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There is a point here

This is an argument about three words: “Regardless of intent.” Should intent be the only thing that counts in judgment? Obviously not. Can people do painful, harmful, stupid or objectionable things regardless of intent? Obviously.

Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.

The difference between mens rea and strict liability offence, no?

No wonder The Times has never previously been shy about citing racial slurs in order to explain a point. Here is a famous quote by the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater that has appeared at least seven times in The Times, most recently in 2019, precisely because it powerfully illuminates the mindset of a crucial political player.

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, ‘forced busing,’ ‘states’ rights’ and all that stuff.”

Is this now supposed to be a scandal? Would the ugliness of Atwater’s meaning have been equally clearer by writing “n—, n—, n—”? A journalism that turns words into totems — and totems into fears — is an impediment to clear thinking and proper understanding.

Quite so. Why you’ve done the thing, why you’ve said it, does rather matter.

This, by the way, is from the column the New York Times refused to print….

5 thoughts on “There is a point here”

  1. Do you really think this is a mens rea question? Is it not (and I am not a lawyer, so I ask for guidance from those here who are) that mens rea is intent to commit a crime without needing to distinguish a reason for that intent? How does the reason matter, in the case of a violent crime? (In political speech, which is the given example, it is not a trial, is it?)

  2. What is ‘Busing’? On the grounds that the prefix ‘a’ (as in ‘asymptomatic’ to give a contemporary example) means ‘not’, then ‘busing’ is the opposite of ‘abusing’.

    Fucking septics.

  3. It is “regardless of intent” today, but intent will matter again tomorrow if it helps them. Remember that we are dealing with completely amoral people who will say whatever it takes to advance their position one inch, and say the opposite one hour later, without shame.

  4. The same people who called Trumps lawyers hypocritical for quoting their own words back to them and also seemed to think the defence should have provided evidence for the prosecution on what Trump was doing during the riots, even though that wasn’t part of the accusations.

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