Deputized Nation

Photograph Source: Eli Christman – CC BY 2.0

So now Texas deputizes its citizens to snitch on women getting abortions, while Oklahoma authorizes its parents to police school libraries. If an Oklahoma parent objects to a book in the school library, and it’s not gone in 24 hours, the librarian gets fired. Clearly this new vigilantism is a trend. Constitutional rights to privacy or against censorship are flying out the window.

What next? Well, think about it: Deputizing Montanans to rat on neighbors who won’t hunt wolves, or empowering oil and gas companies to sue pipeline protestors. Deputizing busybodies to report their neighbors for using birth control. Rewarding Floridians for informing the local prosecutor on anyone who uses the phrase “climate change” (after all, former governor Rick Scott banned the term, an imbecility he should never be allowed to forget). Authorizing anyone to punch anyone who tells them to wear a face mask. Deputizing parents to sue school systems that require ANY vaccines. Allowing anyone to ram their car into anyone they think “might be antifa.” Basically, just name anything currently annoying the idiotic average American reactionary and before long that creature will be deputized to take action against it, as if it were as objectionable as cannibalism. The list is endless.

So it’s time to turn this stupid fad on its head. California’s plan to deputize its citizens against gun manufacturers blazes the way. Governor Gavin Newsom produced this stupendous idea and he’s to be commended. If Californians sue gun manufacturers out of business – voila! No more school slaughters. Who cares about the second amendment, especially when Oklahoma already ditched the first? Clearly, it’s open season on the bill of rights – most of which American morons oppose on principle anyway.

Blue states could also deputize their citizens to sue hospitals that give beds to unvaccinated covid patients. It sounds nasty, but vaccine advocates will no doubt argue that anti-vaxxers are there by choice. They opted not to protect themselves against a lethal plague. And how is suing the hospital and doctors that enable their lousy choice any different from suing a doctor for providing an abortion to a 12-year-old raped by her HIV-positive uncle? Once you start chopping down constitutional rights, soon the whole forest disappears. But hey, Homo Americanus clearly thinks those rights are defective, insofar as he can be said to think at all.

Young people with futures wrecked by climate change could be deputized against fossil fuel corporations and receive a $10,000 reward for successfully suing them. The same goes with single-use plastics. Any store that sells them – target of a deputized citizen who gets a cash prize for a suit.

The brightest prospects, however, shine for those who believe their employer underpays them. Clearly any worker earning less than $15 per hour should be deputized to report and sue such employers and handed a generous reward. The worker could argue that such low pay is theft, and that the employer steals more than he pays for – something Marx once dubbed surplus value. These employee deputies could finally solve the problem of the miserable minimum wage. And unions could get into the act. If a boss unduly harasses his employees, any union member who hears of it could be deputized to take that boss to court – for a reward paid out of state coffers, of course.

Basically, Texas handed the law over to vigilantes and blabbermouths, and SCOTUS said, “okay, cool.” Legal niceties about constitutional rights now have been carted to the funeral parlor, as the high court unleashed a barbarous folly even Erasmus couldn’t praise. Mob justice is clearly the wave of the American future. But we got a taste of that back on January 6, 2020, didn’t we – when enraged Trump supporters decided it was time to refashion the American electoral process in the image of their own nincompoop rioting selves. Since then, the GOP has essentially said, “hey, they’re onto something” and Republican state legislatures have busied themselves passing laws preparing to suppress, and if that doesn’t work, overturn the popular vote in 2024.

The supreme court weakened abortion providers’ legal strategy, according to The Texas Tribune on December 16, “by removing nearly all of the defendants in the case, leaving abortion supporters with few options for a viable law suit.” So the court essentially told the aggrieved parties, “sue whoever you want, but nobody involved in your case.” What the so-called reasoning for this was will have legal scholars scratching their heads for years to come, that is if by then there isn’t a law empowering snoops to sue anyone who scratches their head because they “might be thinking.”

Meanwhile SCOTUS is on a reactionary roll. It started with Bush v. Gore, when the court said, “we’re sick of the franchise. WE decide who’s president,” continued with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (SCOTUS: “We’re legalizing bribery and putting the U.S. government up for sale and if you don’t like it, move to Russia”), popped up most recently on January 7 with Chief Justice John Roberts’ apparent delusion that covid respects states’ rights, not the federal administrative state, a judicial muddle that dooms hundreds of thousands of Americans to an early and miserable death, and on through many other high court decisions too depressing to enumerate, but including, perhaps worst of all, gutting the voting rights act.

In short, SCOTUS hauled Jim Crow up from its cellar of deserved ignominy and told Republicans, “have fun with this.” And what the high court imposed on African Americans, GOP state legislators expanded and now inflict on all non-Republican voters – deleting their ballots. So when we reach the point where only Republicans are allowed to vote, and we should arrive there soon, what do we do? I’ll tell you. We deputize the disenfranchised to sue. That’s about 80 million suits. It should terminally clog courts up to and including the supreme court. It should fry the court system. Let’s hope it breaks it, once and for all. Then we can finally say ta ta, bye-bye, to deputized snitches, fortune-hunting tattle-tales and vigilante injustice.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Busybody. She can be reached at her website.