Guillotine

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The French Penalty (Francisco de Goya, c.1824-1828).

The guillotine was the infamous height reduction device favoured by the winning side in the French Revolution. The driving force behind the invention was to produce a "humane" form of capital punishment as death was thought to be instantaneous and painless. Whether this goal was completely achieved is debatable; nevertheless it was a considerable improvement over previous methods which were:

  • beheading by sword for the aristocracy
  • hanging for the peons - a method which often led to the victim being slowly strangled.
  • If you really pissed off the powers that be (the state or the Church) you got the fun of the breaking wheel.[wp] It's exactly how it sounds.

Whether any form of capital punishment can be considered "humane" is a different debate.

The device was invented in the Middle Ages in Italy, where it was known as mannaia. It was also used in Halifax, England (the Halifax Gibbet) and in Scotland (Scottish Maiden) where it was preferred over hanging and other more innovative means of extinguishing unwanted human life. Its use was mandated in France by Dr. Antoine Louis, secretary of the College of Surgeons and was originally named a louisette or louison in his honour. It was first used on 25 April, 1792. The name "guillotine" is taken from Joseph Ignace Guillotin, a member of the French Constituent Assembly, who recommended in a speech to that body on October 10, 1789 that a beheading device was required, as hanging was for commoners and the sword was for nobility. In addition, it was (supposedly) faster and less painful than hanging, or the sword. Because of this speech, his name became irrevocably associated with the machine. However, after his death, his children tried to have the name of the machine changed. When they failed, they changed their surname instead.

One of the great questions of the guillotine (and by extension all forms of beheading) is if the head is still aware and conscious for any time after it is removed from the body.[1] If true, the final moment of anyone facing (away from) the blade of the guillotine would be the surreal sight of falling away from his or her own body.

In a case of good intentions gone wrong, the laws passed during the French Revolution to abolish the older methods of execution in favor of the guillotine became so entrenched that the guillotine remained the only legal method of execution in France until the death penalty was abolished there in 1981.

The guillotine was also used in Germany, where it replaced beheading with sword (nobles) or with axe (commoners) in 1871, in Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Luxemburg. When the Nazis rose to power in Germany, they extended the use of guillotine on beheading the felons, criminal convicts and the dissidents. The estimates of Nazi beheadings vary from 40,000 to 60,000. The last beheading in West Germany occurred in 1949 and in the East Germany in 1961, when guillotine was replaced by firing squad.

[edit] The guillotine and the rapture

Execution place for fundamentalists, from Salem Kirban's 666.

Much rapture fiction features the use of guillotines because of a reference to mass beheading in Revelation:

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Revelation 20:4, KJV

As a consequence, believers in the rapture often interpret this to refer to the guillotine, particularly in rapture porn such as Left Behind.[2] The more mainstream whackjobs, such as Rick Santorum,[3] will even say so publicly.

A large number of the more lunatic Christians believe that a vast number of guillotines are already in storage in the US, presumably in preparation for their use by the beast. Alternatively, they are to be used by the New World Order.[4]

The great Jack Chick shows his (disturbing) vision of how mobile guillotines might be used in his seminal werk The Beast.

Some crackpots are spreading that a Georgia state bill is the beginning of the guillotinapocalypse in America.[5][6] The bill is HB 1274, from the 1995-1996 session, which would have allowed the condemned prisoner to choose electrocution or guillotine, the latter should they wish to donate their organs;[7] the bill went nowhere.[8] That didn't stop them from thinking that just because the bill was proposed, and Ted Gunderson said so, that there were already guillotines stockpiled in America.

If you look deep (too deep) enough, some Christians will claim that a certain ICD code[wp] (E978 to be exact), has made Guillotines legal under er... Obamacare (what?).[9] While, there is such code, and it does mention guillotines as part of a list of "All executions performed at the behest of the judiciary or ruling authority"[10], what it has to do with Obamacare is anyone's guess, and shows a lack of understanding of how ICD codes work.

In July 2014, federal judge Alex Kozinski, in a dissenting ruling on a stay of execution by lethal injection,[11] suggested bringing back the guillotine for executions,[12] since US states were having increasing problems obtaining the drugs for lethal injections:

The enterprise is flawed. Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful—like something any one of us might experience in our final moments ... But executions are, in fact, nothing like that. They are brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should it. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf.

This has created only slight ripples[13] and the occasional Betteridge headline[14] in the conspiracy world, however.

[edit] Other uses of the term

Are various: the most common are an office device for chopping paper (and fingers for the uncareful), a kitchen device used mainly for slicing bagels[15], a chokehold, and a legislative process for getting laws through quickly.

[edit] Footnotes

  1. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1172/does-the-head-remain-briefly-conscious-after-decapitation
  2. guillotinebeheading.com (archived by the Wayback Machine)
  3. http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/02/09/421882/santorum-obama-has-put-america-on-the-path-of-executing-religious-people-by-decapitation/
  4. Serge Monast: "A massive new crematorium has recently been completed in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the now disused Amtrak railroad terminal, and an investigator has reported that he has received information from some of those who helped to build the facility that guillotines have been installed for those who arrive alive instead of dead." Quoted in: Dart, D. "Political Organizations in Place that are driving progress towards the 'New Age, NWO' and the role of the 'new Technology' in ensuring total control in this Godless World Order."
  5. e.g. [1], [2], [3]
  6. Exactly what is it with Christians and scary music?
  7. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/Archives/19951996/leg/fulltext/hb1274.htm
  8. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/Archives/19951996/leg/sum/hb1274.htm
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5VyI48NQv4
  10. http://www.icd9data.com/2014/Volume1/E000-E999/E970-E979/E978/E978.htm
  11. http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2014/07/21/14-16310.pdf
  12. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/22/guillotine-firing-squads-better-than-lethal-injection-says-prominent-federal-judge/
  13. http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2014/07/guillotine-news-federal-judge-says-abandon-the-chair-and-deadly-gas-and-exchange-for-guillotines-and-firing-squads-video-signs-of-the-times-folks-speak-up-out-2999628.html
  14. http://madworldnews.com/government-execution-guillotine/
  15. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/bagels-recipe For those outside bagel country, the stale ones in particular can be dangerous to cut.
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