Some of you might be wondering why I get so worked up over relatively unpopular or strange cases and why I invariably take the position of defending incredibly flawed individuals.
I was thinking about it myself yesterday.
I can’t remember, and I’m too lazy to look it up, whether I defended the guy who made the movie “The Innocence of Muslims” — I can’t remember his name now — you know the guy that our entire government decided, apropos nothing to blame for the Benghazi attacks, arrest, drag to jail.
I might not have written about him, since that was kind of close to when I came out of the political closet, so it might have been in the “in the closet time.”
However, I remember being horrified and anguished over his arrest, even in the middle of the horrors perpetrated on our people in Benghazi, with our government’s supine lack of action if not cooperation.
Days later Dan was talking to his sister about whom to vote for. His sister, for reasons I won’t go into, is inclined to the left. Dan pointed out the atrocious injustice of blaming this man for an attack that OBJECTIVELY couldn’t be his fault, the injustice of arresting him in the middle of the night.
My SIL’s answer was breathtaking (not in a good way.) “Ah, well, he’s a bad man, and had been forbidden from being on the computer and making movies anyway.”
All this ignoring the fact that if the government hadn’t needed a scapegoat, no one would have dreamed of picking him up.
In that moment I realized this impulse to say “Oh, yeah, he got hit with something that was completely unfair and concocted for someone else’s purposes, but it it was totally his fault because he’s done this or that that is just objectively wrong” is both a mechanism of self-protection — we need to convince ourselves that this would never happen to us because we’d never do “whatever percipitating incident or excuse was” AND we can then feel safe again.
It is also the primary seed of tyranny, and the primary aid and abettor of it. Otherwise decent people, scared by things that happen to people in circumstances in which they might find themselves, grasp at straws of excuses for why it happened to that person, and not them. Because if they admit it could happen to them or their loved ones, then they lose faith in the institutions, and they HAVE to do something about it. It disrupts their cozy ordained life.
It is this mental mechanism that allowed people downwind from the camps to say “well, but it’s only Jews and other degenerates, and you know they’ve done something to deserve it. It would never happen to us, Helga.” It is what allowed people under Stalin, hearing the secret police kick down their neighbors’ door in the middle of the night, to roll over in bed and go “Well, but they’re enemies of the regime; saboteurs and spies. The police would never be after them if they weren’t. We’re perfectly safe, Ivan.” It is even what allowed people in the terror to denounce other people for saying words that they might or might not have misheard (like the woman who swore that she’d said spindle, not king which apparently sounded the same in local patois, and she said they needed one.) and watch them guillotined with perfect calm because “it could never happen to us, Marie. Vive la revolution!”
Sure. We’re not there yet. Though it could be argued when authority figures beat the crap out of someone for the crime of wanting to sit on the airplane seat he legally purchased and not doing what the “authorities” told him to, and people try to justify the authorities’ actions with “Well, he was breaking the rules by not obeying the order to leave, so they were allowed to remove him” the mentality is already here. And where the mentality is, the de-facto abuse will follow.
I even had a cartoon character on my facebook page tell me “He said they’d have to drag him, so they dragged him. It’s his fault if he got injured.”
Okay, there is no proof he said ANY such thing, but let’s suppose he did. If he’d said “Just shoot me” would that mean they weren’t guilty of murder? People making these excuses for blatant abuse of power are just grasping at straws as to why he deserved it and THEY never would.
Which means they are severely delusional. Once authorities — and yes, airline employees, reinforced with the power of government to “keep us safe from terrorists” are in a way government agents right now — get license to do this it will happen again and again. It will happen randomly. In fact, in this case it happened randomly, despite attempts to smear the doctor’s character all over the media. He was picked because they wanted his seat. And possibly because he was a small, older man with glasses and not, say, a hulking six foot some football player. (Only a crazy person would randomly pick, say, Larry Correia, to forcibly remove from an airplane. ) It had zero to do with his moral character or well… anything else, really.
It brought to mind the Milo Yannopoulus kerfuffle, when even conservatives lined up to take a hit at the successful speaker the left wanted to remove. Not all of them were motivated by fear that if they didn’t distance fast enough they’d be accused of thinking pedophilia was fine. No. Quite a few of them were motivated by this crappy weasel idea that if you justify in your head why someone deserves the bad, biased treatment and you don’t, you’ll be safe from it.
Hence, the person who, HERE argued that Milo deserved everything coming to him because he’d been mean to people on twitter. Or the person I didn’t approve who said he deserved it all because he WAS a “cuckservative”. Or the people who, on a respected news site I have sometimes worked for, thought he “deserved” it for being a transvestite. (Which he isn’t. Heaven deliver us from crazy conservatives.)
None of these people, note, was saying that Milo was a pedophile, which was, ostensibly, what the left was trying to crucify him for (on contrived evidence) or even that he approved in any way of pedophilia (even if he’d made jokes about a circumstance in which he, himself, was the child being abused.) No. They were saying he deserved this completely crazy and unfair hit, contrived by splicing bits of recorded image and sound together, because “he was a bad person, and he had it coming.”
Our constitution protects not the rights of angels, but the rights of normal human beings, who are supposed to be secure in their possessions and in their persons, safe from random attacks, safe from libel, safe from theft.
Angels don’t need to be defended from anything. They’re angels. looking at their wonderful purity, everyone would realize it would be wrong to attack them.
The problem is there are no angels in our workaday world. We’re all human. Yes, even you, sitting on that chair, thinking your sins are of a much lower degree than any of the three people mentioned in this article. Surely, if you were treated like the three of them were people would defend you. Even better, no one would ever treat you that way, because they’d find no excuse.
Would you care to place a small bet?
First, as a wise rabbi once said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” If people will shrug and accept your being financially injured because you were very rude to someone once, in this age of the internet, which of us, particularly those of us who are hotheaded, has never been unwarrantedly mean, insulting or unforgivably rude to someone who didn’t deserve it? And fine, we might not be on probation for something related to fraud and films, but which of us hasn’t penned or filmed or said something that the government might decide to blame a terrorist attack on? And which of us, flying home, with appointments the next day, has NOT felt like saying “no, just no. I want to go HOME.” If that’s enough to justify beating someone and putting him in the hospital with severe injuries, which of us will escape a beating?
No. People with authority must be restrained, and the side of the individual taken, even though every individual is flawed and even though all of us can find excuses for the abuses of the authorities. Why? Because if authority isn’t restrained it will become tyranny and then no one will be safe. And because no one will be pure (ever) authority will continue being abused.
It is justly said that free speech must protect unpopular speech, because no one ever tries to restrain popular speech.
In the same way, it is the shady, the loopy, the Odd among us who must be kept safe in their dignity, in their persons, in their possessions and in their reputations. Because if they are safe, then all of us will be safe.
And if they aren’t, soon enough, no one will be.