Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Apologies for interrupting my Nussbaum series – which will continue.

But I know I have mentioned the1986 book entitled “The Politics of Victimization” by Robert Elias, then of Tufts University.* And it seems to me that this relatively early, now quarter-century old comprehensive discussion of the field of Victimology (the name formally given to it by its proponents) is vital to my purpose of helping the SO community grasp just how significant their work is and also to give the community deeper historical understanding of where this whole SORNA regime is coming from.

This will be a series of Posts. I will simply proceed through the text of the book, quoting a relevant bit, and then commenting on it. This will minimize the need to actually have the text accessible to you while you’re reading the Post.

So let’s get to it.

In his Preface (dated January, 1986) Elias enumerates his three goals: i) to analyze victims “politically”, in terms of their newly found (or re-discovered; see below) influence in international politics; ii) “to provide an introductory overview of crime victims and victimization” for which “we” now have forty years of “victimological writing and research”, though “most of it emerging in the past twenty years” [thus, since 1966]; iii) “this book proposes a broader victimology that transcends officially defined criminal victimization [italics Elias’s] and rather “traces the relationship between victimology and human rights and advocates a ‘new’ [quotation marks Elias’s] victimology of human rights including victims of both crime and oppression”. (p.vii)

You can see here that in the eyes of its early proponents, Victimology was first of all some sort of ‘science’ buttressed by ‘research’ – they were very confident of what they were saying when they made their many assertions (and indeed after 244 pages of text Elias will append 140 pages of Notes – comprising hundreds of footnotes that report thousands of articles and ‘research’ and ‘scholarly articles’).

Second, you can see that the movement initially got started in the immediate postwar period as a concern for persons around the world ‘victimized’ by the loss of their human rights through the actions of governments that did not conform (and here’s a tender point for Multiculturalism) to the Western concepts of what government should be like and what rights people ‘naturally’ have (and here you can see a tie-in with Nussbaum , and also how such talk of natural-human-rights would be a sore point for radical-feminism, since it seeks to be ‘secular’ AND to avoid any and all thought or talk that involves a ‘human nature’ – since such a concept would support ‘gender stereotypes’, ‘essentialism’ and such).

Such loss was called “oppression” in Victimology, and was distinct from the victimization wrought by having a crime committed against you.

And you can see where Elias is not completely happy with the American variant that got itself all wrapped up with crime-victimization; this was a process already noticeable to him in the mid-1980s, although the great triumphs of ‘feminist law’ or ‘governance feminism’ – such as the Domestic Violence and SORNA regimes and their ‘reforms’ – were still half a decade in the future.

He would have no doubt have watched the course of the Satanic Ritual Abuse Child Day-Care trials as they proceeded (although perhaps by 1986 not yet have seen the ultimate discrediting of almost all of the convictions (Massachusetts, site of both the Salem Witch Trials and a heavy concentration of academic and professional radical-feminists, still refuses to accept the discrediting of its day-care staff convictions and the trials that brought them).

Elias had worked previously with the Vera Institute in New York (which, if memory serves, released an impressive Report on the problems with the SORNA regime in the past several months).

While there he “began recognizing the political uses of victims beyond the humanitarian rhetoric, and how victim initiatives very often reflect ‘symbolic’ [quotations Elias’s] politics with little tangible improvement of victim rights or assistance”. (p.viii)

But then he gets a little more complicated: “I began seeing the rights of crime victims as intimately connected to broader human rights concerns, rather than to the American law-and-order initiatives which seek to promote victim rights by restricting the rights of defendants and the general public” [italics mine] (p.viii)

But as I mentioned in a Note to an earlier Post, Elias is trying to be both an ‘objective scholar’ and a scholar ‘committed to the cause’ … and those two roles don’t sit easily in the same person very often. We will see two ‘voices’ in this book of his: a detached and often acutely observant voice, and then an emotionally involved (and less skeptical) voice.

He starts off Chapter 1 by quoting the American cultural commentator, Philip Slater: “One of the first goals of any society is to make its inhabitants feel safe”. (p.3) This is true enough, but in the American vision this is only the pre-planting spadework: the government keeps the ‘field’ clear so that the great creative power of The People, individually but also as working in their own way toward the common weal, would have wider scope for action.

Otherwise the government becomes Hobbes’s Leviathan, necessarily exercising all power and primary power in the society in order to keep order and provide ‘safety’ (and, no doubt, taxing the populace heavily in order to finance its protective and perhaps preventive tasks) – and such a Hobbesian vision is hell-and-gone from the American Experiment as the Framers conceived it.

“Americans are a frightened people”, he observes. (p.3) Yet in addition to what would be classified and reported as crimes, there is also a roster of unrecognized ‘crimes’ such as “consumer fraud, pollution, unnecessary drugs and surgery, police violence, censorship, discrimination, poverty, exploitation, and war” and” not only at the hands of individuals but also by governments and social institutions, not to mention the psychological victimization brought by our own insecurities”. (p.3)

It should be clear that Victimology is a worthy effort to analyze the problems that beset human beings. It should also be clear that even in its non-American variant with the American concern for ‘law and order’ Victimology’s concerns cannot easily be translated into policy by a Constitutionally limited government.

Because this listing of woes is a Menu of all the woes that beset humanity and a Recipe for a government that would need the wisdom and power formerly ascribed to God in order to ‘prevent’ and ‘protect’ from all these harms (and you can choose your poison: National Nanny State or National Security State, but equal poisons they are).

“We often understand victimization very narrowly”; “we accept superficial explanations and solutions that perpetuate standard clichés and ignore the political roots of victimization”. (p.4)

And then he asks a series of questions: “What if crime victims have been backed by interests that may care less about victims and more about other goals, and promote policies that may create more victims not fewer? … What if crime waves, media coverage and official crime statistics had little to do with the real victimization level? … What if we found our fears and insecurities about crime [are] artificially manipulated for political purposes? … Suppose We discovered that most people commit crimes, and not just certain groups? What if the real career criminals were corporate offenders, not common criminals? … What if we found that victims have often been offenders before, and vice versa? … What if we discovered that we were as likely to be victimized by a friend or relative as by a stranger? … And suppose we learned that victims served important political and symbolic functions in criminal justice which better explain official concerns for victims than humanitarian impulses? … What if we learned that victims often support anti-crime policies that will not reduce crime, and may increase it?” (all p. 4)

And even more acutely: “What if we found that crimes provide big business for people we consider legitimate entrepreneurs?” (p.4) Which raises the specter of the cottage-industries of ‘science’ and ‘research’ and ‘therapy’ in regard to either victims or offenders.

You can see how American victimism has developed with only a verrrry selective culling of Victimology’s comprehensive concerns. (And yet how that selectivity has supported, as We shall see, such Constitutionally dangerous regimes as Domestic Violence and SORNA).

“Suppose that we discovered that defendant’s rights received as little protection as victim rights and, in any case, had little to do with victim prospects in criminal justice?” (p.5)

“Suppose we discovered that some forms of victim advocacy had numerous ulterior motives, goals, and functions that rendered tangible assistance [to erstwhile victims] either secondary or irrelevant?” (p.5)

This is not a complete list of his questions; others raise some of the (to me) more dubious of Victimology’s concerns, which will be coming up later on in the Post. But you can see that at least in this ‘voice’ Elias is willing to raise some acute points indeed.

He is concerned here with “the crime victim’s new resurgence in the last two decades [1966-1986]”. But he notes that “most victimological literature pits the offender against the victim, emphasizes the criminal’s supposed ‘paradise’ of rights, protections, and programs, and bemoans the victim’s fate by comparison “ … while a different strand of the literature “does quite the opposite, emphasizing victim precipitation and implicating victims in their own victimization”. But Elias will “examine the great amount we have learned about crime victims, but we will not blame victims, nor will we blame offenders”. (p.6) And he thinks that in their way both groups are victims.

I think We have seen enough of the ‘scholarly’ and ‘research’ literature to know that Objectivity is no longer considered a good career path for far too many would-be ‘scholars’. But you can see where so much of his concern has come to frakkulous reality.

He will consider in this book not only “common” crime but “corporate” and “state” crime (and so you see why Victimology has been so verrrry selectively deployed over here). He is going to consider all crimes against human beings, against “humanity” and will “wed victimology to human rights”. (p.7)

In the subsection of Chapter Two entitled “The Evolving Victim” Elias lets some serious cats out of the bag.

“The crime victim’s role has changed dramatically since primitive times” (p.10). This warns you that your historical understanding is going to have to go back to the cavemen, because in Victimology’s self-history it was back then – certainly before the coming of organized governments and their police and enforcement power – that the ‘victim’ enjoyed a far more enhanced status and role and respectability than in modern times.

He puts it oddly: “Prior to social organization, people merely took the law in their own hands and avenged their victimization unconstrained by outside interferences. Victims extracted personal reparation if they had the strength. Victim retaliation served as the earliest form of social control, albeit an unorganized one”. (p.10) But that “merely” makes it sound either easy and OK or else somehow ‘primitive’ – yet it is back here in the “primitive” social beginnings of the species that he locates the heyday of the victim’s status.

Of course, the dangers of going after and perhaps revenging oneself upon the wrong person, or without full knowledge of mitigating features, were part of that primitive world … and it wasn’t pretty. And actually there were no ‘laws’ as We know them, because there were no governments to make such rules.

As things began to develop in human societies, “rather than a completely disorganized system of personal revenge, a system of reparations began to center around kinship-groups”; those groups might start a blood-feud if a member of another clan did not make reparation to a victim of the first clan; and – good grief – “clans might launch pre-emptive raids, thus victimizing to prevent their own victimization” (which makes you wonder just how far current US foreign and military policy has taken Us back to the cave-men). (p.10)

“Gradually, alternatives to perpetual retribution arose, largely to reduce violence and feuding”; things get up to the Code of Hammurabi and its requirements for restitution. And by the Middle Ages (and in the West, under the influence of the Church as a cultural and political as well as religious influence) courts had now been sufficiently developed that there were “judicial duels” in front of judges rather actual vengeance violence. (p.11)

BUT in Elias’s view this is where things began to go wrong. Crime (he also equates it too easily with “sin”) “became an attack on society” not merely on the actual victim. This would have been clearly signaled by the development in England, among other places, of ‘the King’s Peace’ – which when broken resulted in affronting the Crown (which in Medieval theory was responsible under God and to God for protecting the subjects under its royal authority). (p.11)

And with a legal system developing, in societies ruled by royalty and aristocracies and a nascent class of merchants and bankers, then such law would be bent toward preserving “dominant interests” (a bit of Marxist and Continental insight, not at all inaccurate, but like any volatile acid, it has to be handled carefully). Until, “eventually”, crime came to be viewed “as an offense against the state, not [against] the victim” and “victims had substantially lost their criminal justice role by the end of the Middle Ages”. (p.11)

I suppose that was an inevitable trade-off: if the burden of restoring a balance post-crime or post-tort was going to be undertaken by the Crown, then the Crown was going to become the major player. Conceptually, as long as there was room for recovery through compensation, it wasn’t such a bad deal for so-called victims: you were saved the risk and expense of going out and enforcing your own revenge, but also the moral corrosion that accompanies any act of violence, especially a vengeful one.

But ‘revenge’ is a powerful motivator – and an attractive one; and it can become only more powerful if a social movement ‘valorizes’ the status of Victim. It’s one of the moral hazards – as they say – of being a Victim in a victimist age. And powerful motivators are, by their very nature, just the type of easily-ignited herd emotions that political manipulators know can start stampedes in public feeling and opinion.

Naturally, the question arises in your mind: so does the re-emergence of ‘the Victim’ mean a regression of Western Law back to the Middle Ages? Elias doesn’t address the point, although the SO community by now has seen enough indications that such indeed has been the case with far far too many of recent legal ‘reforms’.

But Elias has two voices so you never can tell what he’s going to come up next. He recounts some recent (1986) crime literature and TV police-show themes: they either revolve around some form of ‘blaming the victim’ or else “the other extreme often emerges … [that] appeals to the public’s bloodthirstiness for revenge”. It is this latter that Elias thinks “may be the unfortunate symbol of the crime victim’s new emergence”. (p.15)

But given what he’s hoping for – that return to the Middle Ages – it may well be the most accurate if unpleasant consequence of the entire Victimist movement, at least in its American ‘crime’ variant. But then, Elias has said he is trying to weld or bond together the human-rights and crime variants of Victimology, so he himself is an active player in this gambit.

He raises the interesting observation that in a country of ‘rugged individualists’ and ‘winners’, there will be a natural tendency to see a victim as a ‘loser’, and this is especially true for those who call attention to their status as victim. And he goes on to recount many feminist observations clustered around the view that ‘women’ are culturally vulnerable far more than men and are – in the domestic setting – actually somehow ‘culturally legitimate’ potential victims for male crimes against them. (p.16)

In the subsection ‘An emerging Victimology’ (p.17) he recounts “scientific developments” that supported the current Victimology. An American attorney had conducted an informal study of clients in the late 1930s and had coined the term ‘victimology’, constrasting ‘criminality’ with ‘victimity’ (though, reflecting his interests, he did not contrast ‘criminality’ with ‘law-abiding-ness’).

But it was in the late 1940s that humanitarianism, especially as catalyzed by the new United Nations organization, stirred many to dream of “a world free from war, violence, ignorance, poverty, and disease”. (p.18) Let me say right here: you have to stop for a minute and contemplate the almost manic and ebullient optimism of the late 1940s: that any generation of human beings could imagine that they were somehow in a position to eradicate the greatest and most perennial scourges of humankind “within our lifetime” or “in the next XX years” … it’s touching, it’s inspiring, but from the vantage point not only of half a century and more later but also of an SO community that has seen where such manic enthusiasm (combined with much ulterior motivation on the part of many ‘players’ involved) can lead, and what stunning and alarming damage can be caused in a Constitutional and democratic Republic.

And of course, the ‘world’ mania of the late 1940s became the American mania that began with the Great Society under LBJ and in one form or another persisted into the time of Reagan’s ‘law and order’ and ‘fundamentalism’ and Clinton’s ‘governance feminism’ and their meshing under the banner of ‘the victim’ (and later, more intensely manipulative, ‘the children’).

In the 1950s and 1960s, in Europe and in the Commonwealth nations, the humanitarian Victimology began to share attention with a ‘criminal’ Victimology, and in 1973 a specifically Jewish variant was developed in Jerusalem during one of the international Victimology conferences that would see the foundation of an organization and an international journal, entitled “Victimology”. Ominously, when the first international general “Victimology textbook” was published it was entitled “Crime Victims”. (p.19) And you know where things went from there.

But then he gets into the political side of the thing. “While victimology progressed professionally and academically, and while it helped promote the victim’s interests scientifically, the victim’s status reflected various political developments as well.” (p.19) And the first thing I’d say right off is that he is being far too generous in his assessment of the Victimology movement’s ‘achievements’: a few conferences in international venues, some credentialed scholars who had to use passports to get there … these do not a highly-established and well-Grounded movement and theory make. Ditto his generous use of “scientifically”, especially when the SO community has seen what ‘science’ can do in the lead-up to the Mania and in the various legislative Findings and assorted court Decisions and Opinions.

But then the politics comes in – and in America, especially after 1968 – the political is vital as motivating and sustaining element.

He starts with the conservative ‘law and order’ reaction to the Warren Court’s many Opinions in favor of the defendant and against the government in its police power. The Warren Court’s “backlash” was against the nationally-televised police of the Jim Crow South throughout the mid-1950s and early 1960s assaulting freedom demonstrators brazenly and openly; clearly a police power that was this arrogant needed to be rebalanced, and the Warren Court began to pay more attention to defendant rights (the defendant presumed to be – you could say – the ‘victim’ of the government’s arrogant and misused police power).

But by the time that such Opinions began to take hold in the mid-Sixties, the drug, sex, and booze anti-authoritarianism of the Summer of Love Boomers, plus the in-your-face anti-authoritarianism of the blacks of the Northern cities, on top of a quietly intensifying ideological anti-authoritarianism of the developing radical-feminist movement … all had combined to help create an alarming and intensifying disregard for the law, especially in cities.

But, the way I look at it, the government at that time had what I call the Abe-Lincoln-in-Illinois problem: Southern Jim Crow police had given the government police power a verrrry baaaaad image; if the government were going to flex its police power against ‘crime’, it would need a new ‘face’. That face, I contend, was ‘the victim’: a telegenic and script-friendly element who could be put forward in front of the cameras: thus, instead of media focus being on the deployment of the frightening police power, it would be on the reason for the deployment of the frightening police power (that helpless and violated victim).

And while the nation’s Blacks had morphed from the ‘innocent’ and well-intentioned’ and non-violent and even well-mannered ‘victims’ of Dr. King’s era into the in-your-face, Kill Whitey activists and ‘revolutionaries’ of the late 1960s, the ‘new’ victim was the essence of helplessness and violated innocence, reflecting an impressively shrewd grasp of the principles and dynamics of political framing in the service of public manipulation.

And so it went.

With stunning quickness, the Jim Crow police and Southern prosecutors ceased to be the face of the government police power, as the New Victim’s aura raised them up out of the Southern swamps of Jim Crow into the shining realms of professionalism, purity, integrity, and the service of Justice.

And of course – not to get ahead of Elias here – the defendant was also transformed (or rather, deformed) by the orbital change achieved by the New Victim: where only a Moment before the arrestee was the ‘defendant’, with Constitutionally enshrined rights, he (almost always a he) was now ‘the perp’ and ‘the offender’, a permanently evil class of Other dedicated to the overthrow of American law-and-order and the peace of mind of the New Victim. And, potentially, weren’t all Americans potential New Victims now?

The Reagan Administration quickly hoisted sail to catch the wind, convening The President’s Task Force on the Victims of Violent Crime in 1982, supporting the Omnibus Victims of Crime Act of 1982 and the Crime Victim Assistance Act of 1984. About the Act Elias says: “it ignores human rights victims – at least in the American setting – instead championing crime victims with a new dose of conservative, law-and-order rhetoric. (p.21)

He concludes that observation by opining that “Victimology’s ideological and scientific future may depend on whether it responds to conservative, parochial interests or progressive international forces”. (p.21) Now I think he’s identified the right dynamic here: the pull of domestic politics can deform any program.

But he’s betrayed a bias, and a profound one: he has set up a two-axis either-or comparison: either “conservative, parochial [and domestic] interests” or “progressive international forces”. What this leaves out – and for a long time dulled awareness of or opposition to what was developing under Americans’ noses – was so-called ‘liberal’ domestic political influence.

Because what really went on in the Reagan years was an exercise in ‘bipartisanship’ on the advocacy level: the radical-feminists, enjoying the Correct cover of being on the Left and therefore (everybody presumed) ‘liberal’, made common cause with the law-and-order Right.

The National Nanny State and the National Security State wind up, for police-power purposes, to be sisters. And this was the major alliance that underlay the victimist movement as it developed here: crime-oriented, casting the female as eternal victim while casting the male as eternal sexual aggressor, moving into ‘registration’ (bad in itself) as a form of ‘prevention’ (preventive law is like preventive war), and at all points requiring a tremendously elevated level of public fear, and that fear based on the manipulative misinformation of shoddy advocacy ‘science’ and ‘research’.

And then, of course, the feminist ‘woman’ and the victimist ‘New Victim’ merged … and like a Southern California wildfire, the several individual fires merged to form a Megafire.
At the point he’s writing, and perhaps given his own preferences, Elias here does not notice (or choose to notice) the deep Constitutional threat emerging from the Left.

Elias then takes up the many ways Victimology has contributed as a “science” (p.21): I’ve already pointed out that once you are into the realm of post-1960s ‘advocacy science’ you have to imagine you are getting lectures on oil-drilling from BP ‘house scientists’ and make the necessary subtractions to their claims.

But I also have to point out this howler: “by promoting victimization surveys, [Victimology] has helped reveal the actual victimization level, explain non-reporting, and clarify the ‘dark figure’ of crime existing between official statistics and victim experience”. (p.21)

This ‘survey’ method is now a well-established advocacy gambit: there is no way to determine whether the respondent is telling the truth, no way to sift out exaggerations and distortions in the ‘self-report’; and no ‘advocate’ would want to question the survey method’s objective validity because the ‘survey’ offers the huge benefit of a reliably ‘useful’ and ‘friendly’ report that also appears to be simultaneously ‘scientific’ and ‘empowering’ and ‘sensitive’. Neat.

The respondent is under no legal obligation to tell the truth whatsoever, and many do not consider any professional or moral responsibility to Truth or Objective Fact; the respondent is often ‘self-selected’, volunteering to ‘tell her (so often) story’ or selected through affiliation with an already known and advocacy-friendly group; the respondent is primed either before encountering the survey or perhaps by the survey-taker, so as to ensure peak – and Correct – emotional ripeness; and the survey itself has been carefully constructed to lead the thought and emotional patterns of the respondent in certain desired directions.

The self-reporting survey, part of what the professional communities call ‘anecdotal evidence’ is the least-trusted of professional methods for getting at facts and truth and forming a reliable picture of whatever you are examining.

BUT it has become a stock-in-trade of organized advocacies, and precisely for the same reason that the professional canons reject it: its validity is highly dubious. And worse, it can either convince or provide a convincing ‘excuse’ for legislators to participate in hasty, ill-examined ‘stampedes’.

And given their subjective and emotional derangements, self-surveys also contribute to the sense that there is a lot more of the subject-matter going on ‘out there’ than may actually be the case.

And when you then add to the number indicated by the surveys the statistical method of ‘extrapolation’, then you start reaching astronomical figures for the incidence of your subject-matter concern: so for example, you take the number of cases ‘reported’ in the surveys and then multiply by 10 or a 100 .. giving you a Mega-Figure that exists nowhere in reality. On the basis of this Mega-figure, derived from a ‘scientific’ methodology such as the self-survey or the survey, you can scare folks into sitting on their hands as you scare or lure public-watching politicians into passing laws based on the emergency ‘proven’ by your Mega-figure.

And if you ever run into persons honest enough to try to suggest that the number of incidences of your subject-matter concern are actually lower than you claim, you can always point to “the dark figure”, your Mega-figure, and simply claim that the vast majority of incidences in the country are not-reported and thus the total of incidences is ‘under-reported’.

Neatly, since there’s no way of validating their claims, there’s no way of knowing how many of these surveys or self-surveys ‘over-report’ – to put it charitably. But it also means that information gleaned from surveys (somebody asks you the questions in person) or self-survey (you answer the questions from a sheet of paper or computer screen) is verrrrrry close to ‘spectral evidence’, the old Medieval term for evidence that only the ‘victim’ could see and nobody else could, but which the court and the onlookers were supposed to accept as irrefutably true.

And in listing what he sees as some of the achievements of Victimology, he gives another bit away: some victimists consider that a court-confrontation with the (alleged) victimizer is actually the ‘property’ of the victim and the victim cannot be deprived of that ‘property’ without due process so the courts must allow the victim such an experience. (p.21)

You don’t have to imagine the Salem Witch Trials, with the alleged ‘victims’ screaming and writhing on the floor, to wonder what useful legal purpose is served by such drama. But of course it is one of the founding tenets of Victimology that the ‘victim’ must be allowed to ‘speak’ about victimization.

This, I think, can be traced back to the immediate postwar era, where international Victimology was making the case that populations under the iron heel of tyrannical governments must be allowed to tell what the world would otherwise not be able to know.

And surely the Holocaust survivors were included among such persons, since the world could hardly conceive of the experience imposed on millions of human beings by the Nazi regime and there was an indisputable need for the world to be informed as to just what had happened, since what happened once could happen again.

But when you try to apply this principle to standard legal proceedings in a democracy where folks are pretty much informed as to what goes on, then this whole principle turns sour like milk taken outside on a hot August day for a picnic.

The reason for this, I think, is that most folks know the major variations on the themes that constitute the roster of crimes being tried in your local court-house. As a matter of keeping informed – as the world needed to be informed of this new Nazi method of exterminating millions – the world needed to know of the Holocaust.

Of course, the problem for many Holocaust rememberers nowadays is that the world has made a note and is on the lookout; hence there is a problem keeping up ‘interest’ and ‘memory’ of the Holocaust as a conceptual possibility that the world needs to keep an eye out for.

But in a local court setting, there are few new conceptual revelations; the focus shifts subtly but hugely FROM the public’s need to be informed of some never-before-known type of crime and TO the individual victim’s ‘need’ (or ‘right’, the Victimologists would insist) to tell his/her personal story: the public forum of the court-setting is somehow psychologized into part of the ‘closure’ process.

This starts sliding back ominously toward the tremendous personal satisfaction (yet also morally and psychologically dangerous) of slamming your club personally onto the head of your alleged victimizer back in the caveman era.

Nowadays (as Elias has lamented) there are legal professionals, employed by the State, to make the determination of guilt and do the punishing. Leaving the alleged victim with no role except – as Victimology demands – the alleged victim getting a State-sponsored chance to ‘tell a story’ of personal pain, injury and indignation.

And the purpose is not to enforce the law – the State is already in the process of doing that – but rather has devolved into a personal psycho-emotional ‘need’ of the alleged victim. This is a form of ‘psychologizing’ the process, a signature symptom often noted in modern American society by such commentators as Christopher Lasch and others.

You can see where the application of the ‘international Victimology’ principle of giving silenced peoples a ‘voice’ so that they can inform the world of a threat (or, perhaps, an ‘outrage’) takes a queasy turn when applied – as it has been in America – to quotidian court-trials.

But it gets worse: since Western courts, following the genuine developments in Western law (objectivity, careful assessment of reliable evidence), had been precisely attuned to avoiding ‘spectral evidence’, then the introduction (or, historically, the re-introduction) of ‘emotion’ and ‘spectral evidence’ actually regresses Western jurispraxis to a darker era out of which it had – with much blood and tears – emerged in the 16th and 17th centuries.

AND in a Constitutional republic whose Framers precisely sought to avoid the arbitrary and mis-applied exercise of the government police power, then such a dynamic is bound to exercise a corrupting and corrosive influence on the entire process and on the agents sworn to administer the process and deploy, on the basis of that process, the sovereign police power.

Yet this American-type of application of the Victimology method, into what I call ‘victimism’, in the setting of American courts, is precisely what has happened.

And it has blended with many of the hallmark tendencies (and demands) of far too much ‘feminist law’ and ‘governance feminism’: overriding all of the classic and genuine Western and Constitutional legal reforms in the service of ‘reforms’ that are actually ‘regressions’ to much darker and – as Elias implies – less civilized times. Hence, alas, rules of evidence designed to prevent ‘spectral evidence’ that only the accuser can ‘see’ or ‘know’, the unleashing of ‘emotions’ back into the careful analytical process of the court and trial, the removal of statutes of limitations specifically erected to acknowledge the unreliability of evidence as it degrades with the passage of time … all of these new ‘reforms’ constitute the dismantling of the actual and genuine legal progress made centuries ago.

This is a hugely dangerous road to travel BACK down on. It is profoundly inadvisable to undertake it except for the most urgent reasons. (And pandering to the psychological or emotional desires of individual persons, while politically desirable in a short-sighted sort of way, is hardly such an ‘emergency’ or ‘urgency’.)

But to do so and simply ‘frame’ it or ‘spin’ it as cutting-edge reform and great ‘progress’, pooh-poohing or waving-away the potential dangers as ‘backlash’ or ‘insensitivity’, is grossly whackulous.

(And you could see the same dynamic at work as the Bush-era Beltway embarked on preventive and invasive war – itself a regression from the careful diplomatic principles of the Westphalian progress made in Europe in the mid-17th century ; it was precisely this same dynamic, now migrated from American law to American foreign policy and military strategy. With monstrously awful results, many ill-consequences of which will prove irreversible.)

AND I note also that the period of the 16th century, the beginnings of what is known as the Modern period in Western history, was clearly a period of huge progress in the growth of Western law and its taming of the ancient beast of unrestricted government power. So that much of what has been imposed in the past 40 years as ‘progress’ and as ‘new’ are really only disassembling (or Deconstruction) of those great achievements. And a lethal disassembling, no matter how ‘good’ the intentions.

And this is also much similar to the 1999 American repeal of the Glass-Steagall and other legislation designed as a result of the Great Depression of 1929 to prevent such financial catastrophes from happening again. The repeal was touted in 1999 as cutting-edge legislation to give room to the ‘newly-developed’ financial sector. And yet within 10 years of that 1999 repeal, in 2008, the nation’s economy suffered a lethal catastrophe which (it is beginning to dawn on some folks) will actually prove to have been a major watershed moment in the permanent loss of American economic primacy in the world, if not indeed a permanently reduced and perhaps even non-viable political position).

So Victimology, certainly as it has evolved (and been mis-applied) here in the United States, in the service of certain ‘advocacy’ interests, has spread beyond the original infection site to derange almost all the major vital systems of the nation.

So much for now.


*My copy is the paperback version put out by Oxford UP in 1986. It bears the ISBN 0-19-503980-7. It will be unwieldy to include both Chapter Titles and sub-headings as well as page numbers, in case you have a different edition. I will stick to only using page references when I make quotations, but for especially important points I will do so.

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