The Instigator
Justin108
Pro (for)
The Contender
nerdvick
Con (against)

Should blackmail be legal?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/31/2018 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 344 times Debate No: 114780
Debate Rounds (5)
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Justin108

Pro

Unless information is protected under certain circumstances, such as non-disclosure agreements, it is perfectly legal to reveal hidden information. Why then is it illegal to demand money under threat of revealing hidden information?

Usually the hidden information in question is negative information about the blackmail "victim". The "victim" is usually guilty of severe enough wrongdoing to merit blackmail, i.e adultery, fraud, etc. Why should the "victim" of blackmail be protected when they are usually guilty of whatever it is the blackmailer is threatening them with? If the "victim" had nothing to hide, blackmail would be ineffective. Normally, people who have blackmail-worthy secrets deserve to have their secrets revealed. Innocent people are virtually immune to blackmail since they have nothing to hide. The only "victims" of blackmail are guilty people.

Why is blackmail illegal? Why is it legal for someone to reveal hidden information but it is not legal to request money under threat of revealing said hidden information?
nerdvick

Con

At first glance it is not hard to answer the question, "Is blackmail really illegitimate?" The only problem it would seem to pose is, "Why is it being asked at all?" Do not blackmailers, well . . . blackmail people? And what could be worse? Blackmailers prey on people"s dark hidden secrets. They threaten to expose and publicize them. They bleed their victims, and often drive them to suicide.

We will find, however, that the case against the blackmailer cannot stand serious analysis; that it is based upon a tissue of unexamined shibboleths and deep philosophical misunderstandings.

What, exactly, is blackmail? Blackmail is the offer of trade. It is the offer to trade something, usually silence, for some other good, usually money. If the offer of the trade is accepted, the blackmailer then maintains his silence and the blackmailee pays the agreed-upon price. If the blackmail offer is rejected, the blackmailer may exercise his rights of free speech and publicize the secret. There is nothing amiss here. All that is happening is that an offer to maintain silence is being made. If the offer is rejected, the blackmailer does no more than exercise his right of free speech.

The sole difference between a gossip and a blackmailer is that the blackmailer will refrain from speaking"for a price. In a sense, the gossip is much worse than the blackmailer, for the blackmailer has given the blackmailee a chance to silence him. The gossip exposes the secret without warning. Is not the person with a secret better off at the hands of a blackmailer than a gossip? With the gossip, all is lost; with the blackmailer, one can only gain, or at least be no worse off. If the price requested by the blackmailer is lower than the secret is worth, the secretholder will pay the blackmailer"this being the lesser of the two evils. He thus gains the difference to him between the value of the secret and the price of the blackmail. When the blackmailer demands more than the secret is worth, his demand will not be met and the information will become public. However, in this case the person is no worse off with the blackmailer than he would have been with the inveterate gossip. It is indeed difficult, then, to account for the vilification suffered by the blackmailer, at least compared to the gossip, who is usually dismissed with slight contempt and smugness.

In addition to being a legitimate activity, blackmail has some good effects, litanies to the contrary notwithstanding. Apart from some innocent victims who are caught in the net, whom does the blackmailer usually prey upon? In the main, there are two groups. One group is composed of criminals: murderers, thieves, swindlers, embezzlers, cheaters, rapists, etc.

In the case of criminals, blackmail and the threat of blackmail serves as a deterrent. They add to the risks involved in criminal activity. How many of the anonymous "tips" received by the police"the value of which cannot be overestimated" can be traced, directly or indirectly, to blackmail? How many criminals are led to pursue crime on their own, eschewing the aid of fellow criminals in "jobs" that call for cooperation, out of the fear of possible blackmail? Finally, there are those individuals who are on the verge of committing crimes, or at the "margin of criminality" (as the economist would say), where the least factor will propel them one way or another. The additional fear of blackmail may be enough, in some cases, to dissuade them from crime.

If blackmail itself were legalized, it would undoubtedly be an even more effective deterrent. Legalization would undoubtedly result in an increase in blackmail, with attendant depredations upon the criminal class.

In reflecting on the old aphorism, "the truth shall make you free," the only "weapon" at the disposal of the blackmailer is the truth. In using the truth to back up his threats (as on occasion he must), he sets the truth free, very often without intent, to do whatever good or bad it is capable of doing.
Debate Round No. 1
Justin108

Pro

You realize I take the position that blackmail SHOULD be legal, right? Because your entire post seems to agree with me.
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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 5
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