How Brendan Dassey Makes All Guilters Morally Inexcusable
Most people who watched Making A Murderer came away believing that Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey should not belong in prison, but the internet embraces a plurality of voices and it is not difficult to find communities whose members espouse views which depart significantly from those of the mainstream. In the world of Making A Murderer, these people are known as “Guilters”.
I’ve been reading a lot of their content lately on Reddit, and I have to say it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I made this point in a post only a few days ago, but it bears repeating. For one thing, at least where Steven Avery is concerned, they enjoy all of the benefits that arise from having a united front. Their ranks enjoy unanimity because by definition, they are all in agreement that Steven Avery killed Teresa Halbach. WIthin their own group, they have very little to fight about.
The “Truthers”—the name given to the Reddit community which believes in Avery’s innocence— agree only that Avery is innocent. When it comes to who they think killed Teresa Halbach, there is a confusion of voices and opinions, and it is these divisions which the Guilters are able to easily exploit. After all, only one theory can be correct, and only one person (it is generally thought) actually killed Teresa Halbach. Therefore, if there are ten different theories, automatically nine are going to be wrong.
The Guilters have mistaken this dynamic for a superior strength and merit of their position, or even the possession of superior mental faculties compared to the Truthers, and seem to be self-satisfied in their echo chamber of a Reddit group that their arguments, especially compared to the arguments of the Truthers, are all but unassailable. The glue that holds the group together at this point seems just to be the enjoyment of gloating that they are smarter than the dumb Truthers. Since they all seem to agree on mostly everything, I can’t imagine what else it would be.
Guilters take extreme delight in pointing out how absurd it would be for there to be a vast conspiracy among members of law enforcement to have pulled off a mass “framing”. Adding to this is the fact that I agree with them on many of the points they make. Curiously, they are able to see some things more clearly than the Truthers precisely because they are not supporting one of the many incorrect theories that have fallen into vogue at some point among the Truthers. With only a desire to maintain the position which holds that Steven AVery is guilty, they are able to look at the strength in the Truthers argument with a gimlet eye.
And if we’re going to be totally honest, the Truthers really do have a history of proposing kooky ideas. The theory that Ed Edwards, and aged old man who could barely breathe let alone walk and yet somehow managed to all of this up is dumb, but it was given plenty of truck by many in the Truther community. There was a theory which implicated a German man who lived in the area who it was said made threatening comments to his wife. Then there is the ridiculous theory that Teresa is still alive.
But just because the theories are kooky, it doesn’t mean that those who come up with them are necessarily stupid as Guilters would generally maintain. The Guilters are excused from the obligation of needing to speculate about who killed Teresa because they all agree on who that is. But there is a massive weakness in their overall argument, and the name of that weakness is Brendan Dassey.
The idea that someone who was in the middle of raping and murdering someone would open their front door for an innocent, up-to-then uninvolved party is absolutely preposterous, and it is at least as preposterous as anything any Truther ever proposed. But what is even more preposterous is the idea that a young Brendan Dassey would just jump in on the action without skipping a beat!
If you could somehow get around the implausibility of someone answering their front door while they were in the middle of raping and murdering someone (and you can’t, but let’s just pretend), the only way you could ever get anyone to believe that the next step was an automatic headlong dive into rape and murder is if you introduced a coercive element such as a knife or a gun. But the investigators overlook this logical necessity and thus forget to suggest to Brendan, in hopes that he would say it himself, that Uncle Steven threatened bodily harm if he didn’t participate. So we are left to believe that a kid as gentle and withdrawn and shy as Brendan would do this.
Not that I should need to go over this, but Ken Kratz was able to use Steven Avery’s reputation in the community, weighed down as it was by a string of bad decisions going back decades, against him. And whenever he could, Kratz depicted the Avery’s as a depraved bunch. It also didn’t help that in the minds of the community he had been connected to a brutal rape. Yes he was proven to be not guilty later, but that belief had still been implanted, and who’s to say whether there might have been lingering doubts in a small community as there so often is, or whether small-minded individuals would have begrudged him his success at not only proving them all to be fools, but in winning a lucrative settlement that would have put Steven on an equal or even higher rung on the Manitowoc social ladder? These are often the kinds of things which animate a small town after all.
Brendan’s reputation, up until the time he was accused in a murder/rape, was unbesmirched. There were never any stories which came up about him throwing a cat into the fire. He never reared a firearm on someone who was going around town spreading rumors. Brendan never stole any beer from a convenience store like his uncle once had done. But somehow in that mean little place, maybe just to assuage their own conscience, the townsfolk were able to clothe Brendan in the jacket of all of his uncle’s past misdeeds.
Anyone who professes a belief in Brendan Dassey’s guilt is either a liar, or a complete idiot. But I see the Guilters twisting away in the bed that they have made trying to convince themselves that Dassey committed the deeds for which he was convicted. I also see them relying on the confession as a way to justify their belief even though the validity of the techniques used to extract the confession, the confession itself, and the fact of his involvement are three separate, and very different components. If one could make a decent argument that Thomas Fassbender and Mark Weigert were not unduly coercing Brendan in any way to “confess”, and we can establish that he did confess, none of this makes it any more plausible that Steven Avery would have opened the door while in the middle of a murder, and that the likes of shy Brendan Dassey, not under the threat of bodily harm if he did not obey his uncle, would just suddenly start raping and murdering someone in the most violent way imaginable.
But as things stand, we are simply being asked to only evaluate the “confession”, and if the Guilters can convince themselves that it was all above board from a legalistic perspective, then that is all that they seem to require to be satisfied with it.
Sorry guys, but his is untenable, and morally reprehensible for being so. One weakness that the Truthers do not have is being forced into accepting a position that makes them morally dishonest. The same cannot be said for the Guilters. If I grant that they are even half as smart as they claim to be, they know better. But they cling to their hopeless position because they know to admit weakness viz Brendan Dassey is throw into question the legitimacy of all of it. If they got Brendan’s involvement so profoundly wrong, why should anyone have confidence in Avery’s conviction?