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WHAT THIS NATION DOESN’T NEED IS MODERN VERSION OF PUBLIC HANGING

SHARE WHAT THIS NATION DOESN’T NEED IS MODERN VERSION OF PUBLIC HANGING

The nastiest idea circulating in a long time is the notion of turning the clock back a century to entertain the masses with the modern equivalent of a hanging in the public square.

Some otherwise sane people, for their own selfish interests, are peddling the gruesome innovation of televising a state execution of a convicted murderer as just another badly needed public service.Television talk show host Phil Donahue spearheaded the latest effort to celebrate an execution, but thank goodness a sensible North Carolina court disagreed.

The court refused to give Donahue the opportunity to videotape the death throes of David Lawson, scheduled to die by gas or lethal injection June 15 for killing a man during a burglary.

Videotaping, Donahue told the court, would be a public service, informing people on what an execution is like to help them decide whether they can support or oppose the death penalty. Television, Donahue argued, is "the most accurate medium" and therefore ideally suited for such an educational purpose.

Nonsense. TV is as selective and subject to editing as any newspaper article. What is chosen to be shown may be factual, but facts are not necessarily truth.

And an execution is the ugly end of an ugly story but certainly not anywhere near the whole story.

An execution is the culmination of a dastardly deed, so awful that the state has waived the normal constitutional protections that safeguard citizens who have never taken the lives of others. Opponents of capital punishment find state-ordered executions immoral; but society views the primary immoral act as the murder in the first place.

Donahue did not explain how this grim video would illuminate the potential usefulness to society of getting rid of cold-blooded killers instead of supporting them forever on tax dollars.

Nobody, for instance, filmed Lawson as he killed his victim, an informative sight that might have a considerable impact upon viewers' sympathies.

What Donahue really wanted, of course, was to use the execution to boost the ratings for his show, outdoing rivals who have found a viewer market for violent scenes and interviews with killers, wife-beaters and other odious folk.

He was supported by groups with a different agenda. Activists philosophically opposed to capital punishment have been trying for years to get a state-sponsored execution filmed for wide distribution in hopes that the public would rise up in revulsion against the practice.