March 6, 2012

Nobody Tell Nancy Grace About This

There are times when the whole media circus that surrounds the criminal justice system in this country, particularly in high-profile death penalty cases, makes me want to puke (to borrow a phrase from Rick Santorum). It is worth it, however, to remember that however deprave we may be when we come to this kind of thing, it’s worse elsewhere.

Consider one of China’s most popular Sunday night TV programs (via). It’s called Interviews Before Execution. Give it credit for one thing – it’s not false advertising:
The glamorous Ms Ding conducts face-to-face interviews with the prisoners, who have often committed especially gruesome crimes. Her subjects sit in handcuffs and leg chains, guarded by warders. She warms up with anodyne questions about favourite films or music, but then hectors the prisoners about the violent details of their crimes and eventually wrings apologies out of them.

She promises to relay final messages to family members, who are usually not allowed to visit them on death row. The cameras keep rolling as the condemned say a farewell message and are led away to be killed by firing squad or lethal injection.
China executes more people than any other place on the planet, even Texas. Interviews Before Execution regularly garners 40 million viewers, a number that most American networks would kill for. Of course, this isn’t just the free market at work:
Officials in the ruling Communist Party regard the series as a propaganda tool to warn citizens of the consequences of crime.

Inmates are selected for Ms Ding by judiciary officials who pick out what they consider suitable cases to ‘educate the public’.
As popular, and useful, as the show may be, it has it limits, apparently. It is coming to light thanks to a BBC documentary, which may have gotten a little too close for comfort, according to one Chinese TV official:
It’s fair to say the BBC programme has created a problem for us. Officials here do not want the foreign media saying there are no human rights in China, particularly at this sensitive time politically.
According to the story, only five inmates who have been offered a chance to be on the show have refused. That shouldn’t come as a great shock. Given how cut off they are from the outside world, unable in some instances to even see their family members, it makes sense that they might jump at any chance to talk with someone. I do wonder how many of them actually know what they’re signing up for. Maybe they do – self-righteous twits still do interviews with The Daily Show, for some reason – although I have my doubts.

Which is why, if some enterprising producer in this country decided to import the Interviews Before Execution Format – we’re famous for not being swift enough to come up with our own cheap trashy reality shows, of course – I could see it happening. So, please, I beg of you, keep this post away from Nancy Grace! Although, if she heard about it, the mere idea might drive her mad with ecstasy. And I’m sure that’d get on TV, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment