“You know…morons.”— The Waco Kid, “Blazing Saddles.”
This really does explain a lot…
The Waco Kid’s (Gene Wilder) sage description of “the common clay” to Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) when the latter was devastated by his treatment at the hands of the good (but racist) citizens of Rock Ridge often comes to mind in times like this, when I see a large portion of the public, pundits and the media taking a position that is not merely ethically indefensible, but suggestive of brain death.
Such a position is the rush to rally around Emilio Chavez III, an understandably enraged father who caught a naked peeping Tom masturbating outside his teenaged daughters’ bedroom window. From media reports:
“Police said Emilio Chavez III, his brother and a family friend beat the alleged peeper, Dylan Maho, 29, so badly that he was hospitalized, a local television station reported. The district attorney wants to charge Mr. Chavez with aggravated battery, a third-degree felony that could land him in jail for three years…Mr. Maho is in stable condition at the hospital and will be charged with voyeurism, a fourth-degree felony that only brings between one and two years of jail time.”
The headlines in the majority of national news sources—all what the mainstream media would call “the conservative media”— that have covered this story, for this is the feature of the incident that they deem makes it “national news,” is the “Believe It or Not!” angle that so backward are the priorities of the U.S. justice system that the father will face harsher punishment for his conduct than the sick pervert will for his! Here’s passage and quote included in most of the reports:
“Community members voiced their outrage and sympathy for their neighbor’s plight. ‘There’s a naked man outside his daughter’s window,” Mr. Chavez’s neighbor Bill Morgang told the station. “I think he was well within his rights chasing him down and beating him.”’
The overwhelming majority of the online comments to these news reports agree with Morgang.
From the Washington Times:
- From Truthsayer3: “My word, the DA wants to do WHAT? What a complete breakdown in logical thought… Every day the law turns more and more toward defense of criminals and prosecution of people protecting themselves (or their loved ones in this case) when nobody else will. Ridiculous.”
- spasticjack writes (to one of the few to defnd the charges against Chavez): “Yes if you were staring in my daughters window…i would be happy to do time for making sure you never did it again…and based on your quick jump to defend a creep like this,i can assume you just dont want it to happen to you when you get caught…..freak…”
Here is a representative sampling from the readers of the celebrity site, Bossip:
- Blak writes, “I’m sorry but the public needs to take more of a vigilante approach when dealing with perverts. Beat them to death, or slice off their fingers and genitals. Because the law gives these freaks more rights than their victims, which is why they’re able to keep victimizing. When it comes to perverts I’m all for taking the law into your own hands!”
- Marquis de Sade inveighs: “Common Sense within the judicial system (sometimes) is at an all time low…Damn, this boggles the mind.”
- MrCubano explains, “This is a prime example why people don’t believe in the system cause sh** like this. So let me ask was he suppose to wait until the guy follows the daughter home one night and r@ p3 her, oh but then the cops will say well why didn’t do something earlier.”
Remember, these are not the outliers. They are similar to the vast majority of comments. Here is what New York Daily News readers thought (Blogger and occasional Ethics Alarms commenter Shelly Stow, I am proud to say, contributed some of the very few ethical counterpoints to the discussion on these threads):
- matt crawford opined, “this guy should get a medal,too bad he did not give the filth A dirt nap..”
- From let them eat cake: “He makes me feel proud to be a fellow New Mexican. His Spaniard features, his respected Chavez surname, his decent home, his protective father instincts…”
- mag4565 intones, “I would have killed him! that’s crazy!”
- RaydocX articulately points out: “I’ve enjoyed past visits to Albuquerque, but if this is the response of the PD and DA to a father’s reasonable response to illegal immoral behavior that statistically often escalates and so represents a real threat to a minor female child, I can spend my vacation dollars elsewhere…An instructor once lectured that the men who have come out of America to save it in the wake of big troubles have invariably come from the Heartland, from small communities that had been shielded from the changes that contributed to the nation’s problems. It’s starting to feel like there could be no one who could roll back the amoral/immoral/activist minority tolerant but mainstream/traditional intolerant attitude our public services have adopted toward the citizens.”
- JohnofOregon: “That’s what happens when you beat up one of the leaders NSA agents. He was just doing his job.”
- H00t_Owl notes, “You say assault …I say defending his daughter from a perv.. Perv”
I’m sorry to have to be so blunt, BUT. There are not two legitimate sides to this issue. The U.S. does not accept anarchy, nor are we in the everyone-for-himself dystopia of “The Walking Dead.” The defenders of vigilante justice, a.k.a. “beating the hell out of anyone whom you happen to think deserves it if you are angry enough” are essentially barbarians with the ethics instincts of Los Angeles street gangs.
In a society with the rule of law, instant vigilante or mob justice is a threat to civilization, nothing less. It doesn’t matter whether the assaulting party is a protective father or how much of a pervert his victim is: inflicting physical violence when there is no self-defense involved is a crime, a serious crime, and an inexcusable crime….quite properly a felony. The peeping Tom’s crime was an invasion of privacy and public misconduct, but nobody was physically harmed, and nobody can presume that he posed an immediate or future threat. There is no justification, other than emotion and momentary insanity, for what the father did. This is not subject to debate. The father and his accomplices, if the reports are true, should be given sufficient punishment to dissuade any of the commenters and their fellow Ethics Dunces should they ever be tempted to serve as police, judge, jury and executioner.
Over on her website, Shelly Stow elaborated on the arguments she offered in some comment threads elsewhere, usually to derision. She wrote:
“There is not a one of us that at some point in life has not suffered an injustice, a harm, an assault, or an act of violence. If we each sought our own revenge, took the law into our own hands, and wreaked vigilante revenge upon out wrongdoers, the streets would run with blood from coast to coast. We are a nation with a system of rules and laws; injustices, harms, assault, and acts of violence must be dealt with through our established justice system, which includes law enforcement, the legal and court system, and the prison system. To not deal appropriately with vigilantes is to encourage them and to say that their illegal acts are somehow acceptable.When crime is committed, it must be addressed by law enforcement.
“And this includes crime that is committed by vigilantes under the guise of street justice.”
Exactly. The fact that such an obvious truth of a civilized society of rights and laws even has to be articulated, however, is troubling.
It is small wonder, with such a surfeit of Ethics Dunces running loose (some—more than some— in elected office), that so many Americans couldn’t comprehend the George Zimmerman verdict. That requires some knowledge of the justice system. Rejecting vigilante justice, in contrast, should only require minimal evolution beyond the state of zinjanthropus. It is useful to have the right diagnosis, as the Waco Kid did, for antidemocratic attitudes such as these. How to treat the problem, however, is still a conundrum. You can’t fix stupid, but practicing some basic ethical analysis would be a start.