If there are things impressed upon modern Western Liberal Democracy, there are 2 arguably essential things claimed: Free speech and Rule of Law. Indeed, “free media” in the West touts these 2 things often enough, and the Courts of the West equally pay tribute to these 2 things often enough.
Yet, underneath, the reality is a strange contradiction of these 2 things butting against each other in interests, and often require delicate balancing depending on where.
There are in fact, 2 different kinds of “courts” in the West: The Court of media/public opinion, and the Court of Law. The 2 do not mix well. The 2 keep each other out. The 2 often bad mouth each other, and yet also tries to influence each other.
I did not think of this until recently, but here is a scenario/question: If Court of Law in the West are so fair, then why don’t they just open up the courts for public campaigning?
Hey, why don’t they just let the Plaintiffs and the Defendants all put up ads in the papers and on TV, and also let “voters” be the juries to determine innocence and guilt?
If “Democratic voting” is fair, then why not do the same for criminal trials? Why should only 9-12 jurors get to decide?
Conversely, if criminal trials are so fair, then why not ban election campaigns, and let 9-12 voters decide the next President based purely upon allowed factual evidence of performances of each candidate, in accordance with a strict trial procedure?
(The answer is of course, more to do with how much the People/Mob cares about a particular thing. If the Mob cares a lot about something, then customarily, the Mob wants its voices heard in public, with massive campaigns and money and votes. But the Mob does not care about the publicity of heinous crimes and scandals, (not often), and thus, it prefers only a few people bearing the burden of such problems).
Nevertheless, what the Mob wants can change. Which is why increasingly, many US states are demanding MORE judges to be elected, so that the Court of Law would be more influenced by the Court of Public Opinions.
But we can obviously see that if a Court of Law is turned to campaigning, the Rule of Law and Truth finding would be enslaved to mob opinions, emotive appeals, and endless useless debates.
And yet, that’s precisely what Court of Law was like, back in the Roman Era (from which the West derived its legal traditions). The Romans held their criminal trials in public, in the Roman Forum, where previous nights might have had bloody gladiator combats. But even the Romans held the Judges had to be chosen from a list of elites, even if the Judges are subjected to the loud heckles from the forum of the Jury (with 100’s or 1000’s of jurors). It was informal, loud, and yet very efficient.
The trials are public spectacles. It was done more to shame the individuals rather than to seek truth and justice. So, you often end up with both sides calling each other the most scandalous names rather than actually talking about the facts.
It was more like modern day political campaigning. (In Roman days, litigations are like campaigning).
Today, the Western Courts limit the amount of jurors, limit the publicity of trials, strictly enforce court rules of evidence and decorum, and severely punish lawyers for publicity seeking. Why? Because the publicity and the media can taint and bias “fact finding”.
The Courts in the West recognized that very real possibility, after centuries of trials. Afterall, the witches of Salem were convicted based upon nothing more than rumors and paranoia, despite the previous centuries of British legal traditions.
*But inherent in this admission is the recognition of the power imbalance of the Mob and the Media over Truth and Law. Thus, “free speech” must be curbed, in order to find the Truth.
Justice may be imperfect, but the Loud Mob is not a cure. The Loud mob only makes one forget Justice completely, and reach for the baser instincts of vengeance and fear.
Yet, isn’t Truth also important in Politics and Government? Why should the Loud Mob be given comfort outside of the Courts in the positions of power and taxes? Because after centuries, the Courts of wise judges gave into the fear that if they do not allow the Mob to have some influence, the Mob may indeed resort to “Kill the Lawyers first”, and leave no room for Truth at all in the West.
But, as for China, I think it best that we stick to the Truth, that we need no loud mobs for either truth or good government. That all citizens have the responsibility to follow the law and speak responsibly.
And if the West say China needs “Free Speech and Rule of Law”, we should say, “China has Rule of Law. And that’s enough.”