The Life of David Gale


Saw the movie The Life of David Gale today . . . and I must say that, though the acting was decent, I was fairly disappointed with the film’s message. Being against the death penalty myself, I thought there were much better arguments that could have been made. Without giving away too much of the plot for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, the movie doesn’t succeed in proving that the system is flawed – though it clearly is. Instead, it shows a bunch of people trying to manipulate it in sick and twisted ways that seem contrived purely to keep the audience guessing.

But I guess it made me think about laws in general, and whether or not a law is legitimate even if it can be manipulated for political purposes. All laws are flawed because there’s always a drawback to having them. For example, we could argue that laws against hate speech are flawed because they deny freedom of speech. That’s the American position. Our Canadian position is that putting these limits on freedom of speech is the lesser of the evils, because of the detrimental effect that hate speech has on society.

In the case of the death penalty, though, I tend to think it’s the opposite. The death penalty – largely based on a biblical concept of “an eye for an eye” (which is false – the bible meant that monetary compensation should be paid) – seems the greater of two evils. Partly because it’s ineffective and partly because it’s morally wrong. Ineffective because it doesn’t deter murders or violent criminals, and morally wrong because, to “torture the cliché” (to borrow a line from the movie), two wrongs don’t make a right.

Kevin Spacey sure can act, though!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Eric 09.07.03 at 6:38 AM

Does this mean you’re against surgical strikes (via helicopter attacks and bombings) against Palestinian Terrorists? You could easy argue against such attacks with the two wrongs don’t make a right argument.


2 Eric 09.07.03 at 6:41 AM

“Our Canadian position is that putting these limits on freedom of speech is the lesser of the evils, because of the detrimental effect that hate speech has on society.”

What IS the detrimental effect that hate speech has on society? The US doesn’t have hate laws. What detrimental effect did it have on them?


3 David H 09.07.03 at 4:50 PM

2 Responses for Eric:

Re: Random Israel comparison

Some guy kills 20 people (eg. creates the bomb). If the palestinians were willing to lock him up for the rest of his life, there probably would not be a need for Israel to do the job for them. In normal North American society, the murderers in question are already locked up and will not kill again, so the question is, should we kill the murderer now that he is no longer a threat?

In the abnormal palestinian society, the murderers are free to roam and glorified, and their continued freedom will result in more Israeli deaths eventually.

How about this… I will conceed that Israel should NOT kill any Hamas members that have been thrown in jail and given life sentences. The others are fair game. How does that sound to you?

Of course, when the jailed Hamas members are released 3 weeks after their life sentence begins, they would become fair game again, a short vacation in jail doesn’t grant you lifelong immunity 🙂


4 David H 09.07.03 at 4:57 PM

Re2: Hate Speech

Correct on that one. You don’t need hate speech laws to protect the guy talking about butterflies. If somebody says something you don’t like, counter the argument, don’t use the laws to stifle him.

It actually surprises me that segacs periodically comes out in favour of censorship. Allowing one group of people to decide that the words of another group are so dangerous that they must be silenced is a dangerous precedent. She among all people should know that since she was rather involved in the Sept 9th fiasco at Concordia.


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