Opinion: Does Trumps Acquittal Mean America Has Lost Moral Authority?

As Trump’s acquittal sinks in, Drew Wilson decides to offer his own thoughts on the news and what that means for tech policy.

By now, you would have likely heard about Trump being acquitted a second time. This after his supporters stormed the Capitol building in his name, launching a terrorist attack the likes which an entire generation of people have never seen. The evidence was overwhelming that he egged them on for months and delivered the marching orders. Trump himself actively refused to allow reinforcements once the buildings were under attack (Mike Pence had to do so knowing his life was in danger) and evidence surfacing just in the last day shows that Trump even refused to call off his supporters during the siege.

For me, the developments strikes at the core of what America is and what justice is about. Honestly, what is justice to begin with? Is it a situation where everyone is judged equally under the law in a fair and just matter? Is it a legal system that doesn’t care about your wealth, skin color or who you are in general, but rather, focuses on facts and evidence? Or, is justice about your political leanings and who you are and judges accordingly.

Honestly, after seeing the acquittal splash over the headlines everywhere, I can’t help but think America has become more of the latter. If you are a Republican president, you can get away with an act of terrorism. Does it matter if it left 5 people dead? Apparently, not for enough senators. As far as I’m concerned, the senators who voted to acquit have blood on their hands as much as Trump does. The message is clear: Republican’s will excuse anything a Republican president does because their jobs are more important than the country they so adamantly claim to represent. In doing so, they have also murdered the myth of “checks and balances” so many firmly believe is in place to maintain balance in the country.

While so many analysis is focused on how the GOP is now more polarized and divided than ever before, I personally believe the damage caused is much wider and greater.

Unlike so many tech journalists based in the US, I personally have the perspective of looking at events from the outside. A birds eye view, if you will. Not only this, but I have been observing how international law works for many years now.

For the longest time, it always seemed that America came up with their own laws, then exported them – good or bad – throughout the rest of the world. A great example would be the badly broken DMCA. Successive Canadian governments have been pushing to have the Canadian DMCA laws implemented at the behest of multinational corporations and American pressure. It took significant push-back to keep those bad laws at bay (unfortunately, elements such as anti-circumvention laws did manage to worm their way into our law books anyway despite the consequences spelled out to lawmakers). Former Canadian Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, once famously gave the instructions of, to paraphrase, ‘I don’t care what you do so long as the American’s are satisfied’.

That kind of blind thinking didn’t happen overnight. For decades, America was supposed to be this beacon of the world. A country for which other countries can model from. If America passed laws “x, y, and z”, then maybe we should pass it too. If America regulated a certain product, then maybe Canada should follow suit. So many decisions almost invariably come about because of this seemingly underlying need to emulate America in every way. Full disclosure: I loathe this because lawmakers should be thinking for themselves for a change.

Regardless, that’s just how the world worked from a Canadian perspective. Laws and regulations come about in lock-step with the US whether it was good or bad. Don’t you dare object to that because look at how great America is. Don’t you want to be as great as America?

Now, here we are today. We’ve built up to this moment for the last four and a half years. We see the abandonment of science, the rejection of reality, the embracing of conspiracy theories, the division, the corruption, the legal enabling, and now, blatant two tier justice. There’s a law for Republican president’s, and a law for everyone else. Honestly, ask yourself, is this really a country other countries like Canada want to emulate? Do we really want to be a country where a strongman wanna-be dictator psychopath can easily run the country without anything stopping them?

I mean, seriously, this is a country that saw an open insurrection that left five people dead. It was naked full on treason for the whole world to watch. In decades past, even considering such an action would lead to a very public hanging. Today, enough Republican senators simply shrugged and voted to acquit as if all of this was no big deal or that it was inappropriate throw the book at someone who so clearly broke the law. In fact, Mitch McConnell himself admitted that the evidence is overwhelming that Trump instigated this, but chose to acquit anyway. It’s as if to say that full blown treason is just another little political game to them.

Now, Trump wants more. He is signalling that this is only the beginning. In fact, he says that his movement “to Make America Great Again has only just begun”. This basically means that the only thing he has learned is that he is untouchable and that he can do anything he wants because there are no consequences for his actions. So, he is prepared to take things even further. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that Trump is unfit to run a lemonade stand, let alone a whole country. However, the acquittal signals that he did nothing wrong.

So, the question is, is this the last straw for people who put America on such a high pedestal? Is this the big moment others need to see in order to say that maybe other countries need to forge their own path and decide what is in their best interest and not necessarily in the best interest of America?

I am happy to see that other countries are instituting mask mandates to slow the spread of COVID-19. Maybe a similar line of thinking can be used when forging ahead with big digital rights issues. Instead of blindly thinking that the DMCA is a model, maybe expand on fair dealing laws or go further with network neutrality laws, or maybe even table laws that better protect users privacy instead of pushing ahead with back doors. I believe other countries should figure out what does and doesn’t work and decide from there. Instead of slavishly emulating America, point out that anti-circumvention laws or lengthening copyright term is a bad idea and forge a different path.

I personally believe that different countries can do better than America. Rather than view American law as something to basically copy and paste into our own law books, just note that America is just one country with their idea’s of how the law should work. As far as I’m concerned, we’ll be better off for it. After all, America, right now, is straight up embarrassing at this point.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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