Blaming, Naming, and Shaming

Silent about things that matter - MLK


In response to the following claim on Facebook, I cannot be silent:

“You cannot, in one moment, marginalize, demonize and cast as “other” a particular group, and then in the next moment, lament the fact that that group is being targeted for a hate crime. If you advocate for inequality—whether because of your religious beliefs, your cultural beliefs, your political aspirations, etc.—you are helping to create a culture that made LGBTQ people an easy mark…”

Let’s make a comparison-

Many people hate rape. Many people, rightly or wrongly, hate rapists… especially those who rape children. Many, many people around the world consider rape to be immoral and as a result have made laws that make rape a crime and include various types of punishments for these actions that they consider to be immoral. A quick look on the internet suggests that there is a wide range of punishments around the world, ranging from no punishment among some extreme Muslim groups to a minimum of 3 years imprisonment in some countries up to death by various means in other countries.

I think it would be safe to say that rapists have been marginalized, demonized, and “cast as other” around the world.  Again, a quick search of the internet returns information of many accounts of rapists being tortured and murdered in prison by other prisoners. One can reasonably conclude that at least some of these rapists were not condemned to die by the court system…only given prison sentences…and yet others in prison decided the sentence was not severe enough and justice had not been served… meaning the naughtiness of the crime was not matched by the severity of the punishment.

Here is a recent example:

TWO inmates have been charged with murdering a convicted child rapist found “disembowelled” in his cell at an English prison.

Mitchell Harrison, 23, who had been jailed for the rape of a 13-year-old schoolgirl, was discovered dead in his cell yesterday by staff at HM Prison Frankland in Durham, north-east England, Sky News reported.

He was convicted of child rape last year and given an indefinite prison sentence.

The Daily Mail reported that Harrison had been disembowelled by makeshift weapons, believed to be razor blades melted into toothbrush handles, apparently after boasting about his sickening crime. The newspaper said the two suspects turned themselves in to prison officials.

So, in this situation in Britain, this young man had his intestines removed and he was killed by two other prisoners even though the man had not been sentenced to death. The acts of the two prisoners could certainly be cast as vigilante justice.

Many civilized and conscientious people are horrified when such vigilante justice occurs. These men took justice into their own hands and carried out a punishment far more severe than the justice system had ordered.

Not only could the work of these two prisoners , and literally dozens of other prisoners around the world, be cast as vigilante justice – they could just as reasonably be cast as “hate crimes”. The prisoners committed crimes against other prisoners and were based on the classification of rapists as being more heinous that other criminals.

All of us hold a moral code (despite some naysayers)… anyone can hold any code they want. Their moral code has a list of acts, thoughts, behaviors that are “wrong”. Doing so, does not, by definition, advocate for inequality… it simply makes a judgment call on a moral basis. If holding that something is immoral and designing a justice system to defend it is creating inequality, then so be it. It is what societies have always and will always do. If one wants to call rape immoral and call consensual sex as moral then so be it. If this is defined as inequality, then I suggest the definition is wrong, not the person with the moral code.  Naming something as inequality doth not make it so. It is nothing more than putting in a different classification than something else, which is – in logic -the simplest form of thought – making a judgment.

I strongly defend the right of anyone, anywhere to have their own personal moral code. I can disagree with it, but still defend their right to hold it. Carrying it out is another issue.  I can defend your right to have your own thoughts – including thoughts about math, pizza, justice, politics, morality, and caffeinated coffee – and defend vociferously their freedom – and right – to hold them, even if I strongly disagree with the content of their beliefs.

According to the Pew Research Center, in a survey of folks in 40 countries around the world, 59% of them still consider homosexuality to be immoral. I am not weighing in on the exact correctness of the survey, but this is just to point out that there are, and have been over the centuries, lots of lots of folks who consider homosexuality to be immoral.  I make no judgment as to whether this should or should not be the case… it simply is the case at this point in time. Who knows, maybe in years to come these numbers will change – up or down.

The main point I want to make is this. It is not only possible, but very likely that there are many, many people in all these societies who would like the corresponding acts to be considered illegal and have some type of punishment exacted on those found guilty… but only the punishment determined by the legislative bodies who determine such things. Many, many folks are NOT a fan of vigilante justice and do not support hate crimes… they just want justice – as determined by their own nation’s moral standards as expressed in their justice systems; and this is warranted and reasonable.

Thousands upon thousands – if not millions upon millions of people hold rape to be immoral and hope that those who are found guilty of such crimes are punished appropriately based on current local standards. These same people can – and do – find it entirely immoral when others take the path of vigilante justice or carry out hate crimes. These people – these thousands and millions of regular folks are not and should not be held morally responsible for the acts of a few vigilantes or perpetrators of hate crimes. It is anyone’s right to think this way of course, and I would defend their right to do so…but also challenge the claim and its basic argument… which goes like this:


Premise 1) Group A holds act X to be immoral (and marginalized, demonized and cast as “other”) and legislates Punishment P1 as just punishment (satisfies justice).

Premise 2) Individual B (who may or may not be a member of Group A) holds act X to be immoral and personally – and outside the law – carries out  Punishment P2 which is more severe than P1.


Therefore,  all members of Group A are –in some measure at least – responsible for the actions of Individual B.

As I have posted before, this is logically untenable and it is prejudicial in its nature. It involves extending a trait to a known individual in a known group to all otherwise unknown members in that group.

If we applied the exact same logic used to support the original Facebook claim, we could charge everyone who holds rape to be immoral as being responsible for the disembowelment of the young rapist. His blood and his bloody intestines would be on all our hands who hold rape to be immoral.

This is not only untenable, I consider it to be rude. It is casting blame where it is not justified.

Maybe, just maybe the Facebook writer is not using this logic; maybe the writer is simply saying that anyone who holds that a specific act Q is immoral, that therefore it is likely that they are or have been involved in making laws, creating policies,  or even just voicing negative views on Q on social media creates such a strong climate of emotion such that certain unstable individuals take it and run with it. If that is the claim, then there are two responses. First, to claim that anyone, anywhere who holds that Q is immoral is a co-conspirator requires that 1) the person has, in fact, pressed for public policy, laws, or voiced views on social media, and 2) the person committing vigilante justice was directly affected by this person’s activities. Absent both things being the case, the claim has no merit and is unreasonable.  Secondly, even if they did, so what? Absent proving active co-conspiracy (co-involvement and/or co/intent), the claim is also empty. To do so would logically require anyone stating anything on social media for or against anything would share in the guilt of any whack job who has similar views. If someone went out and shot and killed the baker who wouldn’t bake a cake for the homosexual wedding, anyone who had ever voiced on social media views against “homophobia” would share in the act and the guilt – and should not for a second feel sorry for the dead bakers.

Such logic and the creation of the resultant guilt nexus would be mind boggling at best, and wholly untenable at worst.

I get it though. The Facebook writer likely has a moral code that says that homosexuality is moral and the writer greatly disdains people who hold to a moral code that says that homosexuality is immoral. This likely bugs the snot out of the writer and the writer thinks that people who hold this are intellectually wrong and morally offensive to the writer.

I have been teaching for twenty years and have seen a shift in the student population’s view on the morality of homosexuality. My guess is that the Facebook writer sees anyone who has not shifted with the rest of the society to be “behind the moral curve” and a moral dinosaur.  If that is the case, maybe this is an attempt to shame those “behind the curve” into getting on board the moral train. Maybe not…but either way, shaming and unreasonably blaming is likely not an effective tool to create change. It feels good though  to the shamer… and it feels bad to be the shamee… who is likely to be nothing more than defensive and dig in their heels.

I get that, too. The world is full of people on all sides of all issues who have felt the same.

A large number of us, however, are not supporters of vigilante justice and hate crimes – and we, as caring human beings, are saddened by the acts of those who carry our vigilante justice and hate crimes (a subject I will cover later).  It is reasonable and loving to do so.

We can be moral people who respect justice and also at the same time care when injustice occurs. Therefore we CAN and DO lament when others are victims of hate crimes…and will continue to do so despite others who cannot comprehend it.

We can…and we do.


PS… I defend the Facebook writer’s freedom and right to hold their individual thoughts and moral codes. I love and respect them as a human being and want only positive things to happen to them…I truly do.

PPS… As a student of history and as and old fart, I am well aware that for the majority of my life, I have known that many conservatives, both religious and non-religious, have demonized and marginalized homosexuals over the years. There have been others though, who have not. They simply held moral views and wanted them to be expressed in laws. I will not apologize for those that treated others shamefully and disrespectfully – because I cannot and will not attempt to apologize for things others have done. It is specious and self-serving to me. What I can do is understand the plight of those who were marginalized and demonized and am saddened that they had to experience such things. If any who did such things were Christians, I will say this….Jesus did not marginalize or demonize anyone. He treated people whom he considered as sinners with compassion and understanding.  He did not minimize or dismiss the standards that he saw were being violated – the standards of God – he sought to uphold them with every breath he took…but he still accepted and treated those who violated them grace and care. I would hope that those who consider themselves as Christians would follow that example. I would be remiss however, if I did not point out one thing.  Jesus did, in fact, get in the face of one group of people and one only: the self-righteous. If you think you are superior to someone else because of your belief system and you treat others who disagree with you and inferior and less worthy, then I suspect you too would also have been treated with disdain by the Galilean.

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