Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Vigilantism is much in the news these days.
Depending on the definition you choose, vigilantism may or may not be inherently illegal. Concerned citizens standing in front of a jailhouse to prevent a lynching, as depicted in To Kill a Mockingbird for example, would be performing a completely legal kind of vigilantism by some definitions. Usually, however, the implication of vigilantism, and particularly of “vigilante justice,” is that citizens are taking it upon themselves to act as judge, jury, and, occasionally, executioner in order to impose their idea of justice — and doing so illegally.
A distinguishing trait of vigilantism is that it is undertaken with “good” intentions. I use the word “good” advisedly, since it’s a highly subjective term and never more so than when used in this context: the things that vigilantes have considered “good” range from putting down killers in the Old West to lynching blacks in the Old South. What distinguishes vigilantism from plain, old violent crime is that vigilantes believe they’re doing what they do for the benefit to their group, community, country, etc.
The Arbery killing in Georgia is, in my opinion, an example of criminal vigilantism. I believe it’s also an example of grotesque police misconduct, as ugly and wrong as the more famous incident involving Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis.
The riots that have torn our cities apart for the past few weeks, and that have led to violence and bloodshed on the streets of Seattle, are a mix of vigilantism and plain old criminality. Some folks just want a new TV; they’re just criminals. But to the extent that the people doing it think they’re in the right, believe they’re serving a higher calling by tearing down statues, burning police cars, etc., they’re criminal vigilantes — just like the thuggish killers of Georgia who caused the death of Mr. Arbery. Black Lives Matter and Antifa, and all of the excitable young people who follow in their wake, are guilty of the same moral arrogance as the Ku Klux Klan, the Weather Underground, and every other group that imagines it has the authority to wield illegal violence in order to achieve its twisted idea of “the good.”
Playing the race card doesn’t make criminal vigilantism suddenly noble and good. It’s barbarism, and it should be condemned as such.Published in