Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rush to Judgment

By Stephen Menendian, Senior Legal Research Associate at the Kirwan Institute

In his New York Times op-ed on November 9th, David Brooks criticized the public response and the media coverage of the Fort Hood violence last week, which he called a ‘rush to therapy’, which emphasized the personal breakdown of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the apparent shooter, over the narrative of Islamic extremism that may or may not have inspired or motivated the violence. Brooks claimed that the ‘rush to therapy’ “absolved Hasan—before the real evidence was in—of his responsibility.”

The so-called 'rush to therapy' did not—and could not—absolve Major Hasan of his responsibility. On the contrary, it prevented a rush to judgment, to fit complex facts into a simplistic narrative. Brooks claims that the ‘rush to therapy’ “denied, before the evidence was in, the possibility of evil.” It did not deny the possibility of evil. It denied the presumption of evil. In this country, guilt or innocence is supposed to be determined in a courtroom, not by an angry mob or the media. Yet all too often this is not the case. Our long history of mob justice—on the frontier or under white sheets—belies our standard of justice, of due process, of ‘innocence until proven guilty.’

Brooks claims that it “wasn’t the reaction of a morally or politically serious nation.” On the contrary, it was the mark of a morally and political serious nation.

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