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Daniel Thwaites | Badgering the witness | Commentary

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Everybody knows that Adley Duncan, the deputy DPP, spent time last week manually expressing himself. He posted it on Twitter.

He had tweeted about being burglarised, then:

“One detail I omitted earlier is that while I was in bed I did something many people who live alone do and the evidence was on my stomach when I ran outside naked.”

Why? Just why?

From the first tweet about burglary I surmised that this was a political attack aimed at proving the prime minister had broken his campaign promise about people being able to sleep with their windows and doors open. A masterstroke! Your move, Andrew! How will you answer this master-debater?

But it was more complicated than that. By the second I was … Sas Crise, man!

Let’s back up a bit. I’ve raised this issue of social media causing far too much disinhibition and, therefore, some remarkable errors of judgement. The result of these lapses in good sense can be funny. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Because other mistakes and violations of propriety are cruel, or creepy, or outrageous, or gory, or even macabre, like the growing habit of posting pictures of dead bodies at murder scenes and funerals. What is that about?

Anyway, in each instance we – I like to think I’m not alone on this – are left to marvel at the true diversity of our species, which ultimately comes down to the fact that there are lots of crazy people out there. Worse than that, even the sanest of us go nuts from time to time.

For centuries, philosophers and psychologists wondered what was on the minds of the masses. With social media, now we all know: mostly pornography. And it seems that the five per cent of brain space leftover is applied to kittens or other cute animals, abuse of political opponents, and pictures of dead or dying people.

In short, analysis of the content of social media is not likely to induce much confidence in the capacity of humanity, and one is reminded that it is something of a leap of faith when we profess to the basic goodness and soundness of mind of the multitude milling around us.

Well, I can’t say what category Adley Duncan falls into, but he certainly wasn’t having a good day when he decided to publicise to the whole reading universe that he was testing the PM’s promise, etc.

So this fellow was at home, in bed, in the process of committing a horrendous crime against himself while a burglar was committing a crime against his property. Who knows? He probably could have become aware of the burglar’s activity if he hadn’t been distracted by his own procrasturbation.

‘Social-media outrage’

The Gleaner described the ensuing eruption as a “social-media outrage sparked by a series of controversial posts on Twitter by Deputy DPP Adley Duncan following a butt-naked home burglary. He also made taboo allusions to secretions.”

Are you getting this? He thought it a capital idea to express outrage at being burglarised by advertising that he was at home, naked, googling himself, and that the results of all his hard work were publicly visible. I don’t think this is what the psychologists have in mind when they advise the necessity of some self-love.

Who really wants to absent-mindedly tweet or post something that becomes the subject of a scorching missive from their boss, multiple newspaper articles, and my column?

First of all, let’s be thankful that nobody was hurt physically, knock on wood. Although it might be more accurate to say that nobody was hurt because he was too busy knocking on wood.

But I’m still puzzled about why this gentleman would volunteer that kind of information. Perhaps it was the lingering effects of the adrenaline rush of chasing a tief outa him yard? That’s the kind of confession the police are to torture out of a prisoner long before the DPP gets involved. The newspaper reports that he subsequently deleted the offending tweet, essentially rubbing out evidence of rubbing out evidence.

The backlash was serious enough that the Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn was forced to address this rather sticky issue, and did it quite well under the hard circumstances:

“…social media is a double-edged sword. It can provide instant gratification for those who seek to be recognised in that space. However, it can also be a space that provides an opportunity for unfortunate experiences made even worse by ‘trolls’ and persons with ill will and malicious intent. But then it would seem to me that if one does not post, then these ‘trolls’ will not have any material to work with.”

Or as PJ said more pithily: “Silence cannot be misquoted”.

This is an unfortunate situation and I genuinely feel sorry for dis bredda. Mostly, I feel sorry because he has put his immortal soul in danger. The sages of Christendom are at one with the high priests of the dancehall in condemning this kind of badgering the witness as a serious infraction. And even if that is your private vice, we can’t just have people – to put it in more legal terms – publicly advertising that they are feloniously slaying the testator.

No man, don’t be a jerk; get yourself in hand! That is compounding one grievous iniquity with others, like immodesty, vulgarity, and exhibitionism.

SINS OF THE FLESH

But Paula is right to finger “trolls” and culprits with ill will and malicious intent for those are worse, by far, than this young man who, after all, naively believed that the “crime plan” was working.

I think it appropriate to recall that exceptional and foundational finding that sits at the centre of western civilisation, announced by no less a personage than Gregory the Great, that the sins of the flesh are less grievous than the spiritual sins. So envy, greed, and worst of all, pride, are far worse than gluttony and lust. I know I shouldn’t take this as letting me off the hook, but hey, take that up with Gregory, not me.

It is why, for example, Dante treats lust as the least bad of the vices, more a kind of incontinence. But wickedness, cruelty, and betrayal are far worse, and bring souls to the very centre of hell. It is why we also find C.S. Lewis noting that “… a cold self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute”.

Appropriately, even laziness and apathy are accounted worse than lust, which is why it is right to remember that if one embarks on a lustful mission, it only compounds the crime if one is slothful in execution. Incidentally, this is why Buju’s Stamina Daddy richly deserves its status as a classic of virtuous instruction. It, again, reminds us that – at the very least – we should commit only one grievous iniquity at a time, and only with Jackie, Suzie, Dorothy, or Millie.

– Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.

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