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Case 1: 

You own a dog. You love your dog. And you know your dog loves you. 

Your neighbor, on the other hand, you do not love. 

But you tolerate the guy despite his odd habits. 

Then, one day, your neighbor comes over and shoots your dog dead. 

In court, he explains that bullets only kill evil dogs. Bullets will pass through good dogs without harm. In fact, he claims he was doing you a favor, because an evil dog can appear like a good dog and then kill you in your sleep. And, as it turns out, he knows this is true because he found this out on the Internet. Then he heard it on Sketchy News Channel. He joined a group called “Bullets are Truth” on a social media site called “Parlez Vous Tromperie” which has cool pictures of scantily clothed acrobats all around the edges. 

Your friend is an adult. He went to high school. He came from a reasonable home. He was not on drugs when he murdered your dog. He is not certifiably insane. He insists he was doing you a favor. He was operating, of course, on the basis of misinformation.

It doesn’t matter. 

He killed your dog. 

The fact that he did it based on false information makes no difference in how you feel nor does it make a difference in the eyes of the law. The false information he believed in makes no sense and is easily disproven. It doesn’t matter that thousands of people were duped into believing the same nonsense.

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Case 2. 

You own a dog. You love your dog. 

Same neighbor. Same result. He shot and killed your dog. 


When the truth at last comes out, it turns out that your spouse called him up and through sobs and hysterical screams, managed to squeak out that the dog had been bitten by a bat and though they had thought little of it at the time, the dog was now rabid and about to attack the children where they were all playing in the yard. She said she knew you had a gun and could you please save her children before it was too late!

Turns out your spouse always hated the dog and the neighbor. After the call, she smiled a very self-satisfied smile at her acting performance. Then, she let your dog out to play, but not before squirting whipped cream all over his muzzle. 

When your neighbor came into the yard he saw your dog charging toward the kids and apparently foaming at the mouth. 

He killed your dog. He did it on the basis of misinformation. 

After all the facts come out, you’ll probably still be pretty PO’d at your neighbor, but you’d be a lot more PO’d at your spouse! 

One crucial difference between Case 1 and Case 2 is that in Case 1, your neighbor had plenty of time to verify the veracity of the claim that bullets would pass “harmlessly” through the body of a “Good Dog.” In Case 2, your neighbor could have reasonably thought that he had zero time to do anything but save your children. In Case 1, your neighbor’s belief was absurd. In Case 2, your neighbor believed something unlikely to be true, but it wasn’t physically impossible. Dogs can catch rabies. And if a rabid dog bites a child, that’s really bad for the child.

What do you think are appropriate punishments in these two cases?

Case 3.

Case 3 is just like Case 1 except that your neighbor comes and shoots your kids. He has all the same excuses. He has all the same misinformation as in Case1. 

What do you think would be an appropriate punishment for your neighbor? How about the people who put the information on the Internet?

Or, perhaps you think all should be forgiven because he was misinformed?

Case 4.

Your neighbor relies on misinformation on TV and internet sites to engage in treasonous behavior toward America.

The minimum sentence for treason is five years in a Federal Penitentiary. 

The maximum penalty is death. 

What do you think is an appropriate price for committing treason when the traitor does it based on an absurd conspiracy theory — one that he sincerely believes?


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