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In this essay I discuss how law and legal precedent present a false or eschewed construction of the past. The Chicago Haymarket Riot in 1886 and the subsequent trial of…
In this essay I discuss how law and legal precedent present a false or eschewed construction of the past. The Chicago Haymarket Riot in 1886 and the subsequent trial of eight rioters in Spies vs. People provide a dramatic illustration of the lasting consequences of privileging some historical narratives and silencing others. Occurring as it did at the dawn of the “Red Scare,” the miscarriage of justice in Spies vs. People acts as a landmark precedent in a tradition within the United States of extra-judicial lawlessness that stretches from this case through 100 years of labor turmoil, two World Wars, McCarthyism, the Cold War, and up to the current War on Terror. Moreover, these instances of lawlessness and extra-judicial activity, while not written into legal records, nonetheless resurface again and again to form patterns of behavior that amount to what I call precedents of injustice, and which I argue are as integral to law as any formal legal precedents. By way of conclusion I urge all sociolegal scholars to remain attentive to the wider historical contexts which over time are repeatedly silenced through the institutionalized legal processes of denial and forgetfulness.
It is widely recognized by scholars that superhero stories tend to glorify vigilante justice; after all, these stories often maintain that extralegal acts of violence are…
It is widely recognized by scholars that superhero stories tend to glorify vigilante justice; after all, these stories often maintain that extralegal acts of violence are necessary for combatting existential threats to personal and public safety. This scholarly common sense fosters a widespread dismissal of superhero stories as uncomplicated apologia for an authoritarian politics of law and order that is animated by hatred of unpopular people and ideas. However, some prominent contemporary Batman stories, including those told in the graphic novels of Grant Morrison and in the blockbuster movies of Christopher Nolan, are ambivalent: in their portraits of Batman and Joker as dark twins and secret colleagues, these stories both legitimize and challenge the countersubversive politics of American law and order.