Earlier this week, staffers for the Stephen Colbert show were arrested for causing a disturbance and being illegally present in Congress by the Congress Police. At least according to the reports I have read on places like RedState, they were banging on the doors of various offices belonging to Republican Congressmen and generally causing a scene. Naturally, when they were arrested they were let off pretty quickly and without a great deal of fuss. The fact that this particular incident occurred at the same time as hearings about January 6, 2021 and on the anniversary of the Watergate Break-in can help us to see the different ways that incursions into the capital are viewed when different people are doing it.
It is not as if this is the only case where it appears that there are very disparate means for treating privacy concerns as it relates to public officials. It appears that there is a growing tendency for there to be two different tracks of behavior based on whether it is helpful to the current regime. Critical speech that is hostile to regime interests is viewed as disinformation, with heavy penalties to one’s access to social media, but even defamatory speech is protected for those who are furthering the interests of those in charge. We have seen differential treatment of riots, political speech, and various acts of intimidation as well based on who is engaged in this speech and what sort of political agenda that it serves.
Why is this a bad thing? Justice is fundamentally based on reciprocity. Those who do not believe in reciprocity, either in doing unto others what they would have done to them or in refraining from doing to others what one would not want others to do to them have prevented themselves from obtaining justice. When people offer excuses as to why they deserve a certain privilege for themselves and their allies that they deny to others, they demonstrate themselves to be unjust people, regardless of how they conceive themselves to be. And it is not always large incidents that reveal the injustice of our hearts, but sometimes small and silly things like believing the rules do not apply to us when we throw the book at someone else for doing the same thing.