This falls squarely into the trap that not all misconduct can (and should) be legislated.
Many of the people named in the Panama papers (to pick another subject) have probably not broken any laws - but they have bent them very far, in some cases (such as the prime minister of Iceland) far beyond the morally acceptable.
In Germany, touching a womans ass without is generally no punishable offense if she doesn’t very actively fight back (I really hope this is going to change in the future) - it is still is considered offensive and invading and you will trip over it. Should we all keep our mouth shut because it is legal?
What this article constructs is weird: it first asserts that many things are flawed, then constructs “the death of the due process” by postulating the criticised behaviour is common. Then likens it to lynching (which is clearly defined as murder), to make very clear that this is bad, bad, bad.
I could, similarly, postulate that a wide range of trials still follow due process and no one actually bothers about them. I don’t see the death. And if it dies, I would say that the rising cost of due process is the much bigger problem.
All the while, it fails to discuss whether the behaviour it criticises is actually of a new quality or not. People - especially public personas - have been subject to public accusations for centuries and mass media isn’t exactly new.
I also find it interesting that these texts are usually written when the topic is misconduct of the sexual kind. Suddenly, people ask for the whole stuff to be discussed out of public. This due process is also public, so the whole thing will be discussed out in the open, down to the tiniest detail. And there comes another issue: many people will use this information to precisely repeat the behaviour the article describes.
I feel like you’re arguing against a strawman. There are local laws for local norms. In both of your examples (Panama Papers, “touching a woman’s ass”), if you feel the law isn’t strict enough or is too strict, advocate for changing the law. But a broad stroke statement of “morally acceptable” is disquieting. To whom? For what? Whose morals? Say a lot for many religions, at least they write their moral code down. For example, in the case of the Panama Papers, you’re taking your version of morality and applying it transnationally.
Does a behaviour need to be new to qualify for criticism? That certainly hasn’t stopped your outrage over either rich people playing legal games to protect their wealth nor disrespect for personal boundaries. djb’s criticism isn’t new. The debate over public accusations and mass media continues to rage worldwide. Some places are very accepting of it, under the umbrella of “free speech.” (US) Some places are somewhere in-between. (UK, though I prefer Singapore as an example here) Some places … well… I doubt either of us would prefer to live in those places. (In my case, live again.)
And the final straw man, the idea that due process over sexual misconduct being public. What about a closed court doesn’t satisfy your want for privacy in this situation? (And, I’d preemptively say: push to change the law where you’re dissatisfied!)
I kind of don’t want to get into the overall “due process” discussion, but I feel very strongly about something I think you’re saying (feel free to correct me)… I’ll explain my position, rather than phrasing it as a reaction, and I hope the relevance will be clear.
The law cannot possibly be equivalent to “what is right”. At one time, slavery was legal, but I hope there is consensus today that it is morally wrong. Parking more than twelve inches from the curb is illegal, but I’ll be surprised if anybody wants to argue that it’s immoral (as long as the car isn’t in a spot that causes danger to others). And almost the entirety of political discourse today is around the idea that various laws are wrong in some fashion, either too strong or too weak; I’m dubious that the legislators themselves hold any such beliefs, but that’s how all the arguments are framed, so it must mean something to somebody.
The societal consensus on the issue of sexual harassment - namely, that it might be wrong if it ever happened, but that any specifically named instance did not - is utterly beyond the pale by any moral standard comprehensible to me. I cannot fathom the idea of accepting societal consensus as having more than the tiniest role in deciding “what is right”.
I’ll make a more general statement: No written description of morality is ever going to be right always. The act of writing things down is commendable for the specific purpose of letting people know what they are going to be legally culpable for, but it does nothing to grant additional moral stature to those ideas.
As an aside, I also find the focus on behavior to the exclusion of outcomes to be a little distressing. That’s a deontology vs. consequentialism thing. Written law actually does a pretty good job of considering both perspectives, in contrast to lots of philosophers who have picked one or the other… But that is a larger topic, and not the point I want to concentrate on right now.
I do not think that individuals can or should rely on any authority to decide on moral beliefs. I think that it is incredibly important to decide these things for ourselves. It is also important to look at existing work - to be aware of legal history, societal views, and relevant writing. I’ve also found it very helpful to talk specific things over with people I feel safe discussing controversial issues with. But talking about the law or society as if they decide what’s right, I can’t get behind that.
Law is not “what is right.” I completely agree for every reason you stated.
Additionally, I feel sexual harassment (sexual crimes in general, actually) is under-reported, under-prosecuted, and generally mishandled. I think there’s evidence to support that. But, I don’t understand the “societal consensus” paragraph at all. What or which society? I … just haven’t had that experience. Conversely, I feel “what is right” is a matter of societal consensus. Often quite arbitrary consensus. On both those aspects, more so than law. I’d argue that’s the hallmark of rule of law— the consensus on certain things is less arbitrary.
We both strongly agree, the law isn’t “what’s right.” It cannot be. In my opinion, it cannot be because it’s a trailing indicator. However, I do think the establishment of laws does grant additional moral stature. Not necessarily for me, but for many. As I understand it, that’s a stereotypical politically “Right” belief? The whole “breaking the law is wrong, no matter if the law is right or wrong.” I remember chafing at Scout Law as a child. (“A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them.”)
So, basically, we’re left with: I think we agree written law isn’t what’s right, nor are unwritten societal norms. I think we also agree every person should decide for themselves. But, I don’t think that’s entirely reasonable. These are societal rules, and that means they govern behaviour amongst groups. We’re both products of our society and do not make up rules that exist outside them. Additionally, many people do intentionally relinquish their moral compasses for group affiliation or putting trust in personalities. It’s not fair to ignore them or their disregard their decision.
Irene, I am always impressed at your styles of interaction here. I hope this response can approach the constructive thoughtfulness you always contribute.
Thank you in turn for the thoughtful, detailed reply.
I think that my experience with the societal consensus stuff… well, first, you’re right that it’s really only scoped to societies I’ve lived in, and second, I guess I just discovered that I don’t know how to communicate my gestalt to someone who doesn’t share it. I’m going to have to think about how to talk about that point, since I expect to want to in future. :)
I think we agree, also, that deciding for oneself can’t be an obligation. It can’t be, because nobody has the resources to reach meaningful personal decisions on every topic; it can be difficult to do that on any topic. And also, it can’t be because I do respect the choice of people who don’t want to. I guess I was just saying that I think the effort has substantial benefit!
I’m not sure how to prevent these lynch mobs, but I strongly agree with this characterization of modern court of public opinion.
Meta: submission rules state “Please remove extraneous components from titles such as the name of the site or section.” - could a moderator kindly remove the prefix to this article title?
We already prevented them. They never happened. No one got lynched.
How about all the other negative aspects of courts of public opinion?
Find another word for them. Lynching is a very real and specific thing and appropriating the term for something else is both harmful to the discussion and covers what has happened to victims of lynching.
If you feel he misused the word “lynch” but you understood his meaning regardless, why not be charitable and reply to his intention whilst simultaneously correcting his misuse?
As for your reply to me, that’s just rude. I didn’t say “lynch.” I specifically asked about the other negative aspects, in order to avoid said word and its various connotations. If you don’t want to answer, just don’t answer.
On the other hand, there’s clear precedent for appropriating words like this: see the definition for crucified.
Just playing devil’s advocate there, forgive me. I need to stop.
Most definitions refer specifically to death by hanging, but there are some definitions that are more-general. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/lynch-law . That’s getting real pedantic, and I can agree that a different word would be preferable. There’s racial undertones and deep, painful history behind that term (particularly in the US, but I would guess other places as well). It’s loaded, as I think is part of what you’re pointing out. And yes, it essentially always refers to killing.
I think there’s similar psychology at play, whether taken to the extent of murder. People are collectively getting whipped up into a fervor (fairly or unfairly), which can result in serious danger for people. I’m opening a can of worms here, but George Zimmerman has been attacked (shot at if I’m not mistaken?) by people who hate him based on what they know from the media regarding his killing Trayvon Martin. There are other examples if you look, but I try my best to avoid hysteria around these things. The mob may be virtual (not physically assembled), but there are serious effects to peoples lives and safety based on public opinion outside the law. Public awareness has also gotten a whole lot wider since the advent of mass media.
Anyway, I have no idea where I’m going with this. Let’s find a better word or phrase, I guess? I hope it’s not something that ever escalates to actual lynching - I would like to think society has stamped that aberrant behavior out.
More-accurately I meant that I don’t think there’s a way to prevent people from having strong opinions based on imperfect information. It’s something we’ll always have to bulwark against, and due process in the court of law is one of those bulwarks. Articles like this are hyperbolic, but meant to provoke people to think about applying that to their own perspective. Or that’s one way to take it.
But you’re right. Sorry for using phrasing that detracted from what I was trying to get across. Communication is hard.
djb avoids specifics here, but is writing in response to an event in which due process was followed before any outcry. People are protesting a sentence that’s below the minimum recommended by the law, which happened after the defendant was found unanimously guilty by a jury of their peers.
Can you be more specific? I assumed this was about Appelbaum, but I have not heard about a trial, or anything more than accusations in that case. So, I must be missing things, but would like to understand more.
I think stijlist is referring to the recent rape case at Stanford. I agree with you that the article seems to be obliquely referring to ioerror.
Whatever incident or incidents djb had in mind, the article’s written in a way that’s intentionally unspecific, and I think it’s completely fair to consider how it relates to all recent examples rather than trying to guess what it’s in reference to.
I see - I didn’t know about Appelbaum, but that seems more likely. I can give the article a more charitable reading now, thanks - I was frustrated by the omission of details I felt were important (if the article were a reaction to the Stanford case).
It’s unfortunate the line between due process and “raising awareness” is whether the issue at hand is an individual.
We’re OK with mobs driving most other aspects of democracy / rule of law. It’s no surprise people reach to said effective tool.