By Kit Lange
[Although not directly addressing James Faire’s case, the author speaks eloquently to the fundamental principle so blatantly and repeatedly violated by the Okanogan County “justice” system. The principles the article expounds cry out to be restored in America and in the hearts of all those who claim to love Liberty and Justice.]
We patriots are often found debating the finer points of Constitutional amendments and/or concepts embodied in Liberty. One of the greatest of these—and one of those with some of the most widely used derivatives—is the idea that someone is innocent until proven guilty. We understand this in an abstract sense. It’s a cliche; you don’t have to be a Constitutional scholar to have heard the phrase. It’s only been part of the opening credits for the show Cops for two decades. But what does it really mean? And why are patriots some of the first people to trash it in application? Simple: Because we are human…and maybe, because there’s an application for the concept that most people don’t even think about.
Innocent until proven guilty. It’s the foundation of our entire court system, our entire justice system. When someone is charged or even accused of a crime, the burden of proof lies with the entity making the accusation. It does not lie with the accused. This ties in with another phrase most people are familiar with: beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, people cannot be convicted of a crime unless the jury (or judge in some cases) is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the guilt was proven. An accused person cannot be convicted because a jury thinks, “Gee, it sounds plausible,” or because one of the witnesses is their buddy who they’ve known for 20 years and trust implicitly. In fact, one of the basic ways to get excused form a jury is to know or be related to any of the parties in the case. Quite frankly, the system is meant to be stacked in favor of the accused, and this theoretically protects innocent people from being convicted frivolously or targeted by a government looking to silence them for some reason. We know, of course, that in practice the concept is in shambles, but that’s another issue.
Yes, yes, I know all this, you say. Why am I giving a primer on law when I’m not a lawyer? Here’s why: because the idea that someone accused of something is innocent until proven guilty gets thrown out the window far too often when dealing with interpersonal relationships in our prepper groups and III% units. How many times have we seen a group implode due to accusations, drama, and mudslinging fests that rival a political campaign? All over social media, all over the blogs…some of these groups seem to thrive on the drama. He said and she said and oh did you hear what so-and-so posted? One person makes accusations, and then the accused party runs to their own blog or Facebook page to answer those accusations and—if they’re into the flinging poo thing—level a few of their own. Right about this time, someone starts making popcorn because a third party (usually a friend of one side or the other) decides to weigh in. More blogs, more division, more BS. After a while, not only is everything still unresolved, but the surrounding populace is sick to death of hearing about it. In some cases there is permanent damage to the charity, cause or endeavor that the entire group had set out to contribute to, not to mention irreparable harm to reputations and credibility.
How does innocent until proven guilty have anything to do with this? Simple. When patriots expose corrupt politicians and sheriffs, we post the evidence. We prove our case, because 1) we HAVE proof and 2) we NEED proof. It’s not enough to go to someone and say, “Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is an enemy of liberty,” especially if the person doesn’t know who Ozzie is. Now, if you go write a blog post and say, “Ozzie is an enemy of liberty; here are some videos of him harassing Constitutionalists, working with hate group SPLC and even a speech he gave in which he likened constitutionalists to ISIS,” now you might have something.
Too often, we get caught up in gossip. We see something that we don’t like about someone, an attitude or an action, and then when someone else comes along and says, “Did you know that so and so…?” we are just that much more inclined to believe it. Or we genuinely LIKE someone, and so we assign more weight to whatever they say. Instead of saying, “Do you have any hard evidence of that?” we say, “Whoa…really?” In doing so, we have now shifted the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused. Now instead of the accuser having to prove that the accused is guilty, the accused must prove he is innocent.
This is contrary to the entire concept we claim to believe in.
When someone comes to you and says, “Sally did XYZ,” your reaction should not be “Whoa, really?” It should not be “wow that’s too bad” or even “that jackass!” It should be “Is there proof? What’s the proof? Where did you get your information?” Without proof, accusations are just gossip, and in many cases, slander. Accusations are not truth until they have proof to back them up.
But what happens when you hear accusations against someone? What should you do with them? Post them on Facebook? Call your best friend and say “I heard that…”? The easiest way to answer that question is to refer to the most basic rule of all for how to conduct yourself:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
How would you prefer people react if they heard accusations about you? If the (false) rumor was going around that you were cheating on your wife, would you want them to go to your wife? Would you want them to tell your business associates and friends as though it were decided fact? Or would you want people who heard that rumor to demand hard evidence? And how would you want them to treat YOU through all that? Would you prefer they be nice to your face and gossip with others behind your back? Or would you hope that they at least had enough respect for you to call you up and say, “Hey…this is being said about you. I thought you should know, and I also want you to know that if you want to talk about it that’s fine, but until I see hard proof I’m going to treat it like malicious gossip and I’m not going to engage in it.”
In other words, you would want to be innocent until proven guilty.
And yet, here we are, believing whatever we’re told, jumping on a bandwagon because we think that whoever told us is trustworthy. Trustworthy people can be wrong. They can also be liars too; some people are simply not as trustworthy as we think they are. And if you choose to believe a rumor rather than investigate it, if you choose to judge instead of find out the truth, then you don’t really believe that people ARE innocent until proven guilty. They’re innocent until you THINK they’re guilty. If you’re wrong, you can destroy credibility, reputations, and even families and relationships.
George Washington said “Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world, that a free man contending for Liberty on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.” Animate. Encourage. Not tear down, lie about, and destroy.
If we are to be the principled patriots that we claim, then we need to live those values. That means NOT engaging in gossip, not participating in the assassination of character, or the spreading of that nasty rumor. It means remembering that innocent until proven guilty isn’t just for the courtroom.
Kit Lange is a USAF veteran and freedom activist. She has a bachelor degree in Counterintelligence and is working on advanced degrees in Criminal Intelligence and Criminal Justice. She blogs at The Patrick Henry Society (and formerly at Victory Girls).
Used by permission. Published September 4, 2015 at The Patrick Henry Society.