A defendant was sentenced for his crime and, upon its completion, returned home, only to find protesters, armed with rifles, calling for his death. He was just 21 years old.
Good thing or bad? The hypocrisy with which we approach law and crime can be rationalized away by the passionate, but it’s all a huge, steaming pile of crap. The description could apply to any number of people, but here it applies to only one. And the people carrying rifles, calling for his death, aren’t a bunch of “deplorables,” as so many have come to embrace under a tit for tat justification because their hate is better than the other people’s hate.
This happened to Brock Turner.
Brock Turner was released from the Santa Clara County jail in California on Friday after serving just three months of his six-month sentence for felony sexual assault, as predicted. As he walked out the doors of the jail, 21-year-old Turner was met with angry chants, protest signs, and at least one disgusted law enforcement official. “We don’t know who picked him up or where he’s going, but we’re done with him,” Santa Clara County’s sheriff, Laurie Smith, told reporters. “He should be in prison right now, but he’s not in our custody.”
When Turner returned to his house in Sugarcreek Township, Ohio—home of the parents who said he was just a “shy and awkward” teen looking to fit in and who worried that he’d lost his appetite for steak after his arrest—more unfriendly demonstrators awaited him. Their signs read “Castrate all rapists!” and “If I rape Brock Turner, will I only do 3 months?” Someone had chalked “shoot your local rapist” on the sidewalk. As if to bring credence to that threat, some of the protestors [sic] outside the Turner home carried assault weapons slung across their chests.
At Slate XX, staff writer Christina Cauterucci couldn’t bring herself to tell the story without tossing in the “appetite for steak” line raised by his parents, just to remind readers, in case they’ve forgotten, how much they should hate him. But she’s not done Gertruding her way to her point.
It’s easy to understand the impulse behind these protests, spurred by the injustice of an unrepentant man evading prison time after sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. The survivor’s eloquent account of the dual indignities of being brutally assaulted then questioned in court left no doubt that Turner got off easy for his crimes. Absent any discernible evidence of remorse from Turner or justice from the courts, people are trying to make sure he pays, somehow, for the damage he’s done.
Despite there being substantive disputes as to all of this, there is no question in Cauterucci’s mind. No, she didn’t witness the crime. No, she didn’t attend the trial. No, she knows nothing more about it than anyone else. But she believes, and that’s enough to make her version reality, and she can’t resist the compulsion to keep hammering it home, even before she reaches her deeply buried lede. Even then, the lede isn’t what one might expect.
But the ghastly implications of these protests are not justified by their intent. No occasion warrants applause for assault rifles carried openly on the sidewalk in a nod to vigilante violence. Guns are neither an appropriate nor an effective response to the rape culture that produced Turner and his jail sentence. The open-carry protests edge dangerously close to an erroneous argument advanced by gun-rights advocates, who claim that guns make women safer and the only way to stop rape is to practice better self-defense. Not only does this argument ignore the real problem—rapists and those that embolden, enable, and apologize for them—but it runs counter to statistical proof that more guns mean more killing of women.
So it’s not that there is anything wrong about bringing guns, which she describes as “assault weapons,” to suggest that Brock Turner deserves to die, but because guns are an inherent evil to the very crowd protesting, and, more importantly, guns are an affront to women. Brock Turner has nothing to do with this.
The calls to castrate rapists exhibit a similarly misguided take on the causes and manifestations of sexual assault. Many perpetrators of sexual violence, including Turner, do not use their penises in their assaults.
So it would have been fine, maybe laudable, to call for the removal of his finger, but not his penis. Had his penis been the part of his anatomy inserted in the victim, then castration would have been appropriate.
The idea that rape must involve a penis makes other forms of sexual assault seem less serious and does a disservice to survivors whose rapists don’t have penises or didn’t use them to violate their victims.
Worse still, calls for castration diminish the seriousness of non-penile rape to survivors. It’s not that Turner wasn’t convicted of rape, but that the focus on a penis does a disservice to “survivors.”
Finally, Cauterucci reaches her lede, in the penultimate paragraph.
The protest outside Turner’s home is the latest example of a weird sort of cognitive dissonance that has recently emerged among progressives around issues of criminal justice.
Every single thing she’s written up to now about the defendant, the process, the judge, the system, is in direct conflict with every putative progressive position taken otherwise, and so she reminds her readers that the same cries of outrage in this case are exactly the opposite of what they cry in others.
This all seems reasonable now, as it applies to Turner, because he’s an unsympathetic character whose unearned privilege got him a gentler punishment than has been delivered upon countless perpetrators of much more trivial crimes. But relinquishing hard-fought ideals of justice and evidence-based lawmaking when it feels good and deserved will come back to haunt us.
Even so, she can’t bring herself to approach intellectual honesty. The problem isn’t that this reflects flagrant hypocrisy, that those outraged by this “unsympathetic character” are as unprincipled as those deplorables against whom they shriek. The problem is that the optics of progressives with long guns will be used against them next time.
The next time someone wants to assert his bogus right to march around with an assault rifle demanding vigilante justice against a less deserving target, these photos from outside Turner’s home will make a marvelous defense.
It’s not that they are flagrantly hypocritical, but that their hypocrisy will be used against them by bad people asserting their “bogus” right to march. But one side’s unprincipled hate is so much more virtuous than the other side’s unprincipled hate that they can wrap themselves in the warm comfort of righteousness while doing exactly what the other side does.
As for Brock Turner, he’s served his sentence, and will now go on the sex offender registry, his future destroyed. The legal system is replete with “unsympathetic characters,” to whom your heart goes out otherwise. But not Brock Turner. Leave him alone. Don’t worry, someone else will come along soon enough to be the obsession of your unprincipled hatred.