Some Helpful Illustrations for the Willfully Obtuse

It seems that despite many patient and helpful explanations over the years, some fanchildren in our community (and others) are still quite confused. They keep mistaking our social media spaces for  courtrooms and discussions for trials. Since reading comprehension would appear to be absent from their Skeptical Toolkit, perhaps some illustrations may be of assistance.

This is a courthouse:

Graham County Courthouse, Safford, Arizona. Image and caption by Ken Lund via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Graham County Courthouse, Safford, Arizona. Image and caption by Ken Lund via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In this building, you will find things like judges, juries, and lawyers. This is where people go when they are suing or prosecuting someone.

These are social media spaces:

Social media logos for Twitter, G+, Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Pinterest, and WordPress.
Social media logos for Twitter, G+, Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Pinterest, and WordPress.

These are places where people go to informally discuss things. You may find judges, jurors, and lawyers talking within them, but they are not there in their official capacity. People are having conversations, not giving sworn testimony.

This is a judge:

Image is a baliff handing a judge some papers.
Judge Betty Lou Lamoreaux, 1980. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.

A judge has to remain impartial because they are presiding over a legal proceeding.

This is an ordinary person:

Image is a young man smiling at the camera, leaning against something that rather looks like the inside of a wooden ship.
Sunlight stripes @ Henderson Wave Bridge. Image by Jason D’ Great via Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Ordinary people can be judgmental, but they are not actual judges. They don’t have to remain impartial because they are not presiding over a legal proceeding, and cannot sentence someone to prison if they think that person is guilty.

This is a trial:

Image is a lawyer and witness on the witness stand. The witness is looking at some papers she is showing him.
An attorney impeaching a witness during a mock trial competition. Photo and caption by Eric Chan via Wikimedia Commons/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

There are legal rules to follow because it is a legal proceeding. In a trial, there are things like rules of evidence and admissibility and stuff, because it is the power of the state against a person.

This is a conversation or discussion:

Image is a silhouette of many people talking.
Conversation by OUTography via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Conversations and discussions are informal and do not have the force of testimony. Legal rules such as rules of evidence do not have to be followed because the people talking are not representing the state, and are not making determinations that will have the force of law.

Perhaps the above illustrations will help the terminally obtuse figure out where and when legal rules should be followed, and where and when less formal standards are expected.

Additionally, for those who still haven’t figured out the difference between a convention and a courtroom, allow me to add the following:

This is a hotel:

Image is a courtyard at the Hotel Miramar.
Hotel Miramar by Son of Groucho via Flickr.

This is where people go to attend conventions. Most people who go to conventions don’t want to be creeped on, and thus have a tendency to avoid creeps. This is called “freedom of association.” It is a right that everyone has. Calling someone a creep and telling other people who want to avoid creeps whom they may wish to avoid is not the same as going to a courthouse and prosecuting someone.

These are police officers:

Image shows several police officers standing around the open back of a police van.
Police officers making an arrest. Photo by Andrew Feinberg via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

These are the people who will arrest you if you are suspected of doing something illegal and are going to be put in jail. They will do things like read you your rights, because they are law enforcement officials.

This is a security guard:

Image is a man in a uniform with a neon vest that says Security.
Goddard Security Guard. Photo by NASA/GSFC/Mark T. Hubbard via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This is who will throw your ass out of the hotel if you are violating the convention policies and upsetting other guests. They won’t read you your rights, because they are not law enforcement officers who are taking you to jail.


Some Helpful Illustrations for the Willfully Obtuse

9 thoughts on “Some Helpful Illustrations for the Willfully Obtuse

  1. 2

    Yeah, but you didn’t tell us the people whose actions we might be discussing must be presumed to be innocent of whatever we are discussing or else hyperskepticism! Besides, the courthouse you showed doesn’t look like this courthouse and the judge with the ruffle doesn’t look like this judge with a wig so obviously you don’t know what you’re talking about. So there!

  2. rq

    Yeah, I call bad examples. Those things are just pictures on the internet, and there’s no way I’m able to associate them with actual things in real life.
    (But seriously, well done!)

  3. 7

    A little googlewhacking and image searching later, and it looks like those memorials are lists of war dead or something like that. They’re just ugly memorials that don’t match the building.

  4. 9

    Hey are those big stones in front of the courthouse covered with the 10 commandments, by any chance?

    Those monuments look several decades old, so I doubt it. I used to live in AZ back in the ’60s and ’70s and it wasn’t such a whack-a-doodle place back then. Most folks thought separation of church and state was a good idea, and walking around town with a gun stuck into your shorts was a bad idea.

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