People are trying to identify of the national socialists who attended the Charlottesville fiasco. The people leading this operation want to identify those individuals so they can be publicly shamed and fired from their jobs. I nominally have nothing against such a tactic. After all, it was a public rally so anybody there should have been aware that they had no expectation of privacy. However, if you’re going to ruin somebody’s life you damn well better be sure that you have the right target. Unfortunately, as is common with these Internet lynch mobs, people have been less concerned about evidence than about nailing somebody to the wall:
After a day of work at the Engineering Research Center at the University of Arkansas, Kyle Quinn had a pleasant Friday night in Bentonville with his wife and a colleague. They explored an art exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and dined at an upscale restaurant.
Then on Saturday, he discovered that social media sleuths had incorrectly identified him as a participant in a white nationalist rally some 1,100 miles away in Charlottesville, Va. Overnight, thousands of strangers across the country had been working together to share photographs of the men bearing Tiki torches on the University of Virginia campus. They wanted to name and shame them to their employers, friends and neighbors. In a few cases, they succeeded.
But Mr. Quinn’s experience showed the risks.
A man at the rally had been photographed wearing an “Arkansas Engineering” shirt, and the amateur investigators found a photo of Mr. Quinn that looked somewhat similar. They were both bearded and had similar builds.
By internet frenzy standards, that was proof enough.
Following Blackstone’s formulation, which states that, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer,” doesn’t make me the most popular person in the world but I’d rather have clean hands than be popular.
Justice cannot exist when there is no concern for evidence and proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before inflicting punishment. The only result of a lack of a substantial burden of proof is a system of chance. Maybe some guilty people will be punished, maybe some innocent people will be punished. If you’re accused of a crime, you will be facing a flip of a coin.
If you want to name and shame national socialists, that’s fine. However, you should actually have enough evidence at hand to prove that they’re national socialists. Likewise, people on the Internet shouldn’t take any accusations at face value. If somebody claims that an individual is a national socialist, you should demand to see the evidence and decide if the evidence proves that the individual is a national socialist beyond a reasonable doubt. If both of those conditions are missing, everybody will effectively be holding a gun to each other’s head and the only rule will be to shoot somebody before they have a chance to shoot you.