Crowdfunding sites are showing themselves to be moral cowards. GoFundMe refused to allow a campaign for officer Michael Slager who shot Walter Scott in the back last weekend. It has a policy against campaigns “in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes, including violent, hateful, or sexual acts.” That is their right, of course.
But I find this troublesome for a couple of reasons. First, people are innocent until proven guilty — in theory at least. I think it is wrong to assume someone’s guilt in this way. If GoFundMe had been around in 1997, I assume it would have allowed the parents of Ron Goldman to campaign to get money for their civil case against OJ Simpson. But it wouldn’t have allowed Simpson to campaign for money for his original defense. So I think there is an implicit hypocrisy in this policy.
The other problem I have is that I don’t see why it is wrong to allow people who perpetrated heinous crimes (much less those who have simply been accused of it) should be denied the right to raise money for their defenses. I realize that one can always do it on their own. Certainly George Zimmerman managed to do that. But I have a problem with private companies making these kinds of decisions. These companies are, after all, nominally disinterested. And I think that the claim (made too often by liberals who should know better) that the First Amendment only applies to government restrictions is rather too limited a reading of rights in the modern world.
But now, after initially allowing it, Indiegogo Removes Fundraisers That Supported SC Police Officer. The company now claims that a review of the campaigns found that they did not meet their standards. I suspect that their decision is actually just a matter of a huge social media campaign focused on Indiegogo to forbid the Salger campaigns. And that strikes me as a very bad thing.
I don’t know all the details about Michael Slager’s shooting of Walter Scott. But I think I made my position pretty clear on Thursday, Police Lie Even When Cameras Aren’t Around. It is hard to see it as anything but a methodical, cold blooded murder. But that makes it all the more important that we treat this case carefully and that we don’t rush to legal judgement. I want Slager tried and properly convicted. What’s more, I would like this case to change the system. The way things are, if Slager and Scott had been fighting over the taser, the law would have stated that it was legal for Slager to kill Scott. I think that’s a much bigger problem than that Slager seems to be a psychopath.
In the United States, prosecutors have almost unlimited resources in a criminal case. So the best that Slager would ever get is a fair trial. I have no problem with him getting a fair trial. And I have enough confidence in the criminal justice system to think that he will be convicted in a fair trial. The recent cases of police officers apparently getting away with murder has not been a matter of them having great representation. It has rather been that the prosecution has had no interest in convicting them. That will still be the case with Slager regardless of his representation.
As it is, there were a total of seven Indiegogo campaigns for Officer Slager. The most successful one had only raised $1,500, “and six others received little to no funding.” It wasn’t as though Slager was racking in the cash. So the push to shutdown his campaigns had basically no practical consequences on him. But it did have practical consequences on Indiegogo and how it deals with people who are trying to raise money for unpopular causes.
Shame on GoFundMe. Shame of Indiegogo. And most of all, shame on us.