Saturday, April 20, 2013

De-Mirandizing: Not a Bug, but a Feature

Emily Bazelon does a superb job of explaining a(t least one) good reason why we should be reading young Dzhokhar his Miranda rights, but I think she may be talking past the important issue.  She might want to consider the point that for some people, depriving defendants of fundamental human rights is not just a practical compromise, it an urgent principled necessity: necessity because the goal of the whole process is to strip them of their human dignity.  It's the same reason why, for example, not many people get worked up over the victims of prison rape.

Consider: if we acknowledge their human dignity, we are admitting they are "like us," which would imply that people "like us" can do dreadful thing, which would imply--oh, dear,, let's not go there, but I do recall Goethe (yes?) saying there was no crime he couldn't imagine himself committing.  For folk with this attitude, refusing to grant fundamental rights is not a bug but a feature, and "necessity" is quite beside the point.  Emily argues that if they can do it to people like young Dzhokhar, then maybe they can do it to you, or her.  Quite right, Emily, and that may be just the point.

For extra credit:  the proposition set forth here is independent from the proposition that people enjoy torturing others because they enjoy seeing them suffer.  But they overlap.  If we (for example) send Christians into the  arena to be torn to shreds by lions, it may be because we enjoy seeing them suffer.  It may also be be because we don't recognize them as "like us."  Yet if they are not "like us," why do we get such enjoyment out of seeing them suffer?


Anonymous said...

Re: Miranda
If the perp could not communicate, which is what I read, how does one establish "Informed Consent". Reading Miranda to an unconscious person would seem to be ridiculous.

mike shupp said...


The actual thought behind several Senator's statements was that Tsarnaev should be held for a lenghty period -- several months perhaps -- while interrogators used whatever means necessary to extract every scrap of his knowledge about terrorism.

The Obama administration short circuited much of that by charging him formally with a Federal crime and bringing him before a judge. This in turn dismays a number of people, who has Buce points out, really want other people to suffer extreme pain for their crimes, no matter what the Constitution may say. I've got a (self-proclaimed Libertarian) roommate in that category, so Buce speaks of where I know.