The United States has the greatest protections for free speech, press, and religion in the world – on paper. Aside from a litany of court decisions and various state and federal laws that attack all of these things, the mere existence of the anti-constitutional rogue NSA means that the United States is one of the least free developed nations in history.
As I’ve mentioned before, I like to lurk at the website reddit. It’s a good site for finding a lot different links to a huge variety of content. From long form articles to short news pieces to funny pictures that will show up on your Facebook newsfeed two days later, reddit offers a lot. Unfortunately, it is also subject to being a hivemind. It isn’t like, say, Freethought Blogs, but it does sometimes have a few of the same problems. The only thing that saves it from being unbearable is the sheer number of users (which is around 175 million according to Wiki) from around the globe. Still, though. It has it problems. Let’s take reddit’s overwhelming attitude towards revenge justice, for example. Comments on this recent article drive home my point; from the article:
In a literal application of the sharia law of an eye for an eye, an Iranian man convicted of blinding another man in an acid attack has been blinded in one eye, marking the first time Iran has carried out such a punishment.
The convicted acid attacker, who has not been identified, was rendered unconscious in Rajai-Shahr prison in the city of Karaj on Tuesday as medics gouged out his left eye, according to the state-owned Hamshahri newspaper.
What this attacker did was horrendous and deserves a severe punishment, but he did not deserve to lose his own eye. The entire reason we find his actions so horrible is that they were barbaric. Doing the same thing to him was only less barbaric in method, not intent.
Of course, this is Iran. The overwhelming majority of redditors are from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K. (with a sizable portion from many other western nations). Surely the majority will condemn this sort of stone age thinking, right? Think again:
I don’t have a problem with this punishment. What this guy did to these women is unforgivable. An example must be made to all. To be blinded in such a humane way in a medical setting isn’t something the victim was afforded, flesh melting off her face.
That’s a tough one.
Part of me feels like everybody deserves a basic level of ‘human rights’ protections no matter what.
But another part of me feels that there are some acts that are so barbaric and animalistic that a person who willfully commits them could only be considered sub-human, and doesn’t deserve the same human rights enjoyed by everyone else.
This guy threw acid into 12 women’s faces because he didn’t like the way they dressed. This guy obviously didn’t care about their human rights, he ruined their lives.
I think this punishment isn’t NEARLY harsh enough.
And perhaps worst of all, here is one of the most popular comments:
I know I will be down voted; but I can’t feel sorry for the attacker in anyway shape or form, nor do I fault Iran. They threw acid on a person’s face, and this is the consequence as depicted by the law of Iran. I am sorry but truthfully just stuffing somebody in jail doesn’t deter a lot of people.
Jail to some damaged people is nothing more than a time out. Furthermore I have said this before, stuffing jails with the worse possible offenders of society doesn’t create an environment of punishment or rehabilitation, it becomes a monster creation factory. Just check out the number of violent gangs in prisons. They carry out murders the same way, they rape the same way, they continue to sell contraband the same way.
Yes I am all about being ethical, but there is nothing ethical about putting a person in a cell, feeding them and keeping them alive while the person they have destroyed must suffer through life. The acid attacker deemed their actions and the consequences were worth the price.
Whenever a person starts a sentence with “Yes I am all about being ethical, but…”, you can be sure it’s off the rails.
What we have here are instances of people allowing emotion to trump ethics. Comments which say some people don’t deserve human rights or comments which advocate for the lifelong suffering of others are philosophically incoherent. Indeed, let’s go further – the mindset is disgusting. Once we begin to differentiate human rights based upon human actions, we no longer have any concept of human rights in the first place. This really shouldn’t be that hard. Whatever one wishes to say is the source of human rights, whether it be a god or providence or consciousness or nature, they are necessarily premised upon the notion that they apply to all. The moment we say they apply to some but not others, we’ve made a distinction based on something which is inherently not inherent. That is, our basic human nature is inherent. It exists by definition; we are humans, therefore it is our nature to act as such. The same can be said of any other animal. That inherent base doesn’t change because someone did something awful. To think it did would be like thinking a father who disowns his deadbeat son really no longer has a son. “You’re a drug addict and a moocher! You’re no son of mine! Therefore we are no longer genetically related!” Please.
I had originally titled this post “Vigilante justice is no justice at all”, but the quoted story didn’t technically fit the definition of “vigilante justice” since it was carried out by a government. However, it certainly fits the spirit of the definition. And reddit definitely loves its vigilante justice. That’s because, on some level, the justice is often equal to the ‘crime’ (which often times is just an example of someone being a jerk). It doesn’t matter that both actions were wrong. For reddit (and, really, half the Internet), two wrongs do make a right.