Friday, July 30, 2010


We continue reviewing the 1986 book entitled “The Politics of Victimization” by Robert Elias, then of Tufts University.*

Summing up what he sees a Victimology’s contributions, Elias writes that it “has provided new methods for understanding victims (who had long been ignored), but also crime generally. It has allowed us to view crime as a totality, and to fill criminology’s many gaps. Beyond its scientific achievements, it has also made a normative contribution … Aside from being at the forefront of developing new victim services and assistance, it has helped spearhead a new political movement for victims.” (p.22)

The “new methods” rely on a highly dubious combination of surveys and self-surveys combined with ‘advocacy science’ extrapolation of those numbers by persons whose credentials are not always impressive for the task and whose primary objective is not to discover existing Reality but to Shape a new Reality. Which is much in keeping, coincidentally, with the entire Revolutionary approach: you have a vision and a pretext for ‘whatever action it takes’ to bring your vision’s agenda to fulfillment.

The ‘victims’ had been “ignored” – and for quite a long time – because the concept of Law in the West had evolved beyond revenge and emotionalism and toward detached and objective assessment of provable and relevant facts so as to a) prevent the misapplication of the sovereign police power and b) to prevent society continually being wracked by private and personal vengeance.

And you can look around today and see that with the re-introduction of the victim-focus – coincident with the commonality-fracturing adoption of Identity Politics – both (a) and (b) are now back in full swing.

But I do support the “victim services” which in their basic efforts help persons unfamiliar with legal processes to get through the complexities of law enforcement process and especially court process.

Many of those “gaps” were the things put aside when the West shifted away from a vengeance-victim mode of enforcing law. So in this area Victimology has not introduced new ‘change’ but has actually re-introduced old and discarded elements.

And in best how-to-sell-your-product style, its supporters – Elias clearly among them – have selectively emphasized the positive while neglecting the negative and dangerous, and then he works hard to ‘spin’ the whole thing as purely-positive and a Great and Good New Thing.

And of course the final giveaway is the proud assertion that Victimology has not only provided a conceptual basis and justification for all this, but has actively “spear-headed a new political movement” – which is clear warning that there will be precious little detachment and objectivity in the ‘research’ and that there is a greatly heightened potential for partisan spin in the service of manipulation and deception of the public. But, as always, all in a ‘good cause’.

But then, immediately after those statements, Elias puts his objective hat again (halfway, at least) and lists the “drawbacks” (p.22) About the elements that have been “faulted” by outside critics he states: “Methodologically, [Victimology] has gathered data from very varied sources. Information culled from statistics, victimization and self-report surveys, case studies, archives, experimental and quasi-experimental studies, anecdotal reports, and participant observation has vastly enriched our victimological data.”

Note that this is a sly defense of some verrrry dubious ‘research’ procedures. The statistics have been extrapolated in many cases; the self-report surveys, anecdotal reports, and participant observation mean simply asking certain persons about their ‘story’; and in regard to the studies: the experimental have been conducted by ‘advocacy’ researchers (of whatever level of expertise and competence) and the quasi-experimental indicates a ‘study’ whose structure and methods did not conform to accepted professional standards in some or many ways.

And it is my personal habit nowadays never to easily-accept the use of the word “rich” in any of its grammatical forms, especially when accompanied by an exaggerated adjective or adverb (such as “vastly”).

I’d also note that much of what he describes that seems to be mere ‘story-telling’ conforms closely to the early and radical feminist “epistemology”: that women (somehow) process information with their emotions rather than the (male) mind and reason, that they are therefore not ‘abstract’ or ‘detached’ but rather emotionally involved in what they ‘report’, and that ‘narrative’ and story – rather than the male ‘argument toward facts’ is an equally valid, if not indeed much better, way to get at ‘facts’. Which ‘facts’, feminist epistemology would continue, do not exist anyway but are merely conditioned-observations stemming from a tainted, patriarchal habit of perceiving events that do not in any case participate in any ‘reality’ independent of the viewer.

Whew. What that last bit boils down to is that when dealing with the Six Blind Folks and the Elephant Problem (six folks unable to see come into tactile contact with the very different parts of the elephant: tusk, trunk, ear, legs, body, and tail) then feminist epistemology will decide that the Elephant doesn’t exist in the first place since there are such differing reports about it. Which is a colossal mistake that the ancients in the East chose not to make millennia ago and that the Greeks, with their efforts at analyzing according to the best and most proper use of their Reason and their mind, also avoided millennia ago.

Such ‘progress’.

He then neatly adds that the really substantive objections are that Victimology (in its criminal justice variant) doesn’t have enough data, when really, he insists, Victimology has far more data; but, as I have said, most of that ‘data’ is not professionally acceptable ‘data’ at all, but merely a collection of unverified and often unverifiable ‘stories’ that constitute ‘feelings’ which no outside observer can verify and that therefore constitutes that ‘spectral evidence’ that fueled and lethally deranged the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. (p.22)

Then he neatly includes objections from the Left – that Victimology has not gone far enough: there are suggestions that Victimology should “break the shackles of criminological methodology by devising new theories and by applying an open systems approach to our inquiries”. (p.22) But this suggestion really means that Victimology is still trying to be too ‘scientific’ according to ‘professional standards’ that are themselves too ‘patriarchal’ (meaning: detached, objective, insistent on careful and replicable investigation and assessment, and careful to make sure that its conclusions do not outrun its evidence and logically proceed from the evidence). The SO community is verrry familiar now with ‘science’ that has followed that ‘suggestion’. **

Other complaints – again from the Left – want to see ‘rape’ explored differently, freed from the shackles of evidence and more accepting of ‘story’, since the traditional criminological practice “favors the offender’s perspective”. Again, the SO community is familiar now with where such suggestions can lead a government and a country. ***

Indeed, the final complaint-suggestion he mentions is that Victimology “has unnecessarily constrained itself within traditional criminology’s boundaries, adopting the same conservative mentality”. (p.22) And that “conservative” means that the suggesters don’t accept the ‘old’ approach of the scientific method: formulate a hypotheses, carefully gather untainted data, assess the data objectively and carefully, and make only such conclusions as the data and the evidence will support.

This is not the way of Revolution and of Revolutionary ‘science’ where you already know what the real truth is and your job is simply to throw out a few ‘facts’ that ‘prove’ that the Revolution is right.

And again, the SO community nowadays is verrrry familiar with the results of that sort of thing.

He then neatly and subtly shifts from crime-Victimology to international-humanitarian Victimology, stating that the Soviets (this is 1986 and they are still the world’s bogeyman) have chosen to hew carefully to ‘traditional’ criminology in defining victims, so as to avoid a too-broad definition of ‘victim’ that would indict the Soviet system for humanitarian crimes. (p.23)

Placed right after Elias’s lengthy discussion of (American) crime-Victimology, a reader may well be seduced into presuming that to insist upon ‘conservative’ standards of criminology is to ‘do the same thing the Soviets are doing’ – which is a frakkulent bit of misleading manipulation. But you can see here the same type of illogical but meaty sensationalism that has been taken to stunning extremes in the SO Mania even as it masquerades as mature and professionally ‘scientific thinking and research’.

But then he mentions something a bit more objectively: “Some writers have so strongly embraced conservative, hardline criminal justice policies that a broader victimology would be a contradiction in terms”. (p.23)

What he is saying here is that already by 1986 American crime-Victimology has been embraced by the conservative-Right. BUT WHAT HE DOESN’T NOTE is that the same policies were not only embraced by, but pretty much implicit in, the (radical-)feminist thinking from the Left or putatively ‘liberal’ end of the spectrum. But in those days, and to some extent still nowadays, folks pretty much assume that if it’s coming from the Left-liberal side then it must indeed by ‘liberal’ and for ‘the individual’ (as opposed to ‘the government’) AND THIS IS NOT TRUE AND NEVER HAS BEEN.

Rather, radical-feminism has always been for the individual woman or for women as a class (there’s much argument within the Movement itself about that).

AND in the interests of the individual woman or women as a class this allegedly ‘liberal’ Movement welcomes – indeed demands – the intrusive and robust deployment of the government power, both its legislative and sovereign police power. Thus, as I have said, the National Nanny State and the National Security State both lead to the same anti-Constitutional place. And a hellish place it is indeed. As the SO community can now well attest.

He wraps up this section with the thought that “finally, several writers have suggested that victimology fills important gaps, which now allows criminology to finally establish itself as a science”. (p.23)

But those “gaps” are precisely there because Western Law had evolved beyond Medieval and caveman laws of victim-vengeance. And also because Western Science had managed to grow beyond emotionally biased and unverifiable ‘evidence’ into the realm of objective, detached, verifiable evidence that can prove to any rational analysis the accuracy and truth of its claims and assertions.

But in making this skewed claim he is proceeding from the assumption that without ‘the victim’ criminology is not a “complete science” (p.23) – and THAT is simply not true at all. It was in getting BEYOND the primacy of the victim’s age-old role that Law and Science actually matured into the actual Law and Science that fueled so much Western development and progress over the course of the past several hundred years. (And No, I will not allow a 1990-ish Multiculturalist assertion of all the West’s failures – and there have been more than a few – to trump my statement.)

He then tries to use attorney Benjamin Mendelsohn’s 1930s do-it-yourself analysis of “victimity” to justify the expanded role of the victim. Mendelsohn did raise some interesting observations – but that’s a long long way from creating a comprehensive and verifiable Theory upon which huge (and anti-historical) changes should be rapidly imposed upon a major Western nation’s legal system (which is precisely what has happened in this country in the past decades, simultaneously with the rising political influence of radical-feminism). (p.24)

Proceeding from Mendelsohn, he notes (1986) that “feminist victimologists have invoked international human rights standards in examining female victims, such as victims of sexual slavery”. (p.24) But in the American crime-Victimology setting, such a deployment of international standards is hugely fraught because America’s radical-feminism presumed without doubt that marriage, the Family, and even sexual relations themselves constituted a form of institutionalized ‘dominance’ and ‘oppression’ and for all practical purposes ‘slavery’. And the SO community can see here the clear foundations of both the Domestic Violence and SORNA regimes, as well as the foundations of the on-going assault on Marriage and Family.

“Some [thinkers]”, he notes, “argue that certain cultures, such as capitalist culture, may impose a structure of victimization”. (p.24) And you can see here not only the queasily Marxist core of much of this type of thought, but also its sensationalist yet sensationally inaccurate ‘thinking’: surely Soviet society, hardly ‘capitalist’, imposed victimizations far more glaring upon its citizens and captive peoples.

This is not to say that the ‘capitalist’ approach doesn’t require human beings to subject themselves, to some extent, to some form of systematic self-denial and self-Shaping in order to function within it. But ANY large human social system, seeking to organize itself for self-sustainment, is going to require some of that. To define victimization so broadly as to define any self-Shaping and self-denial as ‘victimization’ is a rather huge conceptual error, and would require an earthly government to assume the responsibility for (and power to deal with) perennial and built-in dynamics that have logically manifested themselves whenever the human species has tried to achieve higher-than-individual organization. (Recall, for example, how even the work or spiritual growth ‘communes’ of the Flower-Child 1960s resulted in their own types of quasi-tyrannical organization … think, for instance, of the Bhagwan).

So Elias here is setting up a self-licking ice-cream cone in best Pentagon fashion: you define a problem so fuzzy yet thus so theoretically huge and profound that just about ANY social phenomenon can qualify as part of the ‘problem’ or ‘emergency’ that you want to address, and thus that you will never ever lack for ‘proof’ and ‘evidence’ that the ‘problem’ that keeps you in business exists. And, thus, that the government – if you can get it to pay attention to your demands – must always do more, do ‘whatever it takes’, to ‘solve’ the problem … which is by definition impossible and so the government keeps trying and you keep demanding and … on and on and on. The SO community sees this now every day.

And it sounds more and more like Vietnam as you read along in this book.

And THEN he makes a remarkable suggestion: that governments as well as individuals are “victimizers” and that therefore Victimology should “study larger categories of victimization”.

Which gets me to thinking that the Beltway embraced radical-feminist supported crime-Victimology not only to pander politically to a group whose votes it had decided were worth the trouble, BUT ALSO to deflect any larger Victimology examination into the role of government-as-victimizer. In that sense, then, ‘men’ and then ‘the Sex Offender’ quickly became – in Leniinst-Stalinist terms – the ‘Necessary Enemy’ and – in Biblical terms – the Scapegoat who would have to be sacrificed in order to prevent worse things from happening. And you can see where THAT has gone (and is still going).

He concludes this Chapter: “At one time crime victims virtually monopolized criminal justice. Over time, law enforcement became a shared activity, and finally victims lost their role almost completely. By the mid-1900s victims had been formally excluded from criminal justice for several centuries.” (p.25)

That “one time” constituted all of the pre-Modern era in Western Law and Science. The crime victims in those pre-Modern days had “monopolized criminal justice” by seeking their own vengeance against whomever they had decided was guilty of ‘victimizing’ them – much like the Wild West in settlements before sheriffs and judges and juries had been set up; or lynch-mobs in place of or opposed to such agents of Law.

To say that the crime victims “lost their role almost completely” is to say that Al Capone and his colleagues “lost their role almost completely” when Prohibition was repealed.

Slipping back into his ‘international Victimology’ voice, he admits that “victimology’s most significant drawback might lie in confining itself almost exclusively to criminological boundaries … despite its broader origins”. (p.26)

He means two things: first, that Victimology still allows itself to be ‘confined’ by all those professional and objective standards of research and analysis that radical-feminists assert are merely oppressive and patriarchal obstructions designed to keep the ‘dominant males’ of human society on top (as it were).

Second, that international Victimology, while respecting the American (and radical-feminist) variant, should not abandon its larger analysis into entire cultures and structures of societies and of civilization, and into governments’ role in oppressing various classes, groups, races, genders, and so on.

Can you imagine any earthly government NOT wanting to head that initiative off at the pass?

Perhaps by throwing the Constitutional ‘obstructions’ aside and delivering up whatever Scapegoats are demanded in order to save itself from itself falling under the gimlet but hyper-excitable eye of international humanitarian Victimology.

“Dear Sir: The government regrets to inform you that you have been designated as a Necessary Egg in the ongoing policy of whomping up a National Omelette. This will entail your entire life prospects and your very human integrity to be impugned by the full force and authority of the national government. But rest assured it’s all in a good cause and someday – though perhaps you yourself won’t be able to participate in it – the government will be proven to have been right all along. Have a nice day.”

If you get my drift.


*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.

**And again I will note that in the Era of Bush the Egregious, the government – long used to accepting these suggestions in domestic affairs – then applied the gambit to foreign and military affairs, “breaking the shackles” of Truth and the Constitution to drag the country into its still-raging (and unsuccessful) wars in Southwest Asia. And that in 1999 and subsequently, by “breaking the shackles” of the old 1930s legislation designed to prevent another Great Depression and by departing from Truth and Honesty, the financial industry, with the Beltway’s essential help, led the economy into a series of Bubbles that have wrecked so much now.

***A very great deal of what began as the highly dubious but highly touted (and, by the Beltway, immediately embraced) ‘feminist epistemology’ – meaning the feminist theory of knowledge and knowing – is deployed in Victimology, especially as Elias describes it. I use a great deal of that feminist material while discussing Elias; I haven’t put footnotes in, because it would require a lot of them. But if you wish to come up to speed on these matters, I recommend this article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy here, and also here, and this Wiki article here; you can always expand your research by following references and links in these articles or searching the internet via google or some other engine.

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