Capital punishment plays a contradictory, emotional role in American social and political culture. In particular, the relationship between this punishment and variously situated social actors suggests a complexity to contemporary penality that is not fully addressed by macro-level examinations of state punishment. In this article, I explore one venue where this relationship is evident: among pro-death penalty communications on the Internet. I examine these messages in part because they seem to reveal, rather explicitly, the affective, symbolic nature of popular support for capital punishment in the USA. I suggest that the death penalty becomes an unproblematic, indeed, preferred method and symbol of justice in this venue through a discursive process which reduces the underlying social issues to a battle between good (i.e. the innocent victims) and evil (i.e. capital murderers). Once so reduced, no costs of capital punishment can outweigh the justice achieved by state executions in the rhetoric of pro-death activists and pundits. Ultimately these communications reveal a set of sensibilities about crime and punishment which seem to long for a detour from the civilizing path, in that the communicators seek to deny any interdependencies or empathies with those who commit violent crime, while working to unleash punishment from its institutional restraints.
Starting Sentence Option 1: The death penalty may seem like [a great idea/a horrific torture], but [did you know/were you aware] that it is available in 30 states? The killing of a [criminal/wrongdoer] is something that is [permitted by the government/government sanctioned] and that is [a good thing/very wrong]. [thesis statement]
Starting Sentence Option 2: Much controversy surrounds [the death penalty/capital punishment]. The idea of killing someone [as a consequence/in punishment] of a crime seems [cruel/just] to many, but others [are for/are against/protest] it. In fact, the death penalty is [thesis statement].
- Certain crimes require a o-strong="er punishment for deterrence and capital punishment is the ultimate deterrent.
- You cannot rehabilitate some people and these people should be put to death.
- The death penalty does not allow for rehabilitation or repentance. If the person is killed, they cannot fix their ways.
- Every human deserves the chance at life, no matter what they have done and we cannot take that right away.
Bureau of Justice Capital Punishment
Death Penalty Fact Sheet