Automoron, or Auto-moron?

First, the just-for-laughs part. Some of you may recall my proposed new word, ‘automoron’, to mean a word which, by its very presence, denies its own meaning to some extent. The idea is to be similar to oxymoron, but more clearly reflexive.

Today I propose a slight variation: ‘auto-moron’. This is for a prefix which, by its presence, more or less denies the prefixed word or phrase to its right.

Now to start the dumb question / observation part.

I submit that self, as in self-governing, self-regulating, self-policing, is an automoron.

I will provide three examples.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario self-polices doctors. Here you will find their complaints process. Be sure to turn on JavaScript and open every single down-wedge on the right side of the page. There are some fourteen of them. Under wedge 13 you will find these words:

Can information gathered by the College be used in Court?

No. In accordance with Section 36(3) of the Regulated Health Professions Act, no report or decision of a proceeding is admissible in a civil proceeding.

The Law Society of Upper Canada self-polices lawyers. There are several recent articles in the Toronto Star about this. (See recent blog post for one.) Here you will find that these self-governing lawyers told themselves not to tell on crooked lawyers. This is a quote from that page:

The Law Society of Upper Canada attempted to muzzle members by directing them not to talk to the media….

and this:

The Star’s investigation revealed that more than 230 lawyers were sanctioned by the law society in the last decade for criminal-like acts, such as theft and fraud. The Star found these lawyers stole, defrauded or diverted more than $60 million in client money held in trust. While most were reprimanded, suspended or disbarred by the profession’s regulator, only 41 faced criminal charges. Of these, only 12 went to jail.

Click through; the Star page has hotlinks to three other articles on this.

And finally, the Toronto Police force. At one point, the force investigated itself. Now there is a Special Investigations Unit which investigates cases of claimed police wrongdoing, and all cases involving injury or death with a police officer involved. The SIU is supposed to be independent; however this Wikipedia article points out that it is not:

However all full-time SIU investigators are former law enforcement personnel or have worked for law enforcement agencies.

How well did this work out in a big, public case? Here’s an article by Rosie DiManno, on this. I will content myself with a few quotes:

It is not a record that should make the police proud. Same for the SIU, since they’d been unable to corroborate allegations of police abuse, despite thousands of witnesses at the scene.

When cops lay the charges, the discretion is initially left to them, and later with Crown attorneys who decide on whether to pursue a prosecution.

When police officers are targets of the law, however, the system turns itself inside out to protect identities and resist disclosure of names. Even obtaining information on Police Act proceedings is a reverse-onus labour for reporters trying to track events.

There are many more disturbing revelations in the DiManno article. I leave it to you to go and read them.

Now for the dumb questions.

  1. is ‘self’ commonly auto-moronic?
  2. is ‘self’ always auto-moronic when followed by ‘governing’, ‘regulating’, and ‘policing’?
  3. Are the three examples above disturbing to you?

and the observation:

Our lives depend on doctors. Our safety depends on police. Our rights under the law depend on lawyers.
and a final dumb question:
do we trust them?

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