Monday, March 22, 2010


In his campaign for President in 1964 Barry Goldwater asserted loudly and proudly that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!”.

It wrecked his chances and LBJ gave him the soundest electoral trouncing anybody could remember.

Americans get nervous with the E-word. Back then, every adult recalled the world’s unhappy experiences with the Red Revolution that established the USSR and Hitler’s unhappy excitements. (Mao’s Cultural Revolution – in which that genius turned that country’s idealistic but excitable youth against anything old enough, mature enough, independently-minded enough or insightful enough to oppose him and hold him responsible for the mess he’d made with his policies – was still a couple of years in the future.)

Extremism, it seemed then, seemed to be a flash-in-the-pan sort of thing: it gave off a lot boredom-blasting noise, but after the initial flash not really much sustained or usable light. And there were a whole lotta downsides.

Sort of like the atomic bomb. With the radiation sickness and the indiscriminate flattening of everything in the blast-zone.

You didn’t want to be messing around with Extremism.

Nor was this simply a ‘modern’ insight, prompted by the Bomb and rockets and such.

The Framers were pretty much non-Extremists themselves. They had to build a complicated machine (Constitutionally-limited government) that would somehow have enough backbone to get its work done, but be circumscribed enough so that it wouldn’t decide – like the proverbial crazed horses – to run away with the wagon.

They were sooooo not-Extremist that they didn’t dare risk eliminating slavery right then and there in 1787, for fear of wrecking any chances of putting the new nation together at all. The Best, as they saw it, was truly the enemy of the Good-Enough. Which isn’t a catchy sort of slogan, and surely not of itself a ‘heroic’ stance to take, but they figured that when you looked at what they actually did manage to accomplish, then your assessment of their efforts would be tempered by the awareness of the frakkulous problems they faced.

And, they figured, sooner or later this thing – slavery – was going to wind up going away.

And as most folks realized about Goldwater’s comment: a) somebody who embraces Extremism probably has to be something of an Extremist type of person him/herself … and do you want that type of person with a finger on The Button? Or running things in general?

And b) Extremism seemed like the type of thing that could eat its way through whatever container you poured it in – sort of like the famous mythical acid that could eat its way through any substance: how do you store the stuff? How do you carry it around? How do you even come in contact with it to apply it to whatever you are going to apply it to? And did We really want to have that stuff loose in the country?

Now less than half-a-decade after Barry Goldwater’s comment the late Sixties became verrrry Extremist indeed. As the Dems desperately looked around for fresh demographics (LBJ’s noble completion – with Martin Luther King’s indispensable support and guidance – of the unfinished civil-rights promises of the Civil War had broken apart the Dems’ New Deal coalition and the Party needed big batches of fresh and reliable voters) they hit upon the Feminists, the Young, the second and urban phase of Black civil-rights agitation, and – hesitantly – Immigration.

And all of the representatives and advocates of those demographics had been watching Mao – whose Cultural Revolution and Red Guards had by 1968 captured the world’s attention.

If it works over there … ??? This was the question that started to form in wayyyy too many minds over here.

Some mighty extreme assertions of group ‘oppression’ and some mighty extreme demands to redress those vividly characterized oppressions and some mighty extreme ideas as to just how such demands and agendas might be most widely and immediately achieved … were made. Lots of them.

What was going on back then was – not to put too fine a point on it – kind of really Extreme. In content, or in method, or in cumulative effect, or in all three of those categories at once.

But the Beltway was aware of what had happened to Goldwater less than a decade before. And it would do the Party no good if in the process of forging some fresh and big new demographics for itself, it wound up getting classified in the public mind as Extremist.

So it had to make sure that the public didn’t make that connection.

One of the ways to solve that problem turned out to be Pain. If the government emphasized Pain, then it could claim that the large and hasty things it was doing – sort of overriding public deliberation or doing an end-run around it or otherwise short-circuiting or avoiding it – were simply the necessary things that a doctor – say – would do in an emergency room with a gravely ill or injured patient; or like when the Fire Department can axe down doors and walls in order to put out a fire. Nothing more.

But then the idea of Fear entered into things. The Latvian thinker Judith Shklar, who wound up in Harvard in the mid-1950s and had lived through Communism and Hitler, thought that “cruelty” was the greatest of life’s abuses, especially when governments exploited “inequalities of power”. So, she thought, there was an upside to what she called the “liberalism of fear”: by raising people’s level of fear, they will bond together and under the processes of constitutional democracy will assert themselves against government cruelty toward them and so limit government’s abusiveness.

You can see that she was making some complex sense here.

But, as so often happens when vote-desperate politicians and specific-agenda ‘revolutionaries’ read complex thoughts, they reduce them to snippets convenient to their purposes.

The use of ‘fear’ to mobilize folks sort of stuck in their minds.

Which wasn’t such a big leap: Joseph Goebbels had masterminded the manipulation of fear in public opinion in the 1930s.

Nor do vote-desperate politicians and specific-agenda ‘revolutionaries’ take the trouble to follow things through, conceptually or historically. As the history of World War 2 demonstrated rather clearly, Goebbels’s project did not work out so well in the long run; and conceptually you’d have to really wonder how a Nazi method of manipulating public opinion could ever be grafted onto America’s deliberative, democratic process.

But as I’ve said, these are the type of advanced-level deliberations that to vote-desperate politicians and specific-agenda ‘revolutionaries’ merely represent ‘thinking too much’.*

So Pain and Fear were blended together into a potion designed to manipulate public opinion and neutralize democratic process.

Along comes the Right – which by 1980 and the dawn of Reagan’s era had already started reaching out to America’s religious fundamentalists (as a counter-weight to the ‘secular liberalism’ of the Left).

And thus a third element was poured into the potion: Evil. The Left hadn’t used it because it really wasn’t interested in ‘god-talk’ at all, and indeed sought just the opposite.

But the Reagan-era alchemy was to unite both Left and Right: Evil caused Pain and people should be in Fear (because then the government could step in, like fearless vampire killers saving the hapless villagers or like the cavalry saving the settlers).

And as I’ve mentioned in previous Posts, the prosecutors saw a huge upside: a Victim would give the awful economics of prosecuting (SOMEbody has to get blamed for this and get put away) a sympathetic human face.

The result was an even more Extreme agenda, once again neatly masked as merely the good-Mommy government responding to the public's Fear and an ‘emergency of Pain and Evil'

First We saw the Satanic Ritual Abuse trials of the early-1980s. These represented a blend of the feminist focus on sexual matters (and its queasy antipathy to ‘men’) with the fundamentalists’ equally burning concern about ‘weird sex’ and satanic Evil, and found ready reception among the large numbers of American parents – single, married, or whatever – who were more and more leaving their kids in day-care.

The result – in this reputedly enlightened and modern America only 20 years ago – were cases of adults being convicted of sexually abusing day-school tykes according to Satanic rituals, or in ways that somehow involved dragons, aliens, and other unworldly beings.

Even as the vast majority of those cases were ultimately (years later) overturned upon review the Clintons arrived in the White House. This created an opportunity for not only Legislative but Executive support for radical 'deconstructive' and radical-feminist initiatives. Indeed, nowadays the feminist-friendly historians refer to the 1990s as the golden age of Governance Feminism, meaning that radical feminism’s favorite agendas were incorporated into law with Executive support by supporters of the feministical agenda within the government itself.

This was the era of the first Sex Offense Mania laws and their siblings, the equally Constitutionally dangerous Domestic Violence laws.

And as the SO community may well realize, these laws are Extreme from any serious Constitutional point of view.

In the Domestic Violence laws, a Citizen can now be deprived of liberty and property simply on the ex parte word of another person; is presumed to be guilty and must prove himself (so often a ‘him’) to be ‘not’ dangerous (which is a logical impossibility); in the matter of charges that are so elastically and vaguely defined that they are almost impossible to specifically rebut; and may well face a ‘special’ court specifically erected to make sure that persons like ‘him’ don’t hide behind ‘laws’ or ‘the Constitution’.

Equally insidious, these proceedings are classified as ‘civil’, not ‘criminal’ so the usual Constitutional Protections do not so robustly apply. Although if you violate the court’s Order against you, issued after these proceedings, then that is a crime, and by that time you are doubly whammed.

And I have rehearsed at great length on this site the Constitutional violations conceptually erected into law in the Sex Offense legislation. Which, neatly, sidestep not only public deliberation but legislative deliberation (a matter of public record) by the use of voice-votes to pass them.

Although, when the matter of public opinion arises at all, it is a public opinion shrewdly and largely stampeded by Fear of Evil. Although again, the Fear is based on grossly inaccurate Findings and assertions about ‘sex offenders’.

And the growing public awareness and unease about the laws was countered – again shrewdly – by an intensification of the focus on ‘children’, who would replace the more amorphous ‘victim’ as the government’s chosen ‘face’. Yet the laws remain aimed at ‘sex offenders’ generally regardless of whether ‘children’ enter into the case at all.

And as you saw in my recent Post on Wisconsin State Senator Lazich’s remarks, the whole stampede shrewdly avoids focusing on the populations that statistically (even by the Justice Department’s own findings) are the overwhelming source of child sex-abuse: the parents and families and friends-of-the-family whom the parents bring into the children’s life.**

Fear, of course, catalyzes folks into extreme behaviors. That’s part of the evolutionary purpose of Fear: it stimulates non-ordinary responses to what is perceived as an extraordinary threat.

These developments constitute an Extremism that is now not simply a matter – as in Goldwater’s formulation – of a Chief Executive’s predilections to use awesome power inappropriately. These developments constitute an Extremism that is corroding the fundamental conceptions and strictures built into the Constitution itself by the Framers.

And in saying all of this I no more ‘support sex offenses’ than John Adams or any of the New England or ‘Northern’ signers of the Constitutional instrument ‘supported’ slavery in 1787 (Adams was not an official delegate to the Constitutional Convention).

So I point out that Fear by its very nature breeds and requires Extremism.

And that Extremism is something that is antithetical not only to deliberative democratic process but is itself anti-Constitutional by its very nature.

And that consequently , We are in a heepa’ trubble.

So keep up the good work.

Especially since, as I have also mentioned, while a government that is ‘succeeding’ is – as the Framers saw – still capable of turning on its own people, a government that is ‘failing’ is even more liable to do so: a government’s own citizens – or some subset of them – are always ‘easier’ targets than foreigners (for whom you have to call out the military and drag the valuable cannon all over the shop).

And if there’s any characterization that may rightly describe the government these days, it’s ‘failing’ – in soooooo many ways.

Let Us therefore brace Ourselves to Our duties and so bear Ourselves that if this country lasts a thousand years, history will still say “This was their finest hour”. (With thanks to Winston Churchill; capitals mine.)

Take heart in your efforts and keep up the good work.


*The noted commentator Leon Wieseltier, a senior Editor at ‘The New Republic’ magazine, shares his thoughts about Washington and the Beltway in the March 25th issue (p.40): “These are shabby days in the capital … for there are no heroes here now … there is almost no courage in the political class any right now … everybody is transfixed only by their numbers … the instinct for self-preservation has routed all the finer instincts … there is no longer any dignity in in loss, if you lose a fight for a just cause; if you lose a fight you are merely a loser …”

**Once the illusion of this emperor having any clothes on is dispelled, it becomes immediately clear that according to the Sex Offense Against Children’s own conceptual logic and according to demonstrated facts, the vast majority of the ‘voters’ (whom the pols are trying to pander to and stoke up with Fear) are the real threat-population to ‘the children’.

But to admit that and act upon it would wreck the entire political purpose of the SO Mania. If you’re trying to manipulate ‘voters’ into supporting you out of a knee-jerk reaction to Fear that you have purposely stoked, then you don’t want to go and label those exact same ‘voters’ as dangerous threats against whom the entire frakkulous weight of your (anti-Constitutional) legislative agenda will be aimed.

No. Easier to blame ‘strangers’ – even if you have to infer a totally incredible picture of regiments of slavering feral ‘sex offenders’ loose in the land, in broad daylight.

And on a deeper level, the pols are playing not only on Fear, but Guilt. Because a lot of parents (married, unmarried, single, or what-have-you) don’t or can’t make the time to get deeply involved in their kids’ lives. (Which is an unintended consequence and result of both ‘cultural’ and economic factors that the pols have themselves introduced: ‘family’ and ‘marriage’ and indeed ‘adulthood’ have been ‘deconstructed’ and there are now far too many people needing jobs for the amount and quality (barristas, temps) of jobs now remaining.)

So, in a classic example of the abnormal psychology of mass societies, the guilt that many child-raising voters feel is ‘displaced’ onto the Evil Monstrous Sex Offender. And by supporting the Sex Offender Mania, a child-raising voter can feel that s/he is ‘taking care of the children’.

Future historians are going to shake their heads in disbelief. Just, I would say, as Americans after World War 2 used to shake their heads and wonder how the German people bought into all that Nazi baloney. But they did.

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