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Death with Commercials
June 23, 2001 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Death with Commercials is how the ever apposite Frank Rich sums up the media-saturated McVeigh execution, the ultimate reality show. Rich thinks all the hoopla my have served to turn more people away from punishment by death.
posted by caraig (8 comments total)

 
While I'm on the fence about the death penalty, I must say that Frank Rich has written a great op-ed piece. The ultimate reality show indeed!
posted by Rastafari at 10:46 AM on June 23, 2001


That's why I was all for a live broadcast of McVeigh's execution. If we are a society that is going to have the death penalty, that people should understand what it's about, regardless of whether someone supports or rejects it. Let people make an informed decision. Since we're all so terrified of death and worship youth, I don't expect this to happen anytime soon. After all, that's why we leave our elderly to rot in "rest homes".
posted by dr. zoidberg at 11:14 AM on June 23, 2001


He's dead? Damn, i'll have to stop watching the history channel. Hang on, no, i wanna see this.

I think a fair amount of the hoopla in the media and therefore peoples conversations around the ethics of execution in this case was simply because it was such a big national/international event for other reasons anyhow that every last issue connected with it just got magnified in the public consciousness ten-fold. I hope the death penalty issue doesn't become one that can single handedly decide presidential elections though. Then again, if that's what it takes to get Alfred E Bush out of office it can't be such a bad thing - considering how democracy is in a bit of a crisis anyway.
posted by Kino at 2:39 PM on June 23, 2001


"If we are a society that is going to have the death penalty, that people should understand what it's about.."

Historically, they used to have public executions. It didn't help the public understand what it's about. In fact it encouraged mob mentality, and brought out the worst in people.

The execution of McVeigh was not meant to punish him. Ultimately it's a message sent to the zealous hyper-militaristic cult that has formed in America, of which McVeigh was allegedly a member. It's telling domestic terrorists that the ante just went up. If they wanna go after the established government and attempt an overthrow, the cost would be their lives. Collateral damage will receive retaliation, but only after innocent lives are already lost.

I'm beginning to think I'd be safer if I moved to northern Ireland - and I ain't even Catholic.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:39 PM on June 23, 2001


I'm beginning to think I'd be safer if I moved to northern Ireland - and I ain't even Catholic.

I hope you don't really believe that.

Historically, they used to have public executions. It didn't help the public understand what it's about. In fact it encouraged mob mentality, and brought out the worst in people.

If you're referring to public executions having a party atmosphere, that assumes American society (its members) haven't evolved over the last century. I sincerely doubt that today, many would turn out for a public execution; it certainly wouldn't be a party. The mere fact that the death penalty is as controversial and becoming more so suggests a major evolution in society. But doing executions public would force the issue; force people to decide where they really stand.

Not to trivialize human executions (wherever you stand on the issue) or go off on too much of a tangent, but for the same reason, I think everyone should be obliged, once every two years, to witness the entire process of a cow becoming a Big Mac before being able to eat one.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:23 PM on June 23, 2001


If you're referring to public executions having a party atmosphere, that assumes American society (its members) haven't evolved over the last century.

Umm, they haven't. When John Wayne Gacy was killed out at Stateville in Illinois there was practically a tail-gate party being televised with all sorts of signs, most reading 'go to hell' or 'televise it.' This was 6 years ago, so my memory might be a little foggy, but it was definitely a mob mentality out there.

As far as Joe Sixpack picking up the message that capital punishment is wrong from commercialization that's just laughable. Americans, in general, don't have it in for big business and happily watch commercials for crap and become loyal to companies. Think Ford vs. Chevy.

Showing lethal injection on TV is also just as ridiculous. I can't see how this can change anyone's mind be it pro or anti. Gacy's death took a few more minutes to pull off because of complications and the media got a real nice quote from one of the prosecutors, Bill Kunkle
"He lived six minutes longer than he should have."
posted by skallas at 2:41 PM on June 24, 2001


"I sincerely doubt that today, many would turn out for a public execution; it certainly wouldn't be a party."

Had they televised McVeigh's execution, I'd most of the bars here in north Texas would have shown it, and it would have been a Happy Hour like none other. If a local radio station here in Texas would do this you'd better believe there woulda been partying in the streets. And no. This ain't just America. Mob mentality is a human trait.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:00 AM on June 28, 2001


ZachsMind, that's probably why traveling beyond the Delaware River always kind of scares me.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:28 AM on June 28, 2001


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