The kangaroo court of Twitter is no place to judge Woody Allen":
First off, I don't know if Woody Allen abused his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow and nor do you. I only know what I am inclined to believe and what the reasons are. Those reasons are, in fact, opinions. Some are to do with this particular case, some with the way that victims of abuse are routinely dismissed, some with the way Hollywood operates. Some are to do with the films he makes – the texts themselves – and some with the context: the context in which so many perpetrators walk free. That context is changing.
When the custody battle between Farrow and Allen took place in 1992, social media was not around. Right now online, especially on Twitter, many people are absolutely certain that Allen is guilty. Just as they are absolutely certain that Amanda Knox is guilty, just as they will be absolutely certain that what I am saying here is wrong. There is not a lot of nuance in Hashtag Justice. There is a hashtag #IBelieveDylanFarrow.
I hesitate (just slightly) to write again about social shaming as an increasingly prevalent method of enacting mob justice. But I thought this case provided an opportunity to share a parallel example of a legal point of view -- the infamous Dreyfus Affaire, in which a French Jewish artillery officer was railroaded by a corrupt justice system because people were so certain he was guilty of his alleged crime (espionage). Evidence was falsified and secret court proceedings were held to accommodate the feelings of the masses. As Emile Zola argued in his own open letter to a newspaper, "J'accuse":
“Above all beware of this line of the reasoning . . . : ‘It is possible that Dreyfus was convicted illegally, but it was justly done; that is enough.’ . . . It is a serious error. . . . See to it that the supremacy of the law is undisputed, and through the law rid our hearts of this respect for reasons of state that is absurd in a democracy.”
What Zola is describing is the very definition of a kangaroo court -- picking an outcome, and then coming up with a procedure that will guarantee this outcome. Zola was arguing against this method of justice because we will almost never be able to determine "the truth" with absolute certainty. Since we will almost never know (or agree) about who should be punished, why, and how much, our only hope is to ensure that we follow fair procedures for determining guilt. In the United States this idea is enshrined in the Due Process clause of the Constitution, which guarantees that nobody shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property without due process of the law. There is no constitutional guarantee that the justice system accurately identify wrongdoers or uniformly dispense justice for the simple reason that it would be impossible to do so. But we are seeing a resurgence of the idea that mob justice can be real justice. This is why the Dreyfus Affaire is perhaps more relevant now than ever. As Adam Gopnik argues in his review of Louis Begley's, “Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters”:
It showed that a huge number of Europeans, in a time largely smiling and prosperous, liked engaging in raw, animal religious hatred, and only felt fully alive when they did. Hatred and bigotry were not a vestige of the superstitious past but a living fire—just what comes, and burns, naturally.
Sound familiar? It reminded me of this comment from yesterday's post:
It's important to delineate sociopathic impulses and "emotional overload". Sociopathic impulses have a basis on having a lack of emotional barriers (ie. regret, grief, and remorse) which would typically inhibit/prevent fulfilling the impulse. Emotional overload have a basis on overwhelming rational barriers (ie. logic, situational awareness).
So I understand why sociopaths can be scary -- we don't have any of the emotional barriers. But empaths can be scary too, especially when their emotional sense of right and wrong overwhelms rational barriers.