Monday, March 27, 2023


Mobilizing Georgia voters in a non-election year is crucial for voting rights groups, Philadelphians over 50 will play a major role in the mayoral primary, and the EPA is finalizing a new air quality rule.


Michigan becomes the first state in decades to repeal a "right to work" law, death penalty opponents say President Biden is not keeping campaign promises to halt federal executions, and more states move to weaken child labor protection laws.


Finding childcare is a struggle everywhere, prompting North Carolina's Transylvania County to try a new approach. Maine is slowly building-out broadband access, but disagreements remain over whether local versus national companies should get the contracts, and specialty apps like "Farmers Dating" help those in small communities connect online.

UW Professor: Fear of Death Inspires Death Penalty Views


Wednesday, February 1, 2023   

A new book by a University of Washington professor on the death penalty finds support for executions may be motivated by people's own fear of death.

Philip Hansten, professor emeritus of pharmacology at the University of Washington and author of "Death Penalty Bulls---," argues against the practice.

Hansten draws on work by Ernest Becker, an anthropologist who said reminding people of their own mortality made them cling tighter to their cultural views and even increases people's punitive urges in order to defend their culture.

Hansten suggested hearing about a murder could cause somebody to think more about death, especially if it happens in their community.

"The murderers are an out group in general; I mean most of us aren't murderers," Hansten pointed out. "So the murderer is automatically an out group, somebody who we would tend to protect our culture from anyway."

Hansten argued it could make people more likely to support the death penalty. He also noted the fear of death can inspire xenophobia and racism in people who feel they need to protect their culture.

Becker's Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Denial of Death led to the creation of a study known as Terror Management Theory.

Hansten contended Becker's theory puts death row in a new light.

"If the terror of death has such a huge influence on all of us, putting people on death row for decades, it would be hard for me to imagine something more cruel than that," Hansten stated.

Hansten added Terror Management Theory also makes it clear people do not necessarily create their views on issues like the death penalty with their rational minds.

"You give them all this data and all the rational arguments and show how it's totally arbitrary, etc., etc., and it just falls on deaf ears because this death terror is preventing them from hearing it," Hansten emphasized.

Seventy percent of the royalties for Hansten's book go to the group Death Penalty Focus.

Death Penalty Focus 2023

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