Vigilante Justice, Vigilante Politics

By Jason Menard

Earlier today, local radio station AM 980 asked why are “some so quick to embrace vigilante justice?” It’s for the same reason we embrace vigilante politics. We want the quick fix. We want the satisfaction of having our needs met. And, most insidiously, we think we know everything.

Vigilante justice is immediate, visceral retribution for a crime. Often it’s a crime so heinous that we’re willing to dispense with long-developed traditions. We’re not willing to wait.

Some treat politics the same way. They don’t like the status quo, so it’s time for a visceral response. Unhappy until the bloodletting begins, it’s all about sacrificing process at the altar of action.

Simply because we’re not willing to wait. Simply because we’re willing to forsake generations of due process. Because we’re willing to overlook the lessons of history because we feel we’re different from years past and from the generations that came before us.

We demand immediacy because we live in a world where instant gratification is so quick. We post a Tweet and can be validated by in the echo chamber. We can raise the flag and immediately have a couple of dozen people gather around it, our voices raging against whatever machine we perceive to be grinding society down.

It’s immediate, but is it any better than vigilante justice? Does it have a long-term effect?

Do we feel any better about ourselves long-term? Have we solved any problems, or have we just created an environment for a new set of problems – or solved our own by potentially creating problems for someone else?

We’re quick to respond. We’re quick to incite! We’re quick to jump to conclusions — especially when it’s against the establishment. It’s a premature reaction — fortunately, as most age they learn that a slower, simmering build leads to a better understanding. Which do you prefer? Over and done with quickly, or a slow, inclusive development leading to a deeper understanding with a better, mutually acceptable conclusion? You choose.

Real change is slow. Real change requires collaboration and the willingness to listen. And, most importantly, real change is not visceral, but rather a slow and measured approach to finding the best solution for society as a whole.

A public lynching may satisfy the bloodlust, but how does it prevent the next crime. Vigilante justice may excise the symptom, but it does nothing to cure the disease. So why do we approach politics the same way?

Locally the Fontana 8 moniker has become a farce. It’s a convenient lightning rod for larger issues. It’s not a panacea that’s going to cure the disease, rather its representative of a band-aid solution. Pull it off and there’s still the underlying concern.

Unfortunately, measured and long-term approaches to politics (and crime) are not all that sexy. They don’t galvanize the masses, they can’t be summed up in a simple, easily repeatable slogan, nor do they serve as a convenient rallying point.

They require negotiation, discussion, compromise, and understanding. They require work. They require a slow development of a foundation. They require step-by-step building that provides the framework that supports the needs and desires of all who live within it.


Asking questions is difficult. Searching for reasons and understanding motivations beyond simple stereotyping means that you put your own beliefs at risk. It’s easy to be absolutely when you’re absolutely concerned only with your own needs. But when you start looking at all the other variables, issues, and affected parties, that resolution tends to become less resolute.

Vigilante justice and vigilante politics end up being nothing more than a pretty-looking façade. And, sure, it’s quick, but that façade crumbles pretty quickly when there’s nothing there to support it at the foundation.

Demanding change is quick and easy. So too is stepping up on a soap box. Working for change? That’s hard, slow, and arduous. It doesn’t get the headlines, but it certainly gets the results.

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