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Guilt By Association?

October 15th, 2008 | by Dr. Forbush |

One of the fundamental differences between eighteenth century European Law and American Law is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The Bush administration has fought continuously over the last seven years to erode this fundamental right.

The Bush crew has used fear to gradually work the American public into accepting the idea that the government knows better who is guilty and who is innocent. You would think that people on the right who fear that the government might take their weapons away would also fear this new threat. However, the conservatives’ self-righteousness has been able mask this fear. Conservatives tell themselves that they are above the law because they are good patriotic Americans. Obviously they should not fear that a government might choose to arrest them and hold them indefinitely.

Progressives know this fear a bit more personally. This is because progressives and conservatives don’t always show their opposition to the government in the same way. Progressives most notably tend to gather great numbers of people to stand outside events where the opposition is gathering. Progressives like Amy Goodman who is a reporter for a “real” left wing media program “Democracy Now - The War and Peace Report” have experienced guilt by association directly. She was reporting at the Republican convention during August when she had heard that her producers were beaten and arrested. She promptly dropped everything and ran to the site of the protests where her producers were arrested and she was manhandled and thrown into jail with some of the protesters. She was with the protesters, therefore she must be one was the attitude of the police. This was a sad day in American history, and it got very little coverage in the mainstream media. How liberal is this media?

Any American from the left or right should shudder at the telling of this story. Eventually she was freed and not considered a terrorist. That may have been because she was palling around with liberal protesters and not a former 1960’s radical. Obviously there is some standard for this guilt by association that I really don’t understand. Are you guilty if you aid and abet a person who bombs abortion clinics, the Atlanta Olympics and then hide in the woods for a number of years? Are you guilty if you meet with a man that had been found guilty of a felony, served his time, changed his life and has become a force for good in his community? In the first case many pro-life supporters helped a wanted fugitive hide from the authorities while in the second case people are urged to question a presidential candidate’s ulterior motives.

Guilt by association works both ways so it makes sense that this form of slander should not be assumed to only work against your enemy. If we also consider the six degrees of separation that suggests that we are separated by as few as six contacts from any person in the country or perhaps the world we have a further need to worry about this dangerous concept of guilt by association. Where does it end? If someone you know has “palled around with terrorists” does that make them a terrorist by association. If they are a terrorist then doesn’t that make you one too?

In Biblical times guilt by association was one of the rules. People believed that they were punished directly for their sins. For example when we read about the man who was blind from birth Jesus is asked what sin he or his parents had committed. Isn’t this another form of guilt by association? Today’s Christians should remember that not only did Jesus heal this man, but he also pointed out that this man was not born blind as a punishment for either his sin or his parent’s sin.

And, what types of groups do we consider a danger to our national security? For example, a group that seeks secede portions of the country threatens the very makeup of our country. These groups exist around the country with various motivations and ideologies. Some of these groups lament the fall of the Confederacy and would like nothing better than for a new South to rise again. It would be hard to argue that a group that seeks to tear the fabric of the country apart would not be a terrorist group. After all, the main motivation behind this group is the destruction of the country, our country — The USA.

A similar group exists in Alaska where a group would like to make Alaska an independent country. And interesting point here is that Sarah Palin, governor of the state of Alaska and current Republican Vice Presidential candidate has a husband that not only pals around with this group of secessionists but he is an active member. Perhaps we should not condemn Sarah Palin as a member of this group for merely associating with her husband. However, we should also consider the fact that Mrs. Palin does not just pal around with these people, but she also supports their cause as evidenced by her address to the secessionist party’s convention. Shouldn’t question Sarah Palin’s terrorist connections to these people?

The point of this diatribe today is to point out that it doesn’t matter if you talk to a liar, it does not make you a liar by association. If you share a meal with a thief as Jesus did, it does not make you a thief by association. If you have a business meeting with a former radical that has repented and served his punishment it does not make you a radical. The only way to prove that you are guilty of a crime is to prove it with the evidence — Like a speech in front of radicals supporting their cause.


Don’t forget what Stephen Colbert said, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit


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  1. 5 Responses to “Guilt By Association?”

  2. By manapp99 on Oct 16, 2008 | Reply

    “She (Amy Goodman) was reporting in the left wing protests at the Republican convention during August and she was beaten and thrown into jail with some of the protesters”

    I remember reading how she was arrested, but I do not remember her being “beaten”. The story I just read said that she showed up 20 min after her producer was arrested and when she asked to speak to him she was also arrested. They were released hours later. No mention of her being beaten.

    Also you deride the guilt by association and generally I agree. However, you have to admit if you 15 year old son or daughter were to be hanging with gang bangers, you would be suspicious. It would not be and indictment of their behaviour, perhaps they are trying to help them, but I think that most people would be worried.

  3. By Dr. Forbush on Oct 16, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks manapp99,

    I corrected my post accordingly. I’m not quite sure what your point is. I saw the video of her arrest and it didn’t seem to make sense to me why she was manhandled like she was. It still doesn’t make sense why the police needed to beat the protesters including her producers. Somehow you are equating gang bangers to protesters. That would be comparing a criminal organization only concerned with promoting their own self-interest in illegal activities with a group that is concerned with promoting a better world for all of us to live in.

    Hopefully my kids will hang out with Green Peace or Heffer International or another NGO.

  4. By manapp99 on Oct 17, 2008 | Reply

    Two seperate points Dr. I was not comparing protesters to gang bangers. I do not feel protests are very productive however I do not have a problem with those that do. If you want to protest I want you to protest and I would not have a problem with my kid hanging with political protesters for either side.

    The gang bang point was in reference to your last paragraph:

    “The point of this diatribe today is to point out that it doesn’t matter if you talk to a liar, it does not make you a liar by association. If you share a meal with a thief as Jesus did, it does not make you a thief by association. If you have a business meeting with a former radical that has repented and served his punishment it does not make you a radical. The only way to prove that you are guilty of a crime is to prove it with the evidence — Like a speech in front of radicals supporting their cause.”

    If your kid is hanging with liars, thieves and terrorist (even ex-terrorist) I believe that would give most parents a cause to be concerned. Of course the kid is not guilty of anything until they do something besides associate. It should give rise to the same concern when a person who wants to be president has such associations. Especially given the nature of the quid pro quo politics that exists in Washington.

  5. By Paul Watson on Oct 17, 2008 | Reply

    So you accept that it should also give concerns that Sarah Palin is married to someone who wants to break up the USA, given the nature of quid pro quo politics that exists in Washington.

    I don’t think anyone in Washington is going to support blowing up buildings, unless they’re in Pakistan, so what are you concerned about? I thought the whole point of the justice system was to return people into the community having rehabilitated them as well as punished them or their crimes. If Ayers has gone through that, then what is the problem? And if he hasn’t, why is this dangerous terrorist being allowed to run free when he could be prosecuted?

  6. By manapp99 on Oct 17, 2008 | Reply

    Sure Paul, I will put that association of Sarah’s against the associations of Obama with crooked developers, Tony Rezko, domestic terrorists, Bill Ayers, and racist pastors, Jeremiah Wright, anyday.

    The justice system did NOT return Bill Ayers as rehabilitated. His charges were thrown out on a technicality. He did not serve anytime for the bombings by his orginazation that took the lives of 7 innocent people.

    Rezko is just now going through trial for his crimes and Wright is an unrepented racist which is still legal in the US.

    The words of Bill Ayers himself on 9/11/01:

    Indeed, the very morning of the attack, the New York Times printed a fawning profile of Ayers and his comrade in terror, Bernardine Dohrn. Under the headline “No Regrets for a Love of Explosives,” accompanied by a large color photo of the couple, Ayers boasts that he bombed New York City’s police headquarters in 1970, the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972—and proudly adds, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” Asked whether he would do it again, he answers, “I don’t want to discount the possibility.” Or, as he puts it in Fugitive Days: A Memoir, “I can’t imagine entirely dismissing the possibility.”

    In 2001 he admits that he might would do it again.

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