Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Ghost Language

Anyone accused of a white collar crime, for example, can refer to his or her attorney, or accountant under police or legal questioning and say that the question can only be answered by their accountant or attorney–as if their actions suddenly became the property of someone else, or a ghost with actions distinct from themselves. Hillary Clinton employed similar ghost language in referring to her husband's sexual antics. One was left with the distinct impression that she completely disengaged her own awareness of the former president's actions by referring it to counsel, as if only counsel could determine what she already knew and was not adverting to. I am reminded of trials conducted by defendants who will ask those whom they shot or maimed to identify the "attacker" as if they themselves were somehow not involved–indeed hoping to confuse the jury with such nonsense. I refer to this as the "ghosting of causality" with attorneys seemingly degenerating into a priesthood of criminal shamans whose sole purpose is to collect fees for disengaging actions from individuals by totemically ghosting them onto causes such as environment, heredity or vague social processes that are documented with reams of legal gibberish. This sort of contorted sophistry is a blatant violation of the intent of counsel, which is constitutionally designed to protect the individual from injustice. The protection of individuals against injustice should never be confused with the further injustice of never administering justice, or so watering it down that it becomes meaningless.

–Sean O’Reilly, Ghost Language

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