Saturday, October 30, 2010


As often happens in matters of philosophy, you find stuff in places you wouldn’t expect.

The Indian economist Amartya Sen has been developing a philosophy of government that would somehow help the still-developing nation of India address the poverty of its huge population.

You may recall his name; Martha Nussbaum, noted feministical philosopher here in the US, had been trying to use him as a basis for her own recasting of the American Constitutional philosophy of government in such a way as to make things more to the liking of assorted pressure-groups over here.

And in the Nussbaum essays that I have so far managed to Post, I had been making the point that somehow Sen’s economic thoughts had mutated over here into some sort of justification of the SO Mania Regime(s) – plural if you toss in the Domestic Violence Regime.

Which is NOT to say that you will actually find any ‘philosophical’ articles by SO Mania Regime supporters explaining at length how they justify their agenda and demands. As I have often said, the Regime is strangely bereft of several common elements of major, ‘successful’ and ‘progressive’ changes in national policy: legislators crowing to the general public that they supported it, philosophers who are happy to put their creds and status into an article explaining how justifiable and marvelously excellent it is, and public commentators who mention the Regime at all in any context whatsoever.

Nada, zip, zilch, nothing.

Anyhoo, here’s a piece in a recent ‘New York Review of Books’ article discussing Sen (who, to my knowledge, formally does not have and has never had any connection to the SO Mania Regime). The article is actually a review of a recent book by Sen, written by the philosopher Samuel Freeman.

Freeman starts by recalling one of the major recent philosophical positions that Sen disagrees with: John Rawls.

An ominously overnight sensation, John Rawls published his magnum opus “A Theory of Justice” in 1971, the same year that Alinsky published “Rule for Radicals” and the year before the Dems declared themselves the Party of Everything and Everyone (Except – unstated – White Industrial Males, the Women Who Agree With Them, and All Things Adult, Bourgeois, Middle-Class and In Any Way Traditional). 1972 was quite a year; if it slipped by you un-noticed, give some thought now back to “those thrilling days of yesteryear” (as they used to introduce ‘The Lone Ranger’ TV show in the ‘50s).

Rawls starts by imagining Citizens of good-will in “an original position”. This hypothetical Position would be that the Citizens did not have any prior notions of how society should be organized (no such humans exist or could exist beyond the age of 5 or 6, but Rawls is sorta blue-skying here, as the Dems then proceeded to do, and then the entire Beltway).

In this Position, Rawls was sure (no proof, he just reeely reeely felt strongly about this) that everybody would agree that if they were going to have a society, they would want principles of justice. I agree as far as the words go.

But then Rawls starts to blend his own dream in with the imaginary situation and Citizens: he says that the first principle of justice everybody was sure to agree with would be the “guarantee of equal basic liberties for all: freedom of thought and expression, freedom of association, equal political rights, and freedom of conduct with a right to personal property”.

Freeman notes that Rawls “crucially omits economic liberties such as the right to own and control the means of production”. There’s a reason for that, as We shall see.

I’d add that Rawls, even at this early stage of his scheme, has put some phrases in there that didn’t then and certainly don’t now mean what they appear to mean. Thus, for example, “equal political rights” doesn’t simply mean the right to vote, and ‘personal property’ doesn’t just mean your CD or record collection.

Ditto then as Rawls moves to his second principle: “fair and equal opportunities to develop their capacities and talents”. This sounds very nice but you don’t have to move very far into policy formulation (and the Dems wasted no time after 1972, nor did the groups pressuring them) before you are into deep, dark, and tricky waters indeed: where does ‘opportunity’ end and ‘luck’ begin such that anyone who hasn’t succeeded must merely have been the victim of some ‘bad luck’ or at least that everyone who HAS succeeded to some extent must have done so merely because of ‘good luck’?

AND if government is now going to get into the re-balancing business big time (especially since God was a hypothesis in the process of begin progressively Deconstructed) then just how intrusive was government going to have to get in order to reach down into the national doll-house and re-arrange the furniture – and even the dolls themselves? Just how far could the government go in re-arranging not only the schedules and track layouts but even the towns on the national toy train-table?

Rawls began by saying that “extensive educational and health benefits for all” were absolutely called-for, provided by the government. And who can argue with that thought? But the Devil was – and remains – in the details (where he has taken up a strongly fortified position).

So Rawls’s “difference principle” would demand that wherever there was a difference (in ability or in outcome?) the government would have to re-arrange things to ensure that persons were truly “equal” (in capability or in level of achievement or in worldly goods?), and that the least-‘lucky’ were never to be left unattended at the bottom of the heap. Decent thoughts indeed, although not where the Devil chose to make his stand.

Sen came up with a different approach: “Individual well-being can be objective measured by the access people have not only to goods, income, and liberties, but also by the variety of ‘capabilities’ that enable them to pursue satisfying lives”. Although I can’t see how a researcher – let alone a government – can objectively decide A) who has enough ‘capabilities’, B) what exactly objectively a ‘satisfying’ life is, and C) what has gone wrong if a person is discovered to be (or claims to be) suffering an un-satisfying life?

These are the type of problems you run into – that classical Liberalism has always run into – when you rely solely on purely human (and governmental) reason to figure out the complex mysteries of human existence previously left to ‘God’ or ‘Nature’, and furthermore try to calculate your figurings out to several decimal places.

Government would be into guaranteeing ‘capabilities’ and compensating people for ‘bad luck’ that was verrrrry broadly defined.

So government would have to get verrrry involved in the case. Freeman uses the disabled as an example: it’s not enough for government to provide them with the equal resources because “in order to achieve the same state of well-being” they “require more to perform the same activities”. The ‘more’ – since this is a government-dependent Liberal (I am NOT using this word in the current, immature political name-calling sense) – must come from government’s authority to re-distribute or re-arrange society.

“Living a good and satisfying life, Sen argues, consists of engaging successfully in freely chosen activities against a background of worthwhile options and real opportunities.” (And perhaps you can start to see right here how this seemingly decent idea – although, without God or Nature, a government-heavy one – starts to become attractive to Victimologists and other pressure groups.)

Freeman continues describing Sen’s thought: “… our well-being should be assessed according to the ‘capabilities for functioning’ that enable people to exercise ‘effective freedoms’ to choose and do what they value or have a reason to value”.

Note here that ‘people’ is defined not as a society-of-people but as individuals who are simply all bunched together. Everybody may have a different idea – each guaranteed by government – as to just what it will take to ‘satisfy’ them.

Indeed, almost immediately, Sen lists some of the difficulties that will stand in the way of realizing his vision: “poverty, illness, disability, and the subjection of women, among other restrictions, undermine capabilities and deprive people of their effective freedoms to engage in [what they consider to be] worthwhile activities”. You can see where Victimology, operating in synergy with other pressure groups, quickly saw how to include ‘the consequences of being sexually assaulted or living in fear of sexual assault’ – which are two verrry different matters conceptually – as being the types of ‘restrictions’ that government, in Sen’s theory, must address with the sovereign authority.

Speaking of India as he knows it, Sen asserts that once restrictions (he makes no mention of the Victimology element, which is an American mutation) are ‘addressed’, then economic progress will become more possible for individuals (he doesn’t mention ‘families’ or any traditional groupings of individuals).

Sen’s ‘capabilities approach’, notes Freeman accurately, is currently one of the most influential approaches for “addressing issues of social, political, and global justice and human rights”.

As I had mentioned in several of the Nussbaum essays already Posted, the ‘sexual’ material has gotten into the American variants of this approach. Naturally, once government is required (in terms of this influential theory) to aggressively eradicate the ‘sexual restriction’ (sexual assault or fear of assault, however defined), then there is going to be some serious disconnect between Sen’s theory and American Constitutional principles (which, since he is dealing with India, is not a problem that immediately arises in Sen’s original vision).

Worse, in a very real way, is Sen’s refusal to appeal to “universal principles” that will ‘work’ and are ‘valid’ in any country and any period of history. While it is very understandable that he doesn’t want to limit Indian (and Third World or Developing World) efforts by some appeal to what the Developed World has done, he has effectively eradicated the influence of any Higher Law that could stand in judgment on any particular law or policy.

This may well help him sidestep the complexities of, say, Indian religious life and culture – Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim – but if applied to America such an approach works in synergy with the entire Postmodern thrust to Deconstruct anything that would stand in the way of whatever pressure groups demand in the way of what they see as ‘progress’. And the SO community has seen first-hand where that sort of thing can quickly lead.

Sen – following Rawls – would like to see “objective and impartial reason” replace any appeal to Higher Law or Tradition or Religion. This is classically Liberal. BUT curiously, it runs counter to the American radical-feminist philosophy that such “objective and impartial reason” is a ‘male’ thing and ‘insensitive’ to the ‘stories’ and ‘pain’ experienced by assorted groups.

WORSE, combined over here with Alinsky-ite assertions that the only thing that makes politics move is ‘organizing’ even if you have to take ‘the low road’ to do it, then what happens when Sen is blended into the American bubbling brew pot comes out to something more lethal and toxic than Sen’s decent insights and interesting theoretical formulations would lead you to expect.

And, really, Sen runs into the problem that all Liberalism has run into: among humans there is no purely objective and rational approach. The simplistic solution to THAT had been to make an appeal to Tradition or God, but if you apply that appeal simplistically you wind up with two unpleasant social results: first, every individual claiming to understand clearly what ‘God’s Will’ is and second, groups attacking other groups over what they insist is a misreading of ‘God’s Will’.

And a simplistic solution to THAT problem is simply to say (like the Six Blind Men and the Elephant in the Eastern myth) that there is no God or Higher Anything and that it’s all about who can muster the most political pressure (Marx, Lenin, and Alinsky adopted this ‘solution’).

A more balanced approach is to presume from the outset that human beings are indeed capable of reason and – if they train themselves and work hard at it – can muster at least enough objective detachment to work out consensually and democratically the social policies and laws that an entire society can live with.

But – most most regrettably, I would say – this option isn’t ‘sexy’ enough, requires too much heavy lifting, and since it relies on ‘mature voters’ usually doesn’t impress legislators and policy-makers as having enough of a constituency.


So We wind up with efforts to terraform society (and Citizens) from the top-down, according to the illuminations of whatever elites and pressure-groups can erect into law and policy. America as a large model train layout on a huge table and the elites and pols as the expert hobbyists wearing their little engineer’s hats and making train-whistle noises while moving all the stuff around to their liking.

AND Sen does follow Adam Smith in supporting a sort of political ethics that can be defended “in an open and free framework of public reasoning”. BUT of course, the Alinsky-ite vision utterly rejects such an approach, as have all the pressure-groups that have blossomed like kudzu in this country in the past 40 years. And the Alinsky-ite vision, as you can see in the series of essays I am Posting on Alinsky, contains a profound functional rejection of Constitutional and democratic politics and of The People as the functional Ground of political authority and wisdom.


Sen rejects Rawls because Rawls presupposes that there could ever be a society where most people just naturally want to do the right and just thing for everybody (and not just get some for themselves).

But then Sen – relying on Adam Smith – expects the same thing.

And in American society, where Deconstruction has been governmentally-supported and loudly trumpeted by various pressure-groups and their ‘cutting-edge’ and ‘transgressive-progressive’ thinkers for decades, there is now some real question as to whether a majority of Citizens can even grasp the challenges that lethally confront The People in this age of American democracy.

Again, as Sen refuses to accept ‘ideals’ or any ‘ideal theory’ in order to leave himself maximum room for ‘development’ in the Third World, he leaves himself with no judgment-point above the fray by which this or that policy can be evaluated. To use an admittedly extreme example or two: if most Germans agreed with Hitlerian policies in 1937, who then could stand in judgment on them? Or if most Russians by 1940 were so indoctrinated or cowed by Stalinist Terror that they could not speak and did not dare think for themselves, and there was nothing Higher than Stalin’s Will … then how could anybody stand in judgment?

As Freeman notes, it was John Locke’s vision that served as the Ground for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: “the people are sovereign; government originates in their consent; government’s power is fiduciary and exercisable only for the common good; citizens have inalienable rights justifying a right of resistance when violated”.

Alinsky and his pressure-groups cannot accept any of this. And while they claim only to ‘empower’, they introduce a politics of Suspicion and War upon those Citizens whom they have declared their Oppressors and therefore their Enemies (whoever is declared a ‘Have’ by whomever declare themselves somehow to be ‘Have-Nots’) … and you can’t keep a democracy with a politics built on this stuff.

Freeman nicely recalls Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech of August, 1963: his aspirations, presented to all Americans as a common goal, “were grounded in political ideals and ideal principles”. Further, says Freeman (as if, I think, he were specifically thinking of Alinsky!), none of this “could have been conveyed by focusing on practicable alternatives offered up by the status quo”.

But there, too, I think Alinsky fails Us hugely. Because part of the human ‘status quo’ is precisely a capacity to be persuaded or inspired to willingly ‘do the right thing’, as individuals and as a society and a polity and a commonwealth. You cannot – in the Leninist or messianic-Marxist mode – simply presume that ‘the masses’ are lumps who ‘just don’t get it’ and are violent lumpish brutes and on the basis of those huge and monstrous presumptions consider yourself justified in ‘waging war’ by whatever means available in order to bring about your idea of ‘progress’ or Perfection.

And to the extent that even Sen – as respectably alive to human suffering as Marx and Alinsky and King – somehow has to seek to do an end-run around democracy because people cannot be trusted to function as The People then – at least as his theories apply to the US – he must be most judiciously and carefully evaluated for the type of plague that is carried in the nihilism and angry urgencies of old European messianism.

And it is precisely those dangerous and lethal bacilli that underlie the SO Mania Regime – which, as I have said in earlier Posts, is not so much a free-standing if bizarre entity but rather was a first or trial run of a much larger and dangerous Theory of Government and of Democracy that can only serve to undermine the Constitutional polity and the entire American Experiment as it was conceived in 1787.

“Ideal theories” are precisely that, says Sen: un-worldly and un-real. Better to come up with something that will ‘work’. But I would say that nothing grounded purely in this-world can ‘work’ because the human realm, through the complex material-spiritual make-up of the humans who generate it, is itself somewhat ‘ideal’. Humans are capable of responding to ‘ideals’.

So when Sen, in Freeman’s view, considers the Constitution to be “ideal theory” and therefore unworldly and unworkable, then I think We are in a heepa trubble. Especially since I think a very large number of ‘prestigious’ progressive thinkers bombarded the Beltway with this ‘cutting-edge’ thought that the Constitution is nothing but an ‘ideal’ and ‘unworkable’, and that it would be better if the pols simply yielded to Alinsky-ite pressure and came to some sort of ‘deal’ rather than hew to any stupid old ‘ideal’.

The ‘ideal’ has been replaced by the ‘deal’ – and whenever that happens, you have to be verrry careful about the terms of such a ‘deal’.

The SO Mania Regime, I would say, is the result of such a ‘deal’, made by dismissing any ‘ideal’, and it was embraced by the Beltway and by legislators and jurists all around the country.

Freeman insists – against Sen – that “the abstract rights and principles of justice in the Constitution have a fundamental regulative role in American society, and also provide a primary basis for public justification and criticism of government”.

And Freeman gives you a little more philosophical exercise: “The fact that principles of justice are formulated for hypothetical circumstances does not mean that they do not apply to our actual circumstances”.

I’d go even further: the ‘hypothetical’ – meaning the ‘ideal’ – is not merely an exercise in imagination or fantasy. Rather, the ‘ideal’ is a very real dimension of the complex human, though not materially evident to the basic senses of sight or touch. To ignore the ‘ideal’ because you can’t see it or touch it is not being ‘realistic’ but rather being simplistic in the extreme. ‘Reality’, and the humans who inhabit this plane of existence and of spacetime, is only partly evident to material examination. Like an iceberg, an awful lot of it is ‘out of sight’ – but as they found out on the Titanic that night, you can ‘miss’ a berg and still wreck yourself.

Sen doesn’t hold with the High Definition of human institutions: if they don’t contribute to individuals’ satisfaction with the quality of their lives, then they are very dispensable and should be dispensed with.

You can imagine then, what they must have thought inside the Beltway, when Sen’s thought was presented, adapted to the American situation by the claim that a Constitution that somehow protects that ‘sexual restriction’ that keeps folks from fully being satisfied with their life is AND HAS TO BE dispensed with.

(And at this point, you can perhaps see why an awful lot of legislators would rather not have to discuss and admit that they indeed went along with the SO Mania Regime on the assumption that the Constitution needed to be dispensed with.)

Freeman will give you a chance to think about the classic Western philosophical Question about the relationship between the Right and the Good: can you pursue Right with such violent consequences that you destroy the very fabric of society upon which everybody’s Good life depends?

Let me take a bull by the horns here: this was precisely the problem that faced the Framers in regard to slavery and that faced Lincoln in regard to Abolitionism. Let me just take Lincoln: the Abolitionists said that Slavery was so fundamentally evil (and I don’t disagree) that the country could not exist a single moment longer with it and that to the extent that the Constitution somehow kept it going then the Constitution itself was a pact with Hell.

Even in the 1850s Lincoln (while a politician but not yet President) realized that you would destroy the fabric of the country and wreck the entire institution of American Constitutional Democracy if you simply tried to abolish slavery overnight with a declaration or even a law. (Indeed, it was the simple fact of his election, and no declaration on his part that he intended to abolish slavery, that moved so many of the slave states to secede and start the Civil War.)

Slavery was a Wrong and not a Right, but the commonwealth and the fabric of national society and the institutions holding it up, including the Constitution, were not at that moment Perfect and Right, but they were a Good (however imperfectly realized) and you would cause huge wrack and ruin by trying to quickly Perfect it by declaring Slavery abolished.

To the abolitionists this proved Lincoln was willing to live with Evil and therefore was a partner of Evil himself (he didn’t receive their full support until the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863).

You see the problem. How quickly can you institute Perfection if you have to balance the Right and the Good?

I think that it is a species of the Abolitionist mentality that has assaulted the Beltway in the past 40 years, and that was blended – on top of that – with Alinsky’s Marxist-revolutionary stuff about ‘war politics’ and agitating on the basis of unending ‘suspicion’. And I think all of that underlies much of the ‘justification’ for the SO Mania Regime.

Worse, since he is trying to actually influence the shape of a government that is still in its formative stages and a population that is hardly experienced in functioning as The People, Sen is focusing – and not incorrectly – on setting up a society and culture as well as governmental institutions, to replace an ancient and in some ways outmoded Tradition over there in India and much of the Developing World.

So he is not running the risk of hugely undermining an already-functioning polity in the way that is happening – and to great extent has happened – over here.

To assert that the rights of ‘individuals’ don’t count in the face of the great challenges may well be true, at this stage, in India. But to assert such a thing over here is to directly undermine the Constitutional ethos: this country is at a different stage of development and what might not cause so much damage to the established (and vitally humanly necessary) Shape of a Citizenry’s and a population’s lifeways and the Shape of their society over there, would most surely do so – and has done so – over here.

This, as Lincoln saw, is not a project lightly to be undertaken, nor ‘spun’ as purely ‘progress’ – there are huge and dangerous consequences. As We are seeing now.

Freeman gets down to it: he uses the example of Cheney and terrorism and Guantanamo (hardly far removed from the SO Mania dynamics). Surely, Freeman says, Cheney must have realized that “some Guantanamo prisoners were innocent bystanders swept up by a hasty dragnet during the heat of combat”.

And wasn’t the SO Mania Regime – which PRECEDED the Terrorism issue by a decade and more – precisely envisioned as an ‘attack’ by ‘Sex Offenders’ on American society and culture?

“But”, Freeman continues about Cheney, “he argues, in effect, that the abuses of Guantanamo were acceptable because they increased overall security”. Freeman continues: “[Cheney] might concede that there were gross violations of some individuals’ freedom and see this as a cost of the government’s policies; yet he would consider this cost to be outweighed by the greater good”.

This is a type of Utilitarian philosophical calculation: what’s good is what produces some good for the greatest number of persons. On that basis, Hitler in Germany in the mid-1930s and Mussolini since the 1920s, were both doing ‘good’. No Higher Law (‘deontological’ thinking, as it is formally termed in philosophy) existed to stand in judgment over what was being done by the governments’ policies in those countries. It is even conceivable that a strong Utilitarian could have justified the social and political and legal encumbrances laid upon the Jewish citizens of Germany in the 1930s and perhaps even – though it is repugnant to me – the Holocaust itself.

Freeman notes, accurately, that “Sen is sensitive to the criticism that individual rights cannot be sacrificed for gains to the greater good”. Sen tries to solve this profound difficulty (certainly for Western democratic and Constitutional thought) in his system in two ways.

First, Sen tries to say that he is not so much concerned for Utilitarian good but rather for people to have a wider range of ‘capabilities’. But of course, depending on how you define ‘capabilities’ you could wind up quickly with a verrrry intrusive government (exactly the problem Nussbaum runs into when she adds the ‘right’ not to be sexually anxious as part of the American variant of Sen’s Capabilities Approach).

Second, Sen tries to incorporate into his list of ‘goods’ that people should have a healthy experience of democracy. BUT those are just words, given that Sen is precisely trying to set up a government and indeed a culture that must almost by definition be erected over the heads of the Indian citizenry and population that pretty much has no experience of a fully functioning democratic polity and ethos.

So Sen really has no solution to his profound problem: you cannot have a democratic polity while simultaneously establishing by elite and government action – wide and deep – a cultural revolution that your population, by your own criteria and vision, has no experience of.

That’s Nussbaum’s problem over here too. Sen at least isn’t really working with American culture and society and Our Constitutional polity in mind; Nussbaum most certainly is.

Alinsky tried to solve it by reducing politics to ‘the low road’ and asserting cynically and nihilistically that Nothing Is Ever On The Level.

This is not a ‘simple’ problem. But to undermine the Constitution in order to make things more to your conceptual liking is certainly not a prudent let alone an easy solution.

But you see in the SO Mania Regime the product of the Beltway’s attempt to do just that.

As Freeman puts the problem clearly: “How, then, are we to address the inevitable conflicts that arise between maximizing good consequences (economic efficiency, overall happiness, or individuals’ capabilities) on the one hand and respecting individual rights and fair distribution and procedures on the other? Are we allowed to restrict the constitutional rights of a few (denying the rights of ‘enemy combatants to enemy combatants’ to habeas corpus and a fair trial for example, or the interning of Japanese-American citizens during World War II) that effectively guarantees the rights of far greater numbers to personal security and other freedoms?”

Notice how many possible areas of definition that “good consequences” might cover. And can ‘government’ address all of them and remain in its Constitutional bounds? And can ‘government’ effect a revolution of such magnitude without first putting these huge matters clearly and directly to The People?*

Notice also that in the SO Mania Regime (which, I note again, PRECEDED the ‘terrorism’ matter by more than a decade) it can’t so quickly be accepted the governmental ‘solution’ (the SO Mania Regime itself) can at all be accurate described as “effectively” guaranteeing any such security: there is more than enough serious assessment now that indicates that the SO Mania Regime is NOT contributing to ‘safety’.

So again: Sen’s ideas – put forward constructively to help Shape the economics of a still under-Shaped and still-developing polity in India and the Developing World – have profoundly destructive effects when translated into a civil/criminal legal forum in an already-established and fundamentally Constitutional culture and polity here in the US.

The trick was that the assorted pressure-groups here in the US went to the Beltway and cast their Identities as being pretty much ‘oppressed peoples’ as if they were Third World natives, and thus claimed that since Sen was doing such an impressive job with the oppressed peoples ‘over there’ then he could ‘simply’ be adopted whole-hog over here and the US would then also quickly and easily achieve ‘justice’ for the ‘oppressed’ over here.

And THAT gambit was hugely wrong-headed, both in its Content and in the Method (imposition and ‘spin’) by which the whole scheme would be foisted on The People without ‘wasting time’ for public deliberation and consensus-building. (After all, why bother trying to explain things to the masses who by definition ‘just don’t get it’?)

Freeman quickly notes that “in the event of extreme emergencies we must sacrifice some innocent persons’ rights to save the multitudes”. Yes, and those are difficult decisions and – you would think – thankfully rare.

BUT OF COURSE part of the ‘spin’ gambit was precisely to create an ‘emergency’ (think of all those Victimology ‘studies’ and claims and assertions and ‘statistics’) that actually didn’t exist, in order to create a public stampede and the conceptual ‘dust’ that a stampede raises, clouding everyone’s vision of what’s actually going on.

AND OF COURSE, it wasn’t just one such manufactured ‘emergency’ but an endless wave of them, as more and more pressure-groups saw that the Beltway had cut itself loose from the Reality Principle (or the Truth Principle) and would say Yes to just about any demand made upon it.

And the SO Mania Regime was one of those ‘manufactured emergencies’.

Because, as Freeman soberly reminds readers, “it’s important to maintain a distinction between extreme emergencies and the ordinary circumstances of social life”.

But that ‘distinction’ was and is exactly the speed-bump and firewall that the pressure-groups wanted to break down, and had to break down if they were to succeed in their Alinsky-ite project of bringing about the ‘change’ that they were so sure was a Good Thing.

And the Beltway went along with it.

BUT, Freeman continues soberly, “Sen raises the possibility of abandoning this distinction”. After all, Sen says, who’s to draw the line between “catastrophic moral horrors” and “bad social consequences that are not absolutely catastrophic but still quite nasty”?

Well, of course, in a functioning and long-established representative democracy the answer to Sen’s own question is that the elected representatives of The People – working on the authority of The People but thereby required in prudence to confer with The People – would be the ones to “say”, the ones to draw those distinctions between “catastrophic” emergencies and merely “bad” arrangements.

BUT that’s not how it has worked out over here, where the Beltway quietly decided on its own that it would be in its own interests to merely accept the distinction insisted upon by the pressure groups and then ‘spin’ the consequent policies as merely ‘changes’ and ‘reform’ and ‘progress’ and – anyway – that is was ‘merely’ a ‘response’ to an ‘emergency’.

And the SO Mania Regime is a result of that treacherous and hugely deceitful decision by the Beltway.

Because let’s face it: the ideas underlying the SO Mania Regime are wrong-headed and the policies those ideas would call for were wrong-headed and hugely imprudent … but they would have remained just that – odd and dangerously unripe ‘ideas’ – except that the Beltway embraced them and erected them into national policy and law.

Freeman concludes his thoughts and his review with a philosopher’s observation: that it seems to many folks as if ‘philosophy’ was nothing more than a “luxury” since the effects of this ‘idea’ as opposed to that ‘idea’ take “generations” to become clear. Since the consequences of ideas take so long to clearly manifest, many people – Americans especially, given the impatient and youthy make-up of Our culture – figure that things can be ‘speeded up’ efficiently and without ill consequence.

And surely the Alinsky-ite approach, following the revolutionary approach in which it is rooted, not only has no patience with long stretches of ripening time, but actually considers that such ‘delay’ is merely a failure of nerve and determination to create the revolution’s vision of a Good Thing.

And so We got the Stampede that created the SO Mania Regime.

I took this much time (mine and yours) to note all this in order to give you a wider and deeper awareness of how – as best I can make out – some perfectly respectable (if not totally accurate) ideas of Amartya Sen could wind up being ‘adapted’ in this country with such immediate and lethal consequences as the SO Mania Regime.

Ideas are funny things: if embraced by Authority, they can have huge consequences.

Which is why, as the world and societies become more complex, it is necessary for a People – especially The People of the American Constitutional polity – to become MORE informed and aware, rather than less. It’s not enough to figure that you’ve done your job by electing somebody to the legislature and letting them confer with ‘elites’ and do the things that have to be done.

As the SO community knows full well, and the Framers before them, human beings aren’t suddenly rendered wise and prudent by the mere fact of ‘election’ to office. They can make huge mistakes if not well-grounded and guided by The People upon whose authority they act.

So much remains to be done.


*I repeat here what I have mentioned before: in 1972, the year that the Democratic Party declared itself to be the Party of Everthing 'new', it lost the Presidential election 49 states to 1. So if I sometimes sound hard about the responsiblity of The People in this country, I recall here that in the one opportunity The People had to voice their opinion of where things were going, The People rejected it by the largest margin in American electoral history.

I think that one of the great hidden dynamics driving American politics in the past 40 years has precisely been to distract The People so that nobody would remember exactly what The People said so clearly in the election of 1972.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I’ve just finished reading the book “Try to Remember” by the noted psychiatrist Paul McHugh.*

He discusses, among other things, recovered-memory and the curious history of certain recent medical ‘disorders’ as they are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) that is – he regrets – the ‘bible’ of many mental health practitioners.

Since what he describes from his vantage point as a dedicated and highly-accomplished psychiatrist bears directly on the dynamics of the Sex Offense Mania Regime I am putting up a Post here (interrupting my Alinsky series which interrupts my Victimology series … I know).

A dedicated and competent professional, he recounts how in the 1980s he first came into contact with – was almost ‘ambushed by’ – the sinister growth of ‘deductive’ diagnosis. This means that the practitioner doesn’t follow the scientific method – which is ‘inductive’: you gather facts and then try to figure out an accurate explanation of what’s going on. Instead, deductively, you start from your own personal conviction (or ideology) of what’s wrong and then force whatever ‘facts’ you run into to conform to what you’ve already decided is – and HAS TO BE – the explanation.

It’s like choosing only to own a hammer and then deciding that it’s the only tool for every job and THEN hanging out your sign as a home-repair business and approaching any repair job as one that clearly MUST require the use of your hammer. Except that you are not some half-baked homeowner but rather a practicing professional in a field that everyobody expects to be ‘scientific’.

He noticed that he was encountering persons claiming to have ‘Multiple Personality Disorder’ (MPD) – believing that they were actually several or more distinct personalities in their one body. He did what he could to get them beyond that. But after a while, as he says, he stopped simply trying to save this steady flow of persons drowning in the river and started asking himself ‘Who’s throwing them all in?’.

This led him by a bit of detective work to a reputable clinician, a Dr. Loewenstein, who was asking patients if they ever felt there were parts of themselves that they couldn’t control (and who hasn’t had that feeling from time to time?) and then immediately assuring these troubled and confused souls that they had several personalities inside of them and thus were suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder.

There was absolutely no factual or scientific basis for presuming that such a feeling was a guaranteed indicator of any such thing as an ‘alter’ (another self besides the one you sorta know as ‘me’) let alone ‘multiple alters’. There were far less outré clinical explanations already well-established for dealing with a patient’s sense of loss-of-mastery or inability to control one’s interior or exterior life, feelings and/or behaviors.

But this clinician was convinced that such entities as ‘alters’ could and did exist. Worse, he had a ward all to himself at a Baltimore hospital where he gathered all these patients together, where they could set each other off like tuning-forks in a small room. And he restricted his selection of ward staff to only those who would grant “unequivocal support” for the patients’ beliefs that they had multiple-personalities (a belief that his own preconceptions had implanted in their mind).

McHugh asked for an appointment to talk to Loewenstein: it only lasted about 10 minutes, because when McHugh pointed out that the ‘diagnosis’ was based on an un-testable assumption; and that patient histories were ‘corroborated’ by un-testable anecdotal stories; and that there existed every possibility that such troubled souls might ‘manufacture’ material in order to please their prestigious doctor’s expectations and continue that doctor’s attentions … when McHugh pointed out these rather basic issues, he was quickly declared “too biased to be reasonable” and the meeting was terminated. McHugh, clearly, did not ‘believe’ and – I would expect – he ‘just didn’t get it’.

You can’t ask these types of questions, he was told, because you are asking for a sort of “x-ray” of the patient’s mind and that’s not possible. Precisely, McHugh responded: nobody can get a clear picture of what’s going on in anybody else’s mind and there are a number of possibilities that have to be run through, carefully and scientifically, before you can come to a diagnostic formulation.

No, he was told: the multiple-personality “made sense” of the patient’s story. Although this “sense” was only available to those who really did ‘get it’.

It gets worse. In 1973 a maverick psychiatrist, Cornelia Wilbur, had engaged the services of a reporter-ghostwriter to pen the book “Sybil”, allegedly about a woman who suffered from such multiple-personalities.

Worse than that, Wilbur went on instantly to assume that the only thing that could cause the development of the (mythical) ‘alter’ was – wait for it – childhood sexual abuse. And since most of the patients were female, then the perp was usually the father and – not to put too fine a point on it – a male.

McHugh began to get calls from men who, in that era, were suddenly being confronted by grown daughters showing up on the doorstep or in the living room claiming rather vividly that they had been abused as children. He started to be asked to offer expert opinions –ominously – in court cases, since more and more often these cases were being stove-piped (to use a phrase from the Bush-Cheney era of getting only the intelligence information they wanted to hear) right into the legal system.

The ‘evidence’, said these MPD aficionados, was simply “the revealing mental state of the patient”. In other words, the patient believes it so that’s all the evidence we need, not only to diagnose MPD but also to establish that some form of sexual abuse took place. (And of course, what was ‘revealed’ was exactly what a whole lotta ‘interests’ very much wanted to hear – see below.)

I didn’t pay much attention to “Sybil” when it came out as a book back then or – shortly thereafter – as a Hollywood movie.

But reading McHugh it becomes clear now just how marvelously (by intention or serendipity) Wilbur’s plot was positioned to harness the energies of, and ride the crests of, several very large cultural waves of that era: Youth was being ‘valorized’ just as ‘adulthood’ was being ‘deconstructed’; radical feminists were waging Alinsky-ite ‘war politics’ against Men and against Authority and against the Family and claiming that Men were sexually violent by their very nature and – in the view of some radical feminists – that all sex was rape whether it was intended to be or not; Victimology was just beginning to warm up to the ideas that Victims were being ignored, that their ‘pain’ (and their stories) must be ‘trusted’, and that skepticism constituted nothing less than re-victimization, and that instances of such outrages were 10, 50, 100 or more times as frequent as what was reported to the authorities or the media.

And on top of all that, the Beltway was robustly engaged in accepting every advocacy’s claim as true and simultaneously responding to their Alinsky-ite ‘pressure’ by making lots and lots of money available while also starting to monkey around with laws civil and criminal.

Wilbur had a male friend, also a psychiatrist, who happened to work at the National Institute for Mental Health, and – McHugh notes – by 1986 this sort of thing was established as a major focus of well-funded government ‘science’.

It is a sign of just how useful Wilbur’s book was that although the character of Sybil was said to have been sexually abused as a child by a mentally-ill mother, yet quickly the ‘classic’ scenario was morphed to being a daughter abused by a sane but rapacious father. And, as might be said at Santa Anita, they were off! And the band played on.

While McHugh notes that Freud (for whose intuitive and ‘gut’ approach with no scientific research to support it McHugh has scant regard) asserted that the core psychological drama is enacted within the individual, I would say that the combined effects of radical-feminism’s agenda and Victimology and a lot of government money transferred this to an ‘exterior’ battle with evil persons who victimize the individual and upset what was (presumably, if impossibly) a perfectly normal and utterly healthy life.

But Freud’s insight that the human family was in essence a seething swamp of human passions – sexual aggression, power-struggles for dominance and influence – was retained as the decade and the assorted advocacies went barrelling along.

And so too came the clinical ‘approach’ of “high suspicion, low skepticism” that grounded itself in no actual validated research data, but instead only in “assumptions, expectations, and fantasies” (on the part of the clinician even more than the patient).

The simplistic diagnostic equation ran something like this: Premise – all depression is caused by sexual abuse as a child; Observation: the patient is depressed; Conclusion: the patient was sexually abused as a child. He notes that this is nothing more than a travesty of the Scientific Method, and is based on nothing more than irrationality, illogic, and constitutes a gross betrayal of professional integrity and responsibility.

As McHugh pithily puts it: “don’t try to read between the lines until you’ve read the lines themselves”.

He notes that sizable numbers of persons began declaring themselves “survivors” although there was no evidence of just what it was they had survived.

I would add that it is a perennial human temptation to seek status to shore up one’s sense of self – and if you’re needy and desperate enough, by any means necessary or available. And this predisposition is not well-served by a culture that makes such status simultaneously ‘valuable’ and so easily achieved (you simply have to ‘declare’ it). This is NOT to breezily dismiss the possibility of sexual abuse but simply to observe how terribly fraught these matters are; and that they should not be played with any more than children or anybody else should be allowed to play with dynamite.

They declared themselves thus because, many said, their therapists had helped them ‘recover repressed memories’ – which, as I have always said, are things that constitute classic examples of ‘spectral evidence’ (visible only to the self-declared sufferer and not to any other person, clinical or judicial).

He was greatly discouraged when the American Psychiatric Association (APA; not to be confused with the American Psychological Association – also APA) did not quickly and effectively tamp down the growth of this entire clinical trend that included ‘recovered memory’.

What was happening here, I would say, is that these prestigious professional organizations were succumbing to the inherent organizational ambiguity of their objectives: on the one hand to maintain a certain integrity and competence among practitioners, but on the other hand to ensure as many lucrative employment opportunities and venues for ‘new’ and ‘cutting edge’ therapies as could possibly be construed as worthwhile. After all, every therapy that is officially denounced is some practitioners’ bread-and-butter. You see where this sort of thing can go. And there was lots and lots of government money if you were looking to solve the Correct problems.

And there’s the ‘professional’ and ‘scientific’ element ripe and ready for Stampede.

McHugh helped found the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, not simply out of concern for the integrity of his profession but also because by the early 1990s it was clear that large numbers of people were winding up in court and many families deeply disrupted if not wrecked.

But though the DSM was being revised at that time, its gatekeepers did not want to introduce the diagnosis of “false memory syndrome” since the proponents of buried-abuse and recovered-repressed memories were at the same time trying to bolster their increasingly-challenged theories and – indeed – were cagily trying to rename MPD as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) to distract the growing objections and give themselves a new lease on professional life (and profits). After all, the neat harnessing of multiple-personality, sexual abuse, and recovered-memories had proven to be quite a crowd-pleaser and certainly both government and media were robustly engaged with it.

Nor, I would add, are psychologists or scientists totally free from the usual foibles of the human mind and heart: thinking for oneself is a lonely business at the best of times. But in times of Correctness and Mania it can be positively dangerous (to your status, your employment, your career, your livelihood). And it always feels better to be part of the herd and even better - to be 'ahead' of the herd, leading the way. Yet being a 'wall-breaker' is not necessarily being a 'path-breaker', especially if the walls you are cherribly deconstructing are carrying and load-bearing structural walls and not just decorative or convenience room-partitions.

And for that matter, the busy and robust movement of a roller-coaster ride is neither 'travel' nor 'progress', though it offers some diverting fun if properly supervised.

McHugh notes that it is rarely if ever the case in matters psychological that A and only A can be the cause of B. There are usually many possible factors (C, D, E, F and so on) that might also be the cause of B, or a combination of those factors operating deep within the self in all manner of complex synergies.

The deductive approach – I believe that A and only A causes B and thus wherever I diagnose B then A must have been the cause – is illogical and cannot conform to the complex and subtle and variable realities of psychic causation. Patients must then be ‘helped’ (‘manipulated’ is more like it) to accept that the necessary ‘script’ happened to them even if they have no memory of such a script ever taking place in their lives.

Much better and much more accurate, says McHugh, to start with a focus on the patient’s actual problems in the Here And Now than to try to impose a script on an almost impossible-to-access ‘past’ set of ‘remembered’ experiences.

AND, he notes, his growing experience in court-rooms as a clinical expert was starting to demonstrate that once you let his deductive-presumptive approach into the court-room, you wind up with both 1) a presumption of guilt; and 2) the burden of proof being placed on the accused rather than on the accuser; and 3) the accused actually being assigned legally the logically-impossible task of proving a negative.**

Things didn’t get any better with the late-1970s explosion of a diagnosis called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.***

You had a ‘diagnosis’ given to something that is not a disease-entity but rather is merely a set of emotional and behavioral responses to tremendous pressures generated by your experiences. Worse, ‘pain’ – while it can be real, in the sense that it is ‘felt’ by a sufferer – cannot by easily validated or corroborated by an outside observer and in that sense its dynamics function with a queasy similarity like the old ‘spectral evidence’.

But it was clear by the late 1970s that the Vietnam-era troops, some of them, were having a bad time of it in their post-military lives, and something should be done to ‘help’. ‘Valorizing’ PTSD must have seemed a quick, direct, and politically popular ‘solution’.

As early as World War 1 in this country some professional observers from the new psychological disciplines had noted what they called ‘war neurosis’ in some troops; although there were popular public awareness going back to the Civil War when those veterans thus-afflicted were said to have a case of ‘soldier’s heart’. The Brits actually had a hospital set up under a psychiatrist named Rivers that tried to help suffering soldiers (mostly officers) regain their balance.

As should come as a surprise to nobody, the assorted movements and advocacies took what was an already dubiously-cast ‘diagnosis’ stemming from war experiences and quickly applied it to ‘abuse’ experiences and assorted other ‘victimizations’. McHugh will note later in the book that there is now a movement afoot, agitated by this and that advocacy, to get the next edition of the DSM to declare that clinicians no longer have to – or should – try to determine if there really is any conceivably valid ground for a patient’s claimed or reported ‘pain’. Rather, the simple fact of the patient’s declaration should be ‘scientific evidence’ enough that the diagnosis of PTSD applies. I will allow myself here the observation that this is actually heading toward a mutation of the PTSD diagnosis to ‘NTSD’: Non-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

You don’t need a college-degree to realize that if you basically allow the patient to determine the diagnosis you are A) increasing exponentially the risk of inaccurate diagnosis (of what is already a conceptually dubious diagnosis in the first place) and B) increasing exponentially a ‘patient pool’ that could keep a whole lotta therapeutic practitioners in business for quite a while – the perfect clinical ‘self-licking ice cream cone’, as the Pentagon contractors like to say.

Members of the SO Community will be very familiar with the deployment of the ‘incalculable damage’ assertion that grounds so many of the ‘Findings’ which, legislators claimed, created the Emergency that required the Regime.

And again and again and again, I am not denying here that some very real cases of sexual-offense trauma can create valid issues that require professional attention. But I also note that the country has now become ‘medication-happy’, as any tally of TV commercials for prescription drugs (‘ask your doctor’, which works out usually to ‘demand from your doctor’) for this, that, and every other ‘pain’ and ‘issue’.

In this regard, McHugh notes sadly as a lifelong practicing professional, that Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (the mid-19th century doctor, father of the Civil War hero and Supreme Court Justice into FDR’s first administration) noted acutely that his beloved discipline of Medicine was as susceptible to public fads “as a barometer”.

As McHugh found himself traveling all over the country in the 1990s he notes that prosecutors and law-enforcement personnel who would distrust a person’s claim of being assaulted would suddenly become utterly credulous if the person suddenly changed the claim to one of being sexually assaulted or raped. And he notes one judge who actually said that she expected the accused to prove that he did NOT do what he as accused of – which is a logical impossibility (and apparently basic logic courses are not part of the law-school curriculum any longer, or logic is no longer considered relevant to law and jurisprudence).

But there are occasional bright spots: in a Rhode Island case it was the prosecutors who moved to dismiss due to the “subjective character of the psychological data”. So something moved the prosecutors to recall the old ‘spectral evidence’ problem.

But the problem of “over-inclusive diagnoses” remains lethal in the DSM arena; the professional psychological community – true to Holmes’s ‘barometric’ observation – want to be ‘inclusive’ and don’t want to ‘re-victimize’ and so are tending toward accepting literally ‘whatever’ as evidence of validly diagnosable malady. And, I would venture, this will continue as long as the money holds out. And if not, not.

In a particularly acute observation, McHugh poses the hypothetical but quite probable question: But if it’s in the DSM, then it’s real, isn’t it? To which he responds firmly and clearly: No. A fact that courts – including the US Supreme Court – now realize in the matter of recovered/repressed memory cases.

It’s simply ungrounded speculation, and contrary to much of what is actually and validly known about human psychology, to claim as an Invariable Rule that Psychic Disintegration is caused by Repression which is caused by Childhood Sexual Abuse. The entire thrust of evolution, in order to protect and preserve the species, is that human brains are wired to ‘remember’ – at least in a general way; a species that couldn’t recall quickly whether saber-toothed tigers were good things or bad things wouldn’t get very far.

But specific memory remains a complex and hugely variable process: there is no evolutionary need for ‘photographic’ memory and the brain isn’t set up for it; many factors internal to you (your emotional state of arousal, your level of awareness and powers of observation) and external to you (the amount of distraction, the circumstances of tranquility or danger) affect what your memory records. Indeed, if anything, even if you have an I’ll-Never-Forget-It experience, there is serious question as to what a mind under great pressure is going to be capable of recording.

And which you then might be able to access at a later – perhaps much much later – date.

(I had an experience just last week: I had a flash-drive with important material on it in my briefcase on Monday. On Tuesday, rummaging in the briefcase, I couldn’t find it. Instantly, I was anxious. My mind – trying to be helpful – gave me two ‘answers’: first, on Monday I had stepped out of the car with the case and distinctly heard a ‘click’ as I walked away from the car but thought insignificant; second, my mind produced a clear and distinct image of that flash-drive lying among some papers at the coffee shop I had stopped into for a cuppa. I had two clear and distinct images (not to say ‘memories’). I went back to that town and the parking space and the coffee shop both yielded nothing. Getting back into the car, it quietly came to me that I had for convenience tossed my briefcase (the leather, open-topped kind that holds laptops) across the front-seat into the passenger seat. I looked down and there, in the crevice of the passenger seat, was the flash-drive. And yet my mind had – with the best of intentions, I am sure – given me two almost film-like images of ‘memory’ that turned out never to have happened that day.)

Nor is it necessarily established, McHugh goes on, that “one heals by remembering” – which is the mantra of the MPD proponents and recovered/repressed memory crowd and every group that finds their assertions somehow useful.

Clinically, you’re on much more solid and workable ground by focusing on the patient’s present complaint of behavior or feeling or thought and working through THAT – and THEN seeing if that hasn’t given the patient relief. Imposing a hugely dubious, not to say impossible, ‘script’ on the patient will run up bills, create probably more trouble and pain for the patient than s/he originally came to you with, and generally degrades not only the patient’s quality of self and life but your own professional integrity as a practitioner AND the overall integrity of the profession itself.

The “explosive phase” of the repressed-memory “craze”, he recalls, seems to have been at its height about 1994 (the Domestic Violence and Sex-Offense Regimes legislatively established, though court challenges hadn’t yet begun in earnest). He quotes an author who has researched that of the 250,000 licensed ‘therapists’ (a verrrrry broad term itself) that year, a quarter claimed themselves competent to offer “memory-focused therapies” (again, a verrrry broad term) and claimed to recover such memories in 34 percent of their roughly 50 female clients per year. Some math brings you to the rough figure of a million cases. And each case had several more persons attached to it, not infrequently as accused persons.

On the basis of questionnaires and surveys McHugh’s Foundation has done upon available official information, some characteristics of the group of accusers are: almost all Caucasian, 93 percent female, an average age of 32 years, 77 percent college-educated and working in professional, white-collar occupations.

Further, accusations were rare among this pool before 1985 but peaked in 1991-1992, declining down to 1999-2000 (which is around the time the courts began to back away from the validity of repressed/recovered memory … although the Sex Offense Mania Regime was by then performing the neat two-fer of almost completely overshadowing the equally misconceived Domestic Violence Regime and also picking up the slack left by the waning recovered/repressed memory craze).

McHugh raises the hugely intriguing and apt professional question: was all this the result of a ‘craze’ n actual illness OR a “craze in therapy”?

I would add the significance of the college-educated element: precisely the class that would have been exposed to the radical-feminist ideology as it infiltrated (is 'infested' too strong a word, d'ye think?) college campuses in the guise of this or that 'studies' course or department.

He then limns, ominously but informatively, recent jinks and jives among the MPD proponents. They have started now to spin themselves as “humanistic”, as if they were concerned for ‘people’ while clinicians trying to work according to established facts were merely ‘technicians’ concerned with ‘abstractions’ and ‘proof’ and ‘evidence’ and ‘research’ rather than with ‘persons and their pain’ (as if the two approaches were mutually exclusive AND as if the MPD proponents hadn’t caused huge human wrack and wreck).

Further they are trying to position themselves on the PTSD wave by talking about “betrayal trauma” as if it were a clinical disease-entity or constituted as awful an assault on the human being as direct combat experience or substantive disaster-level experience.

In that “betrayal” McHugh sees the continuation of the pervasive – indeed constitutive and indispensable – dynamic of “suspicion” introduced into psychology by Freud: you must always suspect that beneath any appearances of ‘civilization’ or ‘maturity’ in a person there is a deep, hidden, dark frothing mass of essentially sexual passion, repressed but active and indeed determinative in human behavior and motivation. Although this huge assertion of Freud’s is nowhere established by any credible scientific research.

(Curiously, I would note, Freud’s assumption that children are not immune from this because that’s how profoundly and quintessentially human the sexual-motivation is … this assumption of Freud’s was quickly ignored by assorted permutating advocacy positions in the scrum of politicking and political pressuring that has been an all-too-determinative dynamic in the on-going saga of all of this Sexual Violence and Male Sexual Violence stuff. The ‘Child’ is, for the purposes of those interests, an essentially pristine and pure and innocent (in the Victimology sense) entity – which is a vision that not even Freud would have accepted.)

And in this “persecutory psychiatry” as McHugh terms it I see as well the abiding political suspicion of Haves (out of Marx by Alinsky), as well as of Men (out of Alinsky by radical-feminism), and of Perps (out of Marx and Alinsky by Victimology).

The MPD proponents are now billing themselves as “traumatologists”, using a vague and elastic application of the PTSD diagnosis, while also seeking to have their former MPD diagnosis re-named Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Concerning their previously trumpeted assertions back in their salad days, these proponents are now claiming that their terminology was just “metaphor” and that they are victims of “misunderstanding”. And, no doubt, that in any case they ‘meant well’.

You can chart their course in shorthand as MPD to DID to PTSD as they continue to surf for a ‘place’ where they can set up shop (and continue billing).

McHugh concludes the book with a significant proposal for a new clinical classification system that I won’t go into here but is simple and well worth the read.

All patients resemble each other in their distress, he says, BUT NOT IN THE CAUSES OF THAT DISTRESS. Thus the DSM approach has been flawed from the get-go in trying to classify Symptoms rather than the possible Causes of that distress.

His new classification system would divide patients according to Causes: genuine brain deformity or disease; Dimensional Disorders (such as intellectual dysfunctions or overly strong emotions or extremes of introversion or extroversion); Behavioral Disorders (such as alcohol or drug dependence or abuse and hysterical illnesses****); and Life-Story Disorders (the cumulative consequences of maladaptive or ineffective emotional or behavioral responses to the challenges of one’s life and to distressing life experiences”.

In all patients, the goal is not only to ‘relieve pain’ but to do so by helping the patient develop and sustain a greater “mastery” over his/her life and thus over his/her self.

I support this approach strongly.

And I can’t help but notice how many elements in current American society are dismissive of the goal of ‘self-mastery’ – either because it is too ‘male’ a goal or because it doesn’t allow for the quick-burning political fuel so beloved of Alinsky-ite agitating and organizers of ‘pressure groups’.

So much remains to be done.


*Published by Dana Press, New York, in 2010. McHugh is a Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, and from 1975 to 2001 was Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, as well as Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

**You can prove a positive: if you can find one instance of your assertion, then you have proven it. So for example, if you assert that purple elephants exist then you need produce only one such elephant to prove your assertion. However if you claim that NO purple elephants exist, then – impossibly – you have to establish that no such creatures can ever be found to refute your assertion … and THAT task is impossible to achieve.

Thus it’s almost impossible to prove that you did NOT sexually abuse someone.

Which is a frakkulent gambit that has helped ‘keep up the numbers’ in the Sex Offense Mania Regime in all of its permutations and sub-variations.

***I’m going to have some critical observations to make about this PTSD diagnosis here. Given the state of public-discourse nowadays let me say here and now that I am NOT in any way making light of ‘the troops’ and the awful suffering that they face as a result of a decade of unremitting (and most unsuccessful) military operations. And it is the troops themselves who developed the lethally perceptive advice to ‘Embrace the Suck’.

****He uses ‘hysterical’ here in the formal, not the popular, sense. Formally, a hysterical illness is a deception practiced by a patient on him/herself, and NOT merely a conscious ploy perpetrated on others, and it is not a matter of conscious ‘pretending’. In response to a deeply-threatening perceived problem, a patient will pre-consciously develop a physical symptomatology that is actually a smoke-screen evolved by the patient to shield the actual problem from his/her own awareness.

The purposeful deception bit is formally termed ‘malingering’, which is a problem all its own.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I continue with an SO-specific look at Saul Alinsky’s 1971 book “Rules for Radicals”*. There is a corresponding Post on my other site here.

As I’d said, the Master Post for this 4th installment contains a discussion with all the page quotations, and you can access it here.

In this Post I will simply deal with the SO-relevant material.

His fourth chapter is entitled “The Education of an Organizer”.

Alinsky recounts some of the problems he had with training folks to be organizers. Labor organizers , he says, don’t make good Alinsiky-ite organizers: they were “used to set-piece, fixed-point campaigns but couldn’t handle the fluid and fast-moving operational milieu of ‘mass organizing’” which is “a different animal … not housebroken … no fixed chronological points or definite issues”. (p.66)

It’s strange, when you think of it, that the classic American labor-organizer, mainstay of the great labor struggles from the 1890s to the 1930s, wasn’t any good at what Alinsky was doing. But Alinsky was doing ‘revolutionary’ organizing, not labor organizing: there was no reality principle involved, no absolute focus on some quantifiable and palpable goal like so much for weekly salary and this right and that responsibility … all of which could be put in a contract.

Instead, Alinsky is looking to agitate for ‘issues’ – and it really makes no difference to him what the ‘issue’ might be, as long as you can get folks worked up over it. And, conversely, if you can get enough folks willing to get worked up about something, then that something has to be a ‘real issue’ because so many people are worked up about it.

In the SO Mania, it’s an open question as to which came first: the real ‘issue’ or the ‘necessary-issue’ that had to be nursed along like a poisoned-plant in a dark castle’s laboratory.

He isn’t impressed with ‘social worker types’ because they work to clear away “four-legged rats” and call it quits, whereas he wants to get rid of the four-legged rats so that “we can get on to removing two-legged rats”. Vivid imagery, and is speaks volumes of his essential approach and mindset: you get the sense of that demonization that was necessary (and understandable) in the Russian Revolution and in Soviet thought and practice: those who ‘oppress’ (or even those who simply ‘oppose us’) are bestial enemies and anything that has to be done to destroy them or shut-them-up is Good.

This is not a mindset or a heart-set that belongs in a democratic polity and it will eat through the structures of a democratic politics like a highly corrosive acid.

And notice how quickly ‘demonization’ of one sort or another had to be created as an ‘issue’: the Family and the Male, as well as Authority and Tradition and Structure, were attacked in the Domestic Violence Regime and then, of course, all the stops were pulled out and the ‘Sex Offender’ was created (eerily, much as ‘Sadaam’ was later created as a ‘mastermind’ of 9-11 who owned ‘WMD’).

I don’t blame Alinsky himself for all this, but this is where his Approach has led Us all.

It goes to show, I think, that the opposite of ‘liberal’ is not ‘conservative’; rather, the opposite of ‘liberal’ is ‘illiberal’ and I can’t see how the Nanny Regulatory State is anything but illiberal and how it can deliver or create anything except the most fundamental illiberality (although, of course, in a reeely reeely Good cause).

And though the Left and the Right made some sort of common cause in the Sex Offender Mania Regime, yet the thing made ‘illiberals’ of them all.

Typically eager to demonstrate the creds of his own Approach, Alinsky quickly asserts that “Actually, Socrates was an organizer … the function of an organizer is to raise questions that agitate, that break through the accepted pattern”. And so far so good – it’s precisely this type of awareness that fuels a democratic politics.

But Alinsky then reduces the famous Socratic injunction to ‘know thyself’ to the Flattened sense of ‘knowing’ that you are a Have-Not and thus being extorted and oppressed by the Haves. Socrates, therefore, was not “carrying out the first stage of making revolutionaries”. Socrates worked in a Larger world, whose planes of existence included an Interiority and perhaps even a Verticality; the human self was a cosmos and constituted a ‘new world’ and a genuine ‘frontier’ the hidden reaches of which every human being had to enter, explore, and master.

To Alinsky, as to all materialistic revolutionaries, energies directed toward the mastery of Interiority constituted nothing less than a dangerous distraction, a siphoning off of human energies that should – must – be better spent changing the material, external world. Interiority is the enemy of every revolution.

“Imagination” is necessary to an organizer. Alinsky means that the organizer should be able to place himself through imagination in the heart of the problems that people face. And so far so good.

But then, he says, having felt their suffering, “you organize rebellion”. In other words: having gotten yourself good and mad, then you forget about the democratic politics (which is just part of the ‘status quo’ and on top of that was developed – like the ‘opiate’ of ‘religion’ – just to sedate the Have-Nots as they were extorted by the Haves). You ‘war’ on everything that’s part of ‘the Establishment’ (and, therefore, anything that’s established).

But are some of those established type of things essentially carrying walls or foundational elements of the Constitutional ethos? Of a democratic politics? Of a functioning democratic republic? Can you simply Just Get Mad and then figure that whatever you do is going to be Good and Will Work Out OK and Be Progress … ? I think that in the run-up to the Sex Offender Mania Regime an awful lot of ‘elite’ types did think this. (Just as they later did in the run-up to the Iraq War.)

“Contradictions are the sign-posts of progress”, he says. Phooey. This is not only dumb but so shrewdly self-serving as to be sleazy. If you try to move in a direction and run into a contradiction – either a conceptual problem where your theory doesn’t seem to correspond to reality, or a problem of other people opposing you by contradicting what you’re claiming – this is not a ‘sign of progress’. This is a sign that either you’ve got a theory that isn’t quite ready for prime time or else you’ve got one that isn’t receiving the support of the people who are going to have to live with it.

And when you get these ‘contradictions’ therefore, you can’t simply insist that your theory is ‘Right and Good’ and then dismiss everyone who isn’t so sure as people ‘who just don’t get it’. Nor can you, in a democratic politics, figure that you can just do an end-run around folks. (Although, in a world-class historical development that will be talked about by historians in generations to come, the government itself participated and supported the ‘revolution’ against a democratic politics.)

And so in the SO Mania Regime you see legislators making ‘Findings’ that were hugely dubious when they were proclaimed and have since been greatly discredited by serious analysis and research, and yet the legislators refuse to see it. And feel that in taking such an irrational approach they are Right and Good.

(Although at this point I’m going to imagine that there are more than a few legislators and staffers who realize what a mess they’ve gotten themselves (and the rest of Us) into but can’t figure out how to back away without admitting they made a huge mistake. THIS was the type of situation that kept the Vietnam War going. LBJ was being told as early as 1965 by some of his own advisers that the US should get out of there but he couldn’t see how to ‘back off’ without looking ‘soft on Communism’; so he made the Vietnam situation his own and then made it a ‘War’ for all practical purposes. And Nixon inherited the mess. In this view, so many of those caught in the toils of the SO Mania Regime are like the casualties of that War who were destroyed simply because the Beltway didn’t want to admit it had made a huge mistake.)

Alinsky, equally moved by sorrows, equally angered, chooses not a robust democratic organizing but a darkly-tinged organizing for civic-war based on the assumption that Haves and Greed will outweigh any possibility of common-weal. Like Machiavelli, his surrender to the dark potentials as not only ‘real’ but as the constitutive ‘reality’ of American – or any – politics, has led him to assume (eerily, so much like Bush-Cheney would claim 30 years after his death) that Evil must be warred upon.

Alinsky then says that “With very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons. It is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason – this is a fight with a windmill. The organizer should know and accept that the right reason is only introduced as a moral rationalization after the right end has been achieved, although it may have been achieved for the wrong reason – therefore he should search for and use the wrong reasons to achieve the right goals. He should be able, with skill and calculation, to use irrationality in his attempts to progress toward a rational world”.

And can you imagine a piece of advice more suitable for erecting the SO Mania Regime? On top of what else I have been noting here, Alinsky-ite legislators and staffers can sleep easy at night knowing that it’s OK to ‘do the right thing for the wrong reasons’ – although in the SO Mania Regime there’s absolutely no conclusive evidence that it was the ‘right thing to do’ in the first place, and an awful lot of indication – topped now by increasing research evidence – that it was indeed very much the wrong thing to do.

I am NOT here trying to create an impossible Good Position from which ANY less-perfect efforts can be simply dismissed as Bad. This dimension of existence, this Plane of existence, is by its nature incomplete and imperfect. (Alinsky reduces the cause of that to Greed, which, nicely, in the Christian and the comprehensive Catholic worldview, is a sin – and Sin is the factor that continually derails human efforts at achieving a lesser-incompleteness through efforts at improvement.)

I say ‘lesser incompleteness’ rather than using the term ‘fulfillment’ because I think We’ve had enough hyper-agitated excitements based on this or that group’s assurance that if only this or that Agenda is established, then Fulfillment will be reached. Politics is the effort of a human group to determine a course, necessarily imperfect and incomplete, by which the polity might move a bit more forward. But it is not in the Catholic (although it is in the Fundamentalistic Christian) view possible to ‘fulfill’ anything in this dimension or on this Plane of existence.

But it is precisely the Method of Stampede that you claim that your Outrage-Emergency is soooo bad that anything less than ‘total’ solution will be an insensitivity and a re-victimization and that in the face of Pain (to the extent that it genuinely exists) you must do ‘whatever it takes’. Driving the ambulance, then, at 120 mph you run it into the trees – or ram it into the by-standers. This is not wise and it really doesn’t help matters. And, as We are seeing, it actually creates more problems and worse problems.

But as I have said previously, Alinsky – following the Flat materialist and reductionist worldview of Marxism and Leninism – must force all possibility of fulfillment into this dimension and squeeze it onto this Plane alone, and consequently must invest any efforts he makes with the Aura of Fulfillment in order to motivate and justify his followers.

Alinsky also urges “multiple issues” because “single-issue” organizing doesn’t last long. And from that flows “continuous issues”, meaning that a ‘successful’ Advocacy (the new word for Alinsky’s ‘organizing’) has to ‘keep the pressure on’ (and keep itself in business) by continually coming up with new ‘issues’ (meaning new ‘emergencies’ and new ‘outrages’).**

And so a continuous stream of SO ‘laws’ to ‘take the next logical step’ and to ‘close loopholes’ and to ‘refine’ and so on and so forth. And if nobody puts a stop to it then the dynamic, like a low-frequency radio wave, will just keep going on forever.

An organizer must also have “Ego”, which Alinsky defines as “unreserved confidence in one’s ability to do what he believes must be done”. (p.79) And if this isn’t a description of the Bushist-era’s ‘real men’ then I don’t know what is. You don’t need to ask questions, you don’t ‘think’, you ‘just do it’ – because you are the ones that really ‘get it’ and you are the ones who are on the cutting-edge of History and indeed are making History while the rest of the chumps – those who ‘just don’t get it’ – are passively sitting around trying to ‘think’ and ‘deliberate’ and see if there actually any justifiable and coherent grounds for what you are Just Going To Go Ahead and DO!

And, I note, this is a pretty good description of most of the organized Advocacies as well, for the 30 years before Bush-Cheney got control of things; by their time, the whole Standard Operating Procedure had been in place inside the Beltway for decades.

And you can imagine legislators being urged precisely to ‘Just Do It!’.

But in this regard, I note that there has been so much shifty maneuvering even in legislatures (no committee review, comments only allowed to be made on the floor, voice-votes) that I think there were a lot of legislators who had (probably still do have) serious reservations, and that it was against THEM that a lot of this skullduggery – often in violation of the letter or spirit of the legislature’s own rules – had to be deployed by the ‘organized’ supporters of this or that Bill.

Alinsky concludes the chapter saying “Finally, the organizer is constantly creating the new out of the old. He knows that all new ideas arise from conflict; that every time man has had a new idea it has been a challenge to the sacred ideas of the past and the present and inevitably a conflict has raged”. (p.79)

Again with tossing around ‘sacred’.

But he also presumes a) that anything new is by definition ‘better’ (and ‘workable’) and that b) that everything ‘new’ must come from conflict.

Yes and no but mostly no.

Humans are always going to Kick Tire when something ‘new’ comes along, especially if they sense that the novelty has to do with profound and vital matters such that screwing around with them might yield baaad and dangerous and expensive consequences indeed.

But THAT’S WHAT a democratic politics is for: to work through all that and achieve some workable outcome that everybody can live with (and that the structure of the polity and the culture can handle without buckling or caving in).

Alinsky’s Approach – so much the revolutionary approach of Lenin – is for those who have decided that they ‘get it’ and that everybody else ‘just doesn’t get it’ to organize to attack and undermine and ‘take the low road’ in order to do whatever it takes to get what they demand. All the while deceptively spinning their activity as just a little ‘change’ and ‘reform’ and ‘tweaking’ – until they can be in a position, as Lenin famously observed and Alinsky proudly recalls, ‘ballots can be exchanged for bullets’.

There is a violence (even if in America it hasn’t come to actual physical bullets) to Alinsky’s Vision and his Approach and his Technique. Nor is it sufficient to assert that since ‘oppression’ is violent then you have to take the low road and be as violent as you need to be yourself.

The SO Mania Regime, true to its Alinsky-ite influences, has gone to ‘war’ against ‘the sacred’. By that word I mean not so much its religious connotations (although Charity and Prudence would certainly count here) but its metaphorical connotation: the Constitution and the Constitutional ethos and the democratic polity and its deliberative politics … these are ALL ‘sacred’ in the sense that they are simultaneously both vital structural components of the American culture, society, and civilization and also important and (rightly) treasured values whose stature reminds Americans of just how valuable and important a heritage We have received from those who have gone before.

To ‘war’ upon all that is indeed ‘revolutionary’, but it is in no way a good or commendable idea: it is not ‘progress’, it may be ‘transgressive’ but it is not ‘progressive’, and it is more of a betrayal than an ‘enforcement’ of what the American Vision and the American Experiment is all about.

And in the course of human events, Bush-Cheney came along and asserted that since they were dealing with violent and dark and irrational and truly evil folks, then the US government and its troops also had to ‘take the low road’ and “walk on the dark side” and be just as violent and dark and irrational and – alas – evil. But of course, America being God’s Deputy, then – in the accents of Nixon – When America Does It, It’s Not An Evil.



*My copy is the paperback Vintage Books/Random House edition that reprints the original 1971 edition. The ISBN is 0-679-72113-4. All my quotations and page references will be taken from this edition.

**Just this week, up in Boston, following an Obama visit over the weekend, the Attorney General – she who pushed the Shanley recovered-memory case to its sad end and on behalf of whose election-bid for the US Senate the State Supreme Judicial Court chose to pretend that recovered-memory was a professionally-accepted scientific fact – held public hearings to dramatize ‘internet child porn’.

This internet-child-porn Emergency is part of the recent Bill that has quietly been constructed to back the government away from the ‘classic’ Sex Offender scenario BUT creates a different one. If you follow this I think you will see all the old SO Mania gambits now being deployed all over again. I put up a Post on the new internet material here.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Apologies again for putting up a second Post in one day. But I came across this just a few minutes ago.

A Suffolk County on Long Island in the State of New York is now going to put convicted animal-abusers on a Registry.

Those convicted of animal abuse will have to pay a $50 annual fee for the Registry’s (they are calling it a “watch list”) upkeep. It will be interesting to see where that goes legally. Names, addresses, head-shots will be publicly accessible online.

The SO community is familiar with the general scheme.

In a classic example of a bad idea ‘migrating’, one animal rights activist draws the connection clearly: “We love our animals as we love our children”.

The “next logical step” will be to prevent registrants from buying or adopting animals.

Of most concern is the way that the advocates of this gambit are trying to surf the crest of the current Regime waves: legislators – no doubt fed speaking points by the advocates; I can’t believe they sit around the county seat thinking these things up – point out cheeribly that this may well help prevent – wait for it – “domestic violence or other violent crimes against humans”.

This is so because, as somebody identified as belonging to the local SPCA asserts: “Most serial killers begin as animal abusers. It’s a known fact: people who hurt animals hurt people too”.

Being familiar with the SO Mania and having read wayyyy too much of the Findings and court Opinions and Decisions supporting it, my whiskers twitch like alarm bells whenever I hear ‘everybody knows that’ or ‘It’s a known fact’. Anyone who has been following my Posts on that 1986 Victimology book by Robert Elias has also seen just how much everybody was so sure they ‘knew’ in 1986 that now doesn’t seem so true any longer; ditto those Daddy-abused-you books that were so big in the 1980s and 1990s.

The SPCA guy’s comments require some careful looking-at: Is there actually legitimate evidence that serial killers start off by abusing animals? I’m always open to new information but I can’t recall coming across anything to that effect, and it seems like something the media would have picked up on.

And where is it established that a person who will hurt an animal will hurt another human being? Is this just another example of the old SO Regime ‘knowledge’ that persons who expose themselves will ‘graduate’ to rape? Or – more relevantly – that persons who have sex with an animal will most surely graduate to raping people? Or that anybody who has sex with anybody or anything will eventually want to have sex with children?

You get uncomfortably close to urban-myth in this sort of thing, and it’s disturbing in the extreme when you realize that laws are going to be passed.

I certainly don’t want to see animals abused any more than I want to see people abused; but why not increase the penalties and require – if it legitimately exists – therapy? I’m wondering if in the absence of public monies for jails and prisons, legislators are going to turn to ‘registries’ as some sort of substitute to show that they are still ‘standing tall’ against crime.

The Sex Offender Research site actually left a comment on one of the linked articles, linking to its own piece. SOR makes the excellent point that it’s not just the cost of initially setting up a ‘registry’, but the vast underwater bulk of expenses that loom like an iceberg: on-going costs, especially if there is a sudden surge of ‘registrants’; the police resources tied up in monitoring (and let’s not forget the ‘fugitive’ registrants); and the expense of paying cottage-industry private services that will take over the tracking or monitoring or what-have-you. And then there’s the software development and hardware acquisition and … so forth.

It’s interesting to see what the comments are like, if you follow the links in the original article. There are some short ones to the effect that this is a great idea and everybody should do it. But there are a couple of longer, more thoughtful ones.

One commenter notes with sarcasm that they should be thinking of GPS, residency restrictions (can’t live within 2000 feet of a pet store or exercise park, and has to turn and walk the other way if encountering pets on the street), and then goes on to note how children can wind up suffering in school because of relatives on such a registry (perhaps, I submit, an anti-bullying registry will help prevent that).

Also, and I have to quote this comment: “This kind of regulation is an example of crusading by a small and unbalanced advocacy group trying to feel good about themselves by punishing others. It should be rejected.” I would not say that the insight completely describes all such concerned folks, but there’s wayyyy too much truth in it for comfort, as far as I am concerned.

The idea of a representative democracy is that legislators will consider seriously but also prudently just what is being proposed (or – if the advocates are operating on the Alinsky Rules – demanded) and not simply consider themselves oath-bound to be ‘sensitive’ and yield to whatever pressure is brought on them.

If you are going to ‘register’ any offensive form of human misdeed that causes pain (and it’s now gotten to animals, bless them) then most of the species is going to wind up on a registry and the government is going to wind up having just about everybody on a registry of one sort or another. NOR is this type of registry, based on a criminal conviction, merely the same sort of thing as being registered for a motor vehicle or a driver’s license or an MD’s license (which is kind of a status symbol that anybody would be pleased to have associated with their name).

In the olden days, mature adults realized that EVERYbody is on a Registry ‘up there’ and that awareness induced a kind of healthy humility. But in a Flat world, with no ‘up there’ that folks can reliably believe in, and with a God who seems to let wayyyy too much pain-causing behavior go on without immediate punishment, a lot of people have gotten into the bad habit (I’d call it) of figuring that the government will have to fill in for an insufficiently-sensitive God. Or, in the alternative, that ‘registering’ – like democracy-bringing through military invasion – is something they are Deputized by God to do.

Legislators – perhaps out of some combination of political calculation and the enjoyment of Deputy status – seem happy to take on the job. And it’s a lethal temptation for any government: to exercise the sovereign power in ever intensifying ways.

But Hobbes didn’t call his sovereign government “Leviathan” for nothing. He knew what was going to happen.

For that matter, Jesus apparently did too: it was precisely to keep folks from trying to express their belief by running everybody’s life down to the “merest jot or tittle” that He informed them that God’s approach was more patient.

This ‘registration’ concept is now migrating.

I say again and again and again that I do not support any infliction of pain on any human being or any living creature. But you can’t take a democratic republic down this road.

Yes, from a purely ‘strategic’ point of view it will probably serve to lessen the monstrous impact and significance of the SO Mania Regime. But the SO community must also be concerned for the larger common-weal: this country is embarked on a dangerous path with this entire Registration Mania and it cannot end well.

Whatever can be done to help the common-weal, even in the midst of the suffering caused by the Mania, is what has to be done.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I continue with an SO-specific look at Saul Alinsky’s 1971 book “Rules for Radicals”*. There is a corresponding Post on my other site here.

As I’d said, the Master Post for this 4th installment contains a discussion with all the page quotations, and you can access it here.

In this Post I will simply deal with the SO-relevant material.

His third chapter is entitled “A Word About Words”.

“Politics”, he says, is “generally viewed in a context of corruption”. Without asking if such a generally held – presuming that it is, which is a big presumption – assessment is accurate, he builds on it; it serves his case well. Because if all politics is indeed reducible to nothing but corruption, then corruption is normal or at least the norm.

Legislators, especially under the pressure from Alinskyite-trained advocates, didn’t need to hear that what they were being pressured to do, which would probably garner them some votes, was the ‘normal’ thing to do whether they had once been taught to think of it as ‘corruption’. Because in Alinsky’s approach, the idea is to use that life-defining corruption in the service of some Good Cause (and thereby ‘baptize’ it, to use my term).

And so what happens in the SO Mania, I would say, is that ‘good’ corruption (ignoring the Constitution and its ethos) is deployed against ‘evil’ corruption (the monstrous Sex Offender). And so ‘corruption’ is embraced with something approaching a clear conscience by people sworn to know better and faithfully “preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution.

It’s a clear indicator of how far astray Victimology has led the country that so many average readers and even legislators themselves might immediately assume that their job was to “preserve, protect, and defend” ‘victims’ and ‘prevent victimization’. As I have said before on this site, not even Hitler or the SS got up in the morning saying “today we are going to continue to wreck Germany and the world”; no, they were sure that they were preventing the further victimization of the German nation and people.

And by the time it dawned on many Germans what had really happened, it was too late: the rot was in too deep or they had committed such treacheries and crimes that it was impossible to step back from the abyss.

But Alinsky advises that the good organizer must learn to “use other words – words that mean the same but are peaceful, and do not result in such negative emotional reactions”. Words, as Orwell says, are designed to convey realities; and if you are up to something that you’d rather not admit, then you have to use words that precisely will NOT convey the reality of what you are up to.

Because people might have adverse reactions and get all worked up against what you’re trying to pull off. And why create that problem for yourself if you can avoid it by sidestepping the truth of what you’re doing by using nicer words that don’t get people all worked up and that actually sort of assure them and keep them calm.

Thus ‘change’ and ‘reform’ are better choices.

After all, most people ‘just don’t get it’ anyway, so why waste your time and energy fighting opposition you didn’t need to rile up.

But emotions have to be part of the political process because they are part of people, not to put too fine a point on it. Emotions are NOT the whole of the political process, but things have to start there. IF you are going to do things democratically and tell the truth to The People.

But Alinsky’s approach has that covered: since most people ‘just don’t get it’ then whether they know it or not they are collaborators with or enablers of the Haves. So since this is a ‘war politics’ then they are the ‘enemy’ – or at least dupes of the enemy, and so you have to move around them or move them around.

And if the ‘words’ aren’t enough – avoiding ‘emotions’, then you can whip up other emotions that will be more useful for achieving your Objective. Thus create an ‘outrage’ and thus an ‘emergency’. Monsters will do nicely for this type of work; anybody who has watched villagers in a Frankenstein or vampire movie knows that.

The trouble is: the average American never imagined that Americans would be treated so widely, deeply, consistently, and with malice aforethought as the ‘villagers’ in a horror flick. But that’s where Alinsky is going with this. And he thinks it’s a good idea because making civic-war against the Haves is a Good Cause.

Do people – some or a lot of them – have negative emotional responses to a proposal? Do they ‘get a bad feeling’ about what you want to do? That’s where persuasion and deliberation come in. That’s what a democratic politics is all about – otherwise for all practical purposes it’s not a democracy. Which is OK with Alinsky since he thinks democracy as an Ideal is just baloney, an ‘abstraction’ deployed by the Haves to continue extorting the Have-Nots. BUT if you can use the processes of a democratic politics, and the nice words that are attached to it, in order to neutralize or sidestep a whole lotta people who ‘just don’t get it’, well that’s fine and dandy. It would be treason to the Have-Nots to stir up time-consuming problems that you didn’t have to on the way to getting what you want.

“We begin to dilute the meaning”, he smiles with satisfaction.

And so in the SO Mania (and now in international affairs as well) ‘words’ have been so twisted and diluted that nothing means what it says. Look at the SO Mania Regime laws: to read them and to read far too many of the court opinions, it all sounds so reasonable and assuring. And yet, when you look at what is actually THERE, what thing has actually been erected on the basis of all those nice words, it’s a monstrosity.

What you want to do with words, he teaches, is to create “an aseptic imitation of life”.

‘Asepsis’ means “free from the living germs of disease, fermentation, putrefaction”. So, much like Lenin advising his cadres that until they had real power they would have to say they supported ‘ballots’ – when they got power they would use ‘bullets’, Alinsky wants to use words merely as a Trojan Horse to get inside the heart of the political process. Tactically, then, as the Greeks saw long ago when they built the Horse, you want to lull your enemy’s senses, so that you can get inside with the least amount of time and effort. Once inside, well – that will be a different story.

‘Democracy’ is, in Alinsky’s vision, far too messy, infected with the feelings of far too many people who are too stupid or greedy to see what he sees: that Nothing Is On The Level, that everything is the result of Greed (economic in his actual vision, but as adapted by follow-on Advocacies it could be, say for example, the Greedy desire to steal sexual satisfaction by violent means).

He gets close to an uncomfortable democratic truth – without knowing it perhaps – with that “fermentation”. There is a ferment in democratic politics: people with feelings BUT ALSO with reason debate and disagree and hammer out some sort of agreement or maybe decide a proposal is just too wrong or at least too unworkable to be adopted.

For Alinsky this will never do. You organize precisely because you know you have identified something that you are sure needs to be ‘changed’, and you can’t let yourself get stopped by the mere fact that there are enough people who ‘just don’t get it’ to constitute, this time around anyway, a majority. You go around them, sidestep them, sweet-talk them, stampede them, or maybe – for the most outspoken – you attack their credibility or their personal integrity. You do ‘whatever it takes’. Otherwise you are a lukewarm and wishy-washy failure.

It’s all about Power: the Haves have it and the Have-Nots must “wrest it away from them”.

Power isn’t good or bad – it’s a fact of life, in Alinsky’s view. It can be “a man-killing explosive” or it can be “a life-saving drug” – and who would want to pass up the opportunity to administer “a life-saving drug”?

But he stops at that point and doesn’t pursue the point to where I would say the real question lies, the question that much more closely lies at the heart of the awful problems that have now deranged the country’s politics: what happens, Dr. Alinsky, if you give the wrong drug to the patient? Or in the wrong dosage?

Because there is no such thing as a Universal Life-Saving Drug: a drug that might save one patient might kill another patient. A dosage or frequency of administration necessary to save one patient might kill another patient.

Alinsky’s ‘analysis’ is wayyyy too simplistic and juvenile.

And so I say that Alinsky’s All-Purpose Life-Saving Drug – organizing to wrest Power through ‘change’ – is indeed powerful. But it is soooo powerful and so complex a ‘drug’ that it needs to be very carefully administered, if indeed a comprehensive diagnosis justifies giving the drug to the patient at all.

And in the SO Mania Regime I say that the ‘drug’ chosen was doubly toxic: not only was it administered in far too high a dosage and far too frequently, but that the ‘drug’ itself – demonizing people as monstrous Sex Offenders and then setting up police-state regimes (though merely ‘civil’, ‘administrative’ and ‘regulatory’ – those nice nice words) to control the monsters – was fatal to the body-politic of a working, living democratic polity.

Alinsky, as I have said in earlier Posts, made the simplistic equation between the ‘established’ and ‘status-quo’ of the Imperial Czarist autocracy of early 20th century Russia and the American Republic and its democratic polity of the mid-20th century. To him a ‘status quo’ is a ‘status quo’; the approach specifically designed to destabilize the Czarist government could be with equal justification be applied to the American democracy of the 1950s and 1960s.

And, of course, those trained in the Alinsky-ite method, or those who simply accepted it as the ‘new cutting-edge wisdom’ that ‘everybody knows is right’, assumed the same thing and came to the same wrong-headed conclusion. After all, weren’t ‘men’ just like the Russian czars and aristocracy? Weren’t they just sexually greedy the same way that the wealthy Haves of the Russian Empire were economically greedy?

And isn’t ‘sex’ even more important than ‘economics’? (You can look around you at the country this very day and ask yourself if the advocacies, the legislators, and the assorted elites answered THAT question correctly on the exam.)

And if all that weren’t bad enough, Alinsky exhorts and warns: “to know power and not fear [using it] is essential to its constructive use and control”.

To use the polite British diplomatic usage of a bygone age, this assertion is rather distressingly extraordinary.

Only youth – un-ballasted by the experience of consequences and their own mistakes, un-burdened by the experience of friction and the un-controllability of events once they are set loose – could imagine that it is a good thing not to fear Power. In the obvious sense of the word ‘fear’ – that you have a deep concern that this thing will take you and others to an unintended and possibly dark place – or in the scriptural sense of ‘respect’ – that you understand that Power, like fire, can serve or destroy depending on how well you handle it … well, ‘fear’ in both those senses is an absolutely essential component of maturity and that seriousness that the Framers were so concerned to secure in government service.

The ‘real men don’t waste time thinking’ bit is a shiny bit of immaturity that We saw in the 1960s among the Boomers and in the 1980s in wayyyy too many ‘patriotic’ shoot-em-up fliks.** This is a characteristic of American society, especially since the Age of Industrialization began to go into high gear after the Civil War.

Alinsky doesn’t seem to pick up on this synergy too much. He is content to emphasize the brassy self-assurance of the committed organizer, who is really just a watered-down version of the revolutionary cadres of Leninism that had attracted Alinsky in his own youth.

But both dynamics came together in the Sex Offense Mania, offering politicians a chance not only to pander to ‘demographics’ but also to ‘prove’ that they could ‘protect’ the womenfolk and children just like any frontier settlers who didn’t have a sheriff handy. Except – of course – that by the 1990s there was no frontier and there was a Constitution. But then – ‘real men’ don’t waste time thinking too much.

‘Morality’, he says, is simply the nice-word cloak for covering up the naked self-interest that abides in all status-quo situations. And if ‘morality’ can get tossed aside so quickly, and reduced to being merely a ‘cover’ for baaad things, then Constitutionality is surely not going to fare any better. And it didn’t in the SO Mania Regime laws.

There is a thick stream of this Alinsky-ite assumption underlying the Regime, and it’s been taught in law schools (yes, Alinsky-ite visions excite the profs there) for decades: the Constitution is merely the cloak behind which the Haves hide.

Which, marvelously, gives so-called ‘liberals’ the chance to prove that they too are ‘real men’ (of either gender): ‘real men’ don’t let the Constitution stand in the way of doing ‘whatever it takes’, because the Constitution is really only an ‘opiate’ (as Marx would say) and ‘democracy’ is ditto: a cover for ‘oppression’.

He concludes his chapter with some thoughts on “Conflict”. The word has gotten a bad rap, he thinks.

He blames, firstly, the Advertising Culture in America (he’s writing in 1971): it has given people the idea that you should always be polite when, really, life is a war between Haves and Have-Nots.

I’d say that the problem goes deeper: the Advertising Culture was concerned for appearances, not for substance, and wayyyy too many people got used to simply ‘being nice’ in an outward way without really accepting the burden of truly respecting the dignity of other human beings, their fellow (and sister) Citizens. But then – Alinsky isn’t going for the ‘mutual respect’ route, and doesn’t seem to think that humankind is capable of reliably sustaining such a mature achievement.

A sentiment and conviction that sustained the ‘war-politics’ without which the SO Mania Regime could never have gotten started. And by which it is now continued.

He blames, secondly, “organized religion” with its insistence that one must “turn the other cheek” (which, of course, is not what you do in a war).

This surely fits in with the Victimologists’ insistence that ‘closure’ requires a vengeance (a huge legal regression in Western history) administered by the State on behalf not of the common-weal, but on behalf of the ‘victim’. ***

And as far as ‘turning the other cheek’ goes, I recall that the Australian author, J.M. Coetzee, notes this in his 2007 book of essays entitled “Diary of a Bad Year”. In the vision of Hobbes, the world without an organized State and the rule of law is a rat’s nest of “internecine warfare without end (reprisal upon reprisal, vengeance upon vengeance, the vendetta” (p.3)****

While there is a modest – but hugely incomplete – psychological value to seeing somebody ‘paid back’, Coetzee later points out that as best he can make out after watching the world – and especially South Africa after apartheid was abolished but Identity grievances crept back – ‘vengeance’ or ‘revenge’ simply continues the cycle of offense-revenge that locks BOTH perpetrator and victim into a darkling level of existence.

(In a later chapter, Alinsky will lustily relate how the ‘reaction’ of the Haves, of the ‘enemy’ you have chosen, is absolutely vital to feeding the dynamic you need to force ‘change’ and ‘wrest power’. And, as you may imagine, the ‘reaction’, the ‘conflict’, is what drives the melodrama of the ‘story’ for the media.)

And that a polity where the Citizens are constantly at war among themselves is doomed.

In that regard, by the way, Coetzee – no ‘religious nut’ – comes to the sober conclusion that Christ really is the only one to get it right by advising that one must ‘turn the other cheek’ lest the cycle of violence in interpersonal and societal and national and international affairs simply continue ad infinitum.

Governments have many options open to them besides considering themselves in a ‘war’, diplomacy being not the least.

Individuals have an even larger range of options, which in a democracy include uniting together and working for change. The nation as a whole is not the South of the Jim Crow Era nor is it Russia of the Romanovs only with warmer weather.

Alinsky’s Approach is the equivalent of driving a vehicle equipped with heavily-studded tires, suitable for a winter in Montana, on the roads of Florida. Or of driving an entire State-full of vehicles so equipped over the Florida roads. Or maybe, the equivalent of driving a main battle tank with its heavy treads on the roads; war is hell on roads.

And this reflection of Coetzee’s about Christ would no doubt be taken as heresy by the Alinsky-ite school, but there it is.

And thus the cycle of offense-vengeance would be broken.

But breaking the cycle of any outrage is precisely what the Alinsky approach does NOT want to see happen. You need the ‘outrage’ to continue to fuel the war-politics.

How at this point legislators are going to ‘back away’ is an interesting question – and one of some real urgency.

I am not at all proposing that Alinsky’s ‘war’ be met with ‘war’ by the SO community. But there remains a great and necessary service that the SO community is well-placed to perform for the country: to roll-back this monstrous Regime and in the process help the country regain balance and integrity.


*My copy is the paperback Vintage Books/Random House edition that reprints the original 1971 edition. The ISBN is 0-679-72113-4. All my quotations and page references will be taken from this edition.

**If you need some good reading, I’ve just finished “The Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America 1877-1920”, by Jackson Lears. It’s a meaty read, and a great story, and it’s out in paperback for less than $20. He talks about the tremendous anxiety among American elites of that forgotten generation that had been too young to fight in the Civil War but had to find a way of ‘proving themselves’ to be as strong and grown-up and ‘masculine’ as the generation of 1861-1865.

***For those interested, it is sobering – if not also stunning – to read Anthony Rhodes’s 1974 book “The Vatican in the Age of the Dictators: 1922-1945”. There, especially on pages 207-209, he recounts the campaign undertaken by the Nazi Reich in 1937 after the Pope, Pius XI, issued his encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Concern), that expressed to the world his deep anxiety over what was happening in the now-4 year-old Reich. Immediately, Hitler declared “I shall open such a campaign of propaganda against them in the press, radio, and cinema that they won’t know what’s hit them”.

But he instructed his underlings not to make martyrs out of the priests; “It’s better to show that they are criminals”. Attacks, Rhodes recounts, were made on priest’s morals, as the Nazis had done from time to time, “but they were nothing compared with the new accusations and mass trials”. At Koblenz, 170 Franciscan monks were arrested forthwith and put on trial for “corrupting the youth and turning the monastery into a male brothel”. As Rhodes notes from the record, the trial excluded the public and “most of the witnesses were children”, which “raised doubts as to its equity”. The Nazis accused the friars of running “orgies”, cartoons appeared in the Nazi press in which an adult male in priestly garb beckoned to young boys over the scriptural quote ‘Let the little children come unto me’. Goebbels himself (who would, in April 1945 kill his own six children with poison before killing his wife and himself) announced in a speech that he came before the German people as a concerned parent and father himself, attacking those parents who still believed in the Church, allowing “their most precious treasure delivered to the bestiality of the polluters of youth” by letting them go to Catholic schools rather than the Reich schools.

(Marvelously, the German Consul in Caracas reported regretfully to Berlin that in light of the well-publicized homosexual incidents among the Imperial German General Staff in the time of Emperor Wilhelm 30 years before (one high ranking general died of a heart attack at a costume party dressed in a pink tutu and by the time anyone thought to get the corpse more suitably attired in its uniform rigor mortis had set in and bones had to be broken) the Venezuelans were referring to homosexuality as ‘the German vice’. Could we not please, he asked, have some heterosexual incidents? As if on cue, reports began to come out of Berlin of priests ‘caught’ with women. In case this all sounds like too much, Rhodes quotes the volumes of the Nazi diplomatic archives captured intact after the war. The pink-tutu episode is related at length in Raymond K. Massie’s history of the Edwardian era, “Dreadnought”.)

It’s sobering to read all this in light of recent American excitements.

**** Coetzee, J.M. “The Diary of a Bad Year”. New York: Penguin: 2007. The edition I am using is the paperback: ISBN 978-0-14-311448-2. This book is curiously structured: each page is divided into three sections, with the top section being his essays. They are well worth the read, especially his reflections on Thomas Hobbes and his vision and the consequences that flow from it.