If I was hoping to court the legally-ignorant, politically conservative reader, yesterday would not have been a good day for me. While lawprof Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, couldn’t be bothered to learn about the criminal justice system before opining about how to fix it, he had time to write about how mean I was to him. Not terribly surprising, given how lawprofs tend to be a bit sensitive.
What came of Reynolds’ post was a curious thing, a swarm of his followers commenting in his defense. Most were just silly, reflecting the folks who follow his political agenda, and good for some lulz, but they raised an interesting dilemma: lacking education, practical experience or sufficient interest to learn about the substantive issues and problems involved, they ripped me a new one because the post here to which they were directed was the culmination of both numerous posts about Reynolds’ disastrous Ham Sandwich Nation “fix” for the criminal justice system and even more numerous posts on the underlying issues.
One commenter made a good point, that my telling them to read a bunch of posts that would provide the substance that isn’t in the one post to which they were directed is “weaksauce.” He’s right. It’s not that this matters much, as they haven’t come because they have any sincere interest in the subject. If they did, they would already be knowledgeable and wouldn’t demand to be taught from the ground up.
But then, to the extent this is anything other than a humorous aside for those of us who are involved in criminal justice issues, it’s an opportunity to educate the poor souls who are limited by Reynolds deep commentary (Heh?), and their point that the one post they read wasn’t substantive is well-taken.
So if they can’t be expected to read a hundred posts (and it’s not really reasonable to expect them to do so), they lack any foundational knowledge on the subject and they’re generally disinclined to disagree with their political guru, is there any way to address this gap?
Bear in mind that when the post that made Reynolds cry was written, it wasn’t for the purpose of educating his followers but as the coda in the series of posts about his awful ideas to fix the system at the expense of defendants, which in turn was based on innumerable posts here about specific issues and problems with the system. Way too much to include in one post (and likely one full-length book, for that matter), and completely unnecessary for regular readers here or people who are knowledgeable about criminal law.
Obviously, I can’t go back and rewrite the post as Criminal Law 101 for the benefit of Instapundit readers, with lengthy explanations that are obvious to the rest of us. Perhaps I should have anticipated that Reynolds would get all butthurt about it, write a post with his deepest thoughts, and cause an influx of his readers to come here to salvage his damaged dignity, but I didn’t. And even if I had, it would have bored the daylights out of regular readers here. As SJ is neither political nor a plea for popularity among the Instapundit fans, the idea of writing a post in anticipation of the swarm seems outlandish.
One answer could be found on the flip side, if only Reynolds had an appreciation of the more thoughtful legal and practical impact of his politically driven ideas, such that his purportedly well-intended, if misguided, fixes were themselves more substantive, but it’s hardly useful to blame the guy who proffers bad ideas for not understanding why his ideas are bad. If he did, he wouldn’t have done so in the first place.
One might expect him, as a lawprof, to try to gain a far better basis of knowledge before going off, but that was one of the primary points of my rant about Reynolds in the first place. And he’s playing to a political audience (which is a large part of the problem) rather than to an audience knowledgeable or seriously concerned about criminal law. It’s easy to pass off shallow ideas to those who know nothing about the practical impact.
Yet, I missed an opportunity to educate a not insignificant group of day trippers who think they’ve got a clue because they read tripe like Reynolds’ Ham Sandwich Nation. It’s a shame to pass up an opportunity like that. It’s a dilemma. I regret not having done a far better job of making use of the opportunity to illuminate.