Everyone knows that Scooby Doo cartoons invariably end with the captured miscreant, who typically was pretending to be a ghost, a ghoul, or some kind of monster to frighten people away from a gold mine/ buried treasure/ crime scene or something else, being unmasked and stating ruefully, “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids!” Needless to say, this is neither a defense nor a mitigation. Yet you will hear or read variations on The Scooby Doo Deflection from non-animated characters, like pundits, politicians and others, all too frequently. Their versions typically take the form of protests that since Conduct X by a party or party was unfair or wrong, dishonest or unethical Conduct Y on the part of someone else—often the protesters— shouldn’t count, should be considered less wrong, or should be punished more leniently.
The argument is silly in Scooby Doo cartoons, and is even more ridiculous in real life.
The idea may arise from a misunderstanding of the exclusionary rule in criminal procedure, which holds that evidence or confessions of guilt obtained by law enforcement officials by illegal or unconstitutional means cannot be used in the case against the defendant, and the so-called “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” doctrine, which holds that all evidence found as a result of illegally obtained information anywhere in the investigative process must be excluded from trial. Neither principle, however, means that the incriminating evidence is less true because of how it was uncovered, or the conduct behind it less wrong. The purpose of the exclusionary rule and the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” doctrine is to protect rights by discouraging police misconduct, not to give excuses to rotters. In “Dirty Harry,” for example, a serial killer goes free because Harry tortures him to find out where he buried a girl alive. Everything found as a result of the torture, including the dead girl, is excluded from trial, so the serial killer has to be released. It still doesn’t make him a better person.
“You can’t use this against me, because you cheated!” is not the same as “Because you cheated, what I did is OK!”
Common uses of the Scooby Doo Deflection include “Mom! How dare you look in my private diary and find out about my heroin ring?,” “How dare anyone criticize Bill Clinton for perjury when he was asked a question that prosecutors knew the answer to and also knew that his only choice was to admit adultery or lie?” and “If the Republicans weren’t still investigating Benghazi and wasting all that taxpayer money, nobody would have ever known about Hillary’s secret email server!”
It really is one of the most pathetic rationalizations. How strange that it’s so popular…but then, I never understood the popularity of “Scooby-Doo,” either.