Feb 2, 2009

scattered thoughts about vigilantism

Regarding the March / April LD resolution, "Vigilantism is justified when the government has failed to enforce the law."

1. You can't avoid the Batman. In fact, you might be encouraged to bring up his name every now and then.

2. Vigilantism, according to Ron Levi, is "one of the least developed topics in criminology." Great. The dearth of expert advice is a double-edged sword of justice: it means difficult research, but may spark more imaginative cases.

3. What kind of context surrounds the resolution?
a. A society, since "the government" is implicated, and "the law" (especially with the article) takes on a social meaning. See definition 2a here.
b. Thus, a society with some kind of established order, and therefore not anarchy, because of the existence of "the government" and "the law."
c. Thus, society with a weak, distant, apathetic, or evil government, since it has "failed to enforce the law."

4. Any Neg that allows the Aff to equate enforcing the law with attaining justice is well on the way to losing the round.

5. Are private police forces--security guards, mall cops, Disney police, Blackwater--a form of vigilantism?

6. Weber's thoughts on the "monopoly on the legitimate use of violence in the enforcement of its order" may come into play.

7. The resolution simply does not specify which aspects of "the law" have not been enforced; the Affirmative needs to try and limit the discussion to some sort of harmful, dangerous crimes, perhaps using rhetoric about "moral seriousness." Otherwise, this might mean we could fear "420 patrols" springing up in jurisdictions where the cops pay no mind to the stoners at the bus stop.

8. The prospect of individually pursuing justice is equally alluring and terrifying--Romantic with a capital R, and brimming with existential implications. Films like The Ox-Bow Incident and The Brave One and Memento are worth watching just to get in the right spirit for debate.


Captain Princess said...

To counter Weber, I'd run with Charles Tilly--specifically an argument that permanent social structures can emerge from timely individual practices.

The positive side of an argument: You don't get the JLA without Batman. Negative side: Raz al' Gul and his ninja guild then emerge as the evil JLA.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the comment but I'm a novice, but could you please explain a little more your 4th post. (Any Neg that allows the Aff to equate enforcing the law with attaining justice is well on the way to losing the round.) Thanks in advance

Jim Anderson said...

Well, now that I've thought about it, I'm not entirely sure I agree with myself. But my point was that the Neg has to be very careful about letting the Affirmative argue that, because the government has "failed to enforce the law," that injustices are occurring. It could very well be that the law is unjust. A Neg could argue that vigilantism is justified only when an actual injustice has occurred.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am a novice debater and read your blogs often for advice. While brainstorming, I realized that if given the appropriate definitions, one could use an observation stating that since the law is not being inforced, one can assume that the vigilantes hold repect for the law and government.. I'm not sure if this will help anyone but is a rather interesting take on the subject I though I should share.

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, it is an interesting thought. If I had to argue against it, I'd say that vigilantes are concerned more with perceived injury (rather than legality), and are likely to have a view of justice based on "an eye for an eye." Or worse, they are more likely to inflict more harm than is deserved, since there is no constraint on their search for retribution.

Anonymous said...

now you mention batman i kno he's a vigilanti but how could you use him in either case being as your oponent could say that he is a fictional character and dose not pertain to the debate and dose not work as a legitiment example

JJ said...

I mean, unless you are saying vigilantism is going to be carried out by lone wolves that care about every individual, have deep seated emotional problems, and a nearly unlimited supply of resources - you may want to stay away from Batman.

However, looking at any media-portrayed vigilante, bad thing always happen to them or their loved ones. Almost all have their roots at some type of psychological trauma - man on fire, batman, any of the x-men. And even a lot of bad vigilantes enforcing their own laws (chaos, etc) like the joker, green goblin, etc. Are they fit to make these huge decisions? And then you can look to things like aunt may and mary jane being kidnapped. Severe bouts of depression experienced by Spidey. Superman has to deal with Lois Lane being kidnapped. He hangs up the towel for a while because his mind is torture racked with depression. Maybe super hero examples fall too much on both sides of the fence. Just a foreboding.

And building off Jim's last post. One of the most interesting things about any definition I've seen so far of vigilantism: many things are left to the vigilante. "CLAIM to work to better the existing system." "Apprehend and punish SUSPECTED criminals." As debaters, what do we make of this? Threat Con time?

Anonymous said...

Captain Princess, can you explain where I can find more info about that Tilly argument?

Anonymous said...

Could the UN, ICC, or any other international group be considered a government in this case?

Anonymous said...


What do you mean by "threat con" time?

fluctuating said...

This concerns the question that was posted by an Anonymous at 8:21 AM.

The thought about other "governments" is an interesting one.

If anyone could answer, that would be great! I am equally interested in seeing what other debaters think.

Jai Ein said...

'A government is the body within any organization that has the authority to make and the power to enforce laws, regulations, or rules.'

'the body of persons that constitutes the governing authority of a political unit or organization'

'A government is a body that has the power to make and enforce laws within an organization or group.'

There's no doubt that some specific international groups make and enforce laws, but they aren't inside an organization or group, they ARE that group. But our government was made from the Constitution ... would that considered an organization because of the group that made it?...

Hm... I don't know. I'd like to get the answer to this too.

dasola said...

well vigilante enforcement...this resolution is still a little confusing to me could somebody please clarify it for me.But let me see if this is oing towards aff it could be said that the crime commited wasn't punished or punished right like the emmet till murder and acting upon injustice the vigilante takes matters into their own hands...upon neg case the kkk is a good example. But what do i know.

Anonymous said...

On the batman situation, couldn't you pull across the fact that one of the most popular TV shows and Movies are based on a vigilante. That generally he is loved and revered and that this may be a standard by which other everyday people would want to live up to, kind of like a role model, bringing the guilty to justice. Doing what is perceived to be right by the means deemed necessary. Just a thought.