The United States of America has always been a country built on the rule of law. We are a nation of laws, not of men. Or at least, that’s what we like to tell ourselves. The truth is that our history is full of show trials. From the Salem Witch Trials to the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann for the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby, our country has a long tradition of using public trials as both entertainment and as a way to warn potential dissenters or criminals.
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In light of the current political landscape, many people are wondering if we are in danger of repeating show trials today. A show trial is a public trial in which the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal the presentation of both the accusation and the verdict to the public so they will serve as both an impressive example and a warning to other would-be dissidents or transgressors.
Are we seeing signs of show trials in America today? Let’s take a look.
There are several signs that we are in danger of repeating show trials in America today. One of the most obvious signs is the increasing partisanship of our judicial system. In recent years, it has become more and more common during the nomination processes for Supreme Court Justices. This partisanship extends to lower courts as well. As a result, we now have an activist judiciary that is made up primarily of judges who were appointed by one political party or another.
This partisanship is dangerous because it means that our judges are no longer impartial arbiters of the law. Instead, they are individuals with their own political agendas. This makes it more likely that they will allow their personal beliefs to influence their decisions, rather than sticking to a strict interpretation of the law.
Another sign that we are in danger of repeating show trials in America today is the increasing use of prosecutorial discretion. This is the practice of allowing prosecutors to choose which cases to pursue and which charges to file. This discretion is supposed to be used in order to fairly enforce the law, but it can easily be abused.
Another sign that we are in danger of repeating show trials is how cases are often tried in the court of public opinion before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. Thanks to 24-hour news cycles and social media, it is now possible for people to be tried and convicted in the court of public opinion long before they ever set foot in a courtroom. This was evident in recent high-profile cases such as those involving Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump, and Alex Jones. In each of these cases, there were large segments of the population who had already made up their minds about the guilt or innocence of the accused long before they ever saw any evidence presented in a court of law.
The Danger of Show Trials
While show trials may be entertaining, they are also dangerous. They erode the rule of law and replace it with the rule of public opinion. They also have a chilling effect on dissent and free speech. Show trials send a message to potential dissenters that if they speak out, they may be next. This ultimately leads to the suppression of ideas.
Show trials also undermine the credibility of our judicial system. When cases are tried in the court of public opinion, it erodes confidence in our judicial system and makes it more likely that people will take the law into their own hands. Show trials also tend to be used as a way to persecute political opponents. This was evident in the show trials of the Soviet Union, where many of the people who were put on trial were political opponents of the regime.
History of Show Trials in Nazi Germany and Lenin and Stalinist Russia?
Show trials were common in Nazi Germany and in Lenin and Stalinist Russia. In each of these cases, the show trials served as a way to consolidate power and suppress dissent. Show trials were also used as a way to persecute political opponents. In the case of Nazi Germany, the show trials were used to persecute and suppress the Jewish population. In the case of Lenin and Stalinist Russia, the show trials were used to persecute and suppress political opponents.
Show Trials in Nazi Germany
The practice of show trials in Nazi Germany was a way for the regime to publicly display its power and instill fear in the population. These trials were often used as a tool to eliminate political opponents and consolidate Hitler’s grip on power. The most famous show trial held during Nazi rule was the so-called “Reichstag Fire Trial.” In this case, several high-ranking Nazi officials accused the Communists of setting fire to the Reichstag building. The trial was widely publicized and used as evidence to support the need for Hitler’s dictatorship. Although most of the defendants were eventually acquitted, the show trial served its purpose in reinforcing Hitler’s control over Germany.
Others were held during the Nazi era, such as the “Doctor’s Trial” in which a group of medical professionals were accused of carrying out unethical human experimentation. Doctors’ trials were the first of 12 war crimes trials held in Nuremberg Germany from 1946 – 1947 in which 23 former staff members of the Nazi regime’s medical services were tried for performing human experiments on prisoners and concentration camp inmates in violation of the laws and customs of war, and for crimes against humanity.
These trials were considered “show trials” because they were meant to publicly demonstrate the Allies’ commitment to justice and to send a message to other potential war criminals that they would be held accountable for their actions. The defendants in the Doctors’ Trial were all medical professionals who had held positions of authority in the Nazi regime’s medical services and were accused of using their positions to participate in or condone the horrific human experimentation that took place in concentration and extermination camps throughout Europe.
Show Trials in Lenin and Stalinist Russia
In the Soviet Union, show trials were a tool used by Joseph Stalin’s government to persecute political opponents and consolidate power. The best-known of these trials were the Moscow Trials. The trials involved high-level members of the Soviet Communist Party, including Zinoviev, Kamenev, Pyatakov, Radek, Bukharin, and Rykov. All were formally accused of conspiring with Trotskyites to overthrow Stalin’s government.
- The “Case of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center” (or Zinoviev-Kamenev Trial, also known as the ‘Trial of the Sixteen’, August 1936);
- The “Case of the Anti-Soviet Trotskyist Center” (or Pyatakov-Radek Trial, also known as the ‘Trial of the Seventeen’, January 1937); and
- The “Case of the Anti-Soviet “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites”” (or the Bukharin-Rykov Trial, also known as the ‘Trial of the Twenty-One’, March 1938).
They were a departure from Soviet legal norms, which had previously emphasized the presumption of innocence and the rights of the accused. The trials were also criticized by many Western observers as being unfair and politically motivated. Nevertheless, they served their purpose for Stalin, who used them to consolidate his power and eliminate his political opponents.
The Dangers for the Average Citizen
Will the political opposition become afraid to speak out against the government for fear of being scooped up and hauled off to prison or executed, even if they were innocent like many caught up in the January 6th protest? Will parents be too afraid to speak out at school board meetings or political rallies for fear of being targeted? The possibilities are endless and frightening.
Blog Post Conclusion:
Today, there is a real danger that show trials are being used to silence political opponents and stifle dissent. If you are concerned about the possibility of show trials in America, there are things you can do to help prevent them from happening. First, stay informed about what is happening in your government and make sure to exercise your right to vote. Second, support organizations that defend the rights of the accused and help to ensure a fair and just legal system. Finally, speak out against show trials whenever and wherever they occur. Show trials are a threat to democracy and must be stopped.
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