The dan­ger in view­ing only par­ti­san me­dia, part 2

Porterville Recorder - - OPINION - Michael Car­ley Michael Car­ley is a res­i­dent of Porter­ville. He can be reached at mcar­

Last month, I wrote a col­umn about the dan­ger in view­ing only par­ti­san me­dia, us­ing an ex­am­ple of a con­gres­sional hear­ing on a ju­di­cial nom­i­nee that was com­pletely mis­rep­re­sented across the right-wing me­dia land­scape. Here’s the thing: it hap­pens on the left as well. You may have seen the ar­ti­cles on so­cial me­dia “US votes for death penalty for gays.” Some were slightly more hon­est, stat­ing some­thing to the ef­fect of “US votes against res­o­lu­tion to con­demn the death penalty for ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.”

The prob­lem with ei­ther head­line, and many oth­ers, is that they mis­rep­re­sented what ac­tu­ally tran­spired at the UN. A hand­ful of these ar­ti­cles in­cluded some clar­i­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion in the text, but in most cases, the head­lines and of­ten much of the ar­ti­cles, were a dis­tor­tion. It is true that a Septem­ber res­o­lu­tion came be­fore the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil called “The ques­tion of the death penalty.” That res­o­lu­tion passed by a more than two to one mar­gin.

It is also true that the US al­lied it­self with a group of na­tions that aren’t ex­actly lead­ers on hu­man rights: Saudi Ara­bia, China, Iraq and Bangladesh and a few oth­ers, in vot­ing against.

But this wasn’t ac­tu­ally a vote on the death penalty for gays. It was more a con­dem­na­tion of the death penalty in gen­eral. In fact, the res­o­lu­tion called, though in typ­i­cal UN mealy-mouth lan­guage, for coun­tries that had not yet abol­ished the death penalty to con­sider do­ing so. The US is one of those coun­tries.

In fact, though sup­port has been drop­ping in re­cent years, the death penalty still shows ma­jor­ity sup­port in US polling. A Gallup poll last month showed 55 per­cent of re­spon­dents in fa­vor, though this is down from a high of 80 per­cent in 1994.

Be­cause many Amer­i­can vot­ers view the death penalty as a proxy for be­ing tough on crime, most na­tional politi­cians of both ma­jor par­ties sup­port it. Ev­ery pres­i­dent since Rea­gan has done so.

The UN HRC res­o­lu­tion, in some of its many con­vo­luted find­ings, noted that the death penalty was of­ten used to pun­ish blas­phemy, apos­tasy, adul­tery (in a way that dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­pacts women), and ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. It called on states still us­ing the death penalty to end these prac­tices.

UN am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley voted against the res­o­lu­tion. It should also be noted that al­though some of the lan­guage about its dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices had not yet been added, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ab­stained on a sim­i­lar vote just a few years ago.

This was a vote on the death penalty, not a vote to kill gays or even a vote to op­pose con­demn­ing the killing of gays. The US sup­ports the death penalty, this ad­min­is­tra­tion very much sup­ports it (the pres­i­dent hav­ing called for its use in the Cen­tral Park Five case, one in which those ac­cused were even­tu­ally ex­on­er­ated), there was no way they were go­ing to sup­port a res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing its use.

It is also cer­tainly true that this is not a gayfriendly ad­min­is­tra­tion. Trump and his ap­pointees have rolled back a num­ber of pro­tec­tions pre­vi­ously in place to keep LGBT peo­ple safe and free of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

But it is sim­ply dis­hon­est to say that they voted for the death penalty for gay peo­ple. Yet there were sev­eral head­lines say­ing or im­ply­ing just that.

Wait, you might ask, but why is the US so iso­lated on this is­sue? Why are we al­lied with rogue regimes against much of the world?

It is in the use of the death penalty it­self that the US is iso­lated. The prac­tice holds a special fas­ci­na­tion for many Amer­i­cans, but it does not de­ter crime and its ap­pli­ca­tion, both here and abroad, is of­ten ar­bi­trary and dis­crim­i­na­tory, show­ing clearly that we value some lives much more than oth­ers.

Some US states have long ago stopped us­ing the death penalty. Oth­ers have it on the books, with in­mates spend­ing decades on death row, but rarely ac­tu­ally ex­e­cute them. A hand­ful, like Texas, have a vir­tual as­sem­bly line of death, ap­ply­ing it so lib­er­ally that there are sub­stan­tial ques­tions of the guilt of some ex­e­cuted.

In the rest of the world, in­clud­ing vir­tu­ally all of our al­lies and all aspir­ing to demo­cratic ideals, the death penalty is per­ceived as bar­baric, a prac­tice from the dis­tant past, in­con­sis­tent with mod­ern ideals.

Per­haps one day, we can as­pire to that level of moder­nity.

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