A Special Edition on Cruelty - OZY | A Modern Media Company


Because the better angels of our nature sometimes go AWOL. 

By Sean Culligan

Not gonna lie, some of our best-performing stories on OZY have to do with human cruelty: sadistic serial killers, violent prisoners, mass murderers and the like. What is it about evil that so moves us? Perhaps it’s fear. Or it might be the recognition, deep down, that we all harbor the capacity for inhumanity. 

Most people abhor cruelty, of course, but they don’t necessarily agree on what constitutes it. The American Constitution’s Eighth Amendment forbids “cruel and unusual punishment,” but what counts is subject to litigation. That led Meghan Walsh to an interesting proposal: Many of us might consider a flogging less cruel than a long prison sentence — so why not allow prisoners to choose how they’re punished?  

Alexandria Washburn’s story on a teenage Mexican cockfighter, meanwhile, elicited some tsk-tsks — why didn’t we call cockfighting “animal abuse”? Steve Butler looked at a 19th-century massacre whose history is being revised, with the massacre coming out rather well. Anna Nordberg argued that Game of Thrones, possibly the most sadistic television show ever, actually had a soft heart at one point. And, speaking of gamifying cruelty, we hope you’ll check out Taylor Mayol’s piece on the team sport that ended in … beheadings. 

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