Ahe very first item in this space, sixteen months ago, complained about the media frenzy that accompanied the first anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, about eight miles from this desk. Not a whole lot has changed in the interim, and if anything, the conviction of Timothy McVeigh has made matters even less bearable.
News, by its very definition, is something you didn't know before. By now, there is no news; every conceivable source has been wrung dry and sent back for a second soaking, lest all the remote TV news crews be faced with the horrifying prospect of dead air. Is the pain of the victims somehow surprising? Did anyone expect a flurry of anti-capital punishment sentiment in the wake of McVeigh's conviction?
I'm beginning to wonder if this sort of mania isn't actually fueling the fires for more of the same. There is certainly no shortage of angry psychopaths out there, and if Timothy McVeigh can literally command the attention of the world by doing something utterly horrible, how many more wannabes will follow in his wake?
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution requires only that trials be public. It does not require that they be part of a media circus. Television, by playing ringmaster, does us a substantial disservice. Typically, we reward them for it. What shall we reap from this particular sowing? Try not to stay tuned.
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Copyright © 1997 by Charles G. Hill