The Instigator
AnimeFanTony
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
MTGandP
Pro (for)
Winning
7 Points

Resolved: Vigilantism is justified when the government has failed to uphold the law.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/23/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,584 times Debate No: 7948
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)

 

AnimeFanTony

Con

Oh to clarify I would like to debate this Lincoln-Douglas debate style.
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I negate the resolution: Vigilantism is justified when the government fails to uphold the law.

For clarity in the round, I offer the following definitions:
Vigilantism: The act of a citizen who takes the law into his or her own hands by apprehending and punishing suspected criminals.
Justified: to show to have had a sufficient legal reason.
Government: the body of persons that constitutes the governing authority of a political unit or organization.
Failed: to be or become absent or inadequate.
Enforce: to carry out effectively.
The Law: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority

My value for this debate will be justice which I define as the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness. I will achieve my value through my value criterion which is community cohesion. Community Cohesion prevents us from falling into a state of nature, where in there is no guarantee that every person will achieve his or her due. If there is community cohesion then systems in the government work best and every person can receive his or her due.

Contention 1: If the law is unjust and the vigilante enforces the law then the vigilante is unjust.
The resolution says that vigilantism is justified when the government fails to uphold the law. However if the law is unjust and the government fails to uphold these unjust laws, if the vigilante enforces these laws then the vigilante is unjust. An example of this is Jim Crow laws. These laws discriminated against black people (such as myself) and when the government failed to enforce these laws unjust vigilante groups such as the KKK upheld these laws instead. They did this many times by lynching the Negro who could be lynched for a number of things such being having sex with a white woman, hanging out with white men in a area reserved for whites, and many other racist things. I'm sure my opponent agrees with me that lynching blacks for racist reasons is unjust. If not then my opponent admits that such laws would have to be enforced, for whatever reason. My opponent then has no moral standing. He's freely advocating, at this point, a government that freely abuses and dehumanizes certain members of society. And, at that point, there's no point in the law for those members of society. Also if the community believes a law to be bad and the vigilante enforces it when the government hasn't this can disrupt the cohesion in the community. As systems work best when there is community cohesion this would clearly be a bad thing. For example many people are unaware that they break the law all the time yet because it is an unjust law that the community doesn't agree with it is not enforced. An example of this would be a Florida law stating that it is illegal to sing in a public place while attired in a swimsuit or that it is illegal to skateboard without a license. Many people break this law every day yet it is not generally enforced as the community agrees that is bad, stupid law. If a vigilante were to enforce these laws this would cause not only chaos but fear as well as disharmony in the community.

Contention 2: Vigilantes don't render retributive punishment.
According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy when it comes to punishment, the most effective path to achieving justice is through retributive punishment. According to the liberteriannation article "Vigilantes of Montana" vigilantes do not enforce laws through retribution. Instead they opt to dish out whatever form of punishment they deem, most often times violently. Additionally according the apsu.edu article "VIGILANTISM, VIGILANTE JUSTICE, AND SELF-HELP" most vigilantes are often times driven by vengeance and that part of the vigilante mentality is to right crimes through wrongful often violent means. Because vigilantes do not use retribution and retribution is the best form of just punishment then justice is not achieved. Without justice, dues aren't rendered to citizens, which causes disharmony, anger, and fear amongst the community. If justice can't be achieved then vigilantes aren't just.

Contention 3: Vigilantes spawn more vigilantes
As vigilantes spread fear and anger in the community they can spawn more vigilantes who are interested in either assisting the vigilante to avoid being targeted or to combat the vigilante. An example of a vigilante spawning more vigilantes that wish to aid the first vigilante would be the beginning of the Dark Knight. Everyone's favorite vigilante Batman had inspired others to take up vigilante work as well to stop criminals. This ended up being detrimental as Batman had to deal with them getting in his way, and him having to protect them as well as having to apprehend the criminals. On the other side of the spectrum were we have vigilantes spawning counter vigilantes we have the real life example of the KKK and the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers were primarily a response to the vigilante group the Ku Klux Klan. This instead of helping the problem only perpetrated the violence further. So in a sense vigilantism generates super villains. So as one can see vigilantes by creating more vigilantes harm community cohesion further by creating fear in the community. If there is fear in a community there is often disorder so the community could not function as well it could.

So to go over my points one last time vigilantism is bad as
1)If the law is unjust and the vigilante enforces the law then the vigilante is unjust
If the vigilante pushes laws the community doesn't like this causes disharmony.
2)Vigilantes don't render retributive punishment which is the best type so the vigilante is not just.
Without justice, dues aren't rendered to citizens which makes them mad causing less harmony.
3)Vigilantes spawn more vigilantes which cause more fear in the community.
Fear harms community cohesion.
MTGandP

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for this challenge. This should be a very enjoyable debate. I accept my opponent's definitions, and will also add my own definition of vigilante, just to make things absolutely clear.

Vigilante: one who practices vigilantism.

My value premise is also justice. One of the primary jobs of the government is to uphold justice.
My value criterion is the social contract: society agrees to forfeit power of law enforcement to the government, and the government agrees to effectively enforce the law. The social contract allows non-anarchical society to function. If one side of the agreement is broken, then the other side is no longer obligated to hold up its end of the contract.

{blockquote}Contention 1: If the law is unjust and the vigilante enforces the law then the vigilante is unjust.{/blockquote}
If the law is unjust, it does not matter who enforces it; it is no more or less unjust when enforced by vigilantes than when by the government. In response to my opponent's example, I agree that it was unjust for vigilante groups to lynch blacks for things such as having sex with a white woman. But it was also unjust for the government to execute those blacks for the same reasons, and the deed was no more unjust when done by vigilantes.

The logic used above may also be applied to unjust or "stupid" laws that are not enforced by the government. Vigilantes are just as able to not enforce those laws. If a vigilante did enforce a law such as no skateboarding without a license, it would be no more or less harmful than if the government enforced such a law.

{blockquote}Contention 2: Vigilantes don't render retributive punishment.{/blockquote}
My opponent supports this contention using an entry from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, claiming that "the most effective path to achieving justice is through retributive punishment." Also, my opponent claims "vigilantes do not enforce laws through retribution." I cannot see where my opponent is getting his information from so I cannot see the context of these statements, and this makes it difficult to respond. I will do what I can.

My opponent has provided no evidence to support his two claims that I have quoted, and I do not see them as self-evident or even subjective: both claims are capable of being supported by evidence, and therefore should be. I cannot accept my opponent's claims until he provides evidence. I deny that the second claim is true; it is surely sometimes true, but to claim that no vigilantes enforce laws through retribution is to make an unwarranted assumption with a lack of evidence.

{blockquote}[Contention 3] As vigilantes spread fear and anger in the community...{/blockquote}
This statement has not been justified by my opponent. My opponent must provide evidence that vigilantes spread fear and anger before the rest of the contention can be considered, as it mostly relies on this sentence. Not all of it does, however; the concept on counter vigilantes is independent, and I will now rebut it.

If the Black Panther Party (BPP) did inspire widespread fear, it is arguable that this fear was counteracted by the positive influence of the Black Panthers supporting the black community. The BPP were a strong force in raising awareness about racial intolerance, and their fear perhaps helped this. In addition, though they were widely feared, they were also widely supported, so the effect on communal cohesion was both positive and negative.

The BPP raised awareness about racial intolerance as well. If we agree that they instilled widespread fear, and to be afraid of something we must be aware of it, we can conclude that the BPP must have raised awareness. It is actually arguable whether the BPP inspired widespread fear, as my opponent has not supported this claim. But accepting that they did, they also raised awareness.

In addition, it is unclear that the BPP can even be included under the definition of vigilante. For the example to be applicable, the BPP or their actions must be a direct result of vigilantism. The Black Panther Party did not enforce the law, and were therefore not vigilantes. My opponent may argue that the Ku Klux Klan caused the BPP's actions, and therefore everything done by the BPP was caused by the KKK; however, my opponent has no evidence that the KKK directly caused the actions of the BPP. I have evidence against it, in fact: the KKK were based in the southern US, while the BPP originated in California and were based in more urban regions. (wikipedia.org)

I was getting somewhat off topic there, so I will bring it back with a summary: using the Black Panthers as an example of "counter vigilantism" is not a fair example, as the Black Panthers had significant positive effects as well as negative ones. In addition, the BPP could not be considered vigilantes. In order for the example to be applicable, my opponent must a) factually prove that the BPP were vigilantes or that their actions were caused by vigilantes, and b) convince you that the BPP had more negative consequences than positive in the long term.

I will touch upon your summary of contention 3 in order to clarify, and summarize my own arguments.
{blockquote}3)Vigilantes spawn more vigilantes which cause more fear in the community.{/blockquote}
Fear harms community cohesion, but the Black Panthers contributed to community cohesion in the black community. In addition, the long-term effects of their actions helped move us towards the cohesion of both the black and white communities, as their actions were strongly anti-racism and raised awareness about racial intolerance.

Now for my own contentions.

Contention 1: Vigilantism Is Justified
When the government fails to uphold the law, the social contract is broken. The community can no longer rely on the government for protection, and other means must be employed to protect society from criminals. Society is no longer obligated to obey the government: vigilantism is therefore justified from the standpoint of the government and the social contract.

Contention 2: Fundamental Rights
Every person has the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are greater than any government. So if the government is unable to support these rights, a person has the right to protect them. In the case of an incompetent government, vigilantism is justified: these fundamental rights must be protected, and vigilantism is the only available method of protecting one's own rights.

Contention 3: Vigilantism Is Necessary To Withhold Society
With an incompetent government, the community will soon collapse into chaos unless vigilantes continue to enforce the law. Vigilantes may inspire fear in the community, but they may also inspire hope. In the end, vigilantes are those who catch criminals, and they are the only line of defense between criminals and the fundamental rights of the citizens. Without vigilantes, society is left unprotected and each person must fend for himself. Why should those who protect the community not inspire hope? Regardless of how people feel about vigilantes, they still uphold the law more effectively than the government, and upholding the law is necessary for the functionality of society. Why live in fear under the reign of a worthless government? I would much prefer to be protected by the heroes of society that we call vigilantes.

References
(1) http://en.wikipedia.org...
(2) http://www.blackpanther.org...
Debate Round No. 1
AnimeFanTony

Con

I thank my opponent for accepting this challenge. Just so no one gets lost I will start with attacking my opponents case then moving to defend my own.

Because both my opponent and I have the same value premise there really is no reason to attack this. However just to clarify we will be defining justice as the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness. Now his value criterion is the social contract, however if the government fails to enforce the law it is not protecting the peoples rights and the agreement is broken. My opponent openly states that "If one side of the agreement is broken, then the other side is no longer obligated to hold up its end of the contract.". If this is the case then he is advocating that citizens take the law into there own hands. But if citizens are A) Under-qualified, B) Overly violent or C) not fully aware of the situation this could have dire consequences. For example if Joe Brown our vigilante attempts to apprehend a dangerous criminal after the government fails to, due to of lack of resources, but he is under qualified he may only succeed in getting in the way of a more competent enforcer and getting injured himself. Or perhaps a single 16-year old mother of 3 gets caught shoplifting and the government lets her go due to pity if our vigilante were to then go and brutally murder her he would be enforcing the law but in an overkill fashion. In both example our vigilantes were not fully aware of the situation and it ended badly. Similarly in both the government DID fail to enforce the law and the vigilante went and tried to enforce it.

Now onto his first contention that vigilantism is justified. He states that because the social contract is broken when the law is not upheld the community can no longer rely on the government so they can do pretty much whatever they want. He fails to take into account situations when the government does not have the resources available to enforce the law. If citizens don't pay taxes for example the government wont have the resources available to enforce the law. There are also instances in which the society breaches the social contract first so that the government cant enforce the law.

Now his second contention is fundamental rights. He says that if the government fails to support these rights then vigilantism is justified. However not all laws protect these rights. So this contention falls because the resolution states "when the government has failed to enforce the law" as opposed to "when the government has failed to support these rights. There have been laws in place that infringed on these rights. For example both Jim Crow and Apartheid laws went against these rights yet they were still the law.

His third contention is that vigilantism is necessary to withhold society. Now my opponent states that with incompetent governments communities fall into chaos. This is not always the case. A great example of this is the rule of Saddam Hussein. He was the leader of an incompetent government however instead of collapsing into chaos the community just lived in fear. Also when vigilantes enforce unjust laws they are not protecting people fundamental rights.

I was gonna defend my case but I'm going to save that for next round because I am really busy right now.
MTGandP

Pro

"My opponent openly states that 'If one side of the agreement is broken, then the other side is no longer obligated to hold up its end of the contract.'. If this is the case then he is advocating that citizens take the law into their own hands. But if citizens are A) Under-qualified, B) Overly violent or C) not fully aware of the situation this could have dire consequences."
There are possible consequences for vigilantes, as my opponent has said. But these same consequences can be applied to the government. The government is usually less likely to fall to one of these consequences, but a competent vigilante is just as unlikely as an effective government to not fall to one of these consequences.

Simply because there may be consequences if vigilantism is not handled properly does not mean that vigilantism is not justified. This is a modified version of an appeal to consequences; in essence, the consequences are irrelevant. It does not completely apply, as an appeal to consequences deals with truth statements, but it is the same general idea. To make my point clearer, I will put it in the perspective of an example.

"For example if Joe Brown our vigilante attempts to apprehend a dangerous criminal after the government fails to, due to lack of resources, but he is under qualified he may only succeed in getting in the way of a more competent enforcer and getting injured himself."
Joe may be incompetent, but it is not about the outcome, at least at first: the government has failed to uphold the law, so Joe is taking over. This is justified because the law must be upheld, and the government has failed. If Joe also fails, that is a different point entirely. But according to this example, there is a more competent enforcer out there. This enforcer is not the government, who has failed to uphold the law; so it must be another, more competent vigilante. Therefore, at least within this example, vigilantes are competent at upholding the law (not all vigilantes, but vigilantes in general).

"[My opponent] fails to take into account situations when the government does not have the resources available to enforce the law... There are also instances in which the society breaches the social contract first so that the government cant enforce the law."
In these situations, the government has still failed to uphold the law, it's just for different reasons. If society broke its end first, this changes nothing in terms of vigilantism. It does not matter who broke the social contract; all that matters is that it is broken. The original action of breaking the social contract may have been unjustified, but after that, vigilantism becomes justified.

My second contention still applies, but only in cases when laws directly or indirectly protect people's fundamental rights. Most laws do; this is the primary purpose of the law. When laws do not protect people's rights, they have failed. That is a separate point, though. My second contention does not apply for all laws, but does apply for most laws. From the perspective of the resolution, my second contention argues that vigilantism is justified when the government has failed to uphold the law given that the law protects people's rights, which is most or even nearly all of the time.

"His third contention is that vigilantism is necessary to withhold society. Now my opponent states that with incompetent governments communities fall into chaos. This is not always the case. A great example of this is the rule of Saddam Hussein. He was the leader of an incompetent government however instead of collapsing into chaos the community just lived in fear. Also when vigilantes enforce unjust laws they are not protecting people fundamental rights."
My opponent makes a good point, in that an incompetent government does not always lead to chaos. But I implicitly take this into account in my contention: "Why live in fear under the reign of a worthless government?" I did not go much into it though.

My opponent has strengthened my case by bringing up the example of Saddam Hussein. Hussein had not strictly failed to uphold the law; he was the law. But that aside, if the government has failed to uphold the law and this causes the citizens to live in fear, then vigilantism is justifiable. Citizens should not be living in fear of their government. See the part of my third contention about vigilantes inspiring hope. People need to feel hope: if they live in fear all the time then morale is lower, people are unhappier, and society overall is less productive.

I will wait for my opponent to respond to my rebuttal to his case. I look forward to his response.

Resources
Purpose of the law: http://www.ripit4me.org...
Iraqi legal system: http://law.cua.edu...
Debate Round No. 2
AnimeFanTony

Con

AnimeFanTony forfeited this round.
MTGandP

Pro

My opponent has not posted within the allotted 72 hours and has forfeited the round. Please extend my arguments from round 2 to this round.

Conclusion:

The world is a dangerous place, and anarchy breeds this danger. The government can protect its citizens from many of the dangers of the world. Society surrenders authority to the government, and the government upholds the law. But what about when the government fails? The law begins to fall apart, and society is left unprotected.

Enter vigilantism. The courageous heroes of society protect their fellows against the dangers of the world. Vigilantes are a last resort to maintain the structure of society, after the government has fallen. They can effectively maintain order in the absence of a strong government.

Yes, vigilantism is indeed justified when government has failed to endorse the law. Support society. Support justice. Vote PRO.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by MTGandP 8 years ago
MTGandP
No, don't bring out Batman. I will crush Batman.
Posted by ChristianM 8 years ago
ChristianM
Bring out batman tony.
Posted by Bnesiba 8 years ago
Bnesiba
Going on with what NJ said...

Neither of you define justice adequately. AFT defines it as "moral rightness" and MT doesn't define it.

WHAT IS MORAL RIGHTNESS!?

Basically, you are making the claim that it is immoral because it violates morality... it's bad because it's bad... there is no warrant here, simply a statement. Without defining justice better, i honestly believe neither of you can win this debate.

Without knowing what makes your side valuable why should i care about your arguments?
Posted by AnimeFanTony 8 years ago
AnimeFanTony
Not trying to sound mean here but NJ it really isn't your place to try to destroy my case as you aren't the one I'm debating. Also as for 1 and 2 I'm doing this for fun. I'm not gonna address the rest of 'my mistakes' because A) I'm not debating you, B) If my opponent brings that up in his case I can address it then without having to be redundant and C) I'm lazy.
Posted by NJDebater 8 years ago
NJDebater
Anime Fan Tony.
A few GrandMistakes

1. u are Con. you do not go first. if you really wanted to debate this LD style, then either u would be Pro or not post your case as con.
2. This resolution is done in Ld. debate. not a mistake, but pointless for practice.
3. ur contentions make little sense. Your opponent can call u out on that, and since there is no cross-examination online, he has the ability to drop it.
4. ur value and value criterion are barely explained, leaving them open to a broad range of attacks. A value should have a whole paragraph and same for Value Criterion/Standard. That narrows everything down to a narrow range of attacks, of which you may have thought defenses. If your value/standard is dropped, you are lowered to a 10% chance of winning.
5. u do not define vigilantes. If Pro's definition of vigilantes is that they are good and he has a giant number of supports, we can drop your first contention.
6. ur second contention can contradict your case. If your opponent defines retribution in a way like: retribution- the act of taking revenge for an action. You have no way to keep up your second contention. Because then, your contention would say that vigilantes dont take revenge, and that turns impacts on you.
7. If Pro/Aff find mistake 6, your third contention drops immediately. If vigilantes aare selfless, and they spawn more vigilantes, then that benefits the state.
8. Not a huge mistake. You provide, as can be generalized in one wuick reading, only one warrant. And it is not even that popular. It wont kill you, but baking up your logic will get you more votes.
9. u sum up your case. Not what you want to do. It makes it easier for your opponent to refer back to your case and know it inside-out. However, you do that to the smallest degree.
10. This is a mistake on my part. I just posted a whole rebuttal.
*Sorry about all grammar errors, and i keep saying he. Sorry about that. Please replace he with he/she.
Srry bout this. but you got PW
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by MTGandP 8 years ago
MTGandP
AnimeFanTonyMTGandPTied
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Total points awarded:07