Against the myth of the watchman-vigilante (part 2)

Reasons of why the existence of a watchman-vigilante might not be such a good idea are many. Here they come a few more.


(Source: Sir Prime Flickr via Compfight cc)


(Read the first part of this article here)


Fifth: the vigilante is a single man and, therefore, vulnerable

Admitting that he could always be perfect in everything and for everything and that, in addition, he could manage to perpetuate that perfection within time, the watchman, as a mere individual he is, would turn out to be a tremendously fragile and erratic fighter, this is a tool with enormous limitations.

A system or organisation is an association of individuals who work together, and it is in that precise sum that its strength lies, since they collaborate, complement, replace, cover and, if necessary, even control each other. An institution or an idea can be perpetuated within time, but a single individual is mortal, has to sleep and eat and, sometimes, go to the bathroom too. Who would apply justice when the vigilante sleeps, rests, gets sick, dies or is arrested? Even in the unlikely event he turned out to be an optimal solution, the vigilante would be just a patch, an intermittent and temporal solution.


Sixth: who controls the vigilante?

The State’s powers are organised, in theory at least, in such a way that allows them to control and survey each other, and avoid surpassing their own jurisdictions: the police has other police responsible for investigating them, and must always comply with the law previously established by lawmakers and under control of the courts. The courts judge everyone, but they must follow the laws the legislators have previously made. Lawmakers must comply with the justice coming from the courts, not being able to legislate something previously considered illegal. And, in all this, there is always room for lobbies, civil society, public opinion, media and other actors who come into play according to their own possibilities.

The vigilante, however, is not subject to any control, that is to say, there is no one who watches the watchman, because he is, by definition, an outlaw. This being the case, who controls him? Who is there to tell him he is wrong or he is loosing his way? If he effectively and repeatedly gets away from justice thanks to his skills or cunning, who will be there to stop him when he overreacts or makes a mistake?

(Charles Bronson, another one of those tough Hollywood guys who also liked to make his own justice)


Seventh: a very dangerous example

The vigilante, while in his particular crusade, could inspire others to follow in his footsteps, that is, he could create, perhaps involuntarily, a social phenomenon, a group of fans or followers who, spontaneously, might imitate his philosophy and his methods, his activities and his actions, all this with devastating effects.

Suddenly, more and more citizens would believe themselves capable of imparting justice based on their own personal criteria, perhaps acting in the name of the vigilante, or perhaps adducing, not without reason, that if the watchamn, a man like any other after all, he can do it, then, why not they? Thanks to this we would have the same dangers listed in this very same list but multiplied by God knows how many more supposedly enlightened individuals.

(In the film The Dark Night (2008) batman had to deal with some phoney imitators)


Eighth: revenge or reinsertion?

The watchman generally executes his victims, clearly basing his own idea of ​​justice on revenge, not on prevention, reinsertion or social re-education. With just a few exceptions, he does not allow criminals to repent of their sins or settle their debts with society, nor does he give them the opportunity to change. He eliminates them using his own lethal force, sometimes even bordering pure sadism.

It is worth wondering, at this point, what justice should be useful for, if it should be to simply unleash revenge, to punish, or rather to prevent future crimes, and / or to re-educate and try to “recover” the criminal and put him back into society. Can a sinner repent? Can a man change? What do we pursue, a system in which, perhaps, some sinners get sometimes free, or another one in which, perhaps, some innocents are sometimes blamed and have to pay for no reason?

A true vigilante hero could be one who, based on his own personal initiative, managed to stop crimes, or might help to alleviate their disastrous consequences. For executing a revenge, however, there have always been plenty of means.

(At least this scene from Unforgiven (1992) is pretty good, even if it is more about the same: revenge, revenge and more revenge)


Ninth: an illegitimate authority

As we have already seen, the vigilante, by making justice by himself, holds the idea according to which everyone is capable of exercising justice. He is not a recognised authority, because no one has ever given him any authority or power to exercise justice, but he has arrogated it to himself, he himself has taken it by his own hand, an antisocial attitude many would possibly call the “law of jungle.”

Faced with something like that, nobody would really have to accept his role at all, because the vigilante could never be a legitimate figure. Any subject who was interpellated by the aforementioned could always reply “and who the hell are you?” If the vigilante, not coming from any previously recognised power, or even controlled by anything or anyone, is not a legitimate authority, how could any law-abiding citizen even approve his actions, if they are and will always be outside the law? It would be nothing more than brute force, illegal, illegitimate. The vigilante oozes fascism, and an intense one.


Tenth: the end does not justify the means

To systematically break the law, to be judge, jury and executioner all together, to escape from the same justice he, nevertheless, wants to apply to others… The watchman presupposes, without any doubt, that the end justifies the means, and that everything he is doing is justified by his self-adopted messianic role, by him supposedly being beyond good and evil, by having the right to go beyond nobody else ever goes, and to be the executioner, the instrument of some kind of revenge.

This is an undoubtedly extremely dangerous idea, and one that could be used to justify practically anything, from having to erase a poor innocent in order to continue with that personal crusade (an honest policeman who might try to stop him, for example), or even some more creepy totalitarian nightmares.

Such as what has previously been said, the vigilante represents, in the end, fascism, served with some megalomaniacal spices.

(The last speech in John Doe, or how a guy, acting as a vigilante, justifies himself in the end, even after the terrible consequences of some his own actions)


(read this article in Spanish here)


2 responses to “Against the myth of the watchman-vigilante (part 2)

  1. Pingback: Against the myth of the watchman-vigilante | marcosmarconius·

  2. Pingback: Contra el mito del vigilante-justiciero (parte 2) | marcosmarconius·

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