Not quite an early snuff film.

21 04 2008

Scott Martelle, author of a fantastic new book on the Ludlow Massacre, Blood Passion, just told me about this film at the Library of Congress American Memory site:  ELECTROCUTION OF CZOLGOSZ (William McKinley’s assassin).  The description from a contemporary film catalog reads:

A detailed reproduction of the execution of the assassin of President McKinley faithfully carried out from the description of an eye witness.

Yeah, right.  Compare that film, for example, to the very brutal death of Topsy the elephant which was filmed live that same year.  I know an elephant is bigger than a man, but look at all the smoke there while there’s none in the Czolgosz recreation that I can see.

There’s a good social history lesson here about capital punishment propaganda, but I’m not sure where to teach it.



One response

22 04 2008

Notice the cycle of thought on how to deal with anti-social behavior. In the beginning there was some variation of “an eye for an eye”. At some point this changed to an emphasis on rehabilitation, as in the US penitentiary movement (to encourage penitence).

We have now reverted to the pure punishment mode again, this time with an overlay of revenge. The result has been an unprecedented rise in the number of people in prisons, coupled with longer and more punitive sentences and even a movement to let the families of victims have a say in the type of punishment.

More crimes are also assigned to the most serious categories, and the age for juvenile punishment gets lowered. Why has the US become so mean spirited and vengeful?

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