I don’t have a terribly high opinion of the political commentary offered from SVU, but I thought the episode this week was pretty startling. The executive summary (spoilers) is that an Ann-Coulter type journalist is a guest speaker at a university campus, where the protestors and counter-protestors get into a riot. During the fracas, somebody rapes this journalist. What happens next is what you’d expect: grandstanding lawyers, a hateful peanut gallery. One suspect is a mouthy Antifa barista who says a woman who denigrates women should be denigrated herself. The other suspect is a white-supremacist vlogger who wants to throw out half the jury because they aren’t racially pure. At the end of the episode, the court dismisses charges against all suspects. The case is just too fraught for the truth to will out. The Anne-Coulter clone stalks off—brutalized, enraged at the inefficiency of the justice system, and undeserving of the fact that nobody will ever put her rapist away. 

The episode was difficult to watch, because it showed me people I don’t like, and also people I don’t wish to be like. It showed a fringe that seems to creep closer to the mainstream each day. But more than that, it showed what could happen to a process that should really remain above politics (as much as anything can). It showed a breakdown of law and order. I’m not talking about riots in the streets; the riot finished in two minutes of airtime. I mean a breakdown of due process, of bureaucracy, of justice itself (no matter how imperfect it has always been). And all of this happened, because those of us who have inherited the system couldn’t work with one another well enough to employ that system. We could not protect a citizen, because the case was never about a citizen. It was about a stance. It was about who was right. In fact, it was like another famous court case, where a woman once agreed to cut a child in half.

(Originally posted February 2, 2018)

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