State vigilantism

When a state permits violent groups to act on its behalf outside the law, nominally “enforcing” the law, we are in a very precarious situation. Think state sanctioned death squads in El Salvador or off-duty policemen clearing the streets of street-children in Brazil.

This sort of thing doesn’t happen in Britain right? Wrong.

There are a number of dangerous individuals obviously with far too much time on their hands who pose as young girls under 16 on Facebook and other social media web sites in an attempt to entrap men into “meeting” them for sex. Then they confront the individuals. Usually it seems two or more of the vigilante thugs confront the entrapped victim. Sometimes they abuse him by filming the confrontation and posting it on web sites. At least one (probably more) people have committed suicide as a result of this kind of activity. [1]

Clearly the kind of people who do this are sick and disturbed. Who would want to pose as a 14 or 13 year old girl on Facebook and try to entice men into chatting them up? Who takes it upon themselves to enforce the law? Who believes that real life happens on the Internet?

One would have thought that the police would be cracking down on these people as they do any other vigilante groups. One would have thought that the press would report their activities with a certain amount of disdain. One would have hoped that the judges would throw out the cases, or, at the very least, express concern about how people were entrapped by self-appointed on-line policemen.

None of the above happen. The police never express the slightest concern about these groups. By taking their material and basing cases on it they are in effect creating a kind of franchise and legitimising them. The press refers to these individuals and Facebook groups as if they were Neighbourhood Watch Organisations. Even judges praise them as if they were some kind of social service agency. [2]

What does this say about this society? A