By Seana Sperling
In the new millennium we have the Internet where herds of people can spread libel online about anyone they wish and they can do this anonymously. If a self-righteous mob forms online, some may feel bold enough to go offline with their innuendo. I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) on Friday morning August 23, 2013. The story was about San Diego’s former Mayor Bob Filner, a Progressive Democrat, who was accused of sexually harassing 18 women. As a result of the allegations, a petition to recall him went viral and he was forced to resign.
There has been no actual trial for Filner. In fact his lawyers claim that he cannot get a fair trial in San Diego according to an MSN report. However, the accused has been forced to resign and has to live with these allegations. (In some cities vigilantes follow around “accused,” individuals and harass them wherever they go.)
It seems that Due Process is a thing of the past and you can be tried and convicted by an online jury of Internet Trolls or on the Nightly News. Is he guilty? We can’t know that unless there is a fair trial.
These people have accused him, but have any of the accusers been given any scrutiny? Mainstream News interviewed two women who claimed to be victims of Filner. While one seemed sincere, the other did not. In our gossip-lusting society, if many are making the same accusation, people will believe it. It becomes a popular belief and the self-righteous gang-up on the accused. Is there an agenda? Are the accusers Neo-conservatives? Certainly Filner had angered many in his San Diego community.
Anyone making a serious accusation against another should have to take a Voice Stress Test at the very least. It is similar to a polygraph, but much less expensive and can even be done over the phone. While lacking 100% reliability, if an accuser were at least aware that they would have to take this test, it might deter many false accusations. Even some news websites require that a person register before commenting on articles. This deters Internet Trolls from anonymous libel or harassment of the authors or commentors.
At some point everyone has been accused of something (and sometimes falsely). It could be as simple as a childhood incident where the playground bully knocked you down, but told the Teacher you started the fight and if the bully’s friends were standing around, they could confirm the story. An extreme example would be the Internet Troll that tells all his/her FaceBook friends that you are a pedophile or sexual deviant. Then the accusation goes Viral. Some may say “Sticks and stones,” however, in the present day, the accusation can be aired publicly via the News or the Internet and the accused can be harassed and ruined as a result.
The Filner NPR story I listened to was quite different from Mainstream Media’s spin. NPR’s report revealed his progressive background as well as the fact that he had denied the sexual harassment accusations all along (even though he admitted to some of the other accusations). Mainstream Media said nothing about his importance to the Progressive Democratic Community in San Diego and his past progressive activism. In fact, Mainstream Media cherry-picked comments from Filner making him appear to admit guilt to the accusations of sexual harassment. They also interviewed a couple of his accusers, but had no comment on the interviews from the accused. This was hardly balanced reporting.
18 women accused Filner of sexual harassment. I don’t know if he is guilty or not, but it seems that the accusations have ruined his life. There is a Talmudic saying, “If everyone stands against someone accused, release him, for he must be innocent.” The Talmud is referring to Mobbing or Scapegoating. Like the Witch Hunts of the past (McCarthyism for one) an accuser comes forward and others get caught up in the hysteria, scrutinizing and distorting everything the accused did and said as a way to prove the accusation. Sometimes this can involve set-ups.
Two Whistleblowers: Julian Assange of Wikileaks and the Former Head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominic Strauss-Khan seem to have been targeted with false accusations. (Khan had presiously given some damaging testimony about the banks and derivatives when he was interviewed in the film Inside Job.) They were both accused of rape. According to Mainstream Media, in the case of Assange, the two accusers claimed it was rape because he did not use a condom. In the case of Strauss-Khan, a hotel maid alleged that he raped her while he was staying in the United States. Is it true? Strauss-Khan spent time behind bars in the U.S. while his innocence was being sorted out. Assange is still in exile.
Hopefully everyone remembers what happened to ACORN and Planned Parenthood a few years ago. Neo-conservative Christians played dress-up, posing as pimps and prostitutes and set-up both organizations, later releasing a hidden video recording to shame the organizations. ACORN is no more and Planned Parenthood is constantly under attack.
Where is the accountability for people that make accusations or use set-ups? In our “See something, say something, “ surveillance society anyone can be accused of anything and anonymously. This is a blatant abuse of the Sixth Amendment to The Constitution.
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”
The Framers of the Constitution knew very well how a Whisper Campaign could destroy an innocent person and this is why the Sixth Amendment is so important. Why is there so little protection against false accusations in the new millennium?
Democrat Anthony Weiner foolishly fell for what I would call a set-up, a few years ago, letting his ego come between common sense and fidelity. However, who was this young woman who did the reporting about Weiner? Was she just some innocent co-ed? Certainly she had been flirting with Weiner, a married man, yet all eyes were on Weiner and not on the accuser. Was she a Neo-conservative? (Now it appears that Weiner is being stalked and cyberbaited by Neo-conservatives that want to ruin him.)
Many have been falsely accused including myself. It seems that self-righteous, Neo-conservatives can accuse anyone of anything and can also use set-ups, and no one even blinks at this abuse of the law and the constitution. No. No. That would not be popular.