Rush to Judgment, Again and Again.

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People complain that the judicial process is slow.  But there may be a reason.

A bit of a long day without a lot of time to look at the news (Wall-Saver safety cylinders coming out of molds in quantity), but trying to catch up there are two things that caught my eye.

First, report that a college student was kicked out of his discussion conference (in a class about literature) for challenging the “1 in 5” rape statistic and expressing concern for male victims of false accusations.

Second, some disturbing images of a rough and bloody arrest of an underage student at the University of Virginia who was allegedly trying to use a fake ID to buy liquor.

In both cases, depending on your biases, you may well find yourself outraged by the ridiculous behavior of authority figures. Can a student really be kicked out of an important class because he wants to rationally discuss statistics? And of course, if your read the letter, it is filled with the sort of academic jargon associated with that kind of creepy totalitarian suppression of dissent—he caused other students to feel “unsafe,” which often seems to me “disagreed with them.”

And, after Eric Garner died during an arrest related to allegedly selling loose cigarettes, you might be forgiven for thinking cops are getting way too rough on minor offenders.

Here’s the thing, though: there are two sides to every story.

Academics abusing students with political correctness run amok is an old story.  Another example, right?  Maybe.  The ejected student was contacted by Reason Magazine’s Robby Soave to get details. He placed an odd condition on the interview:

Before I interview with you, you must agree to make “nigger” be the first word in your article.

Soave refused, and thus was unable to get any comment.

Another interviewer managed to get him to say this much:

I believe that I am an emotionally capable, intellectually gifted, cutting wit, hell of a person. I believe I have experienced more trauma and suffering and pain in my life than many of these, well frankly, middle class white girls at Reed could ever know in their lives

Alrighty, then.  So…was the professor justified? If that’s how the student normally operates…very possibly. Not just for the racial epithet, but for the deeply weird non-sequitur and the self-aggrandizement combined with belittling others. I suppose we still don’t know, but it looks a lot less like a thuggish professor enforcing conformity today and more like a student who could stand to learn when to speak and when to listen.

Now as for the Virginia officers, maybe they slammed a student to the ground for no reason. Or maybe they slammed him to the ground for a really, really bad reason, like the color of his skin. Or maybe they had a good reason, like he was trying to fight. The fact that several students claimed he was compliant doesn’t settle the case; it’s not unheard of to lie or shade the truth for friends or people you identify with (and students are far more likely to identify with students rather than cops), and it’s also no unheard of to claim to have witnessed something you didn’t. That sounds strange, but the DoJ’s report on the Michael Brown shooting* contained numerous examples of people who claimed to have been there and seen it…who didn’t. Strange but true.

So: we don’t know. In either case. We can hope that more digging by reporters and detectives will tell us. And in the meantime, shouting our outrage—or, for that matter, shouting at people who are shouting their outrage—is a waste of breath.

I would hope that if I were accused of something outrageous, that I might get a fair hearing–in court, of course, but in the court of public opinion, too.  I wouldn’t much like to be judged a murderer or a towering asshole by someone who hadn’t taken the time to listen to my side.  And I suppose I (we) owe that same courtesy to anyone else.

*(There’s another example of a rush to judgment by the media and the public right there).

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