurtleff also expressed via Twitter his belief that the “consent of the governed” only works if it is “informed consent,” and his wish that those who “inform” (his quote marks here) the public be truthful and accurate. (Whose truth do you figure we’re talking about here?) Well, I’m informed, Sparky, and I do not consent. Public officials who refuse to engage in reasoned debate should not hold the power to execute, make law, or tweet