According to the Free Satpal Campaign, by December 2000, over 50,000 people had signed a petition in support of their hero calling for his immediate release and an inquiry into his trial. Undoubtedly, many times that number in Britain and throughout the world believe Ram to be the victim of an ongoing miscarriage of justice. Among those who have been duped are some high powered names indeed, such as twenty MPs who signed the Early Day Motion tabled by John McDonnell in January 2000. Although Ram is still behind bars (and hopefully will remain so for a good few years yet), an organisation that wins over this sort of support can claim a measure of success, if only in propaganda and statistical terms.
There is probably no single reason for the success of the Free Satpal Campaign: the perception many people have of the criminal justice system as bent, the innate sense of fair play of the public (in Britain and elsewhere), the natural sympathy we all have for the underdog...
Both the 1993 murder of eighteen year old Stephen Lawrence and more recently the abduction and murder of eight year old Sarah Payne captured the public’s imagination where equally brutal and wicked murders have received far less media coverage. Charisma, the luck of the draw, all manner of factors are involved in what does or does not become a cause célèbre. But the biggest factor in Ram’s case has been lies. The particular lies Ram and his campaigners have told have been enumerated and deconstructed elsewhere on this site, but in broad general terms they may be divided into three categories:
1) the big lie
2) the repetitive lie
3) the cry of racism
The big lie technique is often attributed to that most notorious of racists, who wrote: “...in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility...the broad masses of a nation...more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” (1)
In other words, tell a big lie, and people are sure to believe some aspect of it, reasoning fallaciously that there is never any smoke without fire. Of course, a lie can be absolute. The fact that I may accuse my next door neighbour of being a serial poisoner doesn’t mean that he has poisoned one person, or that he has even spat in somebody’s food.
Repetition is a good way to memorise something. If you have to dial the same telephone number ten or fifteen times a day you will soon commit it - or a whole tranche of numbers - to memory. By the same token if you hear or read the phrase “Satpal Ram is innocent” several times a month you may come to believe this statement is true simply by virtue of that fact. This belief may be reinforced by the knowledge that other people hear and read the same statement, apparently without questioning it. You may assume, erroneously, that such people are better informed on this matter than yourself, when all that has happened is that they too have been misled by the same liars.
The original meaning of the word racism was “The theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race.” (2) Nowadays though the word racism is used primarily as an epithet and is thrown around like confetti. Often all that is needed to kill an argument stone dead is to hurl the word racist at one’s opponent at a convenient moment. It is widely believed that O.J. Simpson was cleared of the double murder of his ex-wife and her lover by virtue of his legal team playing what has become known as the race card. At Simpson’s trial (which was played out day by day to the world media) a police officer who had denied using the dreaded n word under oath was later confronted with a tape on which he was heard to use it repeatedly. From this the jury was supposed to infer that all the highly incriminating forensic evidence that tied Simpson to the crime scene had been planted by racist police officers. (3)
In spite of its apparently recent genesis, the technique of playing the race card is far from new. It is simply a form of argumentum ad hominem abusive, ie arguing against the man rather than against the evidence he adduces. Argumentum ad hominem is not always entirely without merit; anyone who wanted factual information about the history of the Jewish religion would be ill-advised to consult the American Nazi Party, but at the end of the day, if solid evidence is adduced, even from a thoroughly disreputable source, that evidence must be confronted.
Often it is not possible to refute a particular piece of evidence. If a woman alleges rape, and the man she accuses freely admits they had sex, it may come down to her word against his. Undoubtedly there are many rapists walking the streets on this account, and not a few innocent men behind bars, but the trial of Satpal Ram is not comparable with such a case. It was not a slanging match in which the jury had to decide if the accuser was an innocent virginal maid or a plausible but vindictive tart, and the accused a cunning sexual predator or a totally innocent sap.
The case against Ram was, and remains, overwhelming. The evidence comes from many disparate sources, and is all the more impressive for it. There is no evidence at all that Clarke Pearce was a violent racist, whatever that epithet may mean, and there is no reliable evidence that he attacked Ram. But even if he had been a fully paid up member of the Ku Klux Klan, that would not absolve Ram in any way.
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