Rush to Judgement and Due Process

I am troubled by some of what has been happening in the Me Too business.

Here is a link to various comments from women who are worried about #metoo. One comment that resonated was that from Nathalie Rothschild whose first full paragraph states:

“I could discuss how it is normalising the kind of mob behaviour that is the most negative aspect of internet culture, and how it is eroding the presumption of innocence.”

It seems that we have learned little from the Salem Witch Hunt, Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible” and the McCarthy era and all the other incidents where accusations are all that is needed to establish guilt.

Our wonderful Internet that has allowed us the joy of communication with one another has become an enhanced “court of public opinion” with little interest in proof burdens and standards but rather a rush to judgement and excoriation. And it seems that rather than take the path of complaint to the authorities the opportunity that the Internet offers to “name and shame” is too tempting to avoid and is, as I have said, untrammelled by the inconvenience of due process.

In so saying however I have no doubt that there have been abuses of power and position in a number of industries and fields of endeavour. What does concern me is that all that is needed is an allegation to destroy a career. If the claims about Kevin Spacey are true I can understand that his services may no longer be required by the movie industry. His damaged reputation would hardly enhance the commercial viability of a film in which he might make. But that does not mean that I consign my DVDs of “House of Cards” and his other excellent performances to the rubbish heap.

The problem that we have is that so far there have been allegations and assumptions of guilt. One may answer by suggesting that there is truth in numbers. That may well be so but there are tests for similar fact evidence or what we in the Shaky Isles refer to as propensity evidence. It may be that the Washington Post and other agencies have carried out their own investigations but I cannot say that I have ever seen a piece of journalism that is conducted with the rigour of what we understand as due process.

So I am not rushing to judgement on any of the allegations, although I recognise that my subconscious value system that allows me to adopt that stance may have been shaped by the fact that I am an old, white, privileged male. But it may be that the Courtrooms of Twitter, the Blogosphere, Facebook and the news media have accomplished the objective of reputation destruction and naming and shaming, rendering due process and all the inconvenience accompanying that system unnecessary and redundant. Therein lies the tragedy.

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