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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9791/stalking-as-a-form-of-aggression/

Stalking as a Form of Aggression

April 14, 2009 by

As the recent stalking of the heroic Shawn Johnson illustrates, stalking is a form of aggression, and ought to be punishable as a crime (privately, of course–but still). For more on this: Stalking and Threats as Aggression; Causation and Aggression; see also The Limits of Armchair Theorizing: The case of Threat; The Problem with “Fraud”: Fraud, Threat, and Contract Breach as Types of Aggression.

{ 24 comments }

Gil April 14, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Invariably the law against ‘perceived threats’ can be rather poor because you should’t punish someone on a crime that they might or might not do. Even if people talk of how they could beat up someone does that mean they should go to jail because no one should make a threat no matter how vague, improbable or even in jest?

fakename April 15, 2009 at 12:22 am

great, now my favorite passtime is aggression! ;)

Silas Barta April 15, 2009 at 8:52 am

You know, Stephan_Kinsella, you could just ask me to stop commenting on your posts, rather than dropping hints like this …

filc April 15, 2009 at 10:15 am

I was stuck in traffic today when I realized that I was actually stalking 20 people in front of me. I was so appalled with myself that I checked myself into the halfway house stating I had a chronic stalking issue every morning on my way to work. They give me pretty drogas! I like candy.

IMHO April 15, 2009 at 11:35 am

I know that stalking may seem comical to some of you, but when you come home from an event to find that you have an anonymous e-mail referencing where you were or what you were wearing, then you’ve got a problem.

When you post at a blog, and then receive an e-mail that makes reference to what you just posted, then you know that someone is paying a little too much attention to what you are doing.

Stalking is worthy of discussion, but if some of you are going to laugh about it, then there’s not much reason to continue.

Thank you for posting the articles. I’ll read them and get back to you.

Neslen April 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm

… standard criminal “assault” laws already cover such “stalking” behavior in every corner of the U.S.

So why do we need ‘new’ laws ??

Kinsella is uninformed.

Stephan Kinsella April 15, 2009 at 12:21 pm

“Neslen” wrote: “… standard criminal “assault” laws already cover such “stalking” behavior in every corner of the U.S. So why do we need ‘new’ laws ??

Kinsella is uninformed.”

It is you who are apparently uninformed as to the nature of this discussion, libertarianism, and normative discussion. I’m talking about whether stalking is properly considered a crime under libertarian principles. Not whether the criminal mafia-state happens to currently make it illegal under their positive law.

Andy April 15, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Does stalking always imply aggression? What about those guys who walk around in public places with video cameras capturing “upskirt” images of unsuspecting women (in fact their goal is to remain hidden and anon the whole time)? What about general peeping tom-ery? Is it aggression to set up a camera in your own window and film your neighbors? If so, I better erase the tapes. After all, I have every right to capture the light beams coming through my window.

All kidding aside, is all stalking aggression? Can some stalking behavior not pass the aggression test? If there is no aggression, is it even stalking?

IMHO April 15, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Andy,

I am not talking about one random photo. I am referring to someone who persistently and obsessively monitors the activities of the same person (could be male or female) day in and day out for what might be years and who performs anonymous acts designed to harass the individual. These acts may occur in the real world or on the Internet, but the intent is for the stalker to let their victim know that their movements are being watched.

Stephan Kinsella April 15, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Threats are a form of aggression if, because, and to the extent they are a sufficient communication of intent to commit a battery on someone, that puts the putative victim in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery. It is, in effect, a type of assault (which is intent to commit a battery, or putting someone in fear of receiving one). Stalking is aggression if and to the extent it amounts to such a threat; and communications need not be made verbally–all communication is contextual, and context, actions, gestures, activities, etc. can also be communicative.

IMHO April 15, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Stephan,

Thank you for putting it that way. It is what I wanted to express but didn’t know how.

Andy April 15, 2009 at 5:33 pm

“Threats are a form of aggression if, because, and to the extent they are a sufficient communication of intent to commit a battery on someone, that puts the putative victim in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery. It is, in effect, a type of assault (which is intent to commit a battery, or putting someone in fear of receiving one). Stalking is aggression if and to the extent it amounts to such a threat; and communications need not be made verbally–all communication is contextual, and context, actions, gestures, activities, etc. can also be communicative.”

I don’t disagree with that. But there are many activities that are classified as stalking (albiet under imperfect positive law) that may not imply some act of violence. What if someone receives a sexual thrill from “just following someone around” and taking pictures of said individual? Is that a violation of libertarian principles? Imagine I’m your neighbor and I know for a fact you hate bright red as a color. I paint my house bright red just to piss you off. I like it when you’re angry, I like seeing you angry. I’m a sadist. I’m doing things with my own property to upset you. I want to make your life less enjoyable. Maybe I’m doing this to make you want to move out of the neighborhood because I don’t like your skin color. Should I be arrested?

Stephan Kinsella April 15, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Andy, I’m not trying to answer this from my armchair (see the link above with that word in it). I’m just making about general point about the principle. Applying it in a free society is the role of a justice system.

Stephan Kinsella April 15, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Andy, “Thank you for putting it that way. It is what I wanted to express but didn’t know how.”

You’re welcome. It’s just my gift. :)

Neslen April 15, 2009 at 10:20 pm

“…stalking should be a punishable offense…” — Stephan Kinsella

________

What is your definition of a “punishable offense” versus your definition of a “crime” … versus your definition of “aggression” ?

IMHO April 16, 2009 at 12:35 am

Andy,

“I don’t disagree with that. But there are many activities that are classified as stalking (albiet under imperfect positive law) that may not imply some act of violence. What if someone receives a sexual thrill from “just following someone around” and taking pictures of said individual? Is that a violation of libertarian principles? Imagine I’m your neighbor and I know for a fact you hate bright red as a color. I paint my house bright red just to piss you off. I like it when you’re angry, I like seeing you angry. I’m a sadist. I’m doing things with my own property to upset you. I want to make your life less enjoyable. Maybe I’m doing this to make you want to move out of the neighborhood because I don’t like your skin color. Should I be arrested?”

Painting your house red does not represent a threat and compares to stalking the way an apple does to an elephant; but if an unknown individual was relentlessly following your wife, your girlfriend, your child or your mother around, I suspect you would want to know what that person’s intentions were.

A stalker’s attention to the victim can be relentless, possessive, controlling, disruptive and obsessive. They can spend an inordinate amount of time and even money on the implementation of the stalking…so much so that it becomes apparent that the stalker places a higher priority on the stalking than on maintaining normal relationships.

Their activities frequently escalate and they may lack an off switch. They may show up at your home, your job and other places you frequent, with and without your knowledge (if they are maintaining anonymity, they may let you know later on via e-mail that they were nearby).

The fact of the matter is that no one can safely make a determination as to whether or not the person is harmless. To do so would cause the victim to have a false sense of security and therefore put them at risk.

I hope that by now you understand that this is a little more serious than just painting your neighbor’s house red.

IMHO April 16, 2009 at 12:39 am

Correction

< .i>“than just painting your neighbor’s house red.”

should be

“than just painting your house red”

.

Andy April 16, 2009 at 10:26 am

IMHO — I’m not making light of stalking. The behaviors I laid out in my previous posts are indeed disturbing. My point is that there could be lots of behaviors that fall under stalking but could conceivably not be violent. Do celebrities have a right to not be followed and photographed? Cleary paparazzi have done things that directly violate property rights (e.g. trespassing, directly causing automobile accidents, etc.). Should they be illegal? I understand Kinsella’s point about the “limits of armchair theorizing”. I generally agree. However, I think the justice system should attempt to determine the facts of the case and whether the facts reveal a crime (something that we can identify as bad PRIOR to the action committed). I’m a bit uncomfortable with the justice system as a place where something is determined to be bad or good after the fact. I do think we need more work in this area ala a Block style “defending the undefendable” type of approach. What constitutes a threat? Does this have implications for rules of war (i.e. what is preemptive war versus responding to credible threats etc.). I’m sure armchair theorizing has a limit. I don’t think we’ve reached it.

Larry N. Martin April 16, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Speaking of rich stalkers, check this out: http://www.chainsawsuit.com/20090413.shtml

IMHO April 16, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Andy,

Pararazzi can be pains in the butt, and they have caused property damage and emotional distress in their pursuit to be the first one to get “the” shot; but the fact is that they do what they do for financial gain and would most likely not engage in the behavior if there was no compensation. There is no personal attachment to the celebrity; it’s a lucrative business.

Stalkers develop emotional attachments to their victims. They find themselves stuck, unable to leave the victim alone, unable to move on with their lives. I think that that is the key element to stalking…the inability of the stalker to stop what they’re doing.

Bill in StL April 16, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Were I on a jury, I’m not sure I could convict someone who simply seemed to have a misguided, lovelorn obsession with someone who wanted nothing to do with him. Even if the object of his affections were truly afraid of the defendant.

To vote guilty, I’d want to see solid evidence of a credible threat. For instance, pictures of the victim’s children in vulnerable situations, such as waiting alone at a bus stop, sent by the defendant.

To condemn a defendant without clear evidence of malicious intent, instead based solely on the victim’s apprehension, would seem to me unjust. People may be legitimately afraid of another’s actions without the other having intended an aggression.

IMHO April 17, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Bill,

First, you make the assumption that stalkers are of the opposite sex. That is not always the case. Second, you assume that stalkers always work alone. They do not. They sometimes enlist the assistance of another party to muddy the waters. Third, unless they want to give you grounds for calling in the police, they will most likely not send you a picture of your children. If and when they want to harm your kids, they will just do it. Then you can have the satisfaction of having the person arrested and rest easy with the knowledge that it wasn’t just a silly little case of misapprehension on your part.

If my neighbor tells me that someone who had at least 30 feet of room backed into my car and then took off, then I would call that more of an act of aggression on their part and not apprehension on my part.

Bill in StL April 17, 2009 at 6:17 pm

IMHO,

My example was hypothetical, intended to illustrate the principle. Strike the word lovelorn and it serves well enough as a general rule.

I made no indications of accomplices either way. If you wish to bring them into the discussion, I would argue, contra Kinella, that if A freely persuades B to perform an action, with no threat of force, than A’s responsibility for said action is greatly mitigated. To argue otherwise is to discount the free will of B, as if B is simply a tool, like a hammer or gun. The study of human action is a soft science precisely because free will means humans don’t respond with the unfailing predictability of inanimate objects.

Your suggestion that the stalker will avoid incriminating himself to avoid prosecution strikes at the heart of the matter. You (or Kinsella) assert that the criminality of stalking lies with its implicit threat of battery. But a threat requires communication, and justice requires some standard, some accepted, recognized way of defining this communication. You’re saying that the stalker will modify his behavior so as to avoid this definition, yet still must be found guilty.

In your posts, you describe in great detail the psychology of the stalker, and offer a couple behaviors. I consider the psychology of only tangential importance, because I think to define a standard of stalking using the perpetrator’s mentality is criminalizing thought, in the same vein as hate crimes. I don’t dispute that the mental state the stalker displays can serve to indicate whether or not he is a legitimate danger to the victim.

For the criminal definition of stalking, I’m primarily concerned with actions. The first you mention – someone emails you anonymously saying where you were or what you were wearing. I could agree that that contributes to stalking, assuming the obvious primary purpose of the email was to communicate the stalkers knowledge of your location. Not if it were basically anonymous fan mail, written to praise you or your behavior, and mentioning your location or clothes only in passing. (Praise is only an example here – Any seemingly legimate reason for an anonymous communication would do, and of course is a matter of judgement)

Second – you get an anonymous email about a blog post you made. I think that falls pretty short, if not surrounded by some other, more substantive, actions. I weigh this one lightly because one simply cannot be harmed over the internet. If all they do is stalk you online, and never display any knowledge of your real world location, I don’t find your apprehension reasonable.

Third – hitting a parked car. This is pretty serious stuff, again assuming it’s part of a persistent, clearly targeted behavior. When a reasonable person would conclude a collision was intentional, and the perp left the scene without leaving contact and insurance information, I can see a threat being conveyed.

I’m not suggesting that stalking isn’t real, or that you’re overreacting, but I’m leary of basing any laws on the emotional state of either the perp or the victim. It’s just too subjective.

Finally, I don’t find your mention of the children very convincing. Possible bad consequences of inaction are insufficient to justify a preemptive strike, absent a clear intent of harm.

But maybe I just want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

IMHO April 19, 2009 at 1:30 am

My reason for posting so much on this topic is to try to make people aware of the fact that stalking is actually more dangerous than most people realize. Check out the search engines for statistics regarding stalking.

Stalking is not the product of a woman’s overactive imagination. As a matter of fact, a lot of men have also been subjected to stalking behavior.

As for me, I have a good idea as to who the stalker is. I have not changed my e-mail addresses, because that would be caving in to the stalker, but I do filter out their e-mails.

Some of the things I posted were meant for the stalker, who knows where I post and has in the past left comments at websites I frequent and has created webpages in response to my postings. It is the only way that I know of to try to reason with this person; however, I have come to realize that this may not be possible. I only know that one day they will be caught, and I feel sorry for the fact that it hasn’t even occurred to them how much embarassment it will bring to their families.

I want to thank Stephen for bringing this topic to light.

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