Local letter to the editor
This letter appeared in my local newspaper
Graphic had no place in newspaper
Re: "Death by stoning" (In 5 Minutes graphic, Jan. 5)fctAdTag("bigbox",MyGenericTagVar,1);
I am a social sciences teacher at a local high school, and was shown the article by our school librarian. At first glance, it would appear this is a basic 'how to' depiction of a basic skill such as throwing a baseball or improving a golf swing; the graphs and bizarre imagery would further substantiate this initial impression. When I took the time to read the article, and understood its focus was about an archaic method of executing men and women in countries lacking the human rights and voice to challenge this antiquated idea, I was disgusted.
As educators, we work hard to instil in students the idea that violence, in any form, is wrong, and to make a cartoon-like image of such a violent act and cultural practice further desensitizes readers to the reality of the situation.
Furthermore, outlining the steps in a manner similar to those found in an everyday recipe or video game does not provide credence to the severity of the issue.
Although as readers in a free, developed country we cannot presume to condemn a culture for its practices (even though to us stoning may seem particularly cruel and primitive), we can, however, emphasize the value of human life and not categorize or presume to simplify death through inappropriate methods such as this article. What's next? A similar graphic article outlining the steps an American on death row would face through electrocution would never make it to print because it would be considered too uncomfortable for the reader. The same consideration should be afforded to stoning.
Just as readers have a responsibility to use critical thinking when studying articles, the same onus should be on journalists to report and discuss events while recognizing the significance and gravity of serious issues.
The graphics in question were drawings depicting how the condemned are buried either to the torso (women) or the neck (men). The act of stoning itself was not depicted. It's curious that the condemned are fully wrapped in a cloth from head to toe much like the heads are covered during a hanging.
The following is my response. Hopefully it will be published tomorrow.
Kelli Orr has missed the point. In her letter (Graphic had no place in newspaper Jan. 6) she says she was disgusted by the depiction of death by stoning. Good!I, as well am disgusted. Even more now that I understand graphically (not cartoonish) how a stoning is carried out. This is not a how to manual. The concept of stoning someone to death is not difficult to grasp mechanically. A manual describing how to assemble a bomb, however, would be a different matter. But this is not about a bomb. It's about a practice designed to inflict pain, prolong death, and maximize humiliation. It's interesting that Orr's letter was printed the same day as an article about softening up Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer by removing the nasty racial references "nigger" and "injun". Those words were used by Twain to reflect a reality. By altering the text young readers will lose the impact and tone intended. The images depicting a stoning also have an impact and a tone. The impact is horror the tone is disgust. How should we soften this up for mass consumption? For too long the media has been too timid, caving in to the sensitivities of a vocal, politically correct minority. While this approach offends no one we end up losing all provocation for discussion. Instead of hiding the images maybe they could be used in a constructive manner. Is it the culture, the government, or the religion of Iran that allows this to happen? Did our own country use barbaric penal methods in it's history? What can we do to end the practice of stoning? This reminds me of the Danish newspaper that printed cartoons deemed offensive to Muslim sensitivities. Had the world media joined in and printed the offending images in their newspapers as well, just who would the cowardly Fatwah been directed at. We might have seen a vocal minority of Muslims implode upon itself with it's own absurdities. Thanks to the Whig for publishing these "disgusting" images and provoking this discussion.
Understanding that there is no purpose in the Universe frees us all to find one.