Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Coming Contradiction

Like most people who aren't aggressively trying to be assholes, I've been outraged by the conclusion of the Stanford rape case.  Not a He Said/She Said case.  Not a judgment call.  A conviction.  And then the judge decided to engage in the worst sort of excuse making.

The Stanford Rapist deserved a harsher penalty from the law.  He's getting some penalties from USA swimming and the judge may lose his seat on the bench.  But he should have been in jail longer.

When he gets out, he's a registered sex offender, and given the notoriety of his case, he's going to find it difficult to integrate into society.  And that's all well and proper.

However...the outrage over this is largely tied to the idea of white privilege (because it's such a glaring example), and yet the inverse is true when we talk about the criminal justice system.

The Stanford Rapist was white and privileged, and so he will not see much jail time.  Routinely, minority - or simply poor - defendants get longer sentences for crimes they might not have actually committed.  As OJ and Michael Jackson taught us, perhaps it is wealth more than race that warps the application of justice in this country.  Two sets of laws for two sets of people.

If so, that's incredibly disturbing.  For democracy to work, the rule of law must apply to everyone the same, but the Stanford Rape case shows that this isn't true.  The rape aspect brings in other disturbing elements of how rape is under-reported, under-prosecuted and under-sentenced - at least when the defendant is white - but the larger question is how well our criminal justice and legal system is working.

Finally, as we deal with the mass incarceration of minorities, we want to extend justice to the falsely accused and falsely convicted.  The Stanford Rapist was neither falsely accused nor falsely convicted.  The glare of the spotlight and circumstance of the case make that clear.

But if he WAS some poor person caught up in the web of the criminal justice system, we would want leniency for him.  Unless he was a rapist or murderer, I suppose.

This contradiction among liberal activists that will have to be carefully negotiated in the coming months.

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