Proving a negative

How does a person prove he didn’t do something?

Think about it.

“I didn’t kill Mr. Jones.” “I didn’t rob the bank.” “I didn’t spray-paint that graffiti.”

In the U.S. criminal justice system, a defendant is presumed innocent until the government proves he committed the crime.  The government has to connect the defendant with the evidence of the crime. Life and death often hangs in the balance.

Guesswork, hunches and loose accusations don’t constitute proof.  The burden is on the government, not the accused.  The accused doesn’t have to prove he didn’t do it, even though Perry Mason seemed to be very good at doing just that.

Perry Mason, defense attorney extraordinaire

Perry Mason, TV defense attorney extraordinaire

Even though decisions to go to war have life & death consequences too, the burden of proof, unfortunately, is not the same.

The government has no burden beyond mobilizing the court of public opinion.  Make up an excuse, any excuse, and play it to a compliant, unquestioning media, and you have done your job.

Americans know this all too well.  Our history is replete with examples.  (Iraq – DUH!)

So this got me thinking.

How does Hamas prove it has not sent militants into the Sinai to stir up trouble and kill Egyptians and others?  Hamas officials in Gaza can deny, deny, deny it until they’re blue in the face, but how do they prove they didn’t do it?  How do they prove a negative?

They can’t.

The accusations keep flying. The Egyptians believe Hamas is responsible. No one has to prove that Hamas is responsible for inciting violence in the Sinai; it’s good enough to just start the rumors.

  • Who has the most to gain when tensions between Egypt and Hamas are ratcheted up?
  • Who has the most to lose?

The media should start asking some tough questions, or risk being accomplices to the crime unfolding in the Sinai.  And the public shouldn’t be so gullible.

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Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, Media

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