Bill O'Reilly sure does love Philadelphia. He did a segment last night about the Kensington mob that beat the rape suspect -- and while we don't watch the show, nor can we find a video or transcript of the segment -- we're reliably told that he suggested the vigilantes should be prosecuted for taking the law into their own hands.
This comes hot on the heels of Michael Smerconish's Daily News column also suggesting that mob justice is wrong. Which, weirdly, is also the stance we've been taking here at Philadelphia Weekly. (It's here we insert the necessary caveat: Rape is evil, child rape is especially horrendous, and the person who committed the crime deserves the harshest punishment the legal system can mete out.) You can imagine how this makes us feel: If O'Reilly and Smerconish take a stance, we just naturally want to take the opposite stance. Ninety-seven percent of the time, that approach will serve us well in life.
So is it time for us to endorse vigilantism? No. Hell, even a blind hog finds an acorn once in awhile. O'Reilly and Smerconish can't be wrong all the time.
The only saving grace, at least, is that Smerconish managed to hit on the right conclusion for the wrong reasons. Following up on the murders of Dr. George Tiller and an Army recruiter, Smerconish reasoned that if he found those killings wrong, he should also find the rape suspect beating wrong.
Maybe this is what passes for intellectual honesty on Smerconish's part. But it's still troubling -- icky even -- that he equates the two men killed for performing legal (if controversial) duties with a suspected rapist. Attacking a man for violating the law is vigilantism; it's doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. (Kind of. Bear with us.) Attacking a man who is doing what society says is permissible is anarchy, at best; it's doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. And in the case of Smerconish's examples, at least, it's murder.
It's safe to say that when Philly's top officials offer only mealy-mouthed "don't condone" messages about vigilantism -- but fail to bring charges against it AND pay out $10,000 rewards for it, a message has been sent: Vigilantism is awesome in Philly.
It's not surprising that a group of Kensington residents beat the man suspected of brutally raping an 11-year-old girl. It is surprising how nonchalant the city's authorities are about the whole thing.
Yes, the two men who posted themselves outside a Fairmount Avenue polling place on Election Day 2008 did look a little scary. But what Fox News did with the New Black Panthers was even worse.
Representatives of 1210-AM “The Big Talker” were yesterday thrilled to introduce the newest member of their right-leaning lineup: the buttocks of Michael Smerconish, whose recent star turn in Philadelphia magazine has rocketed the ass to widespread local prominence. “By adding these buttocks to a team that already includes Rush Limbaugh, Dom Giordano, and the rest of Mr. Smerconish himself, we’re offering listeners a wide range of conservative opinion,” said station manager Tom Yates, introducing the naked, pockmarked rump at a midday news conference