When objectivity is not the objective, the ultimate judgment is anyone’s guess. For those who have traveled down a lengthy rabbit hole doubling as a discussion on social media, it is known that more times than not the net result is a lot of subjective thinking; a lot of hyperbolic venting; and a lot of deconstructive fulminating. For each assertion of rational thought there are myriad baseless proclamations. (Read Lisa Anne Zilney’s article, “Guilt by Association: Labeling Research-Based Policy Suggestions as ‘Pro-Offender” for proof of that.) And while that can be frustrating, it’s tolerable because the objective (and expectation) of posting online is to unpack cathartic contemplation and knee-jerk vitriol; hence the prevailing comment that social media posts tend to transform into a cesspool of unmitigated tantrums. But fundamentality there is no tangible infection of society born out of that sump because laws and judgments are not rendered from that ultra-impassioned platform.
Politicians and judges, because of the significance of their decisions, are trusted to demonstrate limited emotion when making determinations that are intended to provide fairness for everyone. That does not mean that those individuals need to be robots; but they must utilize a rational line of thinking when legislating and judging. To do otherwise is a violation of the very order they intend to create and uphold.
There is certainly a place for visceral orations: electrifying pregame exhortations, compelling religious sermons and dynamic motivational speeches serve an invaluable function and certainly can promote inspiration and achievement. But emotional energy on its own becomes dangerous when it is repeatedly stoked back to life. Endurance is the ultimate catalyst in the pursuit of victory; and endurance is a combination of intrinsic energy with unflagging logic. My high school baseball coach advised me “to fight every battle with passion and reason; and when you find the proper balance between those two ingredients the final product will be credible, and worthy of distinction.” And credibility is sought from those that create the laws and those that uphold them.
Unfortunately, of late, there is evidence that flagrant emotions from social media are dictating the verdicts asserted by supposed objective arbiters. And when findings are delivered with demonstrative and detached zeal, they are quickly digested by the salivating media and general population. And when comments that go beyond the appropriate scope are so obviously personal, it shifts that decision from the necessarily innocuous objective to the potentially harmful subjective. And suddenly social media commentary is fueled and becomes a tail-wagger of the dog. This is particularly toxic regarding the treatment of sex crimes and those accused and/or convicted of those offenses.
In a sexual assault case involving a gymnastics coach, the judge rendered a sentence of 40-175 years. But the vindictive fashion in which the sentence was revealed possibly paved the way for future judgments to be swayed towards onerous retributions that are unreasonable. The judge said, “I do not think that you should ever leave jail and do not believe that you can be rehabilitated. It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. I just signed your death warrant.” At the completion of the judge’s extended and fiery commentary, most of the individuals in the courtroom exploded with applause.
Regardless of the elements of a case, no matter the nature of the acts that were committed by the convicted individual, the judge must maintain decorum and provide an objective decision that is devoid of fomenting emotion. Failing that, the judge is no better than the individual who unleashes a feverish and unfounded post on social media.
It is unquestionably important in a democracy that judges and politicians, as a whole, are impartial and independent of all external influences; this conduct provides a calm sense of reason and a longstanding degree of trust with society. And for those principles it is imperative upon us to fight with unrelenting stamina and unwavering rationale while demanding uncompromised fairness. For when Objectivity is ushered out and Subjectivity grabs the reins, welcome to the Wild, Wild “Guess.”
– Maxwell Monty