CLIO 7 (1) - page 21

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circumcised, which they accepted and obliged to,
yet it turns out this was done to weaken them so
two of her brothers could enter the city and murder
all the men within the city. Afterwards, her father
was horrified about the potential issues this would
cause their family, though her brothers contin-
ued to endorse their actions asking whether they
should’ve instead allowed her to be treated as a
prostitute.
The undercurrent of damaged honour
within this tale would be one seen in many future
cases of vigilante action along with the violent and
steadfast response, that continue to this very day.
This violent, personal, and ultimately unresolved
moral stance (as no further discussion of the mat-
ter occurs) is continued through history into the
middle ages, where private wars and dueling were
commonly accepted forms of resolving personal
vendettas which were enacted without a specific
law enforcement status. This may have been due
to a lack of such an authority and the mundane
normalcy of the actions that were technically
vigilantismmeant it continued to go unnamed until
the mid-19th century - when a more official form of
government was beginning to develop - despite its
steady popularity.
The GermanVehmic courts of the 14th and
15th centuries were a proto-vigilante tribunal sys-
tem and were made up of ‘free judges’ that carried
out death penalties to those they collectively saw
as criminal. The organization was brutal and while
their meetings were highly secretive, their actions
were well known and they always publically claimed
bodies left behind as a consequence of their self-de-
termined justice. This primitive form of vigilantism
was surprisingly democratic and went on unop-
posed by authorities of the time despite its mob
nature, possibly due to the courts secret inclusion
of many local princes and so was not disbanded for
over four decades. This may have also been due to
their beneficial nature - due to overlap of claimed
lands, escape was easy for criminals until theVeh-
mic courts stepped in and rectified this inability.
Vigilantism was just as prevalent in other
western societies, and development is particularly
clear in the case of colonized America. In the 18th
century there was no formal criminal justice system
and so law fell into the hands of individuals and
the general community. This included volunteer
committees, which would work together to deal
with issues that they felt threatened their commu-
nal life, a motive later classified as ‘social control’
as opposed to ‘crime control’ which seeks to pun-
ish those believed to be factually guilty of crimes
(Johnson, 1996). This biased, hit-and-miss attitude
to justice would mean there was little consistency
in law enforcement, and brutality differed greatly
depending on the group or individual issuing the
punishment. At this time vigilante action would
have been necessary to have any form of order yet
could have also been preventing a more just and
all-encompassing one from emerging.
When a justice system was gradually devel-
oped and integrated however, vigilantism did not
grind to a halt but instead evolved. By 1909 this
previous form had died down a little and from then
to the present day has been resurrected in three
major waves: Neo-vigilantism, Pseudo-vigilantism
and cyber-vigilantism.
- Neo-Vigilantism: this ‘new’ form originated in the
1920’s and was categorized by a new surge of racial-
ly motivated lynchings, local crime patrols, bounty
hunters, and the anti-abortive movement.
‘Painting of the League of the Holy Court’ (a
small Vehmic court) by unknown artist, circa 1375
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