Bonfire of the “Elites”

In today’s somewhat morose worldbuilding thoughts inspired by real-world events (in this case, the Harvey Weinstein affair, along with an endless parade of abuse-of-power stories courtesy of Sheriff Joe, the Chicago City Council, the Arizona Dept. of Corrections, etc., etc.), one really does have to wonder what the judicial death toll is among the powerful so-called “elites” when the Empire annexes or protectoratizes somewhere less, um, serious about notions like the rule of law, the equal protection of same, and actually meaning what it says about Liberty and Justice for All.

“All debts must be paid.”
– official motto of the Curia

“I approve this message.”
– Tywin Lannister

 

libertyandjustice

This image inserted to lighten an otherwise serious post.

 

After all:

  • The Ministry of Harmonious Serenity doesn’t care whether you want to press charges or not – it might, assuming you are mentally competent, concede that you have a right to waive weregeld and reparation owed to you, but you can’t forgive a crime against the Contract and the Charter, since you don’t have standing to do so;
  • You can’t bullshit an alethiometer, and its measure of truth has nothing whatsoever to do with your “credibility”, relative or otherwise;
  • The cyberjudicial AI may Know Who You Are, but to its intellect vast and cool and unsympathetic and defined by the predicates of the law, Who You Are means exactly nothing;
  • (You can’t bribe it, either – and even if you could figure out a way to, it couldn’t accept it since its entire decision process is entered into the publically-auditable court record.)
  • Nor does it give freebies based on your career prospects, talents, pretty face, or supposed one-offness of your special crime – or, indeed, any other circumstances. You can plead duress or justification if those apply, which will be taken into account, but the algorithm was written with the Equal Protection and Application of the Law in mind, and Thus Hath No Fucks To Give about anything that doesn’t bear directly upon the events in question.
  • And there is no pardon power to be wielded on your behalf, since – for the same reasons as the victim cannot forgive a crime – it can’t exist; holding office by virtue of a Mandate descending from the Contract and the Charter, even the Imperial Couple and the unanimous Senate in all their majesty and dignity lack standing to pardon crimes against them.

Basically, should you call down upon yourself the attention of the mills of justice, they grind exceedingly fine, and they aren’t terribly slow about it, either.

“What’s the difference between God and the Curia?”
“God forgives.”
– overheard in an Encystment Facility

This is, for those counting non-Utopian features, accounted horrific by everyone who is very keen on Justice in the abstract, but are substantially less so when the prospect of their own actions being judged according to an objective standard of such might actually be realized.

(The Empire finds this position about as eye-rollingly contemptible as that of all the people who are very keen on Liberty in the abstract, as long as no-one actually uses it for anything they disapprove of or don’t understand.)


In terms of more serious dark sides, however, there is one, and it’s called misprision of felony.

For those not familiar with the term in its Earth context, it was a common-law offence making it a crime to fail to report knowledge of a felony to the appropriate authorities; exceptions being made for close family members of the felon and where the disclosure would tend to incriminate the reporter of that offense or another. It’s also currently been mostly dropped except for people who have a special duty to report a crime.

The Imperial version is essentially the same, but without the exceptions – because so far as it is concerned, upholding the law is a duty that comes along with being a citizen-shareholder, and mere sentiment does not foreclose that.

Now, by and large, the Empire has – in its own territories – much, much less of a problem with people coming forward about these things, because the justice system has the reputation that it has for delivering on its promises. (And also because the general public doesn’t have its head wedged firmly up its ass, culture-wise.)

But where and when that doesn’t happen –

Yes, it is possible (and it has happened) for the victim of a crime to be charged with misprision of felony for not reporting it. Because as stated above, you don’t have standing to forgive crimes against the Contract and the Charter, and by allowing the perpetrator to escape justice – and thus be free to prey on your fellow citizen-shareholders – you’re violating the Responsibility of Common Defense.

This stringency is, of course, horrible.

It’s just also… just.

The just heart is always cold.
– traditional, source unknown

21 thoughts on “Bonfire of the “Elites”

  1. …Which is as good an opportunity as any to broach a few questions I’ve had bouncing around inside my head that are tangentially related.

    First: What if you choose not to report a crime not because you don’t think it’s a crime, but because you want to deal with the matter “in house” without recourse to the formal justice system? (i.e. situations like “This is a family matter, we’ll handle this on our own, and we don’t take kindly to strangers sticking their nose in our business where it doesn’t belong — and when we say ‘NO TRESPASSERS’, we mean it.”)

    Second: What about those messy cases (in the same genus as the species of “Stockholm Syndrome,” but not necessarily always being strictly the same thing) where the “alleged” victim has been deceived / has deceived themselves into thinking either that the relationship satisfies the qualifications for informed consent or that they have done something to “deserve” their treatment — when a reasonable outsider looking in from the outside would conclude otherwise, and that the victim has in fact been brainwashed?

    (On a related note, what of victims who become either implicitly or explicitly complicit in their own victimhood?)

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    • First: What if you choose not to report a crime not because you don’t think it’s a crime, but because you want to deal with the matter “in house” without recourse to the formal justice system?

      Well, then you’re shit outta luck, basically.

      You consented to the jurisdiction of the Empire’s law back when you signed the Imperial Charter (per Section III, Article V, paragraph 2) and/or form I-180, and there is no defaulting from the obligations of the contract thus formed, per the Hallowed and Ancient Principle of No Backsies.

      If you want to run your own private justice system – that isn’t a strict superset of the Empire’s law and authorized by the conlegius statutes – you’re going to need to do that somewhere and as someone who hasn’t contracted away the necessary sovereign powers.

      (It is possible to contract away certain legal constraints – this being what makes, say, boxing matches and duels legal – and mandate arbitration through defined channels, but with and only with the prior, uncoerced consent of all parties involved. And the Ministry of Harmonious Serenity will be watching.)

      What about those messy cases (in the same genus as the species of “Stockholm Syndrome,” but not necessarily always being strictly the same thing) where the “alleged” victim has been deceived / has deceived themselves into thinking either that the relationship satisfies the qualifications for informed consent or that they have done something to “deserve” their treatment — when a reasonable outsider looking in from the outside would conclude otherwise, and that the victim has in fact been brainwashed?

      You may recall a footnote on the Right of Common Defense that reads thus:

      “(In some cases, such as domestic violence, Stockholm syndrome, or insanity, case law holds that an individual may be temporarily psychologically incapable of granting permissions which would have been granted by an uncoerced and/or rational version of that individual. — ed.)”

      Applying the same underlying principle, someone in that situation would be charged with misprision of felony as a matter of the proper forms and facts, but would – if genuinely brainwashed – be acquitted on the grounds of lacking legal competence and dispatched to the care of therapeutic, rather than judicial, redactors.

      (On a related note, what of victims who become either implicitly or explicitly complicit in their own victimhood?)

      Clarify, please?

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      • Clarify, please?

        I’m talking about, to use a specific case, the situation that Patty Hearst fell into where, after initially being kidnapped, she was so thoroughly reprogrammed that she actively aided and abetted her captors’ further illegal activities because, in her own words, “The thought of escaping from them later simply never entered my mind. I had become convinced that there was no possibility of escape… It simply never occurred to me.”

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    • Amusingly enough, although it’s never come up, there is actually a canon answer to how that sort of thing is dealt with in the ‘verse.

      Specifically: eels.

      More specifically: Genemod eels, with a gutful of genemod bacteria allowing them to digest all sorts of things. Very good at keeping pipes nice and clean.

      So if you should go down to your basement and see a long, shadowy shape with distinctive safety-yellow diagonal stripes swimming about in the sump, no need to worry. It’s just one of the honest workingfolk from Civic Eelgeneering.

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    • Oh, I should be punished
      for every pun I shed
      do not leave a puny shred
      of my punnish head!

      (But in the Empire, I probably won’t be – not by the law, leastwise 😛 )

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  2. I am caused to be reminded of “The Law Machines” of Phil Foglio’s Gallimaufry setting.

    Also, I would assume that after enough judicides happened to enough polities that petition for admission that there would be a recommended prepratory process, wherein the existing law and citizenry would be subjected to a linting and mass alethiometer audits and “advisory” judgement, with the pre-admission process of Pardon be employed.

    The very first book I read about alethiometers, “The Truth Machine”, had the process that almost all crimes committed before the deployment of alethiometers would be pardoned with reparation so long as you confessed to them on or reasonably soon after a given date, with alethiometer oversight.

    it was kind of necessary, because otherwise civilization would have instantly destroyed itself in a case of “okay, now everyone everywhere is in jail, await trial, which can’t happen, since all the judges are in jail too”.

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    • it was kind of necessary, because otherwise civilization would have instantly destroyed itself in a case of “okay, now everyone everywhere is in jail, await trial, which can’t happen, since all the judges are in jail too”.

      …Which sounds familiar; wasn’t that the subject of a post here, actually?

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    • I am caused to be reminded of “The Law Machines” of Phil Foglio’s Gallimaufry setting.

      Every bit as inexorable, but much more transparent!

      Also, I would assume that after enough judicides happened to enough polities that petition for admission that there would be a recommended prepratory process, wherein the existing law and citizenry would be subjected to a linting and mass alethiometer audits and “advisory” judgement, with the pre-admission process of Pardon be employed.

      To an extent, this sort of thing is part of “the process of discovery, challenge, and adaptation” mentioned here – https://eldraeverse.com/2017/03/28/its-a-satrap/ – in which a preadmission polity’s period as a satrapy is designed to avoid nasty surprises on either side and ensure everyone has a chance to learn the new rules.

      I say “to an extent” in this specific case because both the Imperial public in general, and the Ministry of Harmonious Serenity in particular, have an attitude towards the prospect of various highly-placed rapists, extortioneers, etc., getting what’s coming to them as the result of the jurisdictional shift on the spectrum between a snarkastic “Oh, how dreadful!” and actual fervid glee.

      This rather limits the enthusiasm for pre-admission amnesties that extend quite that far, or even discreet advice to get out of town, even if goodwill, toleration, and the desire to build a better future does cover amnesties for, say, petty crime, tax collection and democracy.

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    • As a side note, I was assuming that no small amount of this actually happens after admission. It’s amazing what people can manage to ignore and/or convince themselves of when the alternative wouldn’t be as pleasant and they’ve always managed to evade the consequences for far.

      And so I can easily imagine a bunch of these types being tossed into the lethal chambers with cries of “But I didn’t know you really meant it!” and “Don’t you know who I am?” fresh on their lips.

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    • Also, I would assume that after enough judicides happened to enough polities that petition for admission that there would be a recommended prepratory process, wherein the existing law and citizenry would be subjected to a linting and mass alethiometer audits and “advisory” judgement, with the pre-admission process of Pardon be employed.

      I’d also assume that, among the cleverer elements of the more sordid population of the general Associated Worlds, there is a pretty well established “rogue’s Underground Railroad” to get some of the would-be “victims” safely off planet / outside the boundaries before certain unfortunate allegations come to light.

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      • There aren’t enough admissions going on to sustain any sort of established organization; just lots of opportunists more than happy to relieve an about-to-be “victim” of their readily convertible wealth in exchange for some assistance.

        (An unspecified number of whom will relieve their client of their wealth, then dump them at the nearest bounty office in the interest of getting paid twice. Most of these people ain’t exactly beloved by the organized criminal fraternity; it’s not respectable crime.)

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        • I would think that “respectable crime” would be something of an oxymoron 😉

          And at any rate, what prevents the “unrespectable criminals” from organizing themselves into their very own fraternities and mutual support networks? It would seem that they’d have particular incentive to do so, given that they get it from both ends from both the “respectable” sorts and the honest non-criminals.

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          • Well, the moral pecking order among criminals is pretty much a known quantity, in prison studies, with the top ranks occupied by non-violent offenders and Mafiosi, et. al., who have a code and may even have some pretensions of enforcing their own laws (“You come to this one, on the day of its daughter’s wedding…”), and the nonces (mainly sex offenders) way down there at the bottom. That’s not respectable crime among criminals, belike.

            (In determining the working prison hierarchy, this interacts with the power pecking order, but while this tends to elevate, say, armed robbers above the non-violents, the nonces are still right at the bottom.)

            On the latter: nothing prevents them but themselves, being a bunch of narcissistic fuckheads. Look at, say, Donald Trump as an example of the personality type in play: dude’s made a career out of picking “Defect” in the prisoner’s dilemma. Not playing well with others is one of their defining characteristics.

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  3. A few more thoughts on the headline matter:

    First, what about those who didn’t necessarily participate directly in said abuses of power or position — and likely would have cut their ties and joined the mob in condemnation had specific details come to light — but were clearly benefiting from them by association with those who did and had an inkling of what questions not to ask on the grounds that “What I don’t know can’t hurt me”?

    (Generalizing from that: Does the Empire have any particular standards of due diligence that it uses to separate the honest legitimate “match-sellers” from the tacit “arson-subsidizers” in matters where one party’s knowledge or reasonable presumption of another party’s intentions might affect whether they’d be complicit in enabling the second party’s crime? I’m thinking especially in terms of what would here fall under matters of vicarious or contributory liability.)

    And extending the matter in time as well as space, what of those who, though honest themselves, get their benefits from managing institutions themselves built on coercion, such as, say, a business owner who is personally honest in his dealings but who benefits from the fact that his business was inherited from a great-great grandmother who built her first factory on stolen land using fraudulently-obtained funds — collectively, those who benefit from the privileges of the “subsidy of history”? (See also “The Great-Great Grandson of Captain Kidd”: http://www.wealthandwant.com/HG/irish_land_question.html#The_Great-Great-Grandson_of_Captain )

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  4. First, what about those who didn’t necessarily participate directly in said abuses of power or position — and likely would have cut their ties and joined the mob in condemnation had specific details come to light — but were clearly benefiting from them by association with those who did and had an inkling of what questions not to ask on the grounds that “What I don’t know can’t hurt me”?

    What you don’t know may not be able to hurt you, but what you choose not to know most definitely can. The Curia’s position on wilful ignorance is that if you knew enough to know what questions not to ask, then you knew enough to know that you bloody well should have done something — and the Charter Responsibility of Common Defense is mandatory, not supererogatory.

    (Generalizing from that: Does the Empire have any particular standards of due diligence that it uses to separate the honest legitimate “match-sellers” from the tacit “arson-subsidizers” in matters where one party’s knowledge or reasonable presumption of another party’s intentions might affect whether they’d be complicit in enabling the second party’s crime? I’m thinking especially in terms of what would here fall under matters of vicarious or contributory liability.)

    Yes.

    Vicarious liability is obviously very different because of the lack of employment. In practice, while party B is responsible for breach to party A caused by the actions of his subcontractor C, party B can recover full liability from C for C’s actions in breach of his contract with B. But in general obedience to the principle that You, and only you, are responsible for yourself. there is no general respondeat superiordoctrine holding a principal responsible for the actions of his sophont agents without a causal link, say, specific orders for the actions in question – in which case both are fully liable, one for issuing the orders, and the other for following them.

    In terms of contributory liability, with a remarkably small number of exceptions concerning “items of no legitimate use” – say, Class 2 or 3 Coercive Substances, one is entitled to the presumption that others are acting in good faith and within the bounds of law in the absence of knowledge or probable cause to suspect otherwise. If you do have those, see misprision of felony and the answer to your first query in this post. If you don’t, you can’t be held liable for what you didn’t know about and had no reason to enquire into.

    This is, of course, a quick glance over a large topic most of the rest of which I shall be constructing at the time I should happen to need it.

    And extending the matter in time as well as space, what of those who, though honest themselves, get their benefits from managing institutions themselves built on coercion, such as, say, a business owner who is personally honest in his dealings but who benefits from the fact that his business was inherited from a great-great grandmother who built her first factory on stolen land using fraudulently-obtained funds — collectively, those who benefit from the privileges of the “subsidy of history”?

    While the statute of limitations is obviously much, much longer, given lifespans (and for that reason also takes into account transaction hop count), and in any case runs from the first unknowing participant – i.e., the first member of the inheritors who doesn’t know what great-great grandma was up to – it still exists there.

    No-one, it should be said, likes this. Since one who has no title to property cannot transfer it, theoretically perfect justice would unwind all dependent transactions back to the original clouding of the title, and restore everyone to status quo ante with appropriate compensation for time, wear, and trouble.

    However, it’s an imperfect universe, and the Curia reluctantly recognizes that there come points of time after which either it’s not practically possible to unwind the transaction log, or doing so will cause more harm by effectively harming the innocent than the good you’re doing in the process.

    Arguments continue as to when exactly that time comes and whether there are either improvements or a better method for handling these situations.

    (I reserve the authorial right to retcon this should I think of one, by the way.)

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