Apropos of a discussion I had with a cousin of mine this afternoon, I want to pose the question: when does an organization go bad? It seems to me that there is a continuum between organizations that are so bad that just joining makes you morally suspect, and those that are so good that one is compelled to give its members the benefit of the doubt beyond what you would give others.
The Nazi party, al-Qaeda, and the KKK would be organizations on one end of the continuum. If you know that someone has joined those organizations, you are justified in surmising that the person is more evil than average.
Contrawise, joining any fire department implies that one is, if not actually on a higher moral plane, at least entitled to more of the benefit of the doubt than average. I personally feel the same way about Salvation Army officers. Those organizations have a reputation of doing good, for few rewards, and (especially for firemen) at great personal risk. Therefore, it’s a safe bet that anyone who joins is likely to be more selfless and giving, and perhaps even good, than the general public.
So this is what I’m thinking about: where are the borders between one type of organization and another? In particular, when does an organization stop being morally neutral and become so bad that joining it implies some sort of moral failing? It seems that there are two influential and important organizations which are drifting into just such immorality as we watch. Ironically, membership in both those organizations has been thought of as “good” in the past, but is rapidly becoming an indication of evil.
Those two groups are the Catholic Bishopric and the FBI. I’m going to write about the FBI first, because I might not have time to address both, and I’m more concerned with the FBI, since I have to pay for it even as it degenerates into a modern version of the SS.
In recent years, the FBI has been responsible for almost every type of crime which past generations might have expected it to fight:
Mass murder. Try mass incineration of men, women and children, live on international TV, at Waco, followed by a multi-year coverup of same.
Home assault. Look at Ruby Ridge. (An aside: While I'm on the topic of home assault and incineration, I also suggest that you look up the death of James Beck, who was burned to death in his home as homes on either side of him were doused with water. The embers were bulldozed within 48 hours. The ATF, but not the FBI, was involved).
Espionage on behalf of the Russians (before and after the fall of the evil empire). Done by FBI special agent Robert Hansen.
Perjury, false imprisonment, and knowing protection of murderers. All done in the case of Joseph Salvati, set up by the FBI, and imprisoned for 30 years for a murder he didn’t commit, so that the FBI could protect Joseph "the Animal" Barboza. Barboza, now thought to be the real killer, was one of the FBI’s informants, and Salvati spent 30 years in jail to cover up the FBI’s connection with him.
Random street violence. There’s an example of that on this very blog, just a few posts down.
False imprisonment and perjury (if Wen Ho Lee was innocent) or setting free communist spies (if Wen Ho Lee was guilty). Check.
The FBI was too busy committing all these crimes to stop terrorists, even those they knew about, from getting into the United States. The FBI was even too busy to pay attention to pleas from a Minnesota flight school to check out Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the flight school’s students.
It is perfectly clear that the FBI has already sullied its reputation to the point that honest citizens should question anything they say. When, however, is the organization bad enough to sully the reputation of everyone who joins it? This goes back to the conversation I was having with my cousin, described at the top of this post. The cousin is thinking about joining the FBI.
While I love my cousin, and I know he is a decent, honest, gentle young man, I would loose respect for him if he was to knowingly join an evil organization. Again, I refer to the top of this post: if my cousin joined the Nazi party, I would know that there was something wrong with him. If he joined any fire department (something he’s talked about as an alternative to the FBI), I would know that he was a better person than I give him credit for, and certainly a better person than I am. So what about the FBI?
My cousin says, perfectly reasonably, that he thinks the FBI has made mistakes, but that it’s basically committed to good, and that he wants to make it better from the inside. I know that he believes what he is saying, and that makes me think that most of the young people who join the FBI this year can also believe the same thing. However, at some point, it must become clear to any observer that the FBI is beyond redemption, and making it “better” from the inside is likely to be as effective as trying to make a traveling minstrel show out of the 1940’s einsatzgruppen. When it’s that obvious, then anyone who joins can safely be said to be evil.
So when does that time come? How many crimes and coverups does an organization have to commit before it’s obvious that there’s a problem? More difficult to answer: how many crimes have to be committed before it must be obvious to the 22 year old young people who make up the junior ranks, and hence an indictment of the character of those who do join? I know from personal experience that 22 year old men are pretty clueless; I look back on my 22nd year, and count myself lucky to have survived at all. A lot of the kids who join any organization, honest or corrupt, don’t really know what they are getting into. But, again, at some point, it must become obvious, even to 22 year olds, that there’s a problem. Mustn’t it?
I suggested to my cousin that, if he wants to become a peace officer (note that I did NOT say law enforcement officer) that he move to Texas, join a Texas agency, and work on becoming a Texas Ranger. They seem squeaky-clean.
Well, if you have any thoughts on this topic, please comment. Like the blog says, I’m trying to make sense, and maybe others are as well.