A person shows up at your door unannounced. This person has come to investigate you – that’s right, you. You ask, “Why? What have I done?” “Maybe nothing,” the investigator says, “but a serious accusation has been made, and we are required to thoroughly investigate.” “Who made the accusation?” you ask. The investigator responds, “We’re not allowed to say.” “How do you know this isn’t some busy-body who goes about stirring up trouble where there really is none, or some prank or an act of hate or spiteful revenge? Don’t you have to check the person out first to see if there is any reason to take their accusation seriously?” The investigator responds, “We can’t do that.” “Why not?” you ask. The investigator responds, “Because we don’t know who it is.”
What is wrong with this picture? Well, there are too many things wrong with this picture to deal with here. We will only focus on the underlying philosophy. The approach of the investigator – compelled by the government which stands behind him – is that of a cynical fault-finding gossip who is willing to believe anything about anybody as long as it is bad. This is often combined with the “at-risk-possibility” fallacy, the wrong-headed notion – a notion which frequently infects legislators and bureaucrats – that if anyone might possibly be “at risk” of some harm, then everyone’s rights must be curbed in order to possibly prevent such conceivable harm. (Not much thought is given to the harm which comes from curbing everyone’s rights, nor to the harm which comes from following the fantasy of believing that all harm can actually be prevented by a law, nor the other abuses which such rights-inhibiting laws inevitably generates and then excuses. But I digress.) Inherent in the approach of the investigator is the driving presumption of the innocence of the accuser and of the guilt of the accused. Never-mind that this turns American principles and conceptions of law and justice on its head. Focus instead upon the ultimate effect. The door is here opened to every abuse and oppression from men through the instrument of government. The anonymous accuser can destroy at will, systematically, and en masse, with only an elite few in positions of high authority able to protect themselves.
“Protect themselves from what?” you may ask. From accusations of every kind imaginable. From loss of time and wealth and sleep and health and even family and friendships, not to mention reputations and businesses – all in the way of defending oneself against accusations, no matter how ill-founded they may be. Why does the “at-risk-possibility” have weight on the accusers side, but it has no weight on the side of the accused? Are we not guaranteed the right to be secure from unreasonable searches – unreasonable in the eyes of a judge who must issue a warrant on the basis of actual evidence of cause, not hearsay and presumption. Are we not guaranteed the right to due process of law – protection from being tricked, manipulated, or coerced into surrendering information which can then be selectively jury-rigged to look like evidence to support a false accusation. Are we not guaranteed the right to confront the witnesses against us, including – first of all – our accusers? Yet all of these rights are turned on their heads by the anonymous accuser.
The cost to the anonymous accuser is no more than the time of a phone call or a letter, but the benefits to the accuser are all the resources of the government put at the disposal of his accusation. And what is the cost of innocence? It is the cost of putting together a total defense in order to prove the negative – which is nearly impossible, because it involves the simple fallacy of the complex question by assuming the guilt of the one accused. There are many words in our language to describe such action – malicious, robbery, unjust, overbearing, bullying, etc. – but one simple four letter word sums it all up: evil. To take up the cause of the anonymous accuser is to encourage the malicious gossip, the busybody, the uninformed do-gooder, as well as the mischievous, the spiteful, the vengeful, the jealous, the cunning schemer, and the insane, while it puts in jeopardy all of the resources and the very lives of the innocent. This is evil.
What motivates an accuser to remain anonymous? It is the desire to protect him or herself from anything coming back against him or her for making the accusation. But what motivates him to make the accusation itself? One possible motivation for the accusation may be a genuine concern over someone’s apparently improper or unlawful activity. Certainly, if a person merely points to openly verifiable and non-interpreted evidence, it is the evidence itself which accuses, not the person, so the accusers identity may be unimportant – unless, of course, the evidence was actually manufactured or tampered with. Another possible motivation is to harm someone – perhaps out of jealousy or vengeance or mere spite. Other possible motivations include pure mischief, mental illness, or to divert attention from the accuser’s own activities. Whatever the motivation, there is one consideration which cannot justify the accuser’s anonymity: the accuser is a witness, whether directly or indirectly, to the actions of the accused. Any formal investigation requires a formal warrant for action, and a formal warrant requires a formal examination of the accuser and his or her testimony. Any defect or abuse here may unalterably compromise the rights of the accused. Without the very strictest of rules about following through on “anonymous accusations,” the anonymous tip becomes a preferred instrument for mischief and abuse. Anonymous tips can be manufactured on demand. If you think identity theft can destroy a person’s life, what do you think theft of your presumed innocence, your reputation, and your rights to security, due process, and facing your accuser can do?
But surely this can never happen. It already has. History testifies that false accusations are one of the plagues of human existence. Put such power in the hands of anyone and it will eventually corrupt him – absolutely. False accusations are the breeding ground of tyranny. They sometimes come from strangers or near strangers, sometimes from neighbors or fellow workers, and sometimes from disgruntled relatives and even family members. Everyone is susceptible to this kind of threat, but as Christians in an increasingly hostile-to-Christian culture, as morally-principled individuals in a morally-unprincipled society, and as protectors of our families in an environment increasingly hostile to families, we homeschoolers come especially under the threat of zealous individuals who want to see us forced by the powers of government to conform to their political, social, or psychological sensibilities.
We have every reason to expect false and anonymous accusations to become the weapon of choice against the weak and relatively defenseless. Once it comes to our door, there is little we can do about it. On the principle that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – and few of us can afford the pound – we suggest that a pre-emptive lobbying effort with government officials is justified in order to get them to move to curb government as an instrument of oppression through the vehicle of anonymous and unsubstantiated accusations. They should put laws, regulations, and policies into place and enforced which protect individuals from becoming prey, and they should do the same to prevent government from becoming the agents of predators.