– Marc Gafni’s collaborators, colleagues, and friends speak out about the smear campaign. This statement about Justice, Due Process, and Logical Fallacies by Daniel Schmachtenberger was first posted as a comment to the Center for Integral Wisdom statement on centerforintegralwisdom.org. You can read the statement below or listen to the audio. –

Sadly, sexually coercive relationships happen. So do false or exaggerated complaints. Both are abuses of power and both can be profoundly damaging. And can be hard to discern the truth about. This is why we have developed formalized systems of law and due process – otherwise, in the name of being a protector and defender of innocence, it’s quite easy to do exactly the opposite.

The foundation of due process is the presumption of innocence. Blackstone’s famous formulation on jurisprudence ruled that ‘it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent be wrongly condemned’. Thomas Jefferson expanded the ratio to 100 to 1 and helped encode “innocent until proven guilty” as a foundation of our system of justice. John Adams added “It is more important that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world, that all of them cannot be punished…. when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, ‘it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security.’ And if such a sentiment as this were to take hold in the mind of the subject that would be the end of all security whatsoever.”

The following pillars of a functional justice process involve the right to a fair trial with fair representation, an adequately trained and unbiased judge or an unbiased jury of peers, veracity checking evidence and a penalty for perjury, the burden of proof resting with prosecution – that must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If guilt is found, the response taken should be proportionate to what actually happened.

These practices pertain not just to criminal accusations and government enforced law, but to any judgement made regarding another human being that has consequence. Especially if being made by a group of people with greater power to act on that judgement.

Sadly, the court of public opinion follows none of these practices. No process for hearing both sides and earnest fact checking. No accountability for intentional misinformation. Guilt is easily believed and exoneration never happens. The trial itself is irremediable punishment. Much more like a mob than a court. And the self-appointing and self-aggregating mob play prosecutor, judge, and executioner in one. If an accusation is believable, whether true or not, it can spread. Especially if there is even a small seed group working to drive it. And the spread adds social credibility making it easier for others to believe and spread without feeling the need to do much of their own due diligence, assuming it already done adequately by others earlier for the meme to get this far. If they do feel the need to do some additional checking, the first step will be an internet search which will yield more corroboration of the same trending viral meme. Even if the person is very thoughtful and not quick to jump on the villainization bandwagon, they are likely to get caught in one of the following logical fallacies:

  1. Faulty pattern recognition: They will thoughtfully give the benefit of the doubt that likely some of the allegations are made up or exaggerated but assume that some have to be true – it couldn’t all come from nowhere. They will say things like “where there is smoke there must be fire” and figure enough wrongdoing to be cautious at least. This is actually a form of presumption of guilt without due process.
  2. Appeal to authority. Someone they trust or respect wrote something or signed or shared an article. They must have done their research so we can put our energy where they did.
  3. Groupthink. This is the same as appeal to authority but the authority is the crowd. That many people couldn’t be wrong.
  4. Erring on the side of safety. In lieu of knowing all the facts, let’s err on the side of safety and assume there is danger. That’s better than erring on the other side and possibly condoning or allowing harm. This is another rationalization for presuming guilt. Read Jefferson and Adams above again. This doesn’t factor the harm of wrongful incrimination.
  5. Misplaced ‘moderateness’. In lieu of knowing everything, they will assume some is true and some isn’t, as a form of reasonable moderateness and bias away from extremism and towards reconciliatory points of view. Except that when there are actual facts, they matter and should be pursued.
  6. Etc.

If someone does make it past all those easily believable fallacies, conducts their own fact checking, and does not find guilt…will they have the courage to say so? To a group that has come into existence to act on a guilt they have already accepted? It’s one thing to stand up against a bad guy, along with many others doing so, on the seeming clear side of right, without having to do any due diligence to come to an opinion, with pre-made easy actions to take (sign a petition, share an article, etc.), and no one who will publicly confront you as immoral for doing so. How much harder is it to stand on the other side? Even if true? As is so often the case, the true and the good may not be obvious or easy.

My personal experience with Marc:

  • Re plagiarism – I have experienced Marc credit me and others for things he’s learned, more than anyone else I have worked with professionally. This actually stands out.
  • Re sociopathy – I have seen Marc apologize and show sadness and remorse. I see him empathize often and genuinely, and extend support at cost to himself, where there is nothing tangible to be gained.
  • Re intimate relationships – I know several of his previous partners who are still close friends and allies and respect him and feel respected by him.
  • Re ethics and sexuality – I think Marc’s teachings on this topic are profound and offer something otherwise missing to the field ethics.
  • Re emotional manipulation – Most of the people that have worked closely with Marc in recent years that I know of feel respected and honored in the connection and because of that, have stayed friends despite social pressure to distance arising from this campaign.

Daniel Schmachtenberger
Director, Critical Path Global