The compassionate words of Pope Francis on the Rosario lynch mob victim are echoed across the political spectrum with at least lip service (even if the degrees of clarity and sincerity vary considerably) and yet all too many people seem to find this reaction a new example of double standards — placing the rights of alleged criminals above those of the rest of society, in the words of Security Secretary Sergio Berni’s critique of the judiciary. This perception of double standards evokes a criticism levelled at this newspaper over the last four decades — why have we devoted so much more space to condemning state terrorism than those crimes comitted by guerrillas? Out of any discussion, equating both along the lines of the so-called “two demons” theory is flawed on both qualitative and quantitative grounds. Devoting the same space to saying that terrorism is terrorist would have been a ridiculous statement of the obvious — yet state terrorism is anything but obvious, a betrayal of its essence which is to uphold the law, not “eat the cannibal” (in the words of Jorge Luis Borges). And quantitatively there was no comparison between the destructive power of a state with armed forces then numbering over a quarter million and a few hundred guerrillas. There is a similar disproportion between crime and punishment when a lynch mob beats suspected handbag-snatchers to a pulp (would they show the same courage with a big drug-trafficking gang?). Like terrorists, criminals are wrong by definition with nothing more to be said — it is the public taking the law into its own hands which needs the special condemnation now so powerfully voiced by Pope Francis.
Now is the time for the Pope and others to condemn this brutalized social reaction to crime because it is the serpent’s egg for the privatized violence of death squads and ultimately fascism. The latter lends itself to another “two demons” theory whereby fascism and Communism are both totalitarian extremes which must therefore be condemned with equal force. Yet there are no double standards in singling out fascism for special attention. In contrast to Communism in its classic form (which is an international creed scorning laws and institutions as “bourgeois”), fascism claims to embody the nation and the law, rejecting any alternatives — it appeals to the law-abiding nationalist and thereby carries the greater danger.
Whatever the theory, the concrete reality is that the lynch mobs not only represent a miscarriage of justice but raise far more evil spectres in both this country’s history and fascism worldwide.