One of the most richly satisfying moments in film history, for me personally, is the moment in the Lethal Weapon franchise when the baddie proclaims “Diplomatic Immunity” immediately before being shot. The moment, which has been heavily anthologized and is ripe for meme material, is emblematic of a problem that our world faces, and that is that there are a lot of very evil people who do very evil things to other people and then want to hide behind some sort of immunity to avoid paying the price for what they have done and dealing with the repercussions and consequences of their evil deeds. Indeed, when we see a group of people, be it medicine manufacturers or police officers or politicians, seeking immunity and indemnity for their behavior, we can immediately infer from that desire for legal cover a preexisting plan to use that cover to do nefarious deeds for which they intend not to be brought to justice for. We can therefore respond to this with a rejection of such claims and an attitude that seeks to gather information for future legal proceedings for the bad acting that is sure to follow.
One of the aspects of contemporary society that has done the most to increase the social hostility against the immunity of public officials or those who (like vaccine manufacturers) work on behalf of the government has been the proliferation of their bad deeds and the awareness of those bad deeds. Among these bad deeds we can see politically motivated prosecution of people by federal agencies themselves engaged in corrupt shenanigans or outright entrapment, police departments who seek to intimidate and even jail those who parody them because they are too thin-skinned to handle criticism, law enforcement agencies who try to shoot dogs and end up shooting children in the course of incompetent efforts, activists who try to swat and sic child enforcement on independent journalists who report on issues with a perspective they do not appreciate, and numerous other examples that could be cited if I had the wish to do so. What all of these disparate abuses of power have in common is that some people wish to claim or maintain a supposed license to do evil without having to pay the consequences of it, and seek federal protection for their corrupt deeds.
It is perhaps unsurprising that people whose malice aforethought leads them to want to protect themselves from the civil and criminal penalties that should naturally and inevitably follow bad behavior should desire this shield for their behavior, it is more surprising in this climate that anyone who is not corrupt themselves should allow it. We live in a constitutional republic in which those who are engaged in public service to do in order to serve the people at large. When these people instead wish to serve their own interests and to do so with impunity, they demonstrate that they are unfit to serve the people and certainly unworthy of being protected from the natural consequences of their actions. Those who are willing to accept accountability tend to be those who have the least to fear from it, both because their courage and integrity shield them from the desire to harm others that is so rampant and because their willingness to accept the scrutiny of others means that there is likely to be a lot less to fear.
What is more of a concern is that so many people should seek and should find immunity and indemnity in a corrupt age like our own. If the seeking is inevitable, the finding is lamentable. Doing bad deeds against the public, any segment of the public, should end up with serious consequences. People should lose their jobs, lose lawsuits, lose the public trust, and so on for having acted against the interest and well-being of the ordinary citizens of our republic. People should not be above the law, especially those whose casual disrespect for the rule of law endangers the well-being of the rest of us through corrupt crony capitalism, insider trading, and politically motivated violence against citizens and even rival political leaders. The knowledge that people are not above the law and may face consequences for their behavior is, alas, one of the few checks we have on the wicked behavior of corrupt bureaucrats and public “servants” in our contemporary age. Let us ensure that this check remains as strong as possible.