Constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh recently declared his desire to overturn the Bill of Rights in order to make America more like Iran, at least in terms of the slow painful public execution of some horrible criminals. He relishes in the pre-execution flogging, and he delights in the strangulation by crane, with the victim kicking above the crowd…
In defense of his vengeful bloodlust, he points out that the Bill of Rights is not likely to be amended (yet) to allow slow painful death by torture.
He also responds to some of his many pantywaist critics [ various ] who point out things like civilization being founded on the restriction of visceral backlash and bloodlust. Volokh defies his critics, sticks to his cat-o-nine and fights the good fight for pointless yet oh so satisfying vengeance. (” I like civilization, but…”) Civilization be damned!
Volokh should also take heart in the inevitable progress of technology in these matters. For example he despairs that high ranking Nazis could not be more slowly and painfully killed relative to the measure of their atrocities.
Oh, but couldn’t they? It’s not so hard to imagine keeping a body alive as nothing but a bundle of nerves connected to electrical pain stimulus. Even with current technology, a good half century of nearly continuous suffering seems well within our reach. Elementary schools could even go on field trips so every student would get a chance to push the “pain” button. While these living corpses would surely lose their capacity to scream after a few years, their tortured brain waves could be mapped into the screams of the damned, allowing pain givers to more fully enjoy their work for decades to come.
Volokh also doesn’t bother to savor the gradated array of possible tortures and slow deaths. While the most horrific criminal monsters will keep our medical scientists busy thinking up new transhuman tactics for eternal suffering, those accused of mere manslaughter, drug dealing or sedition could enjoy classical techniques from the Inquisition. Thumb-screws, the Rack, the Wheel, and even trusty old branding. In fact this whole rediscovery of torture and painful death combined with the indentured servitude bankruptcy bill could give Americans an opportunity to enjoy a living tour of the entire medieval era. It’s educational!
One other area Volokh doesn’t go far enough is in considering the mercy of some parts of Islamic law in Iran. While most of the victim’s relatives wanted to see the accused dead, some of the poor relatives of some of the victims actually asked for blood money as a substitute for the death penalty, as was their legal right. In Iran, poor victim’s families actually have the option of getting money in place of seeing a murderer beaten and hung — how barbaric! In this aspect, the Iranian vengeance Volokh desires could actually be subverted by other selfish reactions like greed or hunger. Don’t go all soft on us, Volokh — in our new Klingon version of America, these base reactions should be entirely subsumed by the instinctual urge to kill and cause pain.
As for Volokh’s pessimism about the bloodlust of his fellow Americans and their willingness to overturn the Bill of Rights to make it look even more Iranian than Iran, all I have to say is keep hope alive. For every American who thought Abu Grahib was a frat party, there’s at least one American who’d be happy to tear up the Constitution just to watch their personal monsters get boiled and flayed.
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, but if our law professors keep it up, we may get there yet.