A video depicting a Florida man drowning while a group of teenagers laughed and mocked him went viral over the weekend. While the video carries the warning that “some viewers might find the following video disturbing,” after viewing the video you might ask who wouldn’t find it disturbing?
In the clip, Jamel Dunn’s head is barely visible and sinking; the teens yell out that none will save him, and laugh as he perishes. It is profoundly troubling and maddening and heartbreaking. It is not, however, criminal.
The calls for the boys’ prosecution have been overwhelming. It’s perfectly understandable to be outraged at their behavior. A group of teens laughed and filmed a man’s death instead of helping him, and that should not be taken lightly. But why has the state gotten involved?
These boys didn’t toss Mr. Dunn in the lake. Turning to the state to be the mommies and daddies of all of us is the province of progressives and social justice warriors. The proper Conservatarian response is to recognize that most problems, issues, and situations are private and that no government involvement is necessary.
That’s not what is likely to happen here as Cocoa Police Chief Michael Cantaloupe said Friday that he would recommend the state attorney prosecute the teens. The five minors, who are between fourteen and sixteen years old, are likely to be prosecuted under an obscure law which requires persons who witness deaths that would be investigated by the coroner to report them.
The outrage, the horror, is that these five people seem to have no humanity. As a libertarian, I suspect the reasons for that lie with government. The state seems committed to dissembling the family unit in general with government remedies for poverty that have proven destructive, particularly for lower income black families. Combining that with government schools in poor neighborhoods that produce horrible outcomes and you have a recipe for just this kind of situation. Leftists too can agree here – more government is not needed in the lives of these boys – for their sake, and ours. A duty to report is a clear violation of the right to free speech because it compels speech.
But what about a duty to save, you might ask? Compelling action in the form of life-saving is an even more outrageous imposition on liberty. It’s no wonder that American law does not compel such efforts. We are for a society that is good, not because people are compelled to be under penalty of law, but because the people are good and behave that way. Thoughtcrime, which this amounts to, is not a societal aid — it is its demise.
The law is not to be scoured over to reveal violations that can be leveraged against those the public views with disgust. Such is the behavior of a tyrannical hall monitor, not a free public’s police force as it is anathema to freedom and liberty. What good would come of it? Mr. Dunn is dead, and these boys did nothing to help him avoid his demise. At the risk of sounding like a bleeding heart, what have their lives been like until now? Surely they weren’t loved or valued – that’s why they have no humanity. Locking them up will help exactly who?