As usual, catching some of CNN fills one with both ennui and a rage, perhaps just rage at just how boring its appallingness is. (If I’m catching CNN, it’s either: (a) I’m retired now and stuck in a nursing home without a remote; (b) waiting to get on a plane, where I can’t get far enough from the television not to hear it; (c) in a locale where the dominant language isn’t English and thus they still revert to CNN like it’s 1995. This is their viewership at this point: the locked-in or uncomprehending, or both.) In any case, here is Glenn Greenwald making a larger point after catching some CNN-like apoplexy regarding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s use of the middle finger, portrayed at trial yesterday:
In the U.S., it isn’t enough that dangerous criminals be removed from society for protection of innocents. It isn’t enough that a criminal be imprisoned long enough to be rehabilitated. It isn’t even enough that punitive justice or vengeance be fulfilled by putting the criminal into a cage for decades or the rest of his life.
Much more is needed. At least as important is that the criminal must be debased. He must been seen to suffer not just from a deprivation of liberty, but also to be emotionally, psychologically, mentally anguished. The punishment can’t just physically restrain his body, but must inflict suffering in his mind, on the deepest level of his soul.
That’s why there is a craving to see not just debasement, but a specific species of it: self-abasement. The criminal process demands – in exchange for tiny amounts of leniency (we’ll imprison you for life instead of killing you) – that the guilty party prostrate himself before the judicial authority, before all of us. He must condemn himself at least as much as he’s condemned by the court. He must declare his internal pain, his self-contempt, his complete and utter submission.