L. Neil Smith's

Number 2, November, 1995

A Culture of Harmlessness

by L. Neil Smith

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         The trial's over, but the memory will linger for a long time, due to a willful misunderstanding of its significance by the media, Left and Right.
         Just so you'll know where I'm coming from, I have no idea whether O.J. Simpson is a killer, and because of that, I believe the jury arrived at the only verdict possible. Conservatives, handwringing over what they imagine to be a recent collapse of the justice system, want to forget that, in America, an individual must be presumed innocent by the state until its minions prove him guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. They pay lip service to the concept (if a conservative's a liberal who's been mugged, then a liberal's a conservative who's been arrested), but their resentment of it is unmistakable.
         Let's agree that although Simpson's defense attorneys may have been guilty of it in other connections, questioning evidence that might have been faked by a cop who hates blacks is not "playing the race card". If Mark Fuhrman were an environmentalist, framing Simpson because he refused to recycle, would his motive count or the character of his evidence? Would we complain that the defense was playing the "Earth card"?
         Somewhere along the line, fascinated with the newfound liberty to say "nigger" (just as the Bobbitts freed them to say "penis") the TV hairsprayheads forgot that, in addition to uttering the N-word so many times it's expressable only in scientific notation, Fuhrman also told witnesses that he wouldn't hesitate to plant evidence to cinch an arrest. He claimed he had on more than one occasion. Of course in a sense, that's irrelevant, since the jury never heard about it officially. But you can bet they heard it unofficially ("the jury will disregard" being a phrase in the same category as "the check is in the mail" and "trust me, I've had a vasectomy") and that it helped shape their decision.
         Moreover, the body of evidence is not a menu. Nowhere more than in a court of law is it true that one rotten apple spoils the barrel. The prosecution cannot tell us, "This may be a lie, but this, here, is true, and, well, maybe this is a lie, too, but this is true." We wouldn't accept that from a sticky-faced five-year- old. Why should a jury accept it from a district attorney?
         I could go on, asking if we really want juries to ignore broken chains of evidence custody, the incompetence of crime scene and laboratory personnel, illegal police procedures, the hallmarks of tampering, but I want to discuss broader issues: where the verdict came from; what it means for the future.
         It's uncomfortable to put oneself in the place of Nicole Simpson or Ron Goldman, to imagine how they felt, what they thought, in their final moments. There have been moments when I was certain I was going to die, so in that sense, I can identify with them.
         Yet in another sense, it's absurd. Unlike religion, magic, or liberalism, natural selection continues to operate whether you have faith in it or not. Callous as it may seem to declare it, the end Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman came to was a result of deliberate decisions they had made for themselves -- with a little help from their friends.
         To begin with, they lived in California where, as in New York, the penalty is worse for being prepared to defend ourselves than for being what we need to defend ourselves from. If either of them had carried a weapon that night, they'd be alive today. We might even know who tried to hurt them. If they and other Californians (not to mention all Americans) stopped tolerating laws (along with the politicians and bureaucrats who pass and enforce them) requiring that we offer ourselves up as human sacrifices, it's possible that the pattern of spousal abuse that prosecutors tried to use to prove that Simpson was a killer might never have begun. Awareness that one's prey may be armed is the most powerful deterrent known, short of an actual death sentence administered at the scene and moment of the crime at the hands of the intended victim.
         By one method of analysis, then, it was Sarah Brady who killed Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, although they were probably willing accomplices, so eager to avoid the messy responsibility of defending themselves that, like most Californians, they rushed to believe her threadbare, evil lies, and wound up dying for them. Good going, Sarah. Hope you sleep at night. Little wonder, over the past year, that you've been making yourself scarce.
         At the same time, I've surprised myself by feeling little or no sympathy for the parents of Ron Goldman and Nicole Simpson, who, like most white southern Californians, brought their children up in a culture of harmlessness, and therefore share responsibility for their deaths. They conscientiously raised their kids to be what Jeff Cooper calls "rabbit people" -- human groceries -- helpless (what other purpose do rabbits serve, after all?) before whatever predator might casually choose to slay them. Revile me though you may for stating it that plainly, it doesn't alter the simple truth.
         But there's more than one kind of predator. My mom was born in Los Angeles; my favorite aunt lived there for decades. Many of my friends live there today. Most Americans may not be aware that, at least since the 1920s, the LAPD has been famous for iniquitous brutality. All they recall are Dragnet and Adam 12, propaganda meant to cover up corruption the way a cat covers up its messes in a litter box. Despite what we used to see on Quincy, the city and county are fabled for crimelab bungling, as anyone familiar with the Tate-LaBianca case can attest. It is this world-class incompetence that figures so highly in our haunting uncertainties over the deaths of Marilyn Monroe and Bobby Kennedy.          More to the point, Los Angeles is the site of the Simbionese Libertation Army fire, in which the erstwhile kidnapers of Patty Hearst were burned to death in a little frame house by the LAPD, using tear gas cannisters well known for their incendiary nature. Right off, this reminds us of something -- in fact, it reminds us of several somethings. It reminds us of the murder of tax-resistor Gordon Kahl, trapped like an animal in another little frame house after a nationwide manhunt straight out of Fahrenheit 451 and shot to pieces by jackbooted thugs who believe the IRS code takes precedence over the Bill of Rights.
         It reminds us of a guy in Thornton, Colorado who wanted to be left alone and made the fatal mistake of saying so to a cop who put a call in to his buddies -- the police forces of half a dozen neighboring municipalities -- who beseiged his house, riddled it with bullets, then smashed in and shot him to death claiming it was self-defense until a coroner's report indicated that both the victim's wrists were broken by the earlier shooting and that he couldn't have lifted the gun the cops used as an excuse to execute him where he huddled in a closet. Local media said he was a nobody and the story wasn't worth following up.
         It reminds us of the famous Philadelphia MOVE bombing, where, confronting an unpopular group conceded to have been disturbing the peace, police dropped explosives from a helicopter, destroying 60 houses, killing 11 people. Those disturbed by the Simpson verdict today didn't have much to say when the mayor who approved this atrocity was easily reelected by a majority the Bill of Rights was designed to protect us from.
         Most of all, it reminds us of the vicious murders of Vicky and Sam Weaver at Ruby Ridge, and of the Waco Massacre, where abuse of power reached an ostentatious crescendo in the fiery deaths of more than 80 people under the directives of Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, and their henchmen who apparently still believe they're free to do anything they wish to the people whose rights they've falsely sworn to uphold and defend.
         Now you're saying, "But that's irrelevant. What does it have to do with the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman and whether her ex-husband is guilty?" It has everything to do with them. Do you imagine that potential jurors never watch television? That they don't have memories? They occurred in (and the jury was drawn from) a nation in which officially-approved savagery is becoming as commonplace today as it has been for centuries in South America.
         Such outrages, and thousands more like them happening each day in America on a smaller scale, invariably occur at the hands of the very class who accused Simpson and were later shown to have lied about key elements of the case. Increasingly, we live in a culture dominated by what Karl Hess once called "The Lawless State" -- government more "anarchistic" than anyone out here who wants to see it altered or abolished. Its unrelenting, monstrous criminality makes even the atrocities Simpson was accused of pale by comparison. One out-of-control individual blew up a whole federal building and killed 165 people in a demented attempt to even that kind of score. Letting one murderer go free may seem like small potatoes to jury members living in that context every day.
         How long have philosophers warned us that autocratic, stupid, and gratuitous legislation -- speed limits, gun control, alcohol and drug prohibition, confiscatory taxes, seizure decrees, environmental edicts, "health and safety" measures -- nourish a people's contempt for law and order?
         Very well, then, in exactly what form did we expect that contempt to manifest itself? As right-wing talk show hosts have been suggesting, it's a matter of chickens coming home to roost. But these are of a different species than the radio guys suspect, and more ancient. In the light of no less than 14 decades of unbroken violence and deceit (want me to list a few dozen more scandals and atrocities, or shall we skip it?) why should anyone, juryman or otherwise, believe anything attested to by any of the government's stooges?
         To understand who's responsible for what's widely seen as an unjust verdict in California, look to the opposite coast. Ultimate moral responsiblilty lies with Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, Louis Freeh, Larry Potts, their triggerman Lon Horiuchi, and that entire ilk, whose treacherous, brutal, and illegal behavior serve as example and justification for the likes of Mark Fuhrman.
         Is there a cure? Certainly not any "Republican Revolution", whose opening tragicomic act was to declare that evidence obtained illegally remains admissable as long as the police claim to have gotten hold of it "in good faith".
         I've no idea whether O.J. Simpson is a murderer and neither do you. That's the problem: by now, we're supposed to. Whatever you think, whatever side you take, two things are true. First, a savage killer is free today to walk America's streets. Maybe it's O.J., maybe another person altogether; somebody wielded that knife. Second, that savage killer is no worse than those presently occupying the offices of President and Attorney General of the United States.
         The cure? Try something that would never occur to Democrats or Republicans. Enforce the Bill of Rights as if it were exactly what it is: the highest law of the land. In due course, respect for American institutions of justice will increase, and with it, the likelihood that a murderer can be convicted by a jury whose members are sure of what their rights are, and where they stand with their government.
         In the end, the Simpson trial and verdict is not a matter of Right versus Left, or even of black versus white, but of us versus them, "us" being the American productive class, and "them" being what was once called the "new class" of police-state bureaucrats fastened on our necks like leeches. That being so, the Simpson verdict represents a positive result, restoration of a custom as old as the American Revolution itself:
         We the People telling the cops to go to hell.

L. Neil Smith is an award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the movement for 34 years.

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