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Vigilantism and Corporate Corruption [Position Paper Excerpt]

(Excerpt from Grimm Institute Law Review 2017)

...What is eminently clear is that so-called "super-heroes" operate on an entirely separate level than the traditional vigilante. The most egregious difference lies, traditionally, in the magnitude of threats which the super-hero faces on a regular basis; these range from natural disasters to extraterrestrial menaces, which most often necessitate the use of superhuman powers or abilities to challenge. The vigilante, on the other hand, is drawn to street-level crime, often making an effort to apprehend drug dealers and the like. Rarely will one see a vigilante engaging the threats a super-hero actively seeks out.

However, there is an even more prominent legal difference between the status of a super-hero and a vigilante. One must not forget that vigilantism is illegal in the United States, yet oftentimes vigilante figures are idolized by citizens, the media, or even commended by State officials. This has led to a dramatic influx of vigilantes into inner-city areas in cities like Chicago and Miami, as well as a dramatic increase in arrests of these amateur crimefighters. I posit that this is likely because of the positive perception the general public has of such illegal acts. Furthermore, confusion about what constitutes a citizen's arrest has led to many vigilantes facing prison sentences of their own, claiming proudly that they had apprehended a dangerous criminal; without proper legal procedure, these criminals often walk free.

That is not to say that powered individuals ought never step in to deal with crime. Clearly, if a powered individual is in a position to stop a bank robbery, they ought to put their skills towards nullifying the threat for the benefit of all; that is not to say, however, that they ought to hunt down potential thieves or past thieves and brutalize them out of some sense of justice. There have been, of course, numerous cases of mistaken identity, as well as vigilantism towards those wrongly accused of criminal acts. The law itself is not above making mistakes when it comes to convicting criminals; one would surmise that the percentage of vigilante acts which ruin the lives of the wrongfully accused are even more numerous.

The distinction between vigilante and super-hero is also clear in the magnitude at which the two operate. Numerous interviews, studies, and courtroom confessions indicate that vigilantes often work on an individual scale. They are preoccupied more with retributive justice than social justice, taking out their rage on petty criminals. Tragically, many of the figures targeted by vigilantes in cities like Chicago are themselves victims of poverty, homelessness, discrimination, and most predominantly, mental illness. Super-heroes, on the other hand, operate on a larger scale, often branching out beyond the city streets to approach threats on national or international levels.


The more positive reception that super-heroes receive, as well as the greater protections under the law, have led one avowed vigilante in Chicago to expand their area of operations in some effort to attain legitimacy. Jacob Chase's famous project, which ended in disaster due to the response of other powered individuals seemingly opposed to his vision, seems to have been the product of a vigilante intent on moving up into the bounds of being a "super-hero." But to what end?

What we do know is that Jacob Chase's identity was leaked the very same day he held his press conference. What prompted him to make this new move?

"To return Night Warden to his ideological roots, on top of my regular civilian and vigilante activities, I will also now be acting as a security and investigative consultant for the police, the costumed community, and the government, you may come to me personally with your toughest cases. I also look forward to contributing to philanthropy for the poor and helping rebuild downtrodden areas, such as Grimm, and I offer my support to any philanthropic ventures to be carried out to make the world a better place, and those who use whatever means they have to foster prosperity for all." -- Jacob Chase

These words were clearly aimed in response to the critiques leveled at the Jacob Chase by other powered individuals in the past, which rightfully accused him of brutalizing the less-advantaged in society. It is ironic that Mister Chase feels he can now set himself up as a consultant for the police and government, when in fact, the acts he conducted previously (and openly admitted to) broke myriad laws designed to keep our society safe.

Potential allegations towards Jacob Chase:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Violations of civil rights / a lack of fair trials
  • Unlawful possession of dangerous chemicals
  • Alleged threats to kill / cause bodily harm
  • Misuse of company funds / fraud

Already, journalists such as Atticus Pendragon have noted the seeming lack of accountability for these acts. Pendragon, who leaked Jacob Chase's identity to the public, correctly concluded that the richest members of society are far more likely to conduct vigilante acts, as well as use these acts to bolster their own company's profit. It is eminently likely that Chase is using his fortune to avoid appearing in court for his vigilante acts; this confirms that Chicago is one of the most corrupt cities in the nation.

It is possible that federal action is the only way to directly prevent the proliferation of vigilante justice, and to punish figures like Jacob Chase for their numerous attacks on American citizens' civil liberties.

- Kristofferson Kleiner, guest writer for Grimm Institute Law Review (2017)