Canada, Top Stories

Social Justice is Popular. But the Rule of Law is Sacrosanct

Editor’s note: The text that follows is adapted from the 2018 Rule of Law Lecture, delivered by Canadian Quillette editor Jonathan Kay to the Law Society of British Columbia on June 7 in Vancouver.

This is a speech about the interplay of law and social justice. And I can’t think of a better way to start it than by praising a great lawyer who died last month at the age of 104—a black woman by the name of Dovey Johnson Roundtree.

In 1965, Ms. Roundtree represented a poor black day laborer named Raymond Crump Jr., who stood falsely accused of killing a glamorous white woman in Washington D.C. Everyone assumed Crump would hang. But in court, Roundtree saved Crump’s life.

Even before that, Roundtree, did amazing things. She was one of the first female officers—of any race—in the U.S. military. And in 1952, she helped strike down racial segregation on interstate buses.

I start with Ms. Roundtree because she embodies a story that lawyers love telling. It is a story in which law and social justice walk hand in hand. In the United States, where I went to law school, we loved studying these cases—especially Brown v. Board of Education—because they made us proud to become lawyers.

But law and social justice do not always go hand in hand—at least, not in the short term.

When Colten Boushie, an indigenous man, was shot dead by a white Saskatchewan farmer named Gerald Stanley, there were many Canadians who instinctively believed that this was an act of murder. And so when he was acquitted in February, they expressed outrage—because it conflicted with their sense of social justice The faculty of one Canadian law school even signed an unsettling open letter attacking the jury’s verdict.

In that moment, I tried to remind people why due-process safeguards exist within our system. The presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases—these safeguards are there to protect all of us from the mob and from the state.

And on most days, those safeguards don’t protect men such as Gerald Stanley. On most days, they protect disadvantaged black or indigenous men such as Raymond Crump Jr.—because those are the people who are most likely to end up on the wrong side of a prosecution.

As for social justice, it’s a wonderful thing. But remember that people have very different versions of what social justice looks like.

Many people in this room probably have a vision of social justice that includes less inequality, less racism, less Islamophobia, less homophobia, less transphobia, and better lives for indigenous people. But if you are a Trump supporter, social justice might also include, say, fewer refugees, and less affirmative action.

In life, you have to be careful what you wish for. If you decide that social justice trumps the rule of law, you may be horrified to see how that principle is applied by those whose views you find to be regressive.

Due process knows no colour. It knows no gender. It knows no hash tags. That is what makes due process, and the rule of law more generally, so essential to a free society. But that is also what makes it so maddening in cases where it grates against our ideological and humanitarian reflexes.

Any child can understand the need for social justice. But to understand why we need due process—for that you need to be an adult.

Yet in the long run, I would argue, the rule of law—if faithfully applied, without favour or corruption—can build the social trust that is the true bedrock of social justice. In a healthy society, due process is the concession that competing groups extend to one another. We say to one another: “Yes, I disagree with you. But no matter our disagreements, this thing is something I cannot take away from you.”

In some cases, the impetus toward social justice can damage the rule of law by inciting an attitude of tribalism. If society is depicted as a pastiche of warring groups, in which powerful groups systematically exploit the disadvantaged, then this will encourage everyone to circle the wagons around their own tribe—and even to circumvent the rule of law on behalf of their own tribe if they can get away with it.

In such societies, loyalty to tribe is imagined to be more important than adherence to due process—especially among those tribes deemed to be disadvantaged. That is not a recipe for social trust.

Another unfortunate tendency of many social justice movements, in their extreme form, is the veneration of one group’s narratives at the expense of another. The old racists did this. That’s how Raymond Crump Jr. ended up in the dock. The truth-telling power of whites was seen as greater than that of blacks. In those days, when a white woman said she had been raped by a black man, everyone just automatically believed the victim.

During my careers as a scientist, a lawyer and a journalist, I have learned to never “just believe” anyone. I have seen great people lie, and bad people tell hard truths.

What I believe in is process. As a scientist, I relied on the scientific method and peer review. As a lawyer, I relied on such tools as discovery and cross-examination. As a journalist, I try to interview both sides and let them challenge each other.

That is how truth emerges: By clear-eyed scrutiny and by open debate, not blinkered loyalty to one narrative, even if that narrative is coded in the appealing language of social justice.

Of course, when it comes to prosecuting crimes, the state always has the resources to build up its own narrative—and to make almost any person look guilty in the process, even those who are innocent. One of the ways lawyers can defend the cause of social justice is by challenging those narratives, as Dovey Johnson Roundtree did.

That is where the romance and moral grandeur of the law properly lies. We see this in movies and courtroom dramas—one brilliant lawyer up against the power of a leviathan.

But the rise of social media presents lawyers with a new challenge. For it has become a tool by which prosecutorial narratives can be created not just by the state, but by electronic mobs. On social media, those who express support for due process and rule of law often are shouted down when those sentiments run afoul of popular sentiments.

This tendency plays out institutionally, as well. In Ontario, where I live, the law society now is using its monopoly regulatory power to effectively compel lawyers to express support for the broad ideological principles of equality, diversity and inclusion.

It so happens that these are ideological principles with which I agree. They are popular ideas, broadly supported among lawyers. But that is not the point.

I am a proud supporter of Canadian military veterans and the sacrifices they made, which is why I wear the poppy in November. But the day someone tells me that I am required to wear the poppy, that is the day I take the poppy off. That is the day the poppy becomes meaningless. As any 6-year-old who is forced to deliver an insincere apology to a sibling can attest, compelled speech is always morally meaningless.

In 1950, the Annual Convention of the American Bar Association passed a resolution calling for an anti-Communist loyalty oath for all lawyers. I oppose communism. But that doesn’t mean I think the state—or an oversight body that operates a regulatory regime under state mandate—gets to tell lawyers they can’t believe in it.

Oaths like that were wrong then. And they are wrong now. But the rise of social media makes it harder for the people who run law societies and other institutions to do the right thing, since they know that standing up for the rule of law over populist social-justice sentiment may cause them to be denounced on Twitter or Facebook. 

If I employ a lawyer, and I learn that he happens to be religiously observant, and that he does not believe in gay marriage—or that his mosque or synagogue or gurdwara preaches precepts that run afoul of modern feminism—does that mean this man is not fit to practice law?

Now imagine that I complained about such a lawyer to Ontario legal authorities. Imagine that this lawyer’s right to practice law was stripped from him. How many people in this room think that this result would further the cause of ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’?

No lawyer should be compelled to promote political dogmas as a condition of putting food on the table for family. The role of a professional oversight body is to enforce professional standards of conduct—including fair treatment for all, regardless of gender, faith or skin color. That is very different from acting as a modern-day inquisition upon the contents of the human mind or soul.

Fortunately, some Ontario lawyers are standing up to this new provision. And one has even brought forward an application to strike down the new requirement.

I believe it is fitting that we are having this event in Vancouver, in a building that is part of the University of British Columbia. Several years ago, that university fired the head of its creative writing department, a famous author named Steven Galloway, amid claims of serious wrongdoing, including possible sexual assault. In their public statement, the university intimated that Galloway was a dangerous presence on campus. Steven Galloway was cast into disgrace.

Yet when an investigation was conducted by a respected former B.C. Supreme Court judge, that investigation turned up no convincing evidence of assault. One would think that Mr. Galloway’s reputation—perhaps even his job—would be restored.

Instead, the opposite happened. And the whole affair shows how institutions, including universities, now can leverage the mob power of social media to run roughshod over Canadians’ rights.

When writers such as Margaret Atwood demanded due process for Galloway, they were shouted down on social media as apologists for rape culture. When it was pointed out that the university-appointed investigator had found no convincing evidence of sexual assault, this only enflamed the critics. They demanded that members of the Canadian literary community privilege social justice ideology over due process.

Galloway will get his justice. And when he does, it will be worth asking: How many of us used our voice to challenge the mob that attacked him?

I would like to emphasize that threats to due process exist on both sides of the political spectrum. Many people in this room will remember, I hope, that after 9/11, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft attacked critics of the Patriot Act with these words: “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.”

If you were distressed, as I was, to hear legitimate concerns about civil liberties and the rule of law dismissed with a flippant phrase such as “phantoms of lost liberty,” then you should also be concerned about what is happening now in some parts of our society.

Whenever anyone tells you that the rule of law must bend in favor of any cause—even causes as important as national security, or anti-discrimination, or rooting out misogynists and criminals, or the vital social justice imperative to improve the lives of indigenous peoples—that is the time when people of good conscience must raise their voices.

As the great Dovey Johnson Roundtree and other giants of legal history have shown us, a great lawyer doesn’t just protect people. She protects principles.

Feature photo by Andy Ngo.

Jonathan Kay is a Toronto-based author, columnist and reporter whose articles have appeared recently in The AtlanticForeign AffairsNational Post and the Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @jonkay

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58 Comments

  1. Aaron says

    The SJW is so self deluded and narcissistic they don’t even realize that the rule of law is the very condition for the possibility of them expressing their political views freely in the first place. Self deluded because they don’t see the cruelty in their motives; narcissistic because they sincerely believe that all politicsl decisions should make them feel warm and cozy on the inside. Like the author said, it takes a mature adult to realize that good political judgment requires transcending the infantile impulse to do what makes one feel good about themselves.

    • ga gamba says

      The SJW is so self deluded and narcissistic they don’t even realize that the rule of law is the very condition for the possibility of them expressing their political views freely in the first place.

      I’ll disagree with you here. It’s not that I agree with them, it’s that they are playing a different game. They don’t want equal laws, they want equity, which means laws and the judicial must amended to stack the deck against those they deem the oppressor class, i.e. not them, and favour those who are oppressed, to be determined largely on immutable characteristics. And even when they hold institutional power, they rationalise their double standards as undoing the injustices of long ago with further injustice. Discrimination isn’t t be ended, it’s to be reversed. Please, note the difference.

      I think many of them have deduced their views dominate the centres of cultural capital and public sense making, such as journalism, the academe, and entertainment. And, as Mr Kay writes, the demands for compliance are made on law associations. But it doesn’t stop there. Look up most any professional licensing authority and you’ll find the call the social justice. Some make it into the code of ethics and others are refused, albeit temporarily. In 2015 the American Institute of Architects was served a petition to censure members who include solitary-confinement cells and death chambers in their prison designs. I would leave it to each architect to decide for him/herself whether or not to accept such a commission, but social justice refuses to leave it at that. It demands a world of comply or be sanctioned. Social justice is perfectly content to use the forces of institutional power to coerce compliance. Differing views and actions will not be tolerated, which to me is an abuse of power, but that’s social justice.

      Social justice makes it its business to worm its way into everything.

      • Aaron says

        I don’t think we disagree. The fact that they are playing a different game does not mean they are not self deluded. They don’t see that any cause that requires eradication of the rule of law as its precondition will eat itself in the end. They want to create a politics of tribal conflict; they best hope that in the end they are on the side of the most powerful tribe. It is ironic that the end game for all SJ causes is to become the oppressor.

        • ccscientist says

          SJWs have made every business into a “choose-sides” situation, with a contest to be held over their right to the side chosen. They are so certain they are right that they cannot imagine that they can lose this fight, but the joke “get woke, go broke” has already afflicted ESPN, the NFL, and other businesses. I don’t want politics with my coffee or football, and neither do most people. We want to be left alone. But there is no such thing in SJW land. They want your coffee barrista to lecture you on racial equity. But the Right can play that game too, and their boycott of Target after Target announced that bathrooms were to be open cost Target billions. They are compelling speech by doctors as well as lawyers, with laws that doctors must ask about guns in the home, for example. But it isn’t only right wingers who can lose their jobs (though they are too often).

      • D.B. Cooper says

        @ ga gamba
        “They don’t want equal laws, they want equity, which means laws and the judicial must amended to stack the deck against those they deem the oppressor class, i.e. not them…”

        I’ll disagree with you here. They (SJW comrades) don’t’ want equity, they want power.

        The idea that SJWs are ONLY interested in leveling the field (via, stacking the deck against those they deem the oppressor class) for the historically oppressed – via, principles of distributions, such as equity – is nice for an NPR special or an Op Ed in the NYT, but let’s be honest about what’s going on here.

        Equity measures are simply fronts for group self-interest. This is a Faustian power grab, full stop.

        To claim that you should treat different people (or groups of people) unequally in order to make them equal is sheer effrontery. Equity measures are prescriptions for economic and socio-political power, and anyone who says otherwise is either lying or untethered from reality; although I don’t think the two are mutually incompatible.

        Defrauding a competitive market with socially sanctioned individuals – on the basis of their genitalia and/or levels of melanin, but not their relevant competencies – is neither right, nor safe and for more reasons than I have time to explain.

        Does anyone really believe that an ‘oppressed’ group would willingly pump-the-brakes, so to speak, on their current status within a given competitive landscape, if it was found (objectively) to be in a position of dominance relative to say, white males?

        For those who do, ask yourself the rhetorical question: Why are the SJWs silent about the lack of parity in (1) the male/female graduation rates for both undergraduate & graduate school, and (2) the black/white participation rates for both the NFL & NBA?

        But, this question isn’t particularly germane to the issue. Not really. It assumes, a priori, that diversity and “more” equal outcomes are the true goals of social justice warriors. But, no one here, at last count, really believes that SJWs rest the value of their ideology upon the actual equality that it achieves. Why would they? Again, it’s not equality that SJWs are wanting when they speak of equity. It’s power.

        So, what are the lessons we should draw from this?

        I suspect, the social justice paradigm (equity schema, intersectionality, multiculturalism, guilt narrative, call-out culture, etc.) is the only play they (SJWs) have. If you or your group can’t access the levers of power within a competitive system based on competencies; then, the only choice you have is to reshape the system to the degree that it is either distinctly rigged in your (or your groups) favor or, at minimum, becomes accessible to you or your group, e.g., different college admission standards for different ethnic groups and different military/police/fireman physical standards for males and females. In some cases, they simply lower the standards altogether, rather than having to explain why there’s different standards for different groups; which is really smart.

        As dubious as this may sound, it’s hard to blame SJWs for playing this game. If they sincerely believe they can’t – and in most cases they right, they really can’t – compete in a meritocratic society, then this is actually the rational thing for them to do.

        • ga gamba says

          I won’t disagree with you about their lust for power. Indeed social justice is to its practitioners power politics dressed up nicely. Most of what you wrote aligns with my thoughts on the matter.

          I will disagree with you about their inability to compete in a meritocratic society. Many of these people are highly educated (without benefit of legs up such as positive discrimination), economically successful, and influential. Remember, we’re seeing many professional associations adding calls to social justice and its associated ills of equity, diversity and inclusion to their code of ethics. The question is why? The reasons include some are genuine leftists who see this as a viable path to redistribution; others are perplexed by how the system distributes economic rewards and are even envious of those who are extraordinarily and, in their opinion, undeservedly wealthy; some mistake equity for equality; some feel guilty about their own prosperity; many are virtue signalers; and I’m sure there are quite a few who simply parrot what’s popular to say and go with the flow to avoid social or economic consequences. Let’s not forget people like Harvey Weinstein and male feminists who use the cloak of social justice to conceal their monstrous thoughts and behaviour.

          Lastly, and I think importantly, many are woefully misinformed by the centres of public sense making: journalism, the academe, and entertainment. When certain issues are amplified and receive disproportionate coverage many people genuinely think unarmed black men are “murdered everyday by police”, rape culture is real, women are paid 77 cents on the dollar, etc. “I keep hearing about this, so it must be real.”

          • D.B. Cooper says

            @ga gamba

            Just to be clear, I think you’re correct to point out that there are many on the Left that do have the ability to compete in a meritocratic society. This is obviously true. Many are highly educated and economically successful, and many professional associations are answering the calls of social justice as well.
            But are they really Leftist? Do they really support social justice causes? YES and NO.
            These people are Leftist, but they’re what I would call ‘contingent’ Leftist, not genuine Leftist. By ‘contingent’, I mean their loyalty to social justice is contingent to the opportunity cost of supporting such causes. Undoubtedly, there is social cache in supporting “marginalized” groups, and that figures in their calculus. But ask yourself, what happens when the opportunity cost of supporting such causes becomes too high for these people? What happens when you’re Mark Zuckerberg and illegal immigration gets to the point where you can’t build a wall high enough or a compound large enough to keep the 3rd world immigrants off of your multimillion dollar estate – the very immigrants you repeatedly gave public support for? What happens then?
            We know what happens and why it happened. The opportunity cost is too high for you to continue to support this social justice cause. Suddenly, your enthusiasm for posting FB comments on open borders is gone, b/c right now, all you care about is getting Pablo and his 15 cousins off the back forty without being exposed as the hypocrite that you are. The juice is not worth the squeeze. Not anymore, it’s not.

            While there may be an occasional Leftist who is a true believer, whose social justice is an article of faith, the fact is, such Leftist are a rare breed. By which, I mean, essentially nonexistent. Just try to name one. And before you say Bernie, you should know that even that old crusty Democratic Socialist has acquired himself 3 homes.

            As I was saying, most Leftist are either subscribing to social justice principles b/c they can’t compete (for reasons I mentioned earlier) or are subscribing to SJ principles on a contingent basis.
            As for why the latter (the economically successful) would commit to SJ principles in the first place or at all, I would say, probably for many of the reasons you mentioned: guilt, virtue signaling, manufactured consent, stupidity. Personally, I’m sympathetic to stupidity as a majority explanation.

            Is there a meaningful difference between these groups? Pragmatically, probably not. Both the socio-economically successful SJW and the incompetent SJW are pursuing their self-interests. I’ve yet to see true altruism (from the Left or Right), and actual self-sacrificing masochists have a predictable short shelf-life, pun intended.

      • Jon Galt says

        Completely concur. It (SJ and it’s “warriors”) are the SA, and the means to create a semi-global (Antifa started in Germany, not the US…), certainly “western,” totalitarian ecosystem. It is about equity across time – several generations. It ignores some victims (Ukrainians… now) and prioritizes others (Ghanans… of 400 years ago). It prioritizes certain classes (Blacks) and demonizes others (males). And it grossly generalizes, asserting guilt by class affiliation. To the SJW, one’s intersectional identity is one’s only identity (possible). It’s why they so viscerally hate Black conservatives, gay conservatives, even White male centrists… In their world, there is no place for a (fill in the blank) who will not behave, believe, and rant as a (fill in the blank) is “supposed” to.

      • ADM64 says

        This is very well-written and cogent. Social justice is a lot like “people’s democracy”, a perversion of the real thing. It is solely about power relations and thus “who” rather than “what.”. Real justice is about treating people according to the nature of their actions; social justice is about treating people according to the nature of their identities. Huge difference.

      • higgsbosoff says

        But I agree that there’s a grave oversight in there: that a minority or oppressed group is, by definition, not the strongest kid in the block. The rule of law is on average more its friend than its enemy. If you bring everything back to ruthless war between identity groups waged without quarter, whites win over blacks and men win over women every time, because they begin the game holding most of the cards, per the SJW narrative itself. So it’s incredibly dangerous to tear down the only protection that prevents that from happening. The only thing that replaces, in the SJW approach, is an induced sense of guilt that should drive these groups to restrain themselves and accept their just punishment for the past wrongdoings theirs and of their forefathers – needless to say, that is an incredibly abstract idea that quickly fails in reality.

    • Matthew B says

      Aaron I hear what you’re saying – a lot of SJWs criticize the laws and institutions that provide them the freedom and prosperity to be so critical as “oppressive, unfair, patriarchal, racist…etc, etc…”.

      That’s why many people in the rest of the world view them with such disbelief (i.e. Baizuo)

      • Mike says

        I think you have to drill down deeper into psychology. Most socialist types I know who are white men are acting from a few different motives; a) they want to be seen as “nice guys”, b) they perhaps subconsciously feel the trend towards socialism and so go along with it to remain socially acceptable c) the idea that being a leftist is sort of “woke”, so to speak, flatters their intellect d) they are blind to the dangerous consequences of group think; and a sub note to that is that they are naive about the consequences of giving their power to marginalized groups- the idea that these groups may want vengeance is beyond them e) they tend to be beta males who are in desperate fear of social/spousal disapproval f) they have read way too much Chomsky g) they are generally anti american and find that this sort of “rebellion” is socially acceptable and thus safely allows them to be rebellious to make up for their otherwise cowardly personalities h) they are not very self aware in general and thus they don’t tend to be aware of these observations I am making. or i) they are aware of all of the above but don’t care as they have an underlying fear of male power/fascism/bullying etc .
        As for the women I know, the general pyschological trend is an underlying spitefulness. They simply refuse to accept any sort of male direction/philosophy, etc and choosing left wing politics is just another way to telling daddy to FO. The other one of course is just extreme maternalism-
        As for people of colour I know, the odd thing is that most of them are not really all that political in the first place. In a way, all of this ” concern” that propels the SJW mentality is at heart a white thing; it’s just another version of the same white impulse to ‘save the heathen” and generally meddle in other people’s lives. You have to remember how many missionaries europeans sent around the world trying to convert people to christianity when all of them already had their own no more or less ridiculous religions of their own. Of course there are also the race hustlers but that is a small group. My wife is a POC and she never talks politics. The “white” man is afflicted by “concern” when no one else really gives a shit. Speaking as a white man myself, albeit a “conservative ” one, as I am called these days ( though I am quite liberal) I can speak from experience and say that I am similarly afflicted.

  2. Emmanuel says

    Everybody agrees that social justice is good and necessary. The problem is that everyone has his own personal idea of what social justice is and how it should be achieved. From a rational point of view, the rule of law is probably the least worst way to build a just society. When you study the alternatives that exist in other parts of the world or in ancient societies, you realize how lucky you are to live in a place where the rule of law is the norm.
    On top of that, I find the hostility of the SJW against that idea of rule of law or freedom of expression insane : don’t they realize they benefit themselves from those ?

    • ga gamba says

      Everybody agrees that social justice is good and necessary.

      Shucks, appears I’m not a member of team everybody. Oh well, I’ll sit here in the sin bin.

      The diabolical ingenuity in coining it “social justice” is that it causes people to mistake it for justice. There are crucial differences. First and foremost, justice deals with the individual. Social justice is about the group and its collective guilt or innocence. Social justice demands the establishment of equity-advancing rules, codes of conduct, and laws, as well as the institutions staffed by its advocates to enforce and penalise.

      It’s no great insight to say justice is imperfect, and over the many years its shortcomings have been reduced, but in its desire to correct justice’s flaws social justice is much more abusive. It actually seeks to overturn rule of law, supplanting it with the rule by law. If one is genuinely concerned about justice and its advancement, social justice is about the last thing you’d want to advocate.

      • Emmanuel says

        When I say “everybody agrees that social justice is good and necessary” I mean it in the same way that everybody support the “good guys” over the “bad guys”.
        The problem is that people do not agree first on what that social justice actually is and second on how to achieve : unlike what they seem to believe, disagreeing with the left-wing SJW does not mean that you actively support social injustice. It means you do not agree with their idea of social justice and you believe the rule of law is a more efficient way to achieve a just society.

        • Aaron says

          The problem with the SJW is that they have not been able to expand their conception of justice beyond a good group/bad group dichotomy. The justice that emerges from rule of law is VERY different. So no, it is far from obvious that everyone agrees with the fundamental goal of social justice.

          • Ben says

            “The Quest for Cosmic Justice” by Thomas Sowell describes the differences between social and actual justice in great detail.
            Social wishes to correct against the brokenness in the cosmos itself. And that is hubris. The law is not a god who can magically make a utopia of his laws are harsh enough. Religions already tried that.

            Social justice does not allow groups with strengths to be treated with gratitude-only envy. ‘If they are rich it must be because they are evil.’ As if making something valuable and affordable is impossible. The world is full of people who were poor or illiterate of all races who did such things. Yet praiseworthy examples of human flourishing are not a focus for the compassionate. The attitudes that lead to success are scorned.

            People from india who run their own businesses are discrimimated against in africa and the middle east. People from china can be in other parts of asia. It’s often jealousy and projection of blame for one’s own shortcomings. Some blame immigrants while others blame white heterosexual christian males. But it is the same corrupt instinct.

            If you are born on the side of a mountain with more rain and better crops than someone born on the other side omit injustice? It is unequal. But it is outside the scope of justice to address. Should einstein be punished because you or i have less capable minds? Such ideas are spitting into the wind.

      • Bill says

        “Shucks, appears I’m not a member of team everybody. Oh well, I’ll sit here in the sin bin.” Team not-everybody has a pretty deep bench

    • ccscientist says

      Under the Ming dynasty in China, the emperor decided that the natural order of things was clear and necessary, so it was ordered that all clothing, home sizes and styles, haircuts and so on were all to be specified by the government. This is where it can lead when the state decides to be helpful and order things in the best way.

    • stevengregg says

      No, we don’t all agree that social justice is good and necessary. Distilled down to its essence, social justice demands race trump merit. Social justice is racism by another name.

    • Jon Galt says

      Not quite. Everybody does not agree that “social justice” is good, and certainly not that it’s necessary. Everybody says they agree that it’s good and necessary, when the camera is rolling.

      If you study a bit more of the Post Modernist view of “reality” and you smush (technical term) that together with Marxism, you’ll get a pretty accurate picture of the modern “social activist” (as compared to the 1960’s variety). This is also pretty well illustrated in the comparison between first and most-recent wave feminism and their respective icons.

      SJW’s fancy themselves (lots and lots of self-righteousness) as correcters of past wrongs. They’ve been taught all the bad things that (fill in the blank) did to (fill in the other blank), and they believe that – regardless of whether that wrong was committed 500 years ago – it is up to them, right now, to create some sort of equity balance.

      Two problems with that approach. Well, many more, but two I’ll point out. First, they pick, very selectively, their “oppressed” – and ignore all others. (I don’t recall Armenians being a protected class within Social Justice-dom…. nor Ukrainians… nor Japanese-Americans… nor any of the 300 native tribes in the lower 48… nor any of the 300 more in Alaska… nor native African ethnic Indians… nor Jews…) SJW’s view of history is completely contrived, limited to only the bits that support the Marxist end-game narrative. They pick their choices of “oppressed” specifically to tear down the counter-balance “oppressor” of deliberate choosing.

      How many folks complain (often accurately) about “driving while Black?”

      How many of them are female?

      So is it a phenomenon of Blackness, or Black maleness?

      How many of the Black murder victims in Chicago over the last 10 years were female?

      How is it that BLM is predominantly a Black female-run, and Black female victimhood-claiming organization?

      Intersectionality cuts both ways. If indeed BLM means its name, shouldn’t it be populated predominantly by Black males, run by Black males, to benefit Black males? Why is that not “a thing?” Isn’t everything supposed to be perfectly representative of the related demographic?

      Second, SJW’s are completely blind to their own fanaticism. They really believe it’s OK to “punch a Nazi.” But what’s more, they’ll be perfectly happy to believe you are a Nazi – because you’re a White, middle-class, male. This is true even if they themselves are a White, middle-class, male. They do not see their own devolution into the SA (in most cases the propoganda arm, but in some cases the Black Block arm of same). They would not …. obviously … punch a young, Black, female, Muslim, lesbian Nazi. Not even if she were calling for their castration.

      They really ought to study more actual history, rather than the history of selected victims, and understand how the SA eventually ceased to exist.

  3. Matthew B says

    Another homerun from J. Kay – couldn’t’ agree more.

  4. A Man for All Seasons:

    Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

    More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

    Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

    More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

    Those defending the rule of law, are continuing a proud tradition. I salute your commitment to due process.

  5. Rick Phillips says

    Jonathon Kay posits that the left goes too far when it “privileges social justice ideology over due process” or when a de facto governmental body uses its power to effectively compel support for the broad ideological principles that individual may or may not agree with……. I agree! The sort of sound article I have come to expect from Quillette. Are we at a point where we can begin to develop a unified description of our issues with social justice ideology?

    At a recent Munk debate Jordan Peterson asked the question “When has the left gone too far?” Dr. Peterson posited that a clear boundary is where the left suggests societal structures should be based on equality of outcome based on group identity, rather than equality of opportunity (Marker 1).

    [Munk Debate – May 20, 2018 “Political Correctness: a force for good?” Stephen Fry; Jordan Peterson; Michelle Goldberg; Michael Eric Dyson; host Griffiths https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST6kj9OEYf0 ]

    Izzy Kalman has recently suggested two additional markers of the left going too far.

    [Psychology Today – June 5, 2018 “The Two “Fatal Flaws Lurking in American Leftist Politics” A humble attempt to help Jordan Peterson with his challenge – Izzy Kalman https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/resilience-bullying/201806/the-two-fatal-flaws-lurking-in-american-leftist-politics%5D

    Kalman posits two basic categories of negative acts: 1) those that cause objective harm, and 2) those that cause subjective harm. According to Kalman, “objective harm is the result of an act that if you do it to me and I get hurt, you are the one who hurt me. Obvious examples are theft, assault, arson, rape and murder. Less obvious examples are denying me civil rights, such as the vote, equal public education, opportunity for employment, freedom of movement, and access to residence and health care”. On the other hand Kalman notes that “subjective harm is the result of an act that if you do it to me and I get hurt, I am the one who hurt me. These are acts that hurt my feelings or that I find offensive. The classic example is an insult. If you insult me and I feel upset, I really upset myself. However, there are words that can cause objective harm. Examples are yelling fire in a crowded theater, slander and libel (which can destroy people’s careers and social life) and incitement to violence. The acts that are universally considered crimes by all civilized societies are the ones that cause objective harm. The proper job of a government is to protect its population from objective harm and to punish those who inflict it. A government cannot protect people from subjective harm because our feelings are not in its control. And when a government does treat acts of subjective harm as crimes, it makes everything worse. It increases both subjective harm and objective harm”. Eliminating the boundary between objective and subjective harm is the second boundary that the left crosses and in doing so goes too far (Marker 2).

    According to Kalman the left also goes too far by replacing might makes right with might makes wrong (Marker 3). As explained by Kalman “In the lawless world of nature, might makes right. You can kill me and no one arrests you. Civilization cannot function by might makes right, or we would suffer from unrelenting tyranny and bloodshed. The most basic feature of a civilized society is a legal justice system. It replaces might makes right with justice makes right. We take our grievances to a court of law, which applies principles of justice to determine guilt and punishment…. Weakness makes right is just as arbitrary and amoral as might makes right. It makes it impossible to objectively judge between right and wrong”.

    I would propose an additional area where perhaps the left goes too far. The left seems to require that society “celebrate” deviations from what was once thought to be the norm rather than simply “tolerate” those deviations.(Marker 4 with the emphasis on “require”). This has led to all sorts of “special days” and “special weeks” and in the context of a society intent on cultural relativism perhaps underlies a growing trend to challenge existing cultural markers. It is possible that the need to “celebrate” rather than simply “tolerate” leads to unacceptable policy/legal initiatives that include such elements as “compelled speech” (this is what Dr. Peterson originally rebelled against) and all manner of inclusivity initiatives and a focus on advocacy and ally-ship in education etc. (It is not clear to me where exactly advocacy and re-education (eg. unconscious bias training) as an educational objective goes too far but I admit to being uncomfortable with the following video apparently produced for CBC Life which seems to engage in a dialog with children that might be inappropriate in the view of some.
    [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IMKpe5bmaw ]

    When I watched the Munk Debate I was a bit dismissive of Dr. Peterson’s question (there seemed to be more egregious action) but I think the question as posed by Dr. Peterson is a fair question. We seem to agree that the right goes too far when it suggests, for example, that whites are a superior race. What boundaries mark where the left has gone too far? I have pointed out 4 possible markers. Does Quillette’s readership agree with them and/or are there other markers that might answer the Peterson question “When has the left gone too far?”

    • The right suggests whites are superior? Thats ridicuuous. You are talking about a tiny minority of ultra racists. How can we have serious discussions about these things when people don’t argue in good faith? Belief in whites being superior is not a belief of mainstream conservatism.

      • Rick Phillips says

        Keven you are correct and point taken, I see that the wording may suggest that the right in general holds that view. That was not the intent and reflects a perhaps misguided attempt to simplify the discussion. The proper context is that if it were the case that the right (and I recognize that this would likely be an individual or sub-group who the left characterized as being on the right rather than the right writ large) were to assert “whites are a superior race” then there would likely be agreement that those making that assertion had gone too far. The question then is when could one argue that the left (not the left writ large but the sub-group characterized by the right as being left) had gone too far. So when would the left be considered to have gone too far?

        (I am sure that when Dr, Peterson posed the question and Izzy Kalman answered they too had assumed the question related to a particular sub-group of those whom the right considers left as opposed to the left writ large.)

        • Rick Phillips says

          Actually Keven makes Dr. Peterson’s point assuming for the moment, based on his defence of mainstream conservatives verses a “minority of ultra racists”, that Keven leans conservative. Dr. Peterson’s point was that even those who lean conservative recognize when a “conservative” view (and I am again trying shorthand here) enters the realm of the unacceptable. His claim was that those on the left have not yet identified views on the left that may cross the line into unacceptability. I have identified some potential markers and the request to Quillette readers was to provide their opinions on these and perhaps suggest others or in the alternative indicate why those markers are inappropriate. A good discussion might be had if there was some engagement with the substance of the original comment.

          • Bill says

            The “all conservatives are racist” absurdium I often parry with my Leftist in-laws with the “so…you don’t think Kermit Gosnell was guilty of anything?” since they take the view that ANY argument against ANY “abortion” means the extreme view of no abortion. Once they say “well, no…he was snipping spines of live births” I point out how they’re clearly instituting a war on women, against women’s rights, and are racist Nazi’s since they clearly are “alt-Right” in their view. It quickly illustrates how insanely stupid the characterizations of the regressive Left have become in the media.

    • Rick Phillips says

      Upon reflection and re-consideration of the comments, including the obtuse ones, I have come to the view that the question “When has the left gone too far?” is perhaps not the most appropriate way to frame the matter. Drawing a line does not necessarily provide greater clarity and perhaps implies, inappropriately, the need for an active response to constrain or suppress.

      This does not mean that the “truth claims” from either pole should not be critically examined. I agree with Jonathon Kay’s belief in the ability of processes to reveal truth. I also agree that the scientific method and peer review; discovery and cross-examination; and, open discussion are likely the best (imperfect but open to improvement) mechanisms we currently have to reveal truth. It is indeed the integrity of these processes that needs to be preserved.

  6. Andrew Roddy says

    This is very fine piece. It is carefully considered and challenging. If it is read fairly it might give most of us pause for thought.

    ‘In such societies, loyalty to tribe is imagined to be more important than adherence to due process—especially among those tribes deemed to be disadvantaged. That is not a recipe for social trust.’

    In the comments section, however, I see very little evidence of pause or consideration. Jonathon Kay’s piece seems to be read simply as another cue to circle the predictable tribal wagons. To my mind this does the author a gross injustice although I suspect he may be a man well-equipped to defend himself.

    If Quillette is sincere in its declared editorial intention of creating a focus for debate that is not coloured by ideology there may be further evidence here of hopeless shortcoming. If the intention is sincere though then I wish them well.

    • Rick Phillips says

      “If Quillette is sincere in its declared editorial intention of creating a focus for debate that is not coloured by ideology there may be further evidence here of hopeless shortcoming. If the intention is sincere though then I wish them well.”

      I may be a bit dense or you might be too obtuse (I am not really inviting you to identify which) but why would anyone expect Quillette to take responsibility for ideological colour that may or may not be associated with its comment section. Could you please clarify what your expectations around a debate about ideologies would be?

      • Andrew Roddy says

        ‘why would anyone expect Quillette to take responsibility for ideological colour that may or may not be associated with its comment section. ‘

        I am told an experienced fisherman doesn’t need to ask what bait you’re using. He can tell you by looking at the fish you’ve caught.

        ‘Could you please clarify what your expectations around a debate about ideologies would be?’

        I have expressed no expectations around any such debate so I can’t see how I might clarify them.

        Apologies in advance if any of this seems obtuse.

        • Rick Phillips says

          Andrew, I will defer to your fishy expertise.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      I mostly agree with @Andrew Roddy about the comments on this article.

      The American concept of justice is embodied in the phrase over the Supreme Court bldg: “Equal justice under law.” Unfortunately, that phrase has become banal and trite due to overuse, and it obscures an important historical fact: From ancient times to the present, the idea of ‘justice’ has included personal virtue or morality [e.g., paying ones debts] as well as how societies should be organized. In the writings of the ancient Greeks and in the Bible, there are many references to justice or ‘righteousness’ as virtue, but obviously no concept of due process, which is a post-enlightenment concept.

      Here’s an example of how ‘equal justice under law’ can produce social injustice:

      In 1875, the US Congress passed a law stating that state and federal juries can’t exclude persons on the basis of race, color or being a former slave. This was obviously part of the Reconstruction after the Civil War.

      In 1880, the US Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for a state to ban blacks from serving on juries.

      In 1898, the state of Louisiana adopted a constitution that allowed split jury verdicts [up to 9-3] to be accepted in serious felony trials. This non-unanimous verdict law survived several constitutional re-writes and in fact is still in force in Louisiana. Prior to the 1880s, Louisiana had required unanimous verdicts, like almost all other states.

      In 1972, the US Supreme Court ruled that split jury verdicts are OK in state courts but not in federal courts.

      Obviously split verdicts reduce the chance of a ‘hung jury’ and are in some sense more efficient than requiring unanimous verdicts. But you don’t have to be a leftist to realize that the real intent is to not allow a minority of black jurors to ‘hang’ a jury and override the wishes of the white jurors who are in the majority. Yet the US Supreme Court explicitly approved of this unjust scheme that works to dis-empower blacks and other minority jurors, such as Hispanics and Jews.

      • Bill says

        I’m confused, how are the split verdict laws not enabling a minority of non-black jurors to ‘hang’ a jury and override the wishes of the black jurors who are in the majority? Take, for example, the trials of police officers had the juries been 9 black, 3 non-black under split-jury rules? (Assuming in my example the 9 black are ardent supporters of the BLM movement who would convict an officer based upon the perceived anti-black bias of LEO which is unsupported in the literature.)

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @Bill, first you need to put aside the idea of urban or inner-city juries–they hardly exist in Louisiana. Most judicial districts [42 in all] contain just a single parish [county] and only 5 districts contain 3 parishes. Since most Louisiana parishes are rural, virtually all judicial districts lack the black-majority ghettos or ‘hoods that are common in more urbanized states.

          These rural parishes also generally lack local newspapers, TV and radio stations, etc., so events down at the local courthouse don’t attract wide attention–except in the rare instance where cases get appealed to a higher court, like these:

          “1939: U.S. Supreme Court quashes capital indictment over systematic exclusion of black people from St. John the Baptist Parish grand juries. No one could remember an African American serving on one since 1896.

          1944: Louisiana Supreme Court overturns conviction of black man in murder of white police chief in Allen Parish. No black person had ever served on a jury in the parish’s 31-year history.

          1966: Federal appeals court tosses Orleans Parish jury selection method in which clerks avoided picking manual laborers and daily wage earners, finding it systematically kept blacks off jury venires….” Source: https://bit.ly/2tcit0S

          The US Supreme Court ruled that split verdicts ARE constitutional even in capital murder cases, and it is true that black defendants are NOT AUTOMATICALLY disadvantaged under this system. However, in practice black AND POOR WHITE defendants face greater legal jeopardy than wealthier whites [who can afford whip-smart lawyers]. THAT is the social-justice angle.

          This whole issue involves ‘disparate impact’ and statistical evidence of discrimination, which US courts have been reluctant to accept. The notion of de jure discrimination versus de facto discrimination goes to the heart of ‘equal justice’ versus ‘social justice.’ Heck, in Louisiana even the mossback Republicans have realized that split verdicts are an abomination. Here is more info:

          ….How an abnormal Louisiana law deprives, discriminates and drives incarceration: Tilting the scales by Jeff Adelson, Gordon Russell and John Simerman

          The drafters of the state constitution Louisiana adopted in 1898 said they aimed to “perpetuate the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race in Louisiana,” primarily by scrubbing from the rolls nearly all of the roughly 130,000 black people then registered to vote.

          But delegates knew they couldn’t simply ban black people from the voting booth or jury service without running afoul of the 14th and 15th amendments. The U.S. Supreme Court had explicitly said so. Instead, the jury laws those delegates drew up allowed for convictions with only nine of 12 jurors agreeing, meaning that if one, two or even three black people made it onto a jury, their votes wouldn’t matter.

          These days, 10 votes are required for conviction instead of the original nine, and today’s defenders of split verdicts say Louisiana’s law now stands not for racism but for efficiency, by limiting hung juries and potential retrials.

          But the effects are the same, according to an exhaustive, first-of-its-kind analysis by The Advocate.

          The Advocate reviewed about 3,000 felony trials over six years, turning up 993 convictions rendered by 12-member Louisiana juries in which the newspaper was able to document the jury votes.

          The remainder included trials ending in hung juries, those halted by last-minute plea deals, lesser felony trials with six-member juries and many others with scant records.

          Although the majority-verdict law disadvantages all defendants, the newspaper’s review found that its effects on black people accused of crimes are especially profound. It acts as a capstone to a trial system that becomes more tilted against black defendants at each stage: when jurors are summoned, when they’re picked for juries, and in deliberation rooms where voices of dissent can be ignored.

          Black people make up roughly one-third of the population in Louisiana, but they comprise two-thirds of state prisoners and three-fourths of inmates serving life without parole. Louisiana, America’s incarceration capital, also leads the nation by far in these life sentences, nearly all of them the result of jury verdicts.

          The newspaper’s analysis found that 40 percent of trial convictions, like that of Matthew Allen, came over the objections of one or two holdouts. When the defendant was black, the proportion went up to 43 percent, versus 33 percent for white defendants. In three-quarters of the 993 cases in the newspaper’s database, the defendant was black.

          In many cases, black defendants are not being judged by juries “of their peers” — at least not racially speaking. The newspaper scrutinized what happened to nearly 41,000 prospective jurors who reported for duty in felony trials in nine of the state’s 10 busiest courthouses and found that these jury pools were whiter than their communities, and the juries picked from them were whiter still.

          The average jury in East Baton Rouge Parish, for instance, has nearly two fewer black people than it would if the panel reflected the population. In St. Tammany Parish, juries have about half as many black members as the parish’s population.

          In Terrebonne Parish, where Allen was tried, and Ascension Parish, the falloff in black participation in the jury system — from summons to selection — is enough to render the votes of the black people on a typical jury potentially irrelevant.

          Prosecutors are responsible for much of that dilution: Over the nine parishes, prosecutors deployed at-will “strikes” to remove black prospective jurors at more than 2.3 times the rate they used against white ones. In Terrebonne Parish, the rate was about four times as high, according to the data.

          In parishes like Terrebonne, where the share of black jurors is small to begin with, the effect of these strikes is dramatic.

          The elimination of black jurors matters because they often see the evidence differently from white jurors, according to a more limited set of data involving 1,308 votes, as well as scores of interviews with jurors on both sides of those high-stakes decisions.

          When jurors are polled following verdicts in Louisiana — which in many cases does not happen — judges usually seal the results, if they preserve them at all. Even the aggregate vote count is absent from many trial records, and it’s rare for the votes of each juror to be made public.

          But with cooperation from the East Baton Rouge Parish clerk of court, The Advocate was able to collect this information for two-thirds of the 200 convictions by 12-member juries that took place in the state’s most populous parish from 2011 to 2016. Those records include 46 trials, involving 552 jurors, that ended with a nonunanimous guilty verdict.

          That research shows that, although black jurors and white jurors alike vote guilty in a wide majority of convictions, black jurors in those 46 cases were 2.7 times as likely as white jurors to cast a vote against the majority.

          The Advocate also determined how each of the jurors voted in another 63 cases from New Orleans to Shreveport, culling that data from trial transcripts, court worksheets or the slips that jurors fill out — asking “Is this your verdict?” — before they return to the courtroom with a decision.

          Though this group of cases was too small to be representative of all trials in those parishes, it showed a remarkably similar pattern to the more complete data from East Baton Rouge Parish. In those 63 cases, involving 756 jurors, black jurors were 2.4 times more likely to disagree with the verdict than white jurors.

          Thomas Frampton, a former Orleans Parish public defender who now teaches at Harvard Law School, enlisted researchers there to analyze the newspaper’s data. Their analysis mirrors that of The Advocate.

          “The disparities that this data identify are not terribly surprising for those who have spent time in Louisiana courtrooms but are shocking in terms of how wide the (racial) gulf actually is,” Frampton said.

          Racially motivated jury selection occurs in jurisdictions across the country, but in tandem with the state’s split-verdict rule, Frampton said, it has “a particularly pernicious effect on criminal justice in Louisiana.”……” Source: https://bit.ly/2IkEyjI

          • Bill says

            My point, perhaps not clearly stated, is that you’re focused on Black vs Non-Black when the split-jury rules across states are better described as groupA vs non-groupA. Oregon’s, for example, stemmed from jewish vs non-jewish.

            My main issue with “The Left” is that the subsets of “The Left” have become so tainted by critical theory that they have lost their ability to affect change by coalition building. As you point out, even “The Right” sees that split-jury verdicts aren’t the way to go. Rather than focusing on “black…our locked up constituency” of “jewish…our locked up constituency” it’s a problem of framing.

            Another example I found helpful is BLM. BLM, originating from groups majority-inhabiting “The Left” framed their problem as “police vs Black” versus taking a coalition building approach of “lack of police accountability/police are beyond the law.” Why is this important? Perhaps because the whole HRC vs DJT treatments by the FBI/DOJ actually illustrate the EXACT same issue as BLM. However, by alienating their grievance using their critical theory training, BLM fails to affect any change. Very ironic since if they’d not used intersectionality to build a cheerleading section versus organizing The People, the current Administration would likely be very receptive to discussing possible treatments to affect a positive and just/equitable outcome. After all, if a black man being pulled over by police spit his gum out the window and they later found a joint in the car, he’d be charged with destruction of evidence. HRC can wipe her server with a cloth, her associates can flagrantly lie — but no consequence.

    • OtherWay says

      All debate is colored by ideology. You have yours, and I have mine. That’s what makes a debate.
      The only thing Quillette claimed was that it would provide a level playing field – which it has.

      You, on the other hand, appear to me complaining that the opposing team has actually shown up here and seem very willing to play the game. That is a silly objection.

      Here are the new rule (the non-leftist ones).
      You are free to object to others comments here based on the substance of those comments – if you point out what substantive point you disagree with..
      You are NOT free to object to others comments here based solely on their existence –
      and the fact that you happen to disagree with them, but feel intellectually incapable of actually saying why.

  7. The author believes in diversity what does he mean by that? Diversity of ideas or if I hire 10 cpa’s there has to be 3 black cpas hired, 2 asians hired, and 1 latino hired, before any white cpas can be hired? I think the diversity he is talking about and the diversity sjws are talking about are totally different things. Inclusion as far as I am concerned is a nonsensical concept.

    • Bill says

      The concept of diversity being beneficial is rooted in the literature on innovation where the key is that diversity refers to experience and perspective which leads to new ways of looking at a problem and seeking a solution. That has been perverted by the SJW movement such that “diversity” is simply the new way of saying “non-white CIS.” It’s an HR linguistic creation like how layoff became surplus or “force hydraulics”

  8. Mark F. Matis says

    There is no “Rule of Law” in the United States. And there has not been any for MANY years now.

    • ccscientist says

      Perhaps you would prefer Thailand where a man was arrested for making fun of the king. Do we have more rule of law than that? Or Russia where opposition politicians seem to have a very high mortality rate.
      Yes, it is true that the law in the US needs some tuning up (I have a long list of suggestions, like no more civil asset forfeiture for just carrying cash around) but I think to say there is no rule of law is hyperbole.

  9. V 2.0 says

    *And on most days, those safeguards don’t protect men such as Gerald Stanley. On most days, they protect disadvantaged black or indigenous men such as Raymond Crump Jr.—because those are the people who are most likely to end up on the wrong side of a prosecution.*

    Why should it not protect him. If there was not enough evidence to convict him how do we know he is guilty?

    *If I employ a lawyer, and I learn that he happens to be religiously observant, and that he does not believe in gay marriage—or that his mosque or synagogue or gurdwara preaches precepts that run afoul of modern feminism—does that mean this man is not fit to practice law?*

    What if he believes a woman is subservient to her husband. Would he be able to handle divorce cases objectively? What if he was a judge and had to preside over a domestic violence case? Same goes for a feminist lawyer. I would still hire this person but would want to make sure their beliefs would not be influencing their ability to represent the laws of the land.

    Minor quibbles about a generally excellent article. Rule of Law takes personal feelings (some of which may be based on prejudice and/or silly beliefs) out of the picture and that is a good thing.

  10. ccscientist says

    I cast some of the blame on our current short-attention spans plus the internet. In the modern world, it is so easy to instantly get what you want. You don’t even have to get out of your car to get coffee. Amazon delivers to your door. If you can’t remember something, just Google it. So we (especially young people) want to just do a little shouting and as a result see that all problems are solved. But the problems of society are difficult and complex. It is very easy to “solve” one thing and create 2 new problems. Some of the possibilities are truly horrifying, but you have to think about them to prevent them. If you believe the politician who promises to take from the rich and he does it, you can get Venezuela, but not until you have gone down that road for a decade and it is too late to return. So this desire for instant results combined with the elevation of feelings over being tough leads to calls to shut down the bad guys, but with very bad fallout if you succeed.

  11. stevengregg says

    Ray Crump Jr was guilty of killing Mary Pinchot Meyer. A mechanic was attending a broken down car on the shoulder of the road opposite the murder scene, across the canal from the tow path. They heard Meyer scream and the gunshot. When they ran to see, they saw Ray Crump standing over Meyer’s body on the tow path. When police found Crump after a search, the witnesses identified Crump as the shooter. He was guilty.

    Dovey Johnson Roundtree got Crump off not by proving he was innocent, but by picking a jury that was 11 black, 1 white. Those black jurors were just not going to convict a black man of anything. When the juror came in from their deliberation, the one white female juror was sobbing. Apparently, they browbeat her into voting not guilty. It was jury nullification that freed Crump. Roundtree knew that a “Bronx jury” would set her client free.

    Crump continued to lead a life of violence, setting fire to a girlfriend’s apartment house once, after an argument. He got away with murder because of a racist jury.

    • Give it a rest.

      ” When they ran to see, they saw Ray Crump standing over Meyer’s body on the tow path. ”

      Er no:

      “a black man in a light jacket, dark slacks, and a dark cap standing over the body of a white woman.”

      And when all the “facts” came to light. It is was rather “obvious” Crump wasn’t the murderer. Oh, Meyer’s past, lack of any forensic evidence, motive, gun, mistakes …

      “Crump continued to lead a life of violence”

      Doesn’t mean he committed every violent crime around him going.

  12. Steve says

    Kay’s essay is fundamentally incoherent. He seems oblivious to the fact that hostility to the traditional Western concept of due process is axiomatic with the “social justice” crowd. He tries to have it both ways, and falls flat. As usual.

  13. The anti-communist oath wasn’t wrong. Communism openly proclaimed its goal was to overthrow the free governments of the West and replace them with dictatorships. For some bizarre reason, this goal was very popular among government officials, Hollywood, and educators. We were up against a mortal threat to our existence.

  14. It would have been nice to start this essay with a coherent definition of “social justice”. My guess is it means justice within a society, which we could just call “justice” and save typing and saying useless words.

  15. Anonymous says

    The recalled judge Aaron Persky (California) case is interesting in this context. What is the author’s view on this?

  16. Mazzakim says

    I’m genuinely curious: Are any of people posting dismissive comments of SJWs non-white and/or not from a middle class or better background? Heck, are there any females posting?

    I really wish otherwise smart people would consciously try to engage in empathy and truly do their best to “walk a mile in other people’s shoes” before passing judgments about others and their situations in life. You may still come to the same conclusions, but perhaps your– to use an overwrought and overused term, but I’m in a hurry and can’t think of a more precise one– privilege wouldn’t be showing quite so much.

  17. Mr. Smith says

    I am afraid Mr. Kay misunderstands the fundamental importance of Justice in a Liberal Democracy (Liberal in the classical sense). In a Liberal Democracy, (social) justice is not just a “wonderful thing”, as Mr. Kay dismissively refers to it; instead, Justice is “the first virtue of social institutions”, or what John Rawls calls “the priority of justice”. In other words, in a Liberal Democracy, the principles of justice supercede the rule of law, not the other way around, as Mr. Kay suggests. Don’t forget, authoritarian regimes and illiberal democracies all have their own version of due process, but no one would argue that they produce Justice. In Russia and Hungary, to take two examples, democratically-elected and broadly popular governments are systematically chipping away at liberal rights and freedoms in their respective countries, all as part of a democratic and legal process. Because of this danger, in a Liberal Democracy, certain principles of justice, certain rights and freedoms, always trump due process.

    This leads me to a second point that I want to make here: Justice, if it is to be true to its meaning, cannot just be procedural. It must also be substantive. Due process is designed to search for and establish the truth. However, as with all human institutions, due process is fallible, and does not always produce just outcomes. This is important because in a Liberal Democracy there is an important relationship between justice, legitimacy and social trust. Democratic laws and procedures gain their legitimacy in the first instance because they have been enacted by way of democratic and legitimate political processes. However, a democratic and legitimately enacted law or process must also produce what Rawls calls “sufficient justice”, or sufficiently just outcomes, if it is to be perceived legitimate by the public at large. If it does not, its legitimacy will be undermined, and instead of building social trust, it will undermine it.

    The case of Mr. Galloway, sadly, makes my point here. Mr. Galloway may indeed be a victim of a breakdown in due process on the part of a spineless university administration, and of an over-zealous campaign on the part of supporters of his accuser. But in the end, I think his case (and others) has been caught up in the broader problem of a generalized decline in social trust. In this case, women no longer feel that real cases of sexual harassment can be handled fairly or justly by our governing institutions, and rightly so; women’s complaints have been routinely dismissed or ignored, and accusers have been shamed and intimidated into backing off, or not coming forward at all. Due process is “a wonderful thing”, as Mr. Kay says, but it has utterly failed women in this regard. We can all (justly) criticize certain excesses of movements like #Metoo, but until due process consistently delivers real justice for women (and others), social trust will remain low, and these movements are here to stay, like it or not.

    Like many present-day critics, Mr. Kay attempts to dismiss “social justice” campaigns as simply out-of-control tribal wars. Might I remind Mr. Kay that he too champions his own (social justice) causes on social media, and with every tweet he is signalling to his own tribe, notwithstanding his claims of neutrality.

    At the end of the day, are we not all social justice warriors?

  18. Jazz King says

    Today is a sad state of affairs that this is a hard sell:
    Trying to convince people to forsake their tribe in favor of the rule of law.
    But then Democrats have always favored special rights for certain groups; only their favorite groups have changed.

  19. In 1950, the Annual Convention of the American Bar Association passed a resolution calling for an anti-Communist loyalty oath for all lawyers. I oppose communism. But that doesn’t mean I think the state—or an oversight body that operates a regulatory regime under state mandate—gets to tell lawyers they can’t believe in it.

    I was not able the words on line for this particular loyalty oath. If it specified that the signer was not a member of an organization that took orders from a hostile foreign power, one can find modern
    day resonance in the current (Mueller) investigation into whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russia during the most recent presidential campaign.

    Most of these loyalty oaths had to do with membership in the CPUSA or advocacy for the overthrow of the government by force and violence, and they were required for those who wanted to work for the government.

    Many of these controversies were packed with irony, e.g. the Pledge of Allegiance case involved children whose parents wanted them to declare loyalty to the family’s religion as opposed to the
    nation’s flag. In neither case, was the child’s autonomy at issue.

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