Point. Click. Con­vict.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc - Twit­ter: @Wanger­sky.

So the mak­ers of the Netflix se­ries “The Mak­ing of a Mur­der” are tak­ing some heat for the de­tails they chose to leave out of their story on con­victed mur­derer Steven Avery — ap­par­ently, in­clud­ing ev­ery­thing just doesn’t make a com­pelling enough story.

Re­gard­less, hun­dreds of thou­sands have asked U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to par­don the man.

It’s an ex­am­ple of how the jus­tice sys­tem is be­ing over­taken by opin­ion — and as if the court of pub­lic opin­ion wasn’t bad enough, we now have trial by so­cial me­dia.

And it’s un­con­cerned with is­sues of ac­tual proof, and un­bound by such con­straints as rules of ev­i­dence

“For some vic­tims of vi­o­lence, so­cial me­dia is be­com­ing the place to find com­mu­nity jus­tice out­side the courts,” a Now colum­nist wrote in Toronto last year.

Facts? Don’t need them. Hy­per­bole and opin­ion trump all.

We join the court — it’s al­ways in ses­sion, with the selec­tive use of facts to bol­ster what­ever con­clu­sion its pros­e­cu­tors sup­port.

“Did you see that Ac­tor T is a sex fiend? ““I didn’t see that …” “He had sex with a CHICKEN!” “What? When? How?” “Fol­low this link,” to a mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle in a on­line mag­a­zine you’ve never read be­fore, or even heard of be­fore, for a first-per­son ac­count of some­one who owns a chicken. Now, you have no idea what its edi­to­rial stan­dards are or whether it reg­u­larly prints out­landish ar­ti­cles as In­ter­net click-bait, but hey, there it is in black and white. Some­one wrote it, so it has to be true.

“Well, I’m not sure if we can go that far — but I found the her­bal Vi­a­gra ads and the ‘Click here for ugli­est trans­for­ma­tions — what 10 child stars look like now’ box off-putting … ”

“If you need more proof, I can tell you that my un­cle’s ex-wife saw him once in Toronto and she said he was com­pletely ig­no­rant to her when she walked up to his ta­ble at break­fast.

And there’s a blog where some­one named Wen­day — Wen­dae? — talks about how Ac­tor T’s sit­u­a­tion is just an­other ex­am­ple of what al­ways hap­pens in cases like th­ese. Plus, look at this Face­book page called ‘Jus­tice for the Vic­tims” set up by ‘Anony­mous #6.’ Don’t you want the vic­tims to have jus­tice?”

“I guess, but, why doesn’t the main­stream me­dia have any of this? Why are they pro­tect­ing this ob­vi­ous an­i­mal if Ac­tor T re­ally is a chicken abuser/closet smoker/se­rial killer?”

“The main­stream me­dia works for the mil­i­tary-in­dus­trial com­plex, I mean, the out­erspace oli­garchs.” “Or maybe it wasn’t true.” “Of course it is. The peo­ple who say it wouldn’t be say­ing it if it wasn’t true!” Ver­dict? Guilty as charged. I am as­tounded how we’ve moved to a world where peo­ple who have been ac­cused of some­thing in­stantly be­come guilty. In Al­berta, a driver who hit and killed a child had his thumb cut off with prun­ing shears af­ter a so­cial me­dia cam­paign sug­gested the jus­tice sys­tem wouldn’t de­liver a strong enough penalty. At that point, the man had been con­victed of pre­cisely noth­ing.

I ac­tu­ally look for­ward to the day when a self-styled In­ter­net pros­e­cu­tor, one of the web vig­i­lantes, is suc­cess­fully sued, be­cause we need a wake-up call: jus­tice sys­tems are only as strong as their weak­est links.

On­line, those links in­clude any­one who can ar­range their fin­gers on a key­board. And they can be very weak in­deed.

Oh, and Steven Avery? Pres­i­dent Obama can’t par­don him; ap­par­ently, the 400,000 peo­ple who have pe­ti­tioned the pres­i­dent don’t re­al­ize the ba­sics of the law.

Avery was con­victed un­der state statutes, and pres­i­dents don’t have the power to par­don peo­ple con­victed on those terms.

The wis­dom of the masses.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.