The Vicious Peril of Mob Justice

Back in 2006, a young woman accused several men of kidnapping her, then gang-raping her. The media played up her story, and the men were all arrested, thrown out of school, and badly abused in the media. The incident became known as the Duke LaCrosse Team Case, and gained notoriety because the men were completely innocent. It’s noteworthy that not one of the media hacks who tried to destroy the young men, ever took personal responsibility for their atrocious behavior.

In 2014, Rolling Stone magazine broke the story about a college student at the University of Virginia who accused several male students of rape. Like the Duke case, that story proved to be completely false, but the men – again – were presumed guilty and thrown out of school and faced serious legal trouble. And once again, no one at Rolling Stone magazine, TMZ, NBC, ABC, CBS or Fox ever stepped up and admitted they were way out of bounds by running with assumptions and ignoring the right of the accused to have accusations tested before being broadcast as fact.

So here we are again. I really, really hate the possibility that I am defending slime bags who molested women and committed crimes, but I am deeply concerned by a pattern I see – far from new – of the media running with the most salacious story they can find, with absolutely no effort to verify claims before going loud Enough information on some of the cases has come up to help a reasonable person find at least some charges credible. And some of the accused have come out and more or less admitted their guilt. But with that said, many others who have been accused have denied their guilt, and certain aspects of their cases suggest that they may be victims of a contrived effort to damage their name and position. No, I am not going to get into whom I think is innocent or guilty, except for a case which shows what I fear.

I despise Matt Lauer, especially since it seems he has admitted his guilt, that NBC covered for him for many years, and he was protected because he was important to the network. But it bothered me that Lauer was fired within hours of the first-ever accusation against him. Either NBC knew he was guilty and ignored it for years, or they made an assumption as soon as Lauer was accused. Even if someone is really guilty, a total scumbucket, a reasonable employer fires them only when guilt is proven, not when the accusation is embarrassing for the company.

There is absolutely no place for sexual predators in any position of trust or authority. But there is great and terrible peril in punishing someone on the basis of an accusation, however serious.

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