The Court of Public Opinion starts with a whisper and grows into common knowledge.

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, I Say!

Any person accused of a crime in the U.S. can only be convicted by sufficient evidence of wrongdoing by his accuser. Our Bill of Rights provides for that in very clear wording, we commonly refer to as “presumption of innocence until proven guilty”. However, the court of public opinion presumes guilt and does not hesitate to condemn the accused without a hearing or trial.

The court of public opinion has no rules at all. No evidence is required, and substantiated evidence is rarely presented. Rumors, lies, slander, and the shouting of anonymous vulgarities are allowed. Fortunately, murder, physical assault, and dueling are still illegal. Truth is allowed but without any supporting evidence. It gets mixed right in with all the lies and deceit.

The Media Courts Public Opinion

In addition, the media circus, constantly fanning the flames, magnifies the harm done to all. They should and must take most of the blame for the destruction caused by the contentious arguments they so willingly report. The images and words they choose to forward are the most dramatic, shrill, and violent. It’s profitable for them to relay the worst possible material for the longest possible time.

Imagine if news programs promoted calm, relating the various sides of any issue without showing the angriest, most vocal advocates but instead those speaking with restraint. Even in our home, when my passion for a subject gets too loud, my wife asks me to lower my voice and speak calmly. If my wife ran the media, I can assure you the volume of the rhetoric would be lower.

The Court Where Everyone Loses

Unlike courts of law, public opinion doesn’t resolve anything. Both the accuser and accused are vilified. The public becomes mired in a state of anger and resentment. Everyone loses. Many remain distracted from their daily duties by the time and the emotional toll spent on even one issue. If all the anger and vile rhetoric brought about a real, satisfactory conclusion, it might be worth the angst it causes. Instead, the lack of proper resolution lingers, one more reason to hate the “other side”.

Is There A Possible Upside???

In this arena, ruled by conjecture, there may seem to be an upside – when a light is shined upon misdeeds that may have been prevalent but hidden in our society. Sex crimes against adults and children, from verbal or physical abuse to rape, are being uncovered as time goes on. The Catholic Church remains reeling from revelations concerning priests and their superiors. Famous people, loved by young and old alike, like Bill Crosby, are being reported and convicted of such crimes.

This sparked a #MeToo movement and began an avalanche of stories from women who felt that they could be listened to with respect now. They shared the emotional pain they’ve carried for years, especially concerning the crimes wrought by men in power. A multitude of crimes previously hidden by shame, not believed, or never even spoken of before have come to light.

The Downside of an Upside

Even though the court of public opinion may help bring about necessary conversations, it sometimes only serves to further alienate many, leading to further divisiveness. Division causes us to remain in a perpetual state of opposition, impeding our ability to achieve the goals we need to accomplish as a society. Two sides don’t give an inch, with the news media feeding the angry fire within those embroiled.

I believe the court of public opinion does more harm than good. Our society’s wrongs that need remedy can be brought to light and discussed without a radical “taking of sides.” We can have a #MeTo movement without the divisive language.

Do The Right Thing

We are right to be angry about crime and injustice, but let’s investigate thoroughly using the proper process to find the full truth. Unfortunately, we, the public, are seldom privy to the full facts. Yet, in many cases, we let our emotions dictate our “truth” and angrily shout it from the rooftops! And so it goes, disagreement and division wear on, with lives harmed on all sides.

Even if we have a strong opinion, wouldn’t it be wise to listen to the other side of the argument? Is it possible we might learn something?

Nah, they’re wrong; why bother? You wouldn’t really say that, would you?😱

Let’s make an effort to do better, folks. Whatcha say?


Jerry Society & Culture

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