Friday, June 30, 2006

Rule of One

Greg Sargent writes of conservative radio talk show host Melanie Morgan talking on MSNBC of the NY Times’ Bill Keller and the whole Treason thing:
"If he were to be tried and convicted of treason, yes, I would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber."

Now, I’m not a mind reader, but I’m pretty damn good at it; and I suspect from that wording that she’s hanging her hat on the “if he were tried and convicted of treason” part.  As if her justification is the imagined conviction of Keller, figuring that the punishment would then be a natural one.  

And while Greg highlights the cruelty of that specific punishment, I suspect that she picked the gas chamber due to its verbal appeal, rather than its cruelty.  “Gas chamber” sounds stronger than “death penalty”; and she probably fails to appreciate the reason why it sounds better to her.  For conservatives, words are used for effect; not intent.

And so I feel safe in rewriting her statement as: “If he were convicted, it would be ok if he was executed.”  

But the main thing is the “and convicted” part.  That’s the rationalization of the whole thing.  Because if a court convicted Keller, then it’s ok to say the rest.  Because it’s not Morgan who is convicting Keller, you see.  She’s just saying that she’d agree with the decision to execute the convicted traitor.  And if you disagree, then perhaps you just hate the judicial system that theoretically convicted Keller.

And that’s exactly how the conservatives work.  They use the legal system as an excuse to do what they want to do.  And they’re just looking for an excuse to hang their arguments on.  To them, that’s how “Rule of Law” works.  To provide legal cover for their irrational opinions.  And if you disagree with their Rule of Law, then you’re the irrational one.

Legal Makes Right

And we see this again and again.  Gerrymandering in Texas was completely acceptable because the Supreme Court said it wasn’t illegal.  Karl Rove was innocent of everything because a prosecutor decided not to charge him with crimes we know he committed.  And George Bush is the rightful president because the Supreme Court said so.

But of course, legal does not mean right.  Something can be legal and still unethical.  People can be convicted and still innocent.  Our court system isn’t about righting wrongs or finding truth.  It’s about having a process of justice that is used fairly to determine certain types of outcomes.  But a judicial outcome does not guarantee that the right thing happened.  These are two entirely different ideas and one does not prove the other.  You can win in court and still be wrong.

And they surely know that, as they consistently complain of “judicial activism”.  They don’t think Roe v. Wade is right.  I’m sure they’re griping about losing their precious military tribunals.  And even the military tribunals themselves were nothing but Bush fiats masquerading as judicial outcome.  It offends them that we just can’t execute these guys, and they’re doubly offended because their tribunal charade was exposed as being such.

Judge Kangaroo

And these tribunals were a perfect example of what they think courts should be used for: An outside authority used to dress-up their preconceived conclusions.  Somehow, they fail to understand how kangaroo courts don’t satisfy the judicial requirement.  Nor do they believe in a judicial requirement.  But they do understand that an outside authority has weight with some people, so they want to dress up as judges and convict their enemies.  And if they could, they would assign themselves as the chief arbiter of right and wrong; and would do away with the judicial charade altogether.

To them, guilty people don’t deserve justice and innocent people shouldn’t be subjected to it.  With “guilty” defined as “people they don’t like,” and “innocent” as “people they do like”.  And because Bill Keller is someone they don’t like (because he works for a newspaper they don’t like), he is guilty and should be punished.  And because Rove is someone they do like, he was innocent; despite the fact that we know he wasn’t.

For conservatives, if the judicial system doesn’t provide them the outcomes they needed, then it is broken and needs to be dismantled.  And if they get the proper outcome, then they’ll hang everything on it; even if the “proper outcome” was only achieved in the conservative’s mind.  So to conservatives, it’s wrong to attack Morgan for having agreed with the outcome of a trial she imagined.  The morality of it all is implicit, because her internal police, judge, and jury proclaimed it as such.  And we can have little doubt as to who she’d like to see releasing the gas.

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