Guilty until never proved innocent


As an Indiana judge said at the height of the 1870s Women’s Crusade forcing saloons to close through sit-ins and pray-ins, “Mob law enforced by women is no better than mob law enforced by men.”

We are again in the era of mob law and mob justice, when all common sense and all rules of natural justice go out the window – all you need is an accusation, which is taken as conclusive of guilt. You can be found not guilty in a court of law; in a court of public or mob opinion, stirred up the social media and the mainstream media, never. Even the witch trails and the Inquisition relied on more than a single testimony to convict. If you have ever warmed in the glow of superiority while wondering how our ancestors could have possibly sent people to the stake for flying through the night on a broomstick, or how the communist show trials could have not only happened but also take in some many observers, well, here’s your chance to see it all unfolding in front of your very own eyes.

The mob baying for blood (most of them metaphorically speaking, though not all) will tell you that the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings are not a judicial proceedings; they don’t carry a possibility of criminal penalties, and as such we shouldn’t worry our little heads about judicial concepts like the presumption of innocence, the onus of proof and the burden of proof. This is supposedly the reason why a “credible” accusation should be enough to declare the accused guilty for the purposes of denying him an advancement. This is also why the mobs actually prefer that there be no judicial proceedings at all – you can still destroy your enemies’ lives and reputation without all the trouble of actually adducing any evidence and subjecting yourself to the rigours of court procedure, which were designed over the centuries precisely so that innocent people could not be so easily ruined.

I was pondering on these issues yet again while reading this outrageous story:

Nearly 100 students at the University of Southern California attended a rally at noon on Monday demanding a tenured professor be fired after he sent a reply-all email last Thursday to the student body noting that “accusers sometimes lie.”

“If the day comes you are accused of some crime or tort of which you are not guilty, and you find your peers automatically believing your accuser, I expect you find yourself a stronger proponent of due process than you are now,” emailed Professor James Moore.

The email — in response to a reply-all email that urged students to “Believe Survivors” on the day of Christine Ford’s testimony  — triggered what one school admin said was “hundreds” of emails from concerned students and alumni since Thursday.

You know what comes next:

The crowd then marched over to the office of Dean Jack Knott, according to multiple live-streams of the protest.

Met by security guards, the protesters demanded to see Dean Knott. It is unclear if they intended to occupy the building. After a roughly five-minute standoff, security guards allowed Dean Knott greet the protesters, but did not allow students in the building.

“What [Professor Moore] sent was extremely inappropriate, hurtful, insensitive. We are going to try to do everything we can to try to create a better school, to educate the faculty,” said Dean Knott to the crowd.

He then announced that USC would take action.

“This is going to be a multi-pronged effort. We are going to have a faculty meeting later this week around implicit bias, sensitivity towards [sexual assault]….” he said.

The dean added that what Moore said is “not what our school represents.”

Moore, professor and former dean of engineering, has been contrite and apologetic (“It is never my intention to hurt anyone.  My intention is to protect more students than we currently do from being punished for acts of misconduct they have not committed. Any of us might stand accused of any number of misdeeds, and each of us at that point will want to be treated fairly under due process.”) but his future remains unknown at the hands of the gutless high-paid wonder like Dean Knott and his ilk. You know what, Dean? I hope you’re accused of sexual assault soon. We’ll see how you then consider due process to be “inappropriate, hurtful, insensitive”.

This is sadly not unexpected, as many commentators have noted universities have been the epicenters of the new rules regarding allegations of sexual assault or misconduct. This is fortunately changing, but I suspect feet dragging will be a rule rather than an exception throughout the institutions of higher learning. This intellectual climate is producing cohort after cohort of graduates for whom it is the new normal and the new acceptable. Expect the mobs to keep getting stronger and more vocal.