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Better enforcement and violence

Opinion question: How much would it help to reduce violent crime against political opponents if we had more consistent law enforcement of laws against

1) actual threats, including electronic threats,
2) actual violent assault, including punching, etc.?

Let me clarify: I am not implying that more consistent enforcement would have directly prevented the recent assassination attempt against Republicans by James Hodgkinson, since as far as I know he hadn't gone so far as explicit threats before.

But I get the strong impression that our law enforcement is overwhelmed by Internet threats and that many are going unpunished even though clearly illegal. Obviously, the First Amendment does not protect literal threats of death, rape, etc.

And then we have the cowardly college administrators who are not pressing for prosecution of violent students who shut down speakers.

I can't help wondering if there would be something akin to a "broken window strategy" that might help, at least in some particular jurisdiction: If you threaten our residents or people within our jurisdiction, yes, even by e-mail, and a fortiori if you actually are the aggressor and punch someone just because you don't like his political views, we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law in an entirely non-partisan manner--i.e., regardless of what party or political side you espouse or attack. And yes, even if you are technically a minor.

Would it make a difference?

Comments (6)

A moot question. They won't enforce the law. That's the point. Why are you wasting your time with hypotheticals?

They enforce it inconsistently. If you look at the Daily Caller article linked in the post, you actually do find some prosecutions--some for threats, some for punching people over political differences, etc. I am curious about what goes through the head of a prosecutor and/or policeman who decides actually to go after someone making such threats. What does it take to get them to decide, "Okay, this time we're going to get this b*st*rd"? Which cops realize that threats are illegal and which ones think (dumbly) that they are "free speech"? Are there variations by jurisdiction? Is it all about how important the person is who is threatened? Or only partly? And so forth.

I am sure that at least some of the time, what goes through a policeman's head is whether "he deserved it" to some degree or other. I mean, if a heckler at a campus lecture gets verbally mean and posturingly offensive (but not threatening or violent), and the lecturer eventually shoves him, I can easily see a cop deciding not to pursue that because the heckler just got what he deserved, and anyway a shove isn't "serious enough", in that situation, to warrant an arrest and charge. We generally do actually want police making judgment calls about whether a technical act of violence arises to a matter of law or not, certainly with respect to juveniles in a scuffle, but also drunks in outside a bar (both of whom are at fault, and neither of whom would charge the other in a million years), and when "fighting words" have been exchanged. What we have seen, unfortunately, is the slow unraveling of common sense about the boundaries between the above situations of petty scuffles and the overt use of threats and violence to intimidate people (such as the lecturer). I suspect that it is at least partly connected to the philosophically driven severing of human law from natural law (such as with legal positivism), and the resulting failure among the law professionals to recognize common sense as a valid basis for deciding how to make the law work in detail.

For the prosecutor, even apart from any spurious considerations, he is going to have to make a judgment call on both how likely a conviction would be, and on how many other more serious cases (in terms of more actual harm: a threat of a beating is less serious than an actual beating) need his attention and time.

I am sure that some cops don't think that emailed or twitted threats can be prosecuted because they are "protected free speech", given the ridiculous lengths our courts have gone to reproach cops on free speech grounds to protect evil-doers. I suspect that most cops would also say that it's "not my jurisdiction, ma'am". Given the ease of mimicking someone's identity online, any prosecution will end up requiring electronic forensics, which is certainly beyond the ordinary cop's purview. And given the plausibility of wrongful arrest suit in the case of arresting the wrong person as perpetrator of the online threat, it doesn't surprise me that cops are unwilling to run these down more.

Looking at larger underlying factors, when you have liberalism telling you from the day you are dropped off in a nursery or day care to the day you get your first unionized pay check that the INDIVIDUAL and his personal perspective is the only determinant of "the good life", then you are going to gradually get a breakdown in social unity, social integration. This cannot help but manifest in disorders like the ones being pointed out here. When people do not trust each other to have similar basic goals and ideals within the community and as a community, you no longer have a community, you have a bunch of individuals who live near each other. And without trust and other human factors of connection, the only thing they can resort to in interaction is "the law". Which, if it is not connected to natural law and natural justice, ends up just being a tool for the smarter to take what they want from the less legally sophisticated.

I don't know what any solution might be, in the near term. Certainly consistent treatment is one element. Using the law as a weapon against political opponents (aggressively pursuing minor infractions) and then looking the other way when the same thing goes on with your political allies is certainly going to damage society.

After reading your comment, Tony, I went and read up on the Elonis v. United States case, which I hadn't done before this post.

Depressing as heck.

Communicating threats across state lines should fall within federal jurisdiction and would have previously been considered illegal under federal law. But SCOTUS ruled that the state had to prove that the person really meant them as threats. Elonis said that his threatening communications to his wife (stating that he would cut her throat and more) were "lyrics."

2) actual violent assault, is far more worrying to me than threats. and the better place to start
Mob violence is treated politically. I have little faith that changing our laws would really help this. It requires a political response. Documenting bad behavior on video seems to be the approach which has gained traction on both the left and the right. An example of this in action: The Diablo Valley ethics professor arrested for assaulting ppl with a u-lock in the Berkeley riots: http://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/05/26/professor-arrested-on-suspicion-of-assaulting-trump-supporters-with-metal-bike-lock-in-berkeley/

From a practical standpoint upping the private citizen video coverage such events to include personal body cams and drones etc seems like a good idea.

Threats were always illegal in the Western legal tradition and still should be. It's a "broken window" philosophy. When our culture starts shrugging our shoulders at explicit threats, that's just part of, and a contributor to, the culture's going to hell. Part of what's wrong with the world is that increasingly people think that words are not acts and that there is a vaaaaaast gulf between "mere words," even when they are express threats of grievous bodily harm, and "real acts." Rightly, our legal tradition has always called b.s. on that. The major reason that insight (that threats are not "mere words") has been eroded is sheer volume with the Internet, making it impossible for law enforcement to keep up and leading to the "virtue out of necessity" conclusion that it "really isn't that bad" or "probably isn't really going to lead to anything." The second reason is really bad 1st amendment precedents that undermine both long-standing tort and statutory law on this subject.

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