Webster's Dictionary defines famous as "widely known," but also "honored for achievement," while infamous is defined as "having a reputation of the worst kind," a synonym for "disgraceful." In the big business of celebrity journalism today, there is no discernible difference between fame and infamy.
Today's celebrity journalism is only interested in that which is interesting , no matter how vile the atrocity. It will make all kinds of excuses for the infamous if they can be milked for Nielsen ratings points. Worse yet, it will pay the infamous for the privilege of wallowing in their vomit-inducing lives.
Some of today's infamous are merely highlighted for making fools of themselves on TV. Take Paris Hilton. Try finding something she's accomplished where she deserved to be "honored for achievement." She's famous for being Barbie-doll pretty, stinking rich, dumb as a mud fence, and casually, completely amoral.
But she's not a criminal. There's a separate category for truly infamous convicts. Take Mary Kay LeTourneau, the grade-school art teacher who first collided with the TV news cycle in 1997 when, as a 35-year-old mother of four, she was convicted of seducing a 12-year-old boy into sex. How many people would consider honoring her "for achievement"? She was convicted of child rape and forced to register as a sex offender. She was released early, but then returned to prison when she was caught once again molesting the child. She was a repeat offender, a repeat child rapist, to be precise.
You can see where this train wreck would be fascinating, and appalling. Just imagine being the husband of this woman, or one of her four children. (They moved to Alaska to avoid the glare of reflected infamy.) Imagine being the parents of this boy, who had no idea the art teacher was stalking their grade-schooler, fantasizing about him, and finally violating him.
But today's media will rationalize anything to draw eyeballs to the tube, so when Mary Kay's conquest, a boy named Vili Fualaau, grew into a man, and she was eventually released from prison, the next stage of infamy could ensue: They would be married. Suddenly, the celebrity-making vampires were playing the strains of "Love Story," and pedophilia means never having to say you're sorry.