Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Show-Trial & the Death of American Due Process

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."
-Amendment VI of the US Constitution

"I'm slapping every white person I see ... if george zimmerman gets acquitted niggas got to riot!"
-Actual tweet during Zimmerman trial

"I think he knows what Rome is - Rome is the mob."
-Derek Jacobi, Gladiator (2000AD)

On a February night in 2012, a relatively minor incident took place - an incident that may or may not have had a criminal character.  Although that night tragically resulted in a human death, there was objectively nothing about this event that made it stand out from the thousands of other gun-related deaths that occurred that night or any nights that followed.  The circumstances of the victim's death were suspect and, justly, the shooter was detained and a trial was prepared in accordance with the Constitutional guarantee of due process - a guarantee that has served as one of the most integral foundations of our Republic.  However, here the story took a saddening turn.  The suspect in question was a local Hispanic with the misfortune of possessing a white surname and complexion.  The victim was a black youth whose past life had been anything but clean.  For reasons still unknown, this trial would be selected to serve as the arena for over a year's worth of mass media-fueled hype, conjecture, race-baiting, and pure entertainment for the masses.  The Zimmerman trial became a show-trial.

The attention and publicity this trial acquired over the next year bordered on the absurd – coming in from celebrities, sports figures, and even the President and the Department of Justice.  The mainstream media, ever the High Priests of the Cult of Democracy, spent the entire trial entertaining every conceivable opinion from supposed commentators that had no actual stake in the trial whatsoever.  The non-stop public voyeurism fomented a ferocious tidal wave of polarizing opinions and rhetoric - the expression of which often turned vile, petulant, and downright tasteless.  Instead of being justly tried by a jury of his peers within the bounds of due process, George Zimmerman was condemned in the kangaroo court of mob opinion and race politics.  His appropriate acquittal was accompanied by the threat of nationwide riots and Zimmerman himself was forced to go into hiding for the sake of his own safety - all because outside entities couldn't help cashing in on an unfortunate event for the sake of some good ole fashioned race-baiting and controversy-peddling.

The Zimmerman show trial is by no means the only instance of this.  Ever since the O. J. Simpson saga, show-trials and “court dramas” have become a staple of contemporary American entertainment.  On what basis the media selects the trials they put on public display I am not completely aware of, but, they always seem to be connected to some relevant social agenda.  Race politics, gender politics, sexual controversies – whatever the actual circumstances, American show-trials always get highjacked to push some preselected agenda dear to the cultural engineers that run our society (and oftentimes totally unrelated to the actual charges).  To make matters worse, the media consistently fosters controversy and polarization amongst their audiences, appealing to the ingrained democratic sensibilities of the masses and feeding off the often-negative passions they stir up.  The real question is: how is any of this an appropriate part of the due process of law?  The hard answer is that it isn’t … at all.

The phrase “due process of law” is perhaps one of the most integral (and ancient) principles of the American Constitutional tradition.  The subject of three of the original ten Amendments to the US Constitution, the term originated in the English Common Law system codified in Magna Carta in 1215AD (and the several others that followed the Runnymeade charter).  Essentially, due process of law was meant to ensure that the sole influence in a criminal prosecution was justice – not passion, opinion, or mob sentiment.  A jury would be summoned from amongst the accused’s social peers, legal representation would be provided for the defense and prosecution, and a judge would provide the oversight of objective authority over the entire proceeding.  Arguments would be heard, the jury would consider the facts and provide a decision, and the judge would execute the sentence.  Although our Constitutional guarantee to due process includes the provision that all proceedings would be public (to avoid any secret proceedings and the injustices that might accompany those), trials were never intended to become spectacles for the public’s entertainment.  This is precisely what has happened in our time and it is destroying due process as a result.  Contemporary society has become obsessed with virtually involving the masses in situations that they, in reality, have no right to be.  Reality television is perhaps the most concentrated result of this voyeuristic fantasy – providing the masses with a remote means of being intimately involved in the “private” lives of “celebrities” (I’m using that word loosely here).  However, show-trials and court dramas carry an even more disturbing element along with the entitled voyeurism – the undue influence of public pressure on the proceedings of a prosecution.  When jurors go home and see every public figure from Snoop Dog (“Lion?”… I don’t know or care at all) to the President of the United States expressing extremely biased opinions, listen to inordinately impassioned and controversy-fueled commentary aired on every media outlet, and even become aware of threats of violence towards a particular potential decision, it is pretty safe to assume that their decision-making abilities are going to be unduly influenced – unless they live in a social vacuum.  Thanks be to God, the Zimmerman jury appeared to make a sound verdict according to the law, but the inappropriate external influence has wrecked extensive damage to both the individuals actually involved in the case and, in a wider sense, to the sanctity of due process in America.

Thanks to the sense of self-entitlement engendered amongst individual Americans by popular culture, the concept of the sanctity of law is now losing ground in favor of personal impassioned opinion.  Since moral principle was long ago cast aside in favor of personal subjectivity, the law remained as the only objective standard that all people would adhere to for the sake of public order.  Predictably, without the backing of objective moral truth behind it, law itself is now eroding away under the false deification of the individual enabled by contemporary society.  I say “false” because, in the greatest demonstration of Progressivist hypocrisy, modern societal elites don’t actually desire the liberation of each individual, but they realize that their success hangs on maintaining the perception of each individual’s supremacy (of course, however, this only applies to individuals who are compatible with the current social agenda).  They achieve this manipulation by enshrining a culture of instant gratification, rampant consumerism, and undeserved self-entitlement.  Through the use social media, the masses are tricked into believing that their individual wishes and opinions are worthy of public attention and redress – whether they have any actual right or not is irrelevant.  What the societal elites don’t seem to have realized is that this rampant self-absorption will eventually collapse the foundational principles to which we owe the very existence of civilization.  By instituting the Cult of Democracy as the official state religion of the land, they have sown the seeds of their own destruction (and that of society as a whole) by unleashing the passions and whims of the mob against the pillars of Morality, Law, and Truth.

I would end this by first and foremost advocating a permanent ban on any media coverage of any trial.  Contrary to the attitude of media entitlement one finds today, there is no part of a prosecution that they have any right to other than the verdict.  The phenomena of blow-by-blow coverage and endless speculation/commentary are incompatible with due process and constitute a grave undue influence on the proceedings.  The freedom of the press is not absolute, especially when they have repeatedly demonstrated that they are not in the business of objective reporting, but rather in the business of crafting (ie. manipulating) opinion.  Finally – and I realize this is a completely useless suggestion at this time – but the Cult of Democracy in this country needs to be torn down.  The tyranny of a mob is the worst kind – it is also the easiest for a select few to twist to their own designs.  Democracies always end by devouring themselves and the unbridled exaltation of the individual sows the seeds of their own destruction.  Hence why our Republic was never meant to be a democracy; sadly that intent passed away long ago.  I fear that the tide is still in favor of the masses and show-trials will become an ever-increasing phenomenon at the expense of our guarantees to due process and justice itself.

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