Brown: Crowdfunding a killer


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The crowdfunding websites GoFundMe and Indiegogo have both shut down pages dedicated to raising money for former South Carolina police Officer Michael Slager in the past week.

Crowdfunding is a model of fundraising that offers a host of benefits for underrepresented causes, but it does come with the obvious drawbacks of majority rule. The case of Slager forced the operators of the two crowdfunding websites to choose between the will of the people and what is morally correct.

Slager is at the center of the all too common narrative of a police officer shooting an unarmed black man. In this particular instance, the deceased was a 50-year-old man by the name of Walter Scott. Scott was killed after attempting to flee arrest during a traffic stop.

What sets this case apart from the litany of supposedly justifiable killings is the fact that a cell-phone video of the incident was made available to the public. The video depicts the complete opposite of a justifiable killing perpetrated by an officer in fear of his life. Slager initially claimed the shooting was the result of a struggle over his Taser, but the video shows Slager callously firing eight times at Scott’s back as he attempted to run away. Despite the seemingly black and white nature of this crime, fundraising pages were set up to help the former police officer.

Crowdfunding serves a necessary task. It is an ideal vessel for raising money for worthwhile projects and ideas that would otherwise have difficulty obtaining the necessary capital for implementation. It should be clear that the legal defense of a killer does not fit that criterion.

By their definition, a crowdfunding website should be impartial and leave the failure or success of a project to be determined by the will and contributions of the people. The notion that the will of the majority carries an intrinsic goodness is one that our government and society is built on.

So what happens when people want to support something that is inherently bad? At what point does this transition from a discussion of personal freedom to one of enabling the actions of a killer? 

Every dollar that leaves our pocket is an investment in the world that we want to live in. This logic would support the conclusion that spending money to support a killer perpetuates and accommodates a failing in our society.

It would be both tyrannical and impossible for institutions to try to mandate how members of the general public decide to spend their money. They shouldn’t have to. In an ideal world, that type of freedom could be left to the people.

The freedom to dictate the reality we live in is a privilege. It is a responsibility. The attempts at setting up crowdfunding pages for Slager indicate that as a society, maybe we are undeserving of that privilege and ill-equipped for that responsibility.

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