Musings on Justice

13 Feb

A follow-up, of sorts, to my previous post.

When the courts pass judgement, we expect them to issue a statement that includes the following:

1) He did it.

2) This is how we know he did it.

3) This is why it is a crime.

4) This is his sentence.

5) This is why this is his sentence.

The court does this because the court needs to justify its decisions, both now and in the future. In the case of the former, the court must convince the naysayers as well as the ‘hang him now and try him later’ brigade. There will be people, in just about every criminal and civil action, who will believe that the suspect isn’t guilty. They are the ones who need to be convinced – or, if they are so far gone that they are unwilling to admit that the person they’re defending is evil, deprived of the chance to insist that the suspect was not given a fair trial.

For example, if you happen to believe that an accusation of sexual assault is tantamount to proof of sexual assault, you will probably believe that Brett Kavanaugh is guilty. “Lock him up and throw away the key!” But, if you want more than a ‘he said/she said’ situation before you pass judgement, you will probably believe that Kavanaugh deserves the benefit of the doubt. “Either prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or STFU!”

This is not to say that courts are perfect. They get things wrong, of course. A witness might be lying. The physical evidence might be misleading. A suspect might look guilty on the stand and prejudice the jury against him. But they do have their advantages. It is possible to limit – if not eliminate – bias. (For example, if one of the jurors happens to be the suspect’s worst enemy, the suspect can ask to have him removed from the jury.) And, with a steady process, it is easy to follow the paper trail that explains why and how the decision was reached. If it later transpires that the convicted man was innocent all along, it is simple to look back and see if the man was convicted in error or if something darker was afoot.

It is generally agreed that the courts have the right to punish people, either for criminal or civil behaviour. The transparency is a key factor of the rule of law. We have doubts about secret courtrooms and suchlike because they are not, by definition, transparent. The wheels of justice can and do turn very slowly – it can be months between an arrest and trial – but they do turn. A court is supposed to put emotion – and public outrage – aside and determine, as best as can be done, what actually happened. It is that which upholds the rule of law.

And it is that which is under threat.

***

The question of just who else has a right to punish has become a thorny one in recent years, for all sorts of reasons. Does a convention have the right to punish someone for something that didn’t take place during the convention itself? Does social media have the right to punish someone for posting something they don’t like? Does the mob have the right to hound someone who breaks a social convention they didn’t know existed, to cost them their jobs and any hope of a normal life? This is becoming a question of increasing urgency, if only because it is only a matter of time before someone dies!

It is also quite a slippery issue, for all sorts of reasons. Let us consider the social media example first. Does Facebook have the right to censor conservatives? (There is a great deal of evidence that Facebook is doing just that, either as a matter of company policy or simply hiring people who are predisposed to hate conservative viewpoints.) A free speech absolutist would argue that no, Facebook does not have that right; a fascist (whatever protective colouring they may adopt) would argue that yes, Facebook can and should censor people he doesn’t like. But such an issue raises another issue: if Facebook actively polices content, then Facebook is de facto responsible for content that slips through the filters, which could be (and has been) anything from child porn to terrorist propaganda. This would provide lawmakers with all the excuse they need to go after Facebook, particularly if their voting base consists of people who feel that they have been unfairly silenced by internet censors.

Even if that does not come to pass, the existence of internet censorship weakens social trust and undermines the free exchange of ideas. It is, in short, the exact opposite of transparency.

The convention issue is, in some ways, just as thorny. No one would disagree, I think, that a person who makes an ass of himself at a convention could be legally evicted, although I have noticed that codes of conduct and suchlike are often so vague that it is hard to tell where the lines are actually drawn. And a person with a track record of misbehaving at conventions could reasonably be told that no, they’re not welcome at another convention. This can, however, cause problems for the convention staff. It is a basic trait of human nature to assume that whoever got punished did so because they deserved it. A person who got told “no, you’re not welcome” could threaten to sue, pointing out that they have been slandered and their reputation has been harmed. If there was no actual evidence – or a court case that could be used as de facto proof – it would be difficult to prove them wrong.

This is, however, something that took place (or would have taken place) during the convention itself. You can reasonably argue that the convention staff have the right to take whatever action they see fit to ensure the safety of the other guests. But what do you do about something that doesn’t take place during the convention?

We recognise that a court has jurisdiction over the entire country. But does a convention have the right to punish someone for something that took place outside the convention itself?

This is, in one sense, an easy question to answer. A convention doesn’t have any right to punish anything that takes place outside the convention (and very limited rights to punish anything during the convention itself.) But, in another sense, it is quite thorny. What do you do when your Guest of Honour is challenged? And what do you do when there is no decision that you can take without courting controversy?

For example, WISCON’s decision to disinvite Elizabeth Moon could be read as a reasonable response to a bigoted statement. But it could also be read as an attack on free speech, as an attempt to punish a woman for speaking out of turn, even – perhaps – as a betrayal of feminism given that the person being disinvited was one of the leading figures in feminist science-fiction. And, worst of all, it could be seen as the convention giving in to a pressure campaign that practically guaranteed that fandom would see more and more such campaigns now they’d been proven to work. (And fandom did see more such campaigns.)

There was no attempt to consider the fundamental questions raised by the kerfuffle. Was Moon guilty by any reasonable standard? And did the convention have the right to punish her? Even if one answers yes to the first question, should you still say yes to the second? And what sort of damage will you do to fandom if you do?

There was, in short, no solid case for punishing Moon. One was never put together, let alone circulated as justification. Instead, we got mob rule.

***

We have a tendency to think of Batman as a hero. He’s a great character. But, in the real world, someone like Batman (or even Sherlock) would be a legal nightmare. Batman does not hang around for the cops, after beating up the Joker or Mr. Freeze or whoever; he doesn’t file paperwork, he doesn’t testify in court, he doesn’t do anything to help Commissioner Gordon put the villains in jail to stay. (Amusing storyline; the villains keep getting out of jail because there’s no proof to keep them in jail.) Batman is very effective at what he does, but he’s not very legal.

And this raises an obvious question. What do we do when Batman gets it wrong?

We like the idea of the brave and true man who cuts through red tape, rescues the girl, catches the criminals … even if he has to throw the rulebook in the rubbish before he gets to work. We like the thought of someone throwing procedure out the window and just doing whatever he does. But what happens when they get it wrong?

The danger with people taking the law into their own hands, either through shooting someone they thought needed killing or forming a mob to harass some poor unfortunate who got on the wrong side of the internet, is not just that they can get it wrong. It is that they can inflict a punishment far out of proportion to the crime. (Worse, perhaps, the punishment can spill over onto others.) And is it a crime? The man who shot Cecil the Lion did not, as far as I can tell, commit any actual crime. Does he deserve to be driven out of public life?

Obviously, there are some people who would answer yes to that question. But do you really want a random outrage mob to be determining who gets punished and who gets away with it?

That is not justice. That is, at best, mob rule.

What makes this worse is that mob rule ensures that the chance for making positive changes (however defined) is lost. The people who were outraged over Cecil the Lion could have pressed for Zimbabwe to ban lion-hunting (although I doubt Zimbabwe would pay much attention) or they could have pressed for the United States to ban Hunting Tourism (in the same way there are laws against Sex Tourism). Instead, they chose to do something that did a great deal of injustice while – at the same time – wasting all the energy that could have been channelled in a positive direction.

If someone does something you find disagreeable, without breaking any laws, do you have the right to punish them? No, you don’t. You have the right to press for changes in the law, if you wish, and make whatever they did illegal, but you do not have the right to retroactively punish them. And if you harass someone … you, not they, are the enemy of civilisation.

***

One of the fundamental laws of … well, anything is that anyone who tries to rush you into making a decision is not your friend. An estate agent who drops broad hints that the house might be off the market tomorrow, for example, is probably not being truthful. It doesn’t matter to him if it is you or your unknown rival who buys the house – he gets the commission anyway – but it does matter a great deal if no one buys the house. A person who does not want you to take the time to think before you come to a decision is the enemy.

In an ideal world, for example, convention staff would have all the time in the world to assess the evidence, figure out what was best for the convention and make a solid decision with a sensible justification behind it. In practice, convention staff rarely get that time. They often don’t realise that there is a problem before a howling internet mob descends on them, demanding complete submission or else. (They also rarely have the time to realise that the ‘or else’ isn’t anything like as bad as it sounds.) As the sudden tidal wave of bad publicity gets worse and worse, as guests of honour are pushed into threatening to withdraw unless you surrender, it’s easy to get stampeded into making the wrong decision (or the right decision without solid justification). This tends to do a great deal of direct and indirect damage to a convention’s future prospects. On one hand, they’ve proven they can be cowed into submission; on the other, more and more writers are shying away from conventions with a history of disinviting people on spurious grounds. This is not good for the convention scene.

This isn’t good in a wider sense either. The more outrage, the more people get tired of hearing it; the more people get tired of hearing it, the less attention they pay to it. Or, perhaps, the more convinced they become that the mob is in the wrong. Why bother screaming, shouting and stamping your feet if you’re going to win in court? People are less empathic these days because we’re supposed to jump to the ‘right’ conclusions without evidence and demand punishment without justice. It can be satisfying – very satisfying – to hound someone for perceived offence, but it isn’t justice. It certainly doesn’t encourage faith in justice.

And without justice, without the rule of law, what happens to society?

29 Responses to “Musings on Justice”

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 13, 2019 at 6:01 pm #

    And without justice, without the rule of law, what happens to society?

    Rule by the person with the biggest “army”. 😦

    • Billy February 13, 2019 at 7:24 pm #

      Quote:
      And without justice, without the rule of law, what happens to society?

      Rule by the person with the biggest “army”. 😦End Quote”

      This is why even after we elected Trump to cull all government *Swamp Programs/ People/ Laws/ etc .

      That is not working like it should because all those * Government Swamp People are a army. Like a gigantic infestation of swamp creatures that you hire a pest company to spray them to get rid of them.

      They will attack like when you kick over a hornets nest or knock over a bee hive.

      All those bees or hornets will be going crazy and so they are.

      Right or Wrong does not enter into it.

      I suppose it is like that show * Game of Thrones

      On that show it does not seem to matter if the people on your side are the most vile law braking people or not as long as your side wins at any cost.

      And the law is what ever the winning side says it is and it applies differently to different people depending on which side that person is on.

      Again * Right and Wrong does not apply. Who you are and which side you are on does apply a great deal.

      I suppose they may start asking people who are accused of crimes if they are Democrat or Republican ? Conservative or Liberal ?

      Depending on your answer you will get found * Not Guilty or you will get Life in Prison depending on your answer on the question if you are Liberal or Conservative.

      Plus if you had answered Liberal you will also be awarded 50 million dollars besides the Not guilty verdict.
      (Of course taxes would take 95 to 99 percent of your award)

      • Conrad Bassett Jr. February 16, 2019 at 3:33 am #

        Let’s be clear Donald Trump wasn’t elected to drain the swamp. He was elected to change the complexion of the U.S. I for one am tired of hearing that line. Trump is not about law and order.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 16, 2019 at 4:08 am #

        change the complexion of the U.S.

        If you mean that Donald Trump is a White Supremist, then where are the Death Camps for Blacks And Browns? [Sarcastic Grin]

      • Conrad Bassett Jr. February 16, 2019 at 1:44 pm #

        Oh I don’t know. Maybe right next to the children they put in cages. How about that wall? How about 14 people in the administration under indictment or going to jail? By the way don’t confuse US racism with German racism. He has done plenty.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 16, 2019 at 5:23 pm #

        “Everybody who doesn’t agree with me is a racist/Nazi”. [Sarcastic Grin]

      • Conrad Bassett Jr. February 17, 2019 at 2:56 am #

        Oh so drak you think it’s okay to put children in cages then ignore reality hiding behind sarcasm? Moral turpitude at it’s best. By the way it’s not whether a person agrees or disagrees that makes them a racist. It’s what you disagree about. If you think it’s okay to put children in cages, shutdown the U.S. government threatening boarder security, to keep brown people out of the country by building a wall, then yeah you’re a racist. I noticed no one is talking about walling off Canada. In 2012 the police caught the largest shipment of drugs ever coming into the U.S. coming from Canada. So once again it’s just like Bill O’Reilly said. Trump is fighting the change of complexion in America. Laura Ingram said the same thing. Amazing how you missed it.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 17, 2019 at 5:02 am #

        Trump “putting kids into cages” was a bunch of shit.

        Oh, that famous picture of illegal immigrant kids in cages?

        It was a fake made during the Obama administration.

        Sorry, there are too many idiots out there that will believe any shit said about Trump.

        Oh, by the way, you want to bash Trump? I don’t think this is the proper place so I’ll not respond to any additional anti-Trump garbage.

      • Conrad Bassett Jr. February 17, 2019 at 1:29 pm #

        Nope wasn’t fake. We’re back to the same game blame Obama and deny reality. I am tired having to deal with you fringe people. You people live in a world of alternative facts to hide the truth. The reality is children have been separated from their parents and have died. You think it’s okay to make up stuff. It’s sick and twisted.

  2. Tim February 13, 2019 at 7:00 pm #

    You write about this as if its something new. There has always been mob rule to a certain extent. The amount waxes and wanes with the times but has always been a part of public discourse.
    Also, I think you are blurring the line between free association and punishment. Disinviting Elizabeth Moon to a convention, whether she deserved it or not, was entirely within the right of convention organizers as it was not punishment but exercising their right to invite or not invite whoever they choose. If they’d physically attacked her or tried to throw her in jail, that would be punishment.
    What’s changed is social media. Now, if you offend some group or appear to offend them, you can hear about it from millions all over the world. Or at least get millions of complaints. With electronic media a few people can make themselves seem like millions.
    This, I think, is the key factor. Do you regulate social media to prevent people from getting mobbed. Censorship has a whole host of evils of its own. Or, do you let the mob have its day, often ruining the lives of their target. I don’t believe you can trust the mob to act with restraint as they very seldom do, it goes against the very nature of being a mob.

    Tim

    • K February 13, 2019 at 10:34 pm #

      Agree

    • philippeO February 14, 2019 at 2:57 am #

      Seconded.

      Freedom of Association is important feature of Liberal Society. to choose to invite, to attend, to buy, to not buy, to sell, to not sell its important to free society.

      some limitation is reasonable, like considering Facebook and Google as utilities or regulating service in important trade route. But allowing people to associate or disassociate with others is important.

  3. George Phillies February 13, 2019 at 9:35 pm #

    I have heard of disinvites, some stranger than others, but I missed Elizbeth Moon and WisCon. When did that one occur?

    We hope you are indeed finally well.

  4. P February 13, 2019 at 11:53 pm #

    This gets into what I’ll call “offensive free-speech”. Offensive here means the opposite of defensive, not as in to take offense to.

    Offensive free-speech has been used as way to try to force group A to provide a platform for group B to advance their speech interests. But if group A is not the government (ie a person or corporation), what right does the government have to force them to provide group B a platform? If you didn’t agree with someone, you probably wouldn’t take kindly to the government forcing you to allow them on your lawn and forced you to provide electricity for their microphone.

    But it goes further than that too. A neighbor walking down the street seeing that you allowed this person on your lawn may come to the conclusion that you allowed them on your lawn because you agreed with their message. So now you not only have to deal with the government forcing you to provide a lawn and power, but also your neighbors thinking that this person espouses your views. Sure, you can try to convince your neighbor otherwise, but you may well be met with skepticism because you let the person on your lawn. A convention or conference will most certainly be judged by the character of the people that they allow to speak.

    The biggest problem with offensive free speech is that it can be a form a censorship. Bombard people with an overwhelming amount of information and they have a hard time sorting it out. Add to that some other principles like presumed innocence and then you just add to the games. Like someone? Attack negative things others say by saying he should be presumed innocent. Don’t like someone? Attack them for not addressing/talking about/inviting others to talk about things they don’t agree with. Someone call you out on it? Accuse them of not supporting free speech and/or being a fascist.

  5. Billy February 14, 2019 at 1:30 pm #

    Reminds me of the BREXIT vote

    After everyone Voted in England to do the BREXIT and become thier own country again.

    Everyone here in the USA thought that in about one or maybe two months or at least Jan 1 (The start of the new year)

    All that would be done, after all the people voted ! Right ?

    That is when the Swamp went crazy. After all if you were a government worker making 1/2 a million a year for doing nothing and now because of BREXIT they would not have thier government job and would have to work for a living as a hamburger cook at McDonalds for 5.00 a hour – the government workers are doing everything to stop what the people voted for.

    I do wonder is England really a Free Place anymore ? Where voting means something or not ?

    • Hanno Frerichs February 14, 2019 at 5:40 pm #

      Well it was known before that the Brexid whould mean that article 50 would be triggered and that afterwards 2 years of hashing out a get out deal would take place.

      Also legally the brexid vote isn’t binding, it’s basically a very extensive but simple option poll with leave and remain as only options. Of course the campaign was done in a different manner. Iand Politicans have little choise but to comply or they get unvoteable.

      And the government worker who does nothing for half a year? I guess you mean the MP’s?Or do you mean the bureaucracy?

  6. Stuart the Viking February 14, 2019 at 9:33 pm #

    I don’t know all that much about the Elizabeth Moon thing. She isn’t an author that I read (although, perhaps i’ll look and see if she has anything I might like. Why not?) However, I do know a bit about some of the other “disinvites” that have happened.

    The people who put on a CON are well within their rights to invite/not invite whoever they wish. I may not LIKE it when a favored author is “disinvited”, especially when it’s for something stupid that they didn’t do. But then I am free to decide if I’m going to go to that CON or not. Simple. I have a vote. The ballot is my hard earned money. If a CON disinvites (insert author) for (insert badstuff), and I look at the evidence and it’s stupid bullshit. I can decide not to go to that CON. Frankly, I would hope that EVERYONE would do the same. Even if they don’t particular agree with the politics of our example author. Sadly, there are far too many people who would cheer instead.

    I would also like to see some of these false accusors get sued for slander/lible (whichever fits). Lying to get someone disinvited from a CON, in my book, very much meets the criteria.

  7. Brian February 14, 2019 at 11:07 pm #

    Your question about what happens when Batman gets it wrong would be more poignant if you hadn’t said earlier that it’s not out of the ordinary for the justice system to get it wrong. Batman is rarely wrong when it comes to the bad guys 🙂
    There are also multiple variations of social media “censoring”. There is an algorithm you have to please on most sites for your content to reach your full audience and reach others not currently following you.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 14, 2019 at 11:28 pm #

      Well, Batman “rarely getting it wrong” is thanks to his writers.

      The Justice System can get things wrong but can be held accountable when it does.

      A Real World Batman could often be wrong but it would be harder to hold him accountable when he did.

  8. Robert Lee February 16, 2019 at 6:08 pm #

    As previously stated, in free societies that place importance on individual rights, the people have a right to associate with whomever they choose. This becomes problematic in a “free society” that places emphasis on group rights, and encourages Balkanization and tribal rivalries to determine which tribe is more worthy of certain rights than others. In the US, the Constitution places the rights endowed by natural law into the hands of individuals.

    However, the liberalization, or the current “death march” moving inexorably towards the left, places rights into the hands of an alphabet soup of acronym named groups based on a litmus test of race, gender, sexual preference, and socioeconomic status. These groups are in the top of the hierarchy based upon how many “protected groups” one belongs to. Ironically, according to the most recent polls, most people don’t agree with this hierarchical social justice construct. The majority of people in the US are moderate and conservative.

    Unfortunately the left is the crying baby in the house that must be mollified. They make the greatest noise, call for the many boycotts, and any charges of heresy against their doctrine is punished by an immediate flood of vitriolic posts on social and news media.

    Ms. Moon’s case is just that. What she wrote so inflamed the SJWs that she would cast any dispersion on a protect group, that she needed to be vilified and exposed as an Islamophobe. From what I understand, Mr. Nuttall, what you’ve written could be mischaracterized as WisCon banning Moon from attending with their disinvitation. As far as I’m aware, she was no longer invited as a guest of honor, but not banned from attending or selling her books. Nevertheless, I agree with your characterization of this act by WisCon as “punishment” for Ms. Moon’s writing outside the venue of the convention.

    Then we get back to the initial topic of free association. WisCon has a right to associate with whomever they choose. They have a right to laud, vilify, invite, disinvite, or outright ban someone from attending their convention organized by private parties and not the government. They have that right because the convention’s not taking place in UK or Canada where the outcome might have been that Ms. Moon would be banned from stepping foot in your country….

    Concomitantly, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media have the right to make arbitrary and capricious rules that force conservative voices to the margin and proudly trumpet leftist screeds as if they were common opinion. These companies are, after all, private entities and not government organizations required to scrupulously adhere to the Constitution’s mandate for free association, expression, practice of religion, and equal justice under law. So goes WisCon. They may censure whomever they like for whatever conduct they see fit.

    Do I agree with any of these corporate entities positions on these matters or the actions they’ve taken against Ms. Moon or of conservative thought in general? NO! Definitely and resoundingly not! However, they like me, can say what they want regardless of whether in good taste, can associate with those whom they want, or not, regardless of good taste, or prohibit the free exercise of speech on their platforms, just as I can tell someone in my house to shut up and leave if I don’t agree with what they’re saying.

    What should we do about this? What any person may do. Freely associate with others. If Facebook or Twitter censors your speech, find another venue that’s less restrictive more like-minded. What you’ve advocated, Mr. Nuttall, the categorization of Facebook and Twitter as public utilities and therefore regulatable, is an ominous solution. This would stifle others who would develop a more open and unrestricted Facebook or Twitter alternative since they’d have to navigate a plethora of regulation by the government and the added cost and liability that would naturally develop from attempting to form another public utility.

    The answer is what the rabid left is already doing – but less rabidly and with more due process. We keep ourselves informed of the bias inherent in platforms like Facebook, Twitter, news media, and for that matter Sci-fi and writer’s conventions. When there’s a conservative or moderate alternative, we whole-heartedly support these over their leftist alternatives. We allow free speech to do its work and show these venues for what they are – biased organizations that are only interested in promoting leftist philosophy without debate, punishing opposing ideas as heresy, and engaging in groupthink.

    More regulation is hardly the answer, as that would tend to retard the sharing of ideas and the courage to develop new venues of free association. If we believe in the strength of our ideas and ideals, we can defend them in a reasonable forum for the free debate. Facebook, Twitter, and some conventions are not reasonable forums for free expression of ideas unless they’re progressive.

    Sorry for posting a blog rant on your blog.

  9. Kira February 16, 2019 at 10:38 pm #

    Please I hate to bug but when is Schooled in Magic Cursed going to be available? I have been checking for updates on this every day….I am dying to read it. Of course you need to rest first. But if there are any updates at all…?
    Thank you,
    Kira

    • Joe February 19, 2019 at 2:00 am #

      I don’t think we will be getting any updates in this comment thread…

  10. Karen February 17, 2019 at 9:36 pm #

    Christopher. I have enjoyed your books very much. I appreciate how you incorporate values into your books.
    You have a good perception of the state of the political union of the U.S. Most Americans are appalled at it. We keep working, living our lives but it is hard not to let the actions, words and beliefs of the few overcome the good people. Revenge politics, hatefulness and other disgusting things gather the most attention and is blasted all over the media, social and otherwise. I very much like your comments in your books and blog. I feel heartened that there are people who have an avenue in which to speak up about all the travesties. I do write to the President, my Senators and Representive and hope they make note. I support our President. He speaks out. The Kavanaugh debacle was sickening. I’m for immigration but not for illegals—that’s invasion.
    I am currently reading The Zero Enigma series.
    I have prayed for you today and will continue. Hope you are feeling well.

  11. Bob k February 17, 2019 at 10:46 pm #

    The attack on Justice is not new. Check out the story of Fatty Arbuckle and yellow journalism. The latter is something Chris has featured in his Zero and Emily series. Fatty was tried and convicted by the court of public opinion and many morality groups advocated for the death penalty. Three trials later he was convicted in a real court, of drinking bootleg liquor. No rape, assault or even being coerced. None the less he was punished by the studios and blacklisted for crimes he was proven innocent.

    I doubt he would have stood a chance in todays world of Facebook and Twitter. One of the most chilling words out of Social Justice Warriors mouths is collaterial damage. Punishment of innocents is justified for the greater good. Funny how the people who use that idea always apply it to someone else and not their own cause.

  12. Gordianot February 21, 2019 at 12:55 am #

    The rule of law is not even remotely under threat in any of your examples (except Batman, and I think we both agree Batman is fictional).

    First, You’ve made a point to identify the standards applied criminal courts as the appropriate example for decision making. The standard for proof, however, isn’t the same for every situation, and it never has been. In the US, the standard of proof a court must decide for criminal matters is very high, because the punishment is public and largely severe. The standard of proof for resolving disagreements between civil litigants in contract disputes or torts is only that the neutral judge determine that evidence shows that one side is more likely to be right than the other. The standard for proof that a judge will order the government search of a home is that the evidence shows a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The standard of proof for a job interview is very, very low. For the Kavanaugh example, he has no right to the job, and the Sentate has no duty to give it to him. If his accuser is credible, and the Senate were to agree that attempted sexual assault is a disqualification, then it can exercise its right to reject his nomination. In fact, job interviews in the US are always held to a low standard of proof. While freedom of contract is not a US Constitutional principal, it’s certainly informs most policy. In the US, we don’t require people to contract as a general rule, and the decision to contract can be made on any evidence.

    Second, there is no neutral party in your example “threats” to rule of law. Those deciders have interests to protect, and every free society gives them the right to protect their interest within the law. If someone spends money on throwing a party, the individual can decide who to invite, and who to disinvite. If an invitee has now had a nasty argument with their host or friends, or the association with the invitee is going to damage the host’s reputation, it’s perfectly normal to tell them not to come.

    Third, you have confused a just society with justice. Justice is a fair system of laws, neutrality of decision making, due process, accountability of public officials, non-violent dispute resolution, ect. Thus, the rule of law is about government choices, not private ones. Rule of law is threatened by arbitrary government action, unlawful arrests and prosecution, unaccountable public officials, secret laws and courts, money paid in expectation of official action and the like. The disagreement with censorship isn’t that people do it to each other; the disagreement with censorship that governments do it to people. Rule of law is not threatened by Facebook’s commercial censorship. Rule of Law isn’t threatened by #metoo outing of sexual predators. Rule of law is not threatened when people take sides and decide they won’t buy something, or a celebrity’s loss of public support, or a politician’s loss of campaign dollars. These are perfectly normal decisions we allow businesses and individuals to make. The government is in the business of justice; individuals and companies are not.

    I do see that you have a valid complaint. The ethics of the convention organizer’s decision is troubling. Facebook censorship (or lack thereof) has a real effect on public discourse. A just society is informed by ethical values. For example: honesty, fairness, equality, and respect. Harassment can be very unethical, even when legal (and certain types of harassment-such as libel and inciting violence-are not legal). But, do not confuse the two. Ethics isn’t the same as law, and it never will be.

  13. Big Ben February 21, 2019 at 10:29 pm #

    Every day ordinary life judicial proceedings:

    1) Did he/she/they do it? If the cookie jar is empty and your kids have crumbs on their fingers, they ate the cookies – even if you didn’t witness the pilfering first hand. They may protest and blame it on the dog and fake media, but you must not be fooled by their specious rhetoric.

    2) You know the kids are the desperado cookie criminals because you filled up the cookie jar that morning, your spouse is still at work and the dog doesn’t have opposable thumbs … though I suppose you can’t rule out the cat. They’re sneaky.

    3) It most certainly is a crime, the level of severity depending on the kind and amount of cookies stolen. A few cookies are likely for personal consumption. A kilo of cookies indicates intent to distribute. The offense becomes more heinous if milk was involved.

    4) The sentence: “Go to your room and wait until your father/mother gets home!” (i.e., pass the punishment buck)

    5) That is the sentence because you need some “me” time and you want to watch the next episode of your favorite TV show without the sugar-supercharged kids shrieking through the room every five seconds.

    COURT ADJOURNED!

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