Here

By Bishop, Ed | St. Louis Journalism Review, March 1999 | Go to article overview

Here


Bishop, Ed, St. Louis Journalism Review


The pattern almost never varies. Around the time a person convicted of a capital crime is sentenced to death, the news media paint that person in the darkest terms possible. The agonies of the victim's family and friends are aired. The horrible details of the murder are outlined in a way that subtly reassures the public that the crime was an unspeakable, inhuman act, far removed from anything they could be capable of. Then, in the weeks leading up to the execution, the process is reversed. Often the media confer a kind of redneck sainthood on the person about to be executed. Most of what the guy has to say is taken at face value. Remorse or pleas of innocence are made real. The convicted murderer is portrayed as a victim.

This strange reversal actually makes sense. It's not just that the media tell stories in ways easiest to report. It's not just that the media understand the entertainment value of first reporting the guy as a homicidal maniac and then as a real human being about to be taken down a hall, tied to a table and filled with deadly chemicals. The truth is that in the time between the trial and the execution the convicted murderer has, in fact, become a victim.

It seems bizarre that in a country where the vast majority of people don't think much of government, where a growing number of citizens don't trust the state to even educate their children, those same citizens insist that the state kill other citizens. This surreal inconsistency is reflected in the media's reversal of reporting about convicted murderers.

There is a glaring fact that helps explain this reversal, this ambiguity in our feelings about a person being put to death - almost everyone executed in this country is dirt poor. Americans' convoluted, often vicious, attitudes about poor people lay at the heart of the capital-punishment issue.

Think about it. Setting aside the disproportionate number of African Americans who are executed - like with so many class issues in the United States race only muddies the waters - nearly everyone agrees that if a rich person commits the same capital offense as a poor person, the rich person is never put to death and the poor person is often a dead man walking. We know that. But why aren't more people saying, "Whoa, we have to get this thing straightened out before we off another 300 or 400 people?"

I think it's because we don't want to think about class issues - and capital punishment is a class issue.

Just about everything in our society - from the sitcoms we watch to the way we organize our government - is based on the denial of class distinctions. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Here
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.