The Death Penalty For Parking Tickets

THE DEATH PENALTY FOR PARKING TICKETS....David Greenberg wonders today if our jihad-of-the-week media culture has gotten out of control:
I am not defending these guys. I believe that the racist Imus — a third-rate Howard Stern with a middlebrow patina — deserved to go, and that Gonzales and Wolfowitz (and possibly Nifong) ought to follow. But the speed and ferocity of the attacks against them and the harsh tenor of the discourse — in these scandals and others like them — hardly reflect a dispassionate pursuit of justice....Vocal swaths of the public, amplified by the media, have been expressing a primitive, unquenchable desire to inflict stern penalties on supposed wrongdoers — no matter how obscure the offender or how minor the offense.

We've repeatedly failed to distinguish among capital crimes, misdemeanors and innocence....John Kerry...Joe Biden...Howard Dean...Doris Kearns Goodwin...Stephen Ambrose...Joseph Ellis...Lawrence H. Summers...Roberto Alomar...Dan Rather...Eason Jordan...Judith Miller....

Greenberg blames this phenomenon primarily on a form of cultural backlash, with a supporting role for the media, but I think I'd reverse that. Our history makes it abundantly clear that the capacity for seething moral outrage has been with us for a long time, but until it got amplified by 24/7 cable news channels there was a natural limit to how far and how fast trivial events could get sensationalized. Today, especially if it's a slow news week, the sky's the limit. Cable news, with its insatiable demand for something — anything — to fill up its time, combined with both its weakness for airing the most provocative voices possible and the power of images inherent in the medium, turns even parking ticket level offenses into capital cases.

In other words, cable news is evil and we'd be better off without it. Agree or disagree?