In some cases, we tend to look at the outcome to determine the intensity of a crime. For example, I remember talking with a cop at one point about an alcohol-fueled mob fight outside of a Madison dance club/bar. The whole fight, which involved a Springer-like melee among drunks ended up with a ton of blood, bruises and broken bones. The culprit turned out to be one asshole who called another asshole a “freshman.” When the accused “freshman” took a swing at the guy and missed, he nailed some other guy’s girlfriend and basically everything unraveled from there.
The “freshman” ended up getting nailed with about a dozen different charges for his actions because so many people ended up getting hurt.
In other cases, it’s the action itself that needs to be analyzed. For example, you can’t walk into a bank, brandish a gun and scream, “Give me all your fucking money!” before you note, “Just kidding!” You can’t get away with that. You also can’t claim that shitty aim should excuse you from an attempted murder charge. “Your Honor! I only hit him in the arm! Yeah I said I wanted to fucking kill him, but I just hit his arm!”
Which leads us to the wonderful world of Melissa Click, the University of Missouri professor who called for some “muscle” to remove journalists who were just doing their job by covering a campus protest. Click assaulted a photographer and called for some people to “muscle” the kid out of the “safe space” the protesters had created on the Quad. She also mocked the kid who was asserting his First Amendment rights, forgetting that a) the rights he was asserting were the same rights that allowed her to be out there protesting, b) he was FILMING THIS and c) she’s a PROFESSOR OF COMMUNICATION with a POSITION ON THE STUDENT MEDIA BOARD.
After a couple months of hoping this would all go away, Click was charged in Columbia this week with a third-degree assault charge. The prosecutor, in what can only be described as a “Jesus, will this please go away” move, pleaded it out for chump change: 20 hours of community service and a promise to not be mean for a whole year. His rationale:
“Based on the facts of this case, I believe this disposition to be appropriate,” City Prosecutor Stephen Richey said in the statement. “This disposition is in keeping with my office’s handling of dozens of similar Municipal cases and adequately serves the interest of justice by ensuring the defendant will not engage in similar conduct.”
Right. I’m entirely sure that Richey has handled literally DOZENS of situations that mixed the fervor of a massive throng of humanity, the violation of inalienable Constitutional rights and a professor enacting a palpable threat against a student. Totally sure he’s done this before and that this is just like every other third-degree assault case he’s faced.
But let’s get back to the crux of the issue: If we want to judge the case based on outcome, it’s only by sheer luck that Click didn’t set off a riot. People were on edge, journalists were intruding in “their space” and when you have an alleged adult calling for “muscle,” all sorts of shit can go wrong. Again, there is always the possibility of concealed weapons as well, so there’s a risk that things could have jumped up a notch in a hurry.
Why is it that she gets away with a slap on the wrist for being lucky enough that some meathead didn’t grab this kid and beat the shit out of him?
If we want to judge the case based on the action itself, its clear that she should be in a lot more trouble than she currently is.
If these are truly inalienable rights, you’re looking at a violation at the core of who we are as a people. She called for a brutalization of someone attempting to participate in a process as old as this country: freedom of the press.
If we give people like Ethan Couch a break because “they didn’t know any better,” we have to hold people like Click to a much higher standard because she SHOULD know better. She’s got at least three degrees, she works in a field associated with the First Amendment and she had a position as a person of authority in the oversight of student media. If we can hold people who know martial arts to a higher standard when they get into a street fight, we can hold a professor of media to a higher standard when they break the Bill of Rights.
I don’t think the anger of the Twitterverse should be raining down upon her in the way it is, nor do I condone the threats of violence or rape she has been experiencing. However, I can’t think for a moment that it makes sense to give her this kind of a pass, where she can spend a weekend planting trees or picking up trash on the side of I-70 and then get back to life as she knows it.
I don’t buy into the “she has suffered enough” argument, when there are people who have done far less (smoked a joint) who are suffering far more (a nickel stretch in the joint).
At the end of the day, we all have choices we make. When you make the wrong one, you need to be held to account for who you are and what you have done. Although I doubt she’ll ever call for “muscle” again, that doesn’t make it OK that she gets a freebie here either.