Balloon Juice recently linked to interesting comment on the Virginia Tech murders. In an unusually lucid piece, the Wall Street Journal's Opinion web site weighs in on preventative involuntary commitment. I don't oppose all involuntary treatment, particularly for people giving serious indications they may commit violence. But I do have a very fussy attitude about the spirit in which we provide this treatment.
...the worst-case scenario would've been a minor league civil liberties goof: an unpleasant semester break for an odd and hostile young misanthrope who might've even have learned to be more polite.When I read this in a proposal for involuntary commitment, I see an entirely unacceptable willingness to disregard the civil rights of "odd" (not like us) and "hostile" people. If we can justify locking up people who pose a threat, we should lock up polite conformists whom qualified evaluators judge a threat, no less than the rude, odd, and defiant.
Apart from any other considerations, a political nonconformist, for example a passionate supporter of George W. Bush in Berkeley CA., will appear "odd" to the people in their vicinity. And when someone flatly disagrees with views you cherish, they generally appear pretty hostile. When you dismiss the rights of the "odd" and the "hostile", you lay the foundations for social repression, and political repression does not follow far behind.