Ted Byfield on #DefundPolice

Ted Byfield has been on a roll. Last week I noted his article (from 1985) about abortion and how the CBC censured him and Stockwell Day for the same crimes. Now here's one from 1987 that seems oddly prescient in a world where people are now demanding #DisandPolice while the existing police let rioters run wild.

How capital punishment has been reinstituted in Calgary

It is surely more than coincidence that in the same week that parliament earnestly debates whether the state should execute criminals, a Calgary merchant is exonerated by a jury and acclaimed as a popular hero for taking it upon himself to execute one of them on his own. There is a message in this for the politicians, though it’s doubtful most of them will hear it. The message is that the general populace is far ahead of its supposed leaders in (a) analysing what's wrong with our criminal justice system, and (b) knowing what to do about it.

The decision of the thrice-robbed Mr. Steven Kesler to shoot the next thug who arrived in his store is, of course, part of a current and dangerous phenomenon. Nine days before his acquittal, a jury acquitted New York subway rider Bernhard Goetz for gunning down the four black hoodlums who tried to mug him. Similar cases have appeared in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal. All evidence the same principle: if the law won’t protect the citizen, the citizen will protect himself, and the populace will warmly support him. The inevitable portent is, unfortunately, for civil chaos, with each man armed against his neighbour. If one wonders why things have come to this sorry impasse, he need only refer to the inanities gravely espoused in the current capital punishment debate. Here we see the liberal ideologue at his blurred, bland and balmy best. Some examples:

Contention: since capital punishment was abolished in 1976, there has been no significant increase in the murder rate. Fact: in 1976, nobody had been executed in Canada for fourteen years because juries, influenced by the same liberal lunacy as the politicians, had long refused to hang anybody. Since the time that people were routinely hanged for murder, however, the rate has doubled, or even tripled.

Contention: the state must not take away human life. Fact: then we had better remove the guns from policemen and disarm what's left of our armed forces. When the state gives these people weapons the plain purpose is surely, if need be, to take away human life.

Contention: The Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill.” Fact: The Bible does not say this. Both the Hebrew language of the Old Testament and the Hellenistic Greek of the New Testament, have one verb that means “killing” generally, and another that specifies an act of “murder.” In every instance, in both Old Testament and New Testament, the word for murder is used.

Contention: capital punishment is murder by the state. Fact: a democratic state takes away a life only after the evidence against the accused has been carefully detailed and exhaustively cross-examined, only after a jury has found him guilty and only after a judge has himself decided to confirm the sentence. A murderer acts as judge, jury and executioner all on his own, and the victim is usually unconsulted. To equate the one kind of killing with the other is absurd.

(Mr. Les Bewley, the retired Vancouver judge, has logically analysed the abolitionist bumper sticker, “Why kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?” Behind such thinking, he says, is the proposition: since all murder is killing, and capital punishment is killing, then capital punishment must be murder. Get the idea? Since all spaghetti is food, and corned beef is food, then corned beef must be spaghetti. Since all morons are people, and editorial writers are people, then editorial writers must be morons.)

This, as I say, is the kind of mush-mindedness that we have witnessed for years, not only in the capital punishment debate, but in the entire process by which our present criminal justice system has been constructed. The sordid spectacle of uncontrollable crime - the daily routine of rape, murder, burglary, mugging, armed robbery and assault - evidence a simple fact: our system of benevolent criminal justice does not work. It is, in fact, a disaster. But it cannot be easily changed. For the root cause of its failure lies not in ineffectual court and police departments, nor even in the phantasmagoric bureaucracy of social workers and counsellors that the system inevitably spawns. Rather it derives from the assumptions that lie, implicit and unexamined, beneath much teaching today in the fields of criminology, penology, sociology, and even, sad to say, the the law schools themselves.

Many years ago, perhaps thirty or fifty, these academic disciplines all decided to abolish the idea of sin. Human beings, they said, do not err. They merely develop socially disruptive attitudes, or peer group alienation, always as a response to adverse environmental stimuli. Improve the environment and you will improve the individual. While this purports to be a high-minded view of society, the fact is quite the reverse. It reduces human beings to mere organisms. Prod them this way or that, and they will behave predictably, like training an animal. We are the animals and the social engineers the trainers.

And, since no man was sinful, but all were mere victims of their circumstances, how could we consider the criminal as “indebted” to society? How could we speak of a criminal sentence as “retribution?” Was it fair to use the penalty imposed upon one as a means of discouraging others? Counselling, job training, psychiatric treatment, understanding, all such improvements in the man’s environment, would soon see him respond as a useful member of the social order.

What we are finding out is that it doesn’t work, and that this view of human nature is therefore probably nonsense. Mr. Kesler had obviously reached this conclusion, and acted accordingly. His jury and the public generally have reached the same conclusion, and supported him. The people who refuse to reach it are social theorists and ivory-tower editorial writers. The reason for their reluctance is clear. They can see what’s involved. It means far more than reinstituting capital punishment, and providing tougher judges and policemen. It means scrapping their whole concept of human nature and starting all over again. This they refuse to do. Let the streets run wild, but save the dogma. That, one suspects, is the real “crisis of conscience” in the capital punishment debate.
- July 6, 1987
Of course now they have dogmas that poor Ted never would have envisioned in 1987, and they are even less true than the ones that existed before: and therefore the doubling down becomes a quadrupling down. Intersectional genderfluid studies and the like. On the bright side, conservatives in Canada are even more interested in being able to defend themselves than any time in the past 25 years: and with Justin's gun grab coming up on the horizon, how many are left wondering if they will get to keep their guns after all?