Jewish World ReviewJune 1, 1999 /17 Sivan 5759
Demonizing for dollars
(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
THE ONCE-POPULAR GAME SHOW "Dialing for Dollars" has its present-day counterpart in courts of law -- Demonizing for
The most spectacular bonanza to come out of this process has been the hundreds of billions of dollars shared by
lawyers and others, as a result of lawsuits against tobacco companies by smokers, former smokers, heirs of dead smokers,
local governments and anybody else who could come up with a plausible reason to get his hands in the till.
People who had been warned incessantly for years, on every pack of cigarettes, that smoking was dangerous
nevertheless were able to blame their ills and expenses on tobacco companies. But, before there could be a big payoff, there
had to be a big demonizing campaign. We were told again and again that tobacco companies were bad. In some ways they
were in fact bad. Joe Camel was not their finest hour. However, in some ways all of us are bad, at least sometimes. But a
government based on laws is not supposed to punish people just because they are bad -- or because their badness happens
to be in the public spotlight at the moment. They have to have violated some specific law. They cannot simply be pronounced
to be tainted. That was outlawed by the Constitution when it forbad "bills of attainder."
In today's free-wheeling world, however, what is the Constitution when we have a crusade going -- especially if we are
demonizing for dollars? Once we taint them as big-time bad people, then we can get down to the serious business of digging
into their cash.
Now that the financial raid on the tobacco companies has succeeded on a grand scale, the next logical targets are the
manufacturers of firearms. Lawyers, politicians and assorted others are lining up at the cash window to collect another big
We live in a world where somebody has to be blamed for everything. Often it is not the person who actually
created the damage but instead the nearest source of big bucks. Those crusaders who are most ferocious against firearms
manufacturers and law-abiding gun owners are often the softest on the violent criminals who actually shoot people.
A little psychological counseling, some community service and other "alternatives to incarceration" and it is OK to put
the hoodlums back on the street. Just don't let their potential victims arm themselves.
If we were being consistent, we should allow victims to sue governments that fail to protect them and refuse to let them
protect themselves. Since guns save many lives as well as cost other lives, why not sue gun-control advocates?
Would the world be a better place if there were no firearms? Of course. It would be better if there were no weapons at
all. But this is the kind of philosophical question to be discussed around a seminar table. In the real world, there are a couple
of hundred million guns out there and they are not going to vanish because of any law or any lawsuit.
A blanket prohibition against bills of attainder was put into the Constitution for a reason. Nothing is easier than to
formalize lynch law against individuals or groups who have been demonized. And nothing is more dangerous.
become a mockery when this happens. Today it may be tobacco companies or firearms manufacturers, but no one can
predict who it will be tomorrow. Even totalitarianism did not become totalitarianism in one big step. The totalitarians started
out demonizing their victims and then playing fast and loose with the laws to crack down on them. That is what is being done
now by those who are demonizing for dollars.
The Communists demonized the capitalists, the Nazis demonized the Jews and other opportunists have demonized
whoever was handy. What they all have in common is brushing aside the principles of a rule of law by unleashing passions
that overwhelm those principles.
Those who are demonizing for dollars have much more limited aims, if billions of dollars worth of extortion can be called
But, once you have turned the rule of law into just some stuffy old technicalities to be winked at and finessed, you
have taken a fatal step for the whole society, regardless of who the particular target happens to be at the
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©1999, Creators Syndicate