Saturday, March 26, 2016

In Defense of the Ghomeshi Verdict

Jian Ghomeshi was recently found not guilty of the choking and sexual assault charges he was accused of, and many people aren't happy about it. But this not-guilty verdict really gets to the heart of why we have a legal system that is structured the way it is. The robustness of it is being tested by the very things that created the system in the first place: Among them, to protect the wrongly accused against the hysterical masses, which are commonly referred to as social justice warriors (SJW). The screeches of the SJW put great pressure on the justice system to bend its rules for the causes closest to their heart. In the case of sex crimes, according to the SJWs, the justice system is inadequate because, a) it lets too many offenders off the hook, and b) it puts emotional strain on the victims via the cross-examination (i.e. truth finding) process.

You have to pay close attention to the use of the word "victim". The way it's used in these kinds of cases is often circular. Saying that you must believe the victim implies a certain definition. It implies that a woman with a sexual assault claim is automatically defined as a victim and therefore, once this assumption is made then anything that can bring the authenticity of the claim into question comes across as unfair. However, the problem is not in not believing the victim. The problem is in the definition of who a victim is, which is everyone with a claim that they were sexually assaulted. SJWs believe that the pain of the victims is so severe that the normal path of justice must be circumvented. It is even greater than the pain of the falsely accused. So given the weight of the two pains it makes sense to adjust the justice system to favor those who, by definition, have the greater pain. It's an appeal to emotion and carries a certain self-righteousness with it, in which some forms of suffering, experienced by some groups of people, are worse than the forms of suffering experienced by other groups of people.

But according to SJWs, it's different for Ghomeshi because we "know" he's guilty. But this is a shitty standard for truth, falling way short of the rigorous standard of due process in order to get to the truth. Sure, it might seem unfair in some contexts but it's a well-established way of doing things in criminal investigations, which ultimately protects us all from the extreme injustice that would result from being able to make false accusations and get away with it. A close look at history proves the reasonableness of the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt". Remember, they used to burn people accused of witchcraft in the absence of this standard.

I am not happy that Ghomeshi was found not guilty. Instead, I am happy that the justice system did what it was supposed to do.

Regardless of what Ghomeshi is like as a person, his character is not on trial. What is on trial is whether or not he broke the law with respect to those charges laid against him, and whether it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Those women accusing him clearly felt that omitting certain facts and lying about others was acceptable because (according to them) the greater good would be served, which is that it would help establish the guilt of Ghomeshi (he deserves it after all, in their minds). And now that it had the opposite effect, in acquitting Ghomeshi, there are howls of outrage. Some will say that this will discourage victims from coming forward, and their implications will be that the pain felt by victims overshadows the need for due process. Besides (according to them), women never lie about these things anyway. Such religious devotion to certain points of view is scary, since some women do lie in fact, and more will lie if they know that they will automatically be believed.

Imagine if we lived in a society in which someone could accuse you of a crime and they would be believed no matter what? Sounds pretty unfair right? Recognizing this is an abstraction of course and involves putting yourself in the shoes of the accused, in the general sense, and involves imagining the consequences of what would happen if the justice system were to pander to special interests and treat certain classes of accusers as always telling the truth and certain classes of accusees as always guilty. Fortunately our justice system has a high standard for truth, which in a few cases may let guilty people go free in the absence of strong evidence. But of greater importance, it goes a long way towards protecting people from false accusations, which ultimately protects us all.