I enjoyed quite a number of popular western TV series in my younger days. It was common to see mobs of townspeople depicted, gathered at the sheriff’s office, demanding he release some presumed guilty prisoner to be hung without delay. The sheriff would invariably face down the leader, and send the disgruntled group away. Whether the prisoner was guilty or not was beside the point. The fact that someone with a personal agenda yelled, “Foul”, and that others, acting solely on their emotions, joined in the chorus is a despicable human trait. That’s “trial and conviction by mob rule”.
In today’s world, the same is incited on social media and talk shows. Unfortunately, there is no sheriff to restore order. The actions of the accusers and the virtual public lynching of anyone accused, bypasses the justice system set in place by our Constitution, Bill of Rights and our laws. The latest examples are the accused, Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Both are being vilified, judged, and condemned by the public and media, without due process or access to the actual facts. Relying on speculation and emotion, both mobs are ready to “hang” one person or the other.
The news media is yet more culpable. They shouldn’t show bias while claiming to be the watchdog for the public, yet it is seen at every turn. With carefully picked disparaging key words, the choice of who they interview, and what portions thereof are allowed to be seen or heard, they attempt to slant public opinion one way or another, based on their own hidden agenda. We speak of corruption in government, but the news media is just as tainted. Ratings go up when you watch the train wreck they’ve created, bringing in dollars. News is supposed to be an impartial reporting of the facts, not salacious, biased, gossipy material designed to sway opinion or inflame emotions. What is reported, and more importantly, how it is reported, matters a great deal. We each bear responsibility as well. Some appear to follow what is said like mindless sheep, not evaluating for themselves, simply trusting what someone said is true.
I am reminded of bloodsport in the Roman coliseum. Gladiators fought to the death, as the crowd yelled for yet more blood to be spilled, reveling in watching the slaughter of other human beings. Perhaps today some think they are righteous, justifying the excess clamoring as “demanding justice”. Where can justice be found in constantly shouting our opinion from the rooftops, and jeering at and attacking anyone accused? It would be akin to jurors at a trial loudly cheering, jeering, or scornfully shouting personal opinions at the lawyers, judges and witnesses at the trial. Even worse, the jurors would be fighting amongst themselves, tweeting details of the trial. To top it off, you might have posts from the judge, lawyers, witnesses, and the public in the gallery. Pandemonium.
Slinging demeaning pejoratives and paying attention to highly vocal mobs on either side of any controversy does a disservice to us all, and to our established logical system of arriving at the truth. Reputations of individuals, so thoroughly slandered, will be tainted for life. Each, both guilty and innocent, will have weathered a storm of vicious and callous vilification, having nothing to do with the facts nor justice. Unfortunately, most people only remember the scandal associated with a name, and not always whether they were found guilty in any proper trial or investigation.
Our founding forefathers would shake their heads in shame. Has all their hard work been for naught?