Back in March, I emailed the youthful Independent columnist Johann Hari to ask him if he had any proof for unsubstantiated allegations he had made about the late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic. Here's his reply:
"Yuck. I really have no interest in engaging with you on any level. You believe the state should kill its own citizens in peacetime using the death penalty, so please don't offer me any lectures on anything, ever. "
In other words Hari believes that anyone who supports the capital punishment of murderers, as I do, is completely beyond the pale. I was amused therefore to read Hari's eulogy to the philosopher John Stuart Mill, in The Independent a couple of weeks later. In a piece entitled ‘We need John Stuart Mill today more than ever', Hari made an impassioned plea for the ideas of the Victorian sage to be put into practice once more.
I wonder how much of John Stuart Mill Hari had actually read before penning his article. Here's the great man speaking in the House of Commons on the death penalty:
"When there has been brought home to any one, by conclusive evidence, the greatest crime known to the law; and when the attendant circumstances suggest no palliation of the guilt, no hope that the culprit may even yet not be unworthy to live among mankind, nothing to make it probable that the crime was an exception to his general character rather than a consequence of it, then I confess it appears to me that to deprive the criminal of the life of which he has proved himself to be unworthy--solemnly to blot him out from the fellowship of mankind and from the catalogue of the living--is the most appropriate as it is certainly the most impressive, mode in which society can attach to so great a crime the penal consequences which for the security of life it is indispensable to annex to it. I defend this penalty, when confined to atrocious cases, on the very ground on which it is commonly attacked--on that of humanity to the criminal; as beyond comparison the least cruel mode in which it is possible adequately to deter from the crime. "
From J.S.Mill’s speech to Parliament, 21st April 1868.
So come on Johann, do you still maintain that 'we need John Stuart Mill today more than ever'- or do you hold to your original position that those who do believe in capital punishment should not offer 'any lectures on anything, ever?' Which is it, old bean?
On the subject of Johann Hari's muddled-thought processes, here's a great piece from the World Socialist Website.