Friday, December 4, 2009


I made the time to read this book*, a collection of essays by a former Freudian psychoanalyst who came to see through the many deep problems with Freud’s methods and his (often changed) ideas.

Crews is by nature and temperament a skeptic, but after a while he realized that Freud’s skeptical approach to the human psychology was actually based not on careful clinical research and – to use a legal term - the rules of evidence that scientists are supposed to adhere to. Rather, Freud passed off his own insights as ‘research’, insisted that they were beyond doubt, and required his students and followers to accept them without question, thereby creating both a pseudoscience and a cult.

Again, looking to deepen the SO community’s grasp of just where the SO mania and its laws have come from, I’m going to discuss some of the thoughts Crews raises and comment on their relevance to the SO mania as it has developed to the present day. The mania didn’t just ‘happen’, nor is it the logical following out of simply, honest law enforcement and law-making.

And Freud is one of the darker roots of it.

These essays were written by Crews between about 1990 and 2005, published in many places, both books and articles. He has a particular pair of long articles on ‘repressed’ or ‘recovered’ memory from 1994 that are very worthwhile; he looks at the conceptual roots and at the practitioners and theorists (‘cutting edge’ in the early 1990s) who contributed to that craze. Unfortunately, I can only find these articles as part of books (this one included) or at ‘The New York Review of Books’ site, in the Archives section, where they cost a few bucks to purchase for reading or downloading.

Crews notes (p11) that the trend to downplay or even ignore rational principles when examining a problem is common to Postmodernism (and its adherents such as radical feminism) and to both the radical activists and the Flower Children of the late Sixties. But such a sustained aversion to rational principles is also common and basic to the various types of Fundamentalism.

Indeed, you could make the case that the refusal to be bound by rational principles is a basic element in any Fundamentalism – whether it occurs in a religious or secular group (in which sense dogmatic revolutionaries who manage to build an organization are pretty much guaranteed to demonstrate such a characteristic: you’re either ‘for’ the revolution or ‘against’ it, with no questions asked and ‘facts don’t matter’).

Freud’s own system and his original work was “contaminated” (p16) by the grave problem that his explanations presupposed the very propositions that he was supposed to be trying to establish as true (for example: X must be true because the patient remembers it).

As a result, he shrewdly asserted (p74) that since he would never get a fair hearing and would never be judged with “objectivity and tolerance” by the professional scientific and medical community of his times (the later 1800s and very early 1900s) then he neatly insisted that it was his responsibility to humanity to “go it alone” – in other words, build his system without any review by professional peers, and so he nipped in the bud the huge problem of his ‘system’ being grounded not in proven hypotheses but in his own (ever-changing) assertions. He complimented himself on the “moral courage” required to "go it alone".

Interestingly, as certain radical elements of feminism began to gain influence, they took a similar tack, asserting that ‘truth’ is merely “an oppressive, phallo-centric ideal” (p181) and – echoing Carol Gilligan in her 1982 book referenced in my immediately previous Post – that the ‘feminist therapy movement’ would be based on “women’s ways of knowing” – which most certainly did not involve rational principles or verification by careful analysis and experiment, but rather would consist of mutual sharing of ‘stories’ and ‘herstories’ and ‘hystories’ (p180). They complimented themselves on their unique and fresh and rich independence in cutting loose from ‘male’ ways of analyzing things.

You can start to see similarities in the dynamics here, and also how they are helping to build the anti-rational and anti-truth approach that is now clearly visible in the SO mania and its laws: even when clearly phantasmagoric ‘Findings’ are demonstrated to be hugely wrong, legislators and jurists and others seem unfazed, as if they never expected ‘truth’ to be part of the equation in the first place anyway. (Although it would be nice if some of them came right out and said it, just so folks get a true picture of what the frak is going on in this mania – but then, facts don’t matter and ‘what is truth?' … and we’re back to square one).

Crews notes that one abiding influence of Freud is that in his vision of therapy, you would “peel away defensive sublimations” and “regard as primary whatever psychic materials appear most base” (p22).

A couple of thoughts on that.

In Freud’s vision of the human being and human existence, the core and deepest realities of the human person are a dark and vital stew of primitive and untamed energies – violence, aggression, untethered sexual urges, desires and passions**. In order to function in human societies, each human must learn to control those energies and urges. One might do it by ‘repressing’ them and conforming to external requirements in order to at least appear civilized and perhaps carry on an imitation of a ‘mature’ person. Or one might ‘sublimate’ those urges: invest those roiling energies in benevolent and constructive projects.

In either case one does so to ‘defend against’ the brute reality of their power within the self.

And in either case, according to Freud’s vision, every human being, no matter how ‘sublimated’ s/he might be or at least appear to be, is in his/her very core a dark cauldron of primitive passion and energy. And sexual energy is one of the most significant and stubborn of those energies.

You can see here where such a conceptual vision could make a mighty weapon if one, say, were politically seeking to gain the upper hand over one’s chosen political enemies. You might wonder what might happen if Freud were ‘weaponized’, after some modifications. So, for example, if you were to focus his concept only on one group – ‘men’, say – then you could insist that all members of that group were deep-down nothing but rampantly aggressive sex-monsters, no matter how ‘well-adjusted’ or ‘law-abiding’ they might seem. If you recall, this was precisely a point raised in the New Jersey Supreme Court’s effort to justify Registries and Notification in the 1995 Poritz case (about which I Posted in a series over the summer).

Freud, to give him credit, presumed that all human beings – regardless of sex – are such cauldrons, not just ‘males’ or ‘men’. But that was part of his vision that did not serve more recent purposes and was quietly ignored.

I certainly don’t agree with him completely. To say that there is no genuine ‘goodness’ in humans, and that any appearance as such, even if sincere, is merely a shaky construct that serves to hide the true dark primitiveness of human beings, is not something I would agree with.

But I do believe that ‘maturity’ and the process of maturing into one’s higher and better potentials is a task that faces all humans. And without such commitment to achieving some working level of such competence in this absolutely essential human project then no society of humans can long endure. And so I am verrrry much convinced of the value of ‘civilization’ and ‘values’, and that no civilization should be mindlessly ‘deconstructed’ in order to provide more space. You can provide more ‘space’ in a great building by getting rid of the carrying-walls and load-bearing elements, but then the building will collapse. And that cannot in any sense be called ‘an achievement’ or ‘progress’.

Children need to be ‘raised’, in some sense as a great and complex building must be raised. It doesn’t happen ‘naturally’ and sustained and competent adult effort is indispensable to the success of the project. Humans are not ‘flowers’ and don’t just ‘grow’ if they are left alone.

A mid-century commenter on Freud, the French theorist Foucault, gave things his own clever spin by saying that Freud wasn’t really the founder of a proven system of thought (Freud had dodged this requirement himself) but rather was the founder of a new “discursivity” – a new ‘way’ of looking at things and thinking about things that maybe wasn’t so easy to ‘prove’ but – what the hey? – was an interesting and different way of talking about things. And maybe even provided, in a non-provable sort of way, a new form of ‘knowledge’.

Such persons, Foucault felt (and he considered himself to be, along with Freud, one such type of person) could not be required to conform their assertions to ‘truth’ because their new and different way of looking at things, their new and different “discourse” itself “determined truth”. So, then, since such ‘thinkers’ were actually playing around with creating ‘new’ truth, then they couldn’t really be held accountable to an ‘old’ truth.

You can see the effects of this in the SO mania: ‘sex offender’ is now a form of ‘discourse’ – it’s the way much of the public thinks of ‘men’ now: oh, you’re a man – then you must be a sex-offender deep down and that’s the most socially and publicly (and legally) important aspect of you. (And there goes the basis for the rock-bottom reality of your Constitutional rights – your ‘Constitutional status’ isn’t the most important aspect of you as a man – rather, your sex-offending nature is.)

The ‘truth’ of sex-offenders (so often male) therefore is no longer that they are Citizens with Constitutional rights, but rather that they are in their very nature ‘sex offenders’ and therefore ‘threats’ and that ‘truth’ about them overrides all others. I am not going for scoring a rhetorical point here when I point out that this dynamic is precisely the same as deployed in the Salem Witch Trials: the only ‘truth’ about the accused was that they were ‘witches’ or ‘warlocks’. And in the Nazi race laws against the Jewish members of their own citizenry: suddenly you weren’t a respected and successful citizen and perhaps even an honorable German military veteran of the Great War, nor even a human being, but rather the only truth about you was that you were “a Jew”.

And while I don’t imagine that Beltway mover and shakers actually spend time thinking about ‘theory’ and ‘truth’, yet it is precisely the success (so far) of this new ‘discursivity’ about sex-offenders that has now become something about which most will say “well, everybody knows that” – which is the desired end result of Foucault and Freud (among others): their ideas are now so thoroughly believed and accepted that they seem like ‘common sense’ that ‘everybody knows’.

(But clearly things haven’t succeeded as completely and permanently as might have been expected in the early 1990s. As you can see on the Constitutional Fights site and elsewhere, all sorts of persons and official agencies now doubt this new ‘discursivity’ – although they may not even know the term exists. So there is cause for hope and renewed dedication to the task of rolling back this mania.)

And so too, Freud’s “power of narration” – his ‘story’ – can be said, in Foucault’s theory, to “provide a kind of emotional truth” (p50). Notice that it’s not just general ‘truth’ any longer, but rather ‘an emotional truth’. Again, this is the game-plan of a ‘discursivity war’ (if I may): you want to make ‘feelings’ more important than ‘facts’.

And this type of play actually has some probability of succeeding: it’s a lot easier to have feelings than to go to the trouble of acquiring facts. So folks just sort of slide gently into accepting the new ‘truth’, sort of like freezing to death, sliding down and away gently and slowly. And if you are involved with groups who are seeking to suppress your concern about facts and want to intensify your reliance on just feelings … then the slide will progress much more rapidly.

Crews offers (p64) a dozen elements of the anti-empirical, anti-factual thrust in Freud (which, I think you will see, are also clearly discernible in the SO mania).

First, there is a “casually anecdotal approach to corroboration”. All that it takes to establish the ‘truth’ of an assertion is that somebody tells a story that ‘shows’ that the assertion is (or ‘must be’) true. ‘Story’ replaces evidence or analysis.

Second, “a cavalier dismissal of the fundamental epistemic problems of suggestion”. How can you ‘know’ if a person is actually recounting something that is ‘true’ – that the person has independently and consciously experienced – if there exists the strong human tendency to be influenced by the power of suggestion: the ability of the human to sense what is expected of him/her by an inquirer and the willingness of that human to tailor his/her statements to satisfy the inquirer … ? We saw this in the pre-school Satanic Ritual Abuse trials where small children figured out what the adult-investigators wanted to hear and then, with more or less alacrity, said what the investigators wanted to hear.

Third, “the habitual confusion of spectation with fact”. When you presume that what you think you saw is what actually happened. This becomes even more important in the ‘repressed’ or ‘recovered’ memory, and adds the monster complications of an intervening period of many years and – if there was any basis to the memory – the effect of the ‘traumatized’ state of your perceptual apparatus at the time your mind recorded what you saw.

Fourth, “generalizing from a small amount of imperfectly examined instances”. From a too-small number of actual cases, imperfectly analyzed, large generalizations are drawn and asserted as general truth and fact. We have seen this in a number of the most highly-publicized SO cases, but this is also a key dynamic in the ‘statistics’ quoted by many of the mid-1990s writers who were pushing this thing along. In many cases, as is now known, the statistics were derived from a pool of examples too small, and analyzed according to far too flawed categories, to provide accurate information. Of course, given the ‘emergency’, accurate information was not the primary objective.

Fifth, “a lack of vigilance concerning self-contradiction”. Thus there is no critical or even rational analysis of one’s own beliefs, to ensure that one belief doesn’t conflict with or even contradict another. So, for example, claiming that the greatest danger to children is from ‘strangers’ while also insisting that every male is potentially (and perhaps probably) a sex-offender.*** The proper scientific objective is to scrutinize your own claims even more rigorously than anybody else, and to do it before you ever publish your findings – but of course, ‘truth’ and ‘analysis’ is a ‘male’ thing, and conceptual self-analysis and self-criticism is surely not something that is popular in certain feminist and victimist circles.

Sixth, “selective reporting of raw data to fit the latest theoretical enthusiasm”. Anyone familiar with the now-discredited ‘research’ and statistical claims of such popular 1980s-1990s gurus as Lenore Walker and the ‘stories’ from such books as “The Courage to Heal” will recognize this element. And certainly, the hugely selective ‘reasoning’ done by legislative ‘Findings’ and by the courts – especially the Poritz court – to justify Registration and Notification are clear indicators of the essential role this element plays in the entire mania.

Seventh, “ambiguities and exit clauses”. The ambiguous and elastic definitions of terms as 'sex offender', ‘abuse’ and 'sex abuse' and 'epidemic', ‘rape’, ‘pedophile’, ‘mental illness’, and so forth have always enabled this mania to both justify whomever it has caught in its clutches and increase the ‘pool’ of potential (or probable) perpetrators. If I recall correctly, there is a school of ‘therapy’ that accepts ‘emotional incest’, even though a parent has never had any inappropriate physical contact whatsoever. Statistically, the practice of extrapolation – inferring large and general numbers from small study-populations – has always enabled the most frightening and extensive picture to be painted by those who want to see these laws established and expanded. Recall the now-discredited claims of many hundreds of thousands of ‘children’ purported to be ‘abducted’ annually, a claim which combined both elastic definitions of the major terms and extrapolation of the numbers.

Eighth, “allowing negative data to be interpreted as positive ones”. This goes beyond the ‘if even only one’ gambit whereby some of these bad policies and laws are justified on the basis of the emotional claim that they are ‘worth it’ ‘if even only one’ is helped. On that ground, since so many of them die in road crashes, then children should not be allowed in motor vehicles, or perhaps adults should not be allowed to drive them in motor vehicles, or heaven-knows-what-other-possible-pretext, ‘if even only one’ child is thereby spared death or injury.**** A classic gambit along these lines is the handy ‘unreported’ incidences: that even if such and such a crime is declining, there are probably vast numbers of ‘unreported’ incidences that require more money and more police power and more intrusive laws on whatever pretext looks like it will get by the courts and public opinion.

Ninth, “indifference to rival explanations”. So when there are other perfectly plausible explanations for the problem that you claim must be addressed, you ignore it in order to get your ‘explanation’ accepted as the only one and the right one. Is “a feeling of strangeness and alienation” a surefire diagnostic indicator of having been sexually abused as a child, probably by a parent … ? Is it possible that there are other candidates among the mental and emotional disorders (there are several)? Is it possible that you are experiencing an existential rather than a psychological phenomenon: that some individuals are more sensitive by nature to the distance that exists between any and all human beings? Is it possible, even, that you are not ‘re-membering’ actual abuse but merely constructing it, or – as they used to say – fantasizing it? (Even Freud came a cropper when he had to face this possibility and eventually withdrew his initial ‘repressed memory of abuse’ theory in favor of - ummmmmm - a larger role for the active imagination.)

Tenth, “the absence of any specified means for preferring one interpretation to another”. There are no ground rules (so ‘male’ and ‘abstract’) by which any observer or evaluator except one who ‘gets it’ can determine the most likely explanation. This ensures that your group’s preferred beliefs and agenda are kept safe from ‘objective’ (read: intolerant, just-doesn’t-get-it) persons who are not part of your belief group.

Eleventh, the “insistence that only the initiated are entitled to criticize”. This dovetails with Number 10: only those who ‘get it’ and are part of the in-group can criticize the thoughts or offer negative observations or suggest corrections. Although, of course, if you’re in with the in-group (as the songster saith) then you aren’t going to risk your membership by doing any such thing, are you? (A notable exception is the feminist law professor Janet Halley, about whom I wrote in my last Post .) The bottom-line is that NOBODY is going to be doing any critical thinking or analysis of the ‘in’ position or agenda.

And finally, twelfth, the “stigmatization of any disagreement as ‘resistance’”. Here Crews refers to Freud’s sleazy gambit of claiming that any patient who disagreed with his sometimes outlandish interpretations of the patient’s dreams and early experiences was ‘resisting’ him (and later such a patient could easily be dismissed as being ‘in denial’). As if that weren’t bad enough, Freud advised his disciple-analysts to keep pressuring their patients until they submitted to the analyst’s interpretation, no matter how long it took to achieve such a queasy result.

This is the not-too-distant ancestor of ‘backlash’: if you disagree with us, then you’re nothing but a back-lasher (and, later, that you probably are such-and-such yourself). It’s a neat trick that chills any criticism and actually causes many honest thinkers and observers to keep their thoughts to themselves for fear of being branded as ‘against’ good and ‘for’ the evil that agenda wishes everyone to believe is there. Certainly, early objections to the sex-offense mania were tarred with this brush, and even now it is still somewhat risky (though not as much as before) to speak up; those that do, especially professionals with careers, are to be commended. [I’m not a ‘professional’, by the way, and this is not meant as a sly self-congratulation.]

In regard to that power of suggestion and a person’s suggestibility, by the way, Crews takes up the fascinating and distressing fact that in the Salem Witch Trials some of the accused actually came to believe that they were indeed witches (p183).

He recounts the recent story of a father – and a deputy sheriff at that – who was accused of murder and rape of one of his daughter’s friends decades afterward, because the daughter had ‘recovered’ the memory. And with the help of a ‘therapist’ who was his Fundamentalist pastor, he came to believe it, even though there was not only no evidence, even after police tested the old family VW camper-van where the murder alledgedly took place. Indeed, Crews interviewed the man, and for the purposes of testing his veracity actually concocted a fictitious charge that the daughter ‘remembered’, presented it to the now-imprisoned man, and after a few moments the man actually began to remember that Yes, he had done that too.

This is a profoundly disturbing example of human weakness, and perhaps indicative of a significant abnormality itself: that a person, for whatever reasons or under whatever pressures – internal and/or external, might come to agree to his own guilt simply because that assertion is thumped upon him repeatedly. It goes beyond the Party members scooped up in Stalin’s 1930s ‘show trials’, who came to accept their ‘guilt’ as ‘enemies of the revolution’ because they couldn’t bring themselves to contradict the ‘wisdom’ of the Party (and Comrade Stalin); the Party, they had shaped their lives to believe, could never be wrong, and if the Party accused them then they must be guilty.

It is also related in no small way to the current difficulty of accepting as valid the ‘guilty’ admissions of persons who have been tortured. You might want to take the time to re-read Arthur Miller’s early-1950s play “The Crucible” about the Salem Witch Trials, in which Miller dramatizes this phenomenon.

Crews reminds everyone clearly (p150) of the synergy between ‘liberal’ radical feminist sex-offense agitation and rabidly ‘conservative’ Fundamentalists in the pre-school child-sex-abuse trials of the 1980s. You may not recall that the original charges were not simply of ‘sex abuse’ of children but of Satanic Ritual sex-abuse of children. The ‘satanic ritual’ stuff was a poisoned fruit of the political alliance of convenience between ostensibly ‘Liberal’ and ostensibly ‘Conservative’ elements that had been forged to provide a (may I say ‘bipartisan’?) support network for the entire and now-discredited mania.

As best I can figure, once the ‘sex offense’ stuff had become a ‘discourse’ and had taken on a life of its own in public opinion, then the clearly outlandish elements of the alliance could be quietly dumped. Leaving only the more slyly and shrewdly framed ‘public protection from certified sex monsters’ to fuel the current SO mania. Which, still, it continues to do.

I disagree with Crews on his 1994 comment (p156) that the sex mania had begun to dissipate by 1994, having begun in the early 1980s. I don’t think he was positioned at that time to grasp the developing consequences of that awful synergy between a Democratic Party firmly indentured to whatever agendas ‘women’ and ‘victims’ were reputed to demand and a Republican Party, newly empowered, that built its Contract with America on a law-and-order promise that could only fuel an increase in the government’s intrusive police power … on behalf of victims, of course. And against whatever groups of Citizens could be safely disqualified from their Constitutional protections. And We all know where that went.

But he does raise the point that in those days “believe the children” had become the mantra: that whatever the children in the Satanic Ritual Abuse trials could be induced or seduced or coerced into saying must be believed (because, in Freud’s vision, life is only really about the voracious sexual urges that constitute the molten and ultimate bedrock of every human being).

Curiously, Freud and radical feminist thought are in complete agreement about that particular piece of his vision: it’s all about sex. It’s a dark vision, and it not only shrinks and denigrates the higher aspects and “better angels” of human nature, but also undercuts any basis for a Constitutional polity: if people – or at least men – are sex-addled monsters, then it will require a police state to be the zoo-keeper of such a feral herd.

He also reminds Us that in 1971 the American Psychological Association enabled a genuinely deforming and regressive trend by authorizing advanced psychology degrees (Ph.D., Psy.D.) to be awarded without the candidate having to undergo any clinical training at all (p164). Thus a candidate for a major psychology degree need have no training in scientific method and the requirements of genuinely grounded careful research at all. It was the candidate’s “intuition” and not any adherence to the corpus of psychological thought or even to the scientific method that would count for professional competence.

You can imagine, perhaps, what happened when this filtered down to the lesser degrees and the undergraduate psychology education and the associated-field degrees such as social work (which quickly embraced ‘clinical social work’ with no research training) and the even lower rung of self-taught or just ‘concerned’ ‘therapists’ whose gamut of ‘expertise’ reproduces once again the full panoply of historical American hucksterism and quackery, with the possible exception of phrenology and a few other good-old-days techniques. (Which is not to say that each and every social worker is a quack.)

The psychology profession has had, I would say, a bad 40 years; those practitioners who have managed to sustain both ‘concern’ and ‘competence’ are remarkable individuals indeed. Those who have also managed to make a decent living or occupy prestigious public or academic positions are perhaps, in some small way, a proof for the existence of a just and benevolent God.

He mentions the stories of UFO abductees (p211) for a thought-provoking revelation: according to some ‘theorists’, a person who persists in the story of being abducted by UFOs (with or without the sexual probing) is actually engaging in “a political act”, “contesting the status quo” and “resisting an enforced coherence in their lives”.

This is a corker. There are people in well-paid positions of great professional and social status whose essential take on UFO abductions is that the ‘stories’ are an act of political resistance to conformity. Further, as Crews sums it up, “mere persistence in UFO delusions, then, constitutes useful sabotage of the evil American empire”.

Now I am no jingoistic supporter of ‘empire’, and in that I take my cue from Messrs. Washington, Adams, Madison, et al. But to assert that telling outlandish stories is primarily a “political act” gives a clear indication of where things have gone off the rails around here in the past 40-50 years. You can see where ‘facts don’t matter’ comes from. It’s not whether you are telling the truth, or whether you are making statements that can be verified by others. It’s that you are doing SOMEthing to further the great political agenda of sabotaging or subverting “the dominant discourse” – and anything done to achieve that purpose is OK (and proves that you ‘get it’).

And doubting such stories means that you’re just a back-lasher.

How oh how can a Constitutional polity and a public deliberation be conducted and sustained when the Citizens are bethump’t by so many – and many of them ‘elites’ – who don’t feel themselves required to tell the truth? Or, at least, feel themselves obligated to serve a ‘higher truth’ that somehow works out to be the opposite of ‘truth’ as it is generally understood (in, of course, that evilllll ‘dominant discourse’). So truth as it is generally understood is really not-truth, and the ‘higher truth’ is really an anti-truth, and if you can accept that then you ‘get it’, and if not, not.

This is what is at stake here. This is what’s happening to the country and the SO mania is a prime ground where the rubber meets the road. The SO mania is where all this theory has blended with the various political machinations and calculations of the Beltway and the State legislators, and all the prosecutors, cottage-industry ‘therapists’, ‘conservatives’, ‘progressives’, ‘decent citizens’, victim advocates, headline-happy media, and – alas – too many of the personnel who have for purposes of employment if not vocation sworn to uphold, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.

Crews discusses Post-Structuralism (p297); it’s enough for Our purposes here to repeat his summary: “that self-hood is shaped in part by tacit ideology; that ‘truth’ often does the bidding of power; and that we should always ask whose interests are being served by a given claim to cultural authority or power”.

There’s a lot that worthwhile in that. The way that a culture and a civilization ‘sees’ the world does constitute part of the trellis on which the young vines are first shaped. But that doesn’t mean that since six different blind men sense six different parts of the elephant then there is no real elephant at all. It does mean that the human spirit – young and mature – needs a trellis to shape itself, and that trellis must be capable of bearing the weight of the needy human spirit and not simply a figment of any individual’s imagination.

And none of the Framers would have had any objection to the observation that ‘truth’ could be subverted by power. That, indeed, is why they built the marvelous if clanky Constitutional machinery – so that as many Citizens as possible could exercise some serious authority to prevent the type of political or emotional power-plays that would override the rights – based on those “self-evident truths” – of other Citizens. But while the Framers were acutely aware of the fragility of ‘truth’ and its need of support by the Citizenry, they most certainly would not, could not, and did not accept that there was no ‘truth’ at all and that everything was up for grabs by whomever managed to ‘control the discourse’.

And as Josef Goebbels showed everybody, a modern mass-society can far too easily be subverted to whatever discourse the ‘dominant party’ wished to impose, given just the right blend of political seduction, manipulation, dishonesty, and brute force. I get nervous when any group claims it wants to ‘control’, even to control something as seemingly immaterial as ‘the discourse’. And those who seek to ‘control’ must by definition seek ‘power’, and then the ‘discourse’ will answer to them and everything goes back to square one, except that now the Constitution has been gutted.

And if it’s true that one should always ask whose interests are being served in any claim to cultural authority, then I’d say that the cultural and political authority that is fueling the SO mania has to be questioned, and rather closely. Lives have been lost, many more wrecked, and the Constitution twisted into a grotesque legal and philosophical pretzel in order to keep this thing going.

And, as I see it, by an ‘authority’ that doesn’t seem to consider itself accountable to ‘truth’ or to ‘facts’ and a government that seems not to consider itself accountable for the Constitution or for the wisdom and integrity of the laws.

We got trouble in River City.


*Crews, Frederick: “Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays”. Shoemaker & Hoard : Emeryville, CA. 1st edition; 2006. My page references will refer to this edition.

**It’s not easy to hold that Freud imagined childhood as a time of ‘innocence’ – psychologically speaking – and children as pure little innocents. Rather, in his vision they are, by virtue of not yet being ‘civilized’ the most clear examples of the very primitive beginnings of the human species. Whether such primitiveness is ‘natural’ or not is another and equally troubling and complex matter.

***This is distinct from the phenomenon – specific to the sex-offense mania – that ‘the children’ are primarily the ones in danger. This focus, I think, represents a tactical compromise in the ungainly political alliances cobbled together to support the thing. So-called ‘conservative’ elements that seek more law-and-order and thus more police power would not want to be too closely associated with ‘feminism’ and thus might not care to be seen as supporting ‘another feminist thing’; in which case ‘the children’ – like the baby seals on the wildlife preservation commercials – are a ‘victim’ that all the elements of the alliance can support. Interestingly, of the nation’s 750,000 or so registered SO’s (excluding whatever number have been categorically dragooned by the Adam Walsh Act), I can’t find a breakdown of exactly what they were convicted of – and I’m going to venture the thought that few of the nation’s RSO’s are actually offenders-against-children.

****This month’s print issue of ‘Reason’ magazine (p13) reports that in the UK (which, although it hasn’t gone as gaga over Registration and Notification as the US has, is still capable of serious PC whackery) an interschool athletic competition day was put off limits to the parents. Says one educational bureaucrat, “All unsupervised adults must be kept away from children”. Give that some thought. And of course, We are immediately thrown back to the problem that even the Romans had to face: who supervises the supervisors themselves? (Or, if you like the Latin, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?) You wonder how any UK male – or possibly any adult – achieves the necessary ‘clearance’ to work with children at all.

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