The New York Times ran a piece today:
The article addresses the potential for defamation as a result of published police blotters. It is an astute article entitled:
By WOODY HOCHSWENDER: Published: May 20, 2007
I read the article and thought: yes! here we go, another viewpoint to make people grasp the power of the written word, speech and/or gossip.
The power of words to destroy.
But I got to the end of the article and was confused. This is how the article ended:
“It is that human need to know about other people in trouble, to glimpse the dark side behind the hedgerow. If it is gossip, however, it is useful gossip. In areas where people have not become inured to violence, the police blotter casts a public spotlight on crime conditions and allows the community to respond, to take measures, before it gets out of hand.”
Are we saying that the potential to deter crime by publishing a police blotter is more vital than protecting the innocent? After all, the article in its 3rd paragraph promised me this as the reader:
“The police blotter, however, is coming under scrutiny, especially with respect to its potential for defaming the innocent.”
Examples followed showing how innocent people came under scrutiny and became the subject of gossip, feuling people’s need perhaps to justify their own skeletons in the closet.
So how do we go from Point A, the potential to harm otherwise law abiding, innocent citizens, to Point B, it’s ok to do so in the name of deterring crime?
Maybe if there were viable statistics as to how it deters crime I would be left not confused and not posting about the article. Don’t most people who commit crimes do so because they believe they will get away with it or simply don’t care? If that principle is true, then how do police blotters deter crime?
How do we weigh the scale, either way you spin it, the concern is to protect the innocent, whether by deterrence of crime or by not feuling gossip about our neighbors that they can later not disprove.
Wonder what would happen if the Constitution had a provision, all people shall be free from gossip?