We’re all familiar with the free speech counter argument – you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater – which is regularly used to justify further limits on the things you can say and the things you can’t say. The reason you can’t yell Fire! in a crowded theater is because it’s reasonable to expect that people would react by trying to get out, and in the ensuing melee people could get hurt and possibly die.
I’m not even convinced that should be illegal – why am I rushing in a panic towards the exits? Based on what evidence? Some retard screaming fire? I would actually be comfortable in a world in which it’s perfectly legal to yell fire anywhere, at any time, for any reason, provided it’s also perfectly legal for me to beat your ass if you’re lying or yelling malevolently. Go ahead. Scream. If there’s no fire, prepare to face the consequences of that.
For the sake of argument, let’s say we accept the aforementioned limits on speech on the grounds that in the balance, the public is better off when people don’t go around screaming fire when there is no fire. You can’t create a dangerous situation using words that any reasonable person would understand are going to result in some bad things happening. Nothing good can happen if you yell fire in a crowded theater. At best, nothing will happen. At worst, people will die. In no reasonable world is something good going to happen.
Where does that justification end? Can we limit words if they are likely to result in bad things happening? Can we criminalize words that any reasonable person would understand are highly likely to result in either actual harm or, at best, nothing? There is no good outcome – only bad or neutral.
Michelle Carter has tested those limits. Her words, urging her boyfriend Conrad Roy to commit suicide, resulted in Roy committing suicide. Any reasonable person understands that when someone says they are going to commit suicide and you urge them to go ahead and do it, the worst outcome is that they actually do it and the best outcome is they do nothing. There is no good outcome here.
The court found Michelle guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Her reckless words caused Conrad to kill himself.
I hate this verdict.
I also hate Michelle Carter. This is one cold-hearted, evil young woman, but I still intensely dislike the fact that the responsibility for Conrad’s life, and Conrad’s choices became hers.
Think for a moment about medically assisted suicide. If a person chooses to end their life, has the person who assists them to do so painlessly and humanely committed a crime? Does it become a crime if the method isn’t painfree or humane? Remember the cannibal killer? The victim wanted to be eaten. Michelle Carter is a nasty, vicious little piece of work, but this case is far more complicated than just ‘Lady MacBeth gets her comeuppance’.
It resonates with me at the moment because a person I know personally is trying to extricate himself from an abusive relationship and it’s similarly hugely exacerbated by the fact that the aggressor is a woman and the victim is a man, like the Carter/Roy case. Had it been Conrad who urged Michelle to kill herself, we wouldn’t even be talking about this – Conrad would be condemned far and wide across the entire political and social spectrum and a life sentence would be considered too kind.
I get the fact that Michelle got her pussy pass revoked and she’s in shock, but at the same time, I wonder if this verdict isn’t going to come back to bite us all in the ass with some very unintended consequences? I hold one one truth to be self-evident: we are responsible for our own choices. While I can understand mitigating and complicating factors, and I understand widespread discrimination and prejudice that allows us to hold men to a different set of standards than those to which we hold women, my proposed solution is not to eliminate or reduce responsibilities for men, but to include women in the full responsibilities of adulthood.
At first blush, perhaps the Carter verdict appears to do just that – but I question whether it is wise to hold Carter responsible for Roy’s life. If she stood in front of him with a gun and pulled the trigger, then yes. She is responsible. But as wrenching and utterly evil as her text messages are, I still hold that Conrad was, and should be, the ultimate arbiter of his own choices.
I’m going to catch hell for ‘excusing’ Carter’s reprehensible and inhumanly callous behavior, but I don’t actually think I’m excusing her at all. I will be very satisfied if she gets 20 years in prison for what she did (we will find out August 3rd), but that is out of spite and a longing for vengeance. Carter pulled a Lady MacBeth and urged her man to murderous ruin, but both the King and Conrad were men, and as such, they are the ultimate rulers of their own lives. Findlaich Macbeth may have been urged by his bloodthirsty, baby-skull crushing wife to slay Duncan, but MacBeth is the one who did the dirty deed.
The option to tell Gruoch to go fuck herself was on the table.
Conrad could have told Michelle to go fuck herself, too.
It sucks in the context of holding only men responsible to insist that men should be held responsible, but I will adhere to the idea expressed in the tagline of this blog: the radical notion that women are adults. Michelle should be charged and held liable for something, but not for Conrad’s life. Conrad’s life was his to protect, and his to value. Michelle’s words were awful, terrible, unconscionable, despicable. But they did not lead to Conrad’s death.
Conrad’s actions did that.
I hope Michelle gets 20 years, I really do. I hope her paperwork gets lost and she dies in prison, but I also hope this conviction is overturned on appeal.
I don’t want other people to think they are accountable or responsible for my choices. They are not. Whatever happens in my life and in my relationships with other people – all the myriad of things that can go wrong whenever humans are involved, both IRL and virtually – I have made choices and I will answer for those. If I choose poorly, then so be it. I would rather have the freedom to choose poorly than the chains of not being able to choose at all.
I think I memorized Invictus when I was in the 2nd grade for a school talent show – it was a one room school house so it’s hard to recall, but I think I remember the little blue bun of Mrs. Hildreth nodding her approval, so it was around that time.
I am sorry for the loss of Conrad’s life. No parent can be unmoved. But Michelle was not the master of Conrad’s fate. Michele was not the captain of Conrad’s soul.
Who would want such an evil bitch anyways?
Lots of love,