Friday, May 11, 2007

Bison defender pleads "not guilty" -- oh, really?

Civil disobedience has a long and venerable history. Not a few Christians were fed to the lions in the process of willfully and publicly disobeying the law.

Sometimes they would make the point that they were answering to a higher law, sometimes they would make no defense whatsoever -- but one is hard-pressed to find examples of them claiming that they didn't actually break civil law when they marched to the center of town and made a point of refusing to offer a pinch of incense to the emperor as a god, or whatever.

What is a bit incomprehensible is the spectacle of someone making a point of breaking the law, and then claiming that they didn't -- or looking for legal loopholes to get out of punishment. Today, civil disobedience is something most associated with liberal causes, but there are other examples. For instance, there are radical abortion opponents (precious few compared to the hysteria mounted on the left about them -- but they have certainly been there) who have bombed abortion clinics using the moral justification that they are trying to save lives.

Fine -- well, not really fine, but fine for the sake of argument. But then such an individual should show up at the police station and take credit for the bombing, taking his legal lumps -- acting like a man and accepting the punishment prescribed by law. If someone was killed in the bombing, this means pleading guilty to murder and going to jail for life or accepting the death penalty without appealing it.

Such musings were prompted by this report about members of a "bison advocacy group" that openly broke the law:

Two bison advocacy group members were arrested Wednesday after allegedly refusing to leave a portion of Highway 191 that had been closed to allow state and federal officials to haze bison back into Yellowstone National Park.One of the two Buffalo Field Campaign members, Peter Bogusko, also is accused of kicking out a rear window of a patrol car after his arrest, Montana Highway Patrol Capt. Tom Butler said.

Fine -- well, not really fine, but fine for the sake of argument. But what on earth is so courageous about kicking out the window of a patrol car (insert caveats about whether the police are telling the truth, etc.) if it's going to be followed by this:

Bogusko pleaded not guilty Thursday to felony criminal endangerment and misdemeanor obstructing an officer, said Stephany Seay, a spokeswoman for the advocacy group.

Perhaps Bogusko has some sort of internal moral compass by which he is cosmically not guilty -- but didn't the gentlemen make a clear decision to break the law? No bison were going to be "saved" by their actions and the effort would seem to be at least in part to attract attention, in filming the happenings and perhaps also through being arrested.

At least one would expect these morally courageous "bison advocates" to plead guilty to the misdemeanor of "obstructing an officer." As it is, Bogusko has put himself on the same level as the guy who gets picked up driving 90 on I-90, and then tries to argue with the officer that he wasn't really speeding.

Most honest miscreants just say "yep, I did it, no excuses," and pay the fine.

Why those who claim the moral high ground don't do the same is a bit mystifying.


TMM said...

Unfortunately, I think "honest miscreant" is an oxymoron these days.

Anonymous said...

A Point of clarification: Peter Bogusko did not plead "not guilty." He was released on bond after his initial court appearance. Because he is accused of a felony, he will be required to make his plea at a future appearance before the court.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I posted on Jim's Eclectic something site about the same thing.

I think he thinks we're the same person.

Perhaps he thinks there can't be TWO great minds ;)

Montana Headlines said...

It of course always was an oxymoron, technically. I couldn't help thinking of Boozer's comment in Ocean's 11 -- "It’ll be nice to work with some proper villains for a change."

Anonymous -- while he may not yet have pled "not guilty," his spokeperson said that that was how he was pleading. There is no reason not to believe that.

Montana Headlines said...

Anonymous 2 -- You're right that we're not the same person. (Surprise, eh?)

We'll see if Eclectic Jim has anything more to say -- I inserted caveats about police lying, etc. Any good conservative is suspicious enough of authoritarianism not to assume that cops are always telling the truth.

But again, if one chooses to suffer for the true faith -- whether trying to save the baby humans or the adult buffalo -- my point was that the stand-up thing to do is to take your lumps if you knowingly break the law, whether or not you think it is a good one.

Jim Macdonald said...

I'm sure you'd be interested to know that I've responded.