Friday, July 17, 2009



I’ve just come across a new article by Cathy Young. If you haven’t read her, she’s well worth it. Balanced, acute, and independent in her thought. She’s a contributing editor at ‘Reason’ magazine, which has a website as well. Getting the sense and the sensibility of her take on things is worth the read.

In the piece I’ve just read, she’s talking about ‘battering’. It’s not precisely within the parameters of SO concerns, but it’s relevant. Building up as part of the general feminist influence throughout the 1980s*, ‘battering’ really gained traction when the Democrats took back the White House under Clinton. Before there were sex-offender registries, there were ‘domestic violence’ registries, and their excesses in the name of the emergency of preventing domestic violence (always by men against women) laid the groundwork for the sex-offender registry stuff that followed almost immediately after.

Young notes the interesting fact that ‘Lynn Rosenthal, a veteran of the battered women’s advocacy movement, was named to the new post of White House counsel on violence against women on June 26.” But at the same exact time, Young goes on to report, “a conference opened in Los Angeles disputing the basic tenets of the movement that Rosenthal represents – such as the view that domestic violence is overwhelmingly a male crime against women rooted in patriarchal power”.

Anyone familiar with the problems connected to the ‘battering’ and ‘domestic violence’ legislation and the conceptual framing that underlies it can take heart – at last a wider and more complete assessment is being heard.

The declaration of an ‘emergency’; the deprivation of property without (for 10 days) formal hearing; the issuance of court orders merely on the unsubstantiated word of one party who is hardly ‘disinterested’; the placing of even exonerated persons in a registry maintained by the police and available to employers, landlords, and others; the continued and stealthy expansion of the definition of the offending act until it is bloated far beyond any reasonable descriptor of criminal action (‘battering’ can include silence in a conversation, even if by phone from thousands of miles away); the complainant’s feelings being allowed to define the tripping point when police and court action are deployed; and – as so often nowadays – the ‘male’ as the presupposed perpetrator and initiator … None of this should be completely unfamiliar to the SO community.

As in so many other significantly dangerous legal and cultural developments of late, the presumption that males are always the initiators of violence, and that they are so thoroughly addicted to it that ‘special measures’ and ‘emergency measures’ are required, and that those measures are even justified in overriding traditional Constitutional safeguards (you can’t think Alberto Gonzales thought up ‘quaint’ all by himself, surely) … all of this is now starting to get looked at.

Not that it hasn’t been around for a long time, this professional concern to get the full picture of domestic violence. But the political uses of the topic were more important to too many players than any actual professional effort to get at the truth of the thing. Politicians wanted to keep the lobbyists who said they controlled that huge 51% of the electorate happy; the media loved the good-evil melodramatic scripting which the advocacies and lobbies conveniently faxed over to unripe ‘reporters’ for immediate insertion in the daily edition; the law-enforcement folks saw the opportunity for expanded power, funding, and popularity … something for everyone!

And they even had a ready answer to anybody – female as well as male – who got up and tried to suggest that the causes of the problem might be, perhaps must be, more than simply ‘men’: the response was that any such doubt about the “feminist orthodoxy”, as Young calls it, was merely “backlash”. Case closed.

If you were a student of history, you might note the similarity of such tactics to the propaganda techniques perfected by Joseph Goebbels during his decade-long tenure in that German government that followed the Weimar Republic.

Anyhoo, Young reports on this Los Angeles conference, and observes that it will be hard to pooh-pooh it: “the speakers included scholars, social workers, and counselors; about half were women”. Unless you wanted to trot out the old ‘self-hating’ or ‘masculinized female’ epithet that doctrinaire feminists hurl at women who disagree with feminism’s doctrines about women (and Goebbels had the same tactic ready for members of the ‘master race’ who traitorously disagreed with Nazism), then you’d have to say that there’s a lot more to the matter than anybody has been allowed to believe.

Young mentions one sociologist, Murray Straus, who in the 1970s became a feminist hero for his pioneering work in the study of domestic violence. Until, that is, he began to study “female violence”.

He found that “women assault their partners about as often as men”.

Which, while a perfectly valid research finding, subject to peer review and replication, was totally unacceptable to the political true believers who needed a total and complete Evil Enemy against whom the Movement could define itself and against whom the Movement could stretch its political muscles by imposing all sorts of punishments, without having to stop for any Constitutional red-lights. (And you can see now why all this is of interest to the SO community.)
Men HAD to be evil, because women – the doctrine insisted – were totally good. For the SO community, and for SO legislation where ‘men’ was replaced – nominally anyway – by ‘sex offender’, the dynamics given their first public full-scale deployment in the Domestic Violence legislation can only serve to deepen awareness of just how much of a stampede it all is, and just how a mania and mania-law get started.

“Female aggression must be taken seriously”, said Deborah Capaldi, a researcher for the National Institutes of Health.**

Capaldi notes that “if hitting your partner is wrong, it should be wrong for everybody”. Again, the politically-driven mania-law would violently disagree. The entire world-view of the mania is bipolar and Manichaean: there are only two positions or types, and one of them is totally good and the other one is totally bad. Only in this wayyy too simplistic and cartoonish vision of the world and of human beings can you then flatter folks into thinking that they can be on the ‘good’ side if only they join in the stampede.

Also of interest to the SO community is that Kenneth Corvo, of the Syracuse University faculty, took great issue with “the Duluth model” of treatment. That model takes as its base assumption that all ‘battering’ and ‘abuse’ (another elastic term) is totally the result of “male privilege”; there is no other cause. Alas, the courts have been stampeded into accepting this treatment model as the only approved one, so when a ‘batterer’ is ordered into court-ordered treatment, he (always a ‘he’) is going to wind up in a Maoist-model ‘re-education’ program designed to get him to accept and then renounce his ‘privilege’.

Drugs, alcohol, mutual violence, psychological or psychiatric problems, a deficient up-bringing … none of this will be addressed.***

Needless to say, this isn’t going to greatly help a lot of folks mandated for ‘treatment’.

The ‘treatment’ issues facing SOs are much the same. Some of the biggest professional proponents of treatment are saying – even now, after almost 20 years of legislation – that we know almost nothing about sex-offense dynamics; indeed, the master directory of mental health diagnoses – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) – doesn’t even have a diagnosis entitled ‘sex offender’.****

This, of course, should have given any sober legislator pause, but … no. And as a result, all manner of ‘experts’ have set up shop and started billing for services, though an SO mandated for treatment may well wind up in some SO version of “the Duluth model”. Such treatment, as Corvo says of the Duluth-type treatment, “is largely useless”. But it plays well to the voters, or at least to the media.

And of course, given the no-longer-sacrosanct relationship of therapist and patient, persons with ‘arrested development’ issues and who have never come to the attention of the criminal justice system or the SO laws but who genuinely want help are prevented, by the workings of the mania as well of the mania law, from seeking treatment since they may well be ‘reported’ by a therapist who is ‘mandated’ to do so. Which is a self-defeating effect of the laws – unless the purpose of the laws is really just to cast as wide a net as possible to ‘keep up the numbers’.

Young concludes with a quote from President Obama about “ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda”. If that advice is followed, it’s hard to see how any of the SO laws can stand.

And it’s hard to imagine that Obama – a Constitutional law professor, after all – doesn’t have SO law in mind when he says this.

Which is encouraging. But don’t go popping any champagne corks just yet. The fact that even he can’t come right out and mention the SO mania directly demonstrates how deep the mania has really gripped the country.

Let us continyuh, as LBJ would say.


*I am not saying that all feminist thought is bad or that it can all be reduced to this or that; but some of the consequences of some of its more radical proponents, when fueled by a legislative frenzy to please a theoretical 51% of the electorate, have created some very baaad things.

**I recall reading somewhere recently that lesbian couples report notably more violence than male homosexual couples. It seems to me that the increased levels of testosterone in the lesbian might have something to do with that, but that’s still a matter for much research. As it should be. But politically motivated ‘doctrine’ is not going to get us anywhere.

***One writer made the observation about Michael Jackson: “Jackson’s psycho-sexual development might have been arrested somewhere in pre-adolescence, and his affinity for young children, especially boys, would make any parent uneasy. But no one had made public any evidence of real harm Jackson has done to any child. A mature man sleeping with a young boy – merely sleeping – is neither a crime nor prima facie evidence of evil influence”.

The "arrest of psycho-sexual development” is standard stuff for mainstream therapy. And is probably as widespread in the population as other forms of immaturity. No news there.

But you can see what happens if somebody with that issue winds up in a mania-therapy along the lines of “the Duluth model”: not much help and probably much damage is going to be the result.

I suppose I should say here what I said in my first Post: I am not implying here that it’s a good or positive thing for adults to be sleeping with children. Of course, in the interests of balance, let me also say that I don’t think that it’s a good or positive thing when, on the basis of premeditated untruths, adults holding positions of public trust create a war in which persons just a day beyond sex-offender ‘child’ or ‘minor’ status are induced by said adults to be cannon fodder in the said war.

****See for example: Janus, Eric S. “Failure To Protect: America’s Sexual Predator Laws and the Rise of the Preventive State”: Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY; 2006. The question that screams for attention is: If even the best psychological and legal professionals acknowledge that we know so little about the causes – let alone treatment – of ‘sex offenses’, then on what basis have so many dangerously intrusive laws already been enacted?

Of course, the way mania-law works is that the stampede created by the ‘emergency’ very effectively (and conveniently, for those who want to start the stampede) overflows the restraining-wall created by the huge lack of actual knowledge or the existence of actual knowledge that actually would put the brakes on the stampede. Mania-law proponents are always leery of ‘knowledge’: they prefer that folks just yield to their emotions, perhaps lubricated by a few cooked statistics by mania-friendly ‘researchers’.

The aversion to actual knowledge – and even to careful deliberation and thinking – is one reason that the many ‘emergencies’ and mania-stampedes of the past decades have resulted in a profound decline in the citizenry’s ability to process information. Lobbying pressures and media cooperation contribute, as citizens see ‘stories’ in the media and see their supposedly mature legislators (and courts) supporting the whole thing. This dynamic, at the moment restricted to certain target groups, has now been established as ‘normal politics’ here, and can be turned upon anybody, as new stampedes may dictate. This will not end well for anybody.

It may help if at the very least folks understand that the ‘findings’ made by courts and legislators are a matter of ‘selection’. In other words, lobbyists for the law submit ‘facts’ and ‘statistics’ from ‘studies’ whose validity is not deeply questioned by the legislators or the court. What they select as ‘fact’ depends on what they want to ‘find’. Those who oppose also make submissions. The legislators or the court don’t hold serious scholarly debates; they select what they intend to ‘find’. Politics is as least as important as truth in this process. Which is what Obama realizes, I think, when he makes his statement that Cathy Young quotes.

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