Most of the following things have happened. See if you can spot which one didn’t.
- A 17th century king takes offence at the words recounted to him by a diplomat. A country is invaded.
- A white supremacist bombs a government building. All white people are interned.
- A group of mostly Saudis attacks a trade building. Several predominantly muslim countries are bombed and invaded, even though the people in those countries had nothing to do with those attacks.
- One member of a tourist bus tour pisses in the street. All the tourists are deported.
- A resistance movement against the Nazis kills an officer of the SS. All the men, women and children in the village where the assassination took place are killed.
All of the above are examples of collective punishment.
Very few people would find the homicidal rationalisations that people give for such actions to be sane. In fact, they would generally be disgusted.
Or would they?
There are certain situations where some people actively support such actions.
I don’t mean they support the mass killing of anyone who happens to live near the person or people who have caused damage or offence, I mean that they suppport the principle of collective punishment.
And this is your example….
The level of violence at Euro 2016 has been alarming, but more alarming for me has been the willingness of both UEFA, the media and also individuals to support the idea of collective punishment.
Experts believe that there are around 150 Russian hooligans who are organised and have even trained for this. Bad people, no doubt. However, for me it does not follow that as a result of the behaviour of these people, 5000 Russian supporters should be deported and the Russian team should be expelled from the tournament. This has been threatened by UEFA and supported broadly across the media.
There have also been problems with England, Croatia and Poland.
Did the players do it? Did the majority of Russian/English/Croatian/Polish supporters do it? No. So why should the rest of them be subjected to collective punishment?
If you can’t justify it in the situations I gave above at the start of this article, then I don’t see how you can morally or logically justify it in the situation of this tournament, or, because it is widely done, in sporting situations in general.
A simple stark fact about a crime or an offence, whether it be real or only perceived, if you can’t find who did it, you cannot justifiably punish anyone. I know it is a difficult thing to accept in situations that are both volatile and emotional, when people are crying for someone’s head, but you can’t seriously make an appeal to justice and fairness by asking for revenge on a group of people, most of whom had nothing to do with the crime or crimes in question.
You find the people who actually did it, then you follow the law. Anything else is revenge, not justice.