Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I came across this article in connection with a recent brouhaha in Boston.

Up there, an attorney who has represented numerous complainants and allegators in that Archdiocese’s still-sputtering priest-sex-abuse matters, announced last week that he would publish a list of 120 or so priests from that area against whom he has obtained cash judgments from the Archdiocese in the course of the past decade or more.

He published the list the next day.

The relevant newspaper articles are here and here and here.

As always, it’s interesting to read the Reader Comments as well as the article. In this case they seem to run significantly against the attorney’s action, raising some refreshingly acute questions as to his motives and wondering if he’ll soon be publishing a list of those priests originally accused but then exonerated. Nor can it be assumed that such Readers took their cue from the newspaper (the ‘Boston Globe’) itself; that paper has always provided a far too uncritical home to this mutant subtype of the overall Sex Offense Mania.

The paper then published an actual Letter to the Editor a couple of days later. It congratulates the attorney: publishing such lists will “likely prevent future sexual abuse against children, support the healing of victims, and hold accountable those who have committed these sexual crimes”. All very classical as these things go.

Except that “likely” is a thin basis for grounding such a massive perversion of legal principles as has been seen in the sordid and lethal career of the Mania Regime(s).

And you have to have – legally speaking – a proven crime before you can have a victim; or at least before you can have a ‘proven’ victim; this is a complexity that to the Mania cadres is simply an instance of thinking-too-much. If a person claims to be a victim, then they cannot be questioned and a perp must be found and punished. A victim requires a crime, a crime requires a perpetrator, and a perpetrator must not only be punished but – while we’re at it – prevented as well.

Nor is it altogether certain just how ‘healing’ is helped in any substantial way. The terms ‘healing’ and ‘closure’ – respectable English words – actually seem to resemble ‘recovered memory’: perfectly acceptable and grammatical words that have somehow been made to carry the burden of rather dubious concepts. ‘Healing’ in Victimology shades perilously close to ‘vengeance’ and ‘revenge’, which if they are going to be classed as healing medicines, must also be acknowledged as having highly toxic side-effects, and perhaps they are more toxic in their side-effects than they are medicinal in their hoped-for primary effect.

All of which doesn’t excuse the fact that in the vast majority of these civil abuse cases it has yet to be established that the allegators’ stories were actually true.

This Letter to the Editor also references, while we’re on the subject, the recent dust-up over a decade-old confidential letter sent from the Papal representative in Ireland to the Irish bishops. Bishops have to be careful to follow all the canon-law regulations when pursuing Church disciplinary actions against alleged abusive priests, the Papal representative said; otherwise if the accused priest appeals his case to Rome, as is his right in canon law, then Rome might find any existing canon-law irregularities in the local bishop’s handling of the case and be forced to overrule the local bishop. Which could prove “embarrassing” – meaning that it would be embarrassing to the local bishop if he were overruled by Rome because he did not follow the law (canon) when dealing with the accused priest.

Which is all pretty solid organizational thinking.

It is a sign of the lack of competence and/or integrity of so much of the Mania Regime thinking, and perhaps also a sign of how desperate the profiteers of this hugely lucrative industry are becoming, that such a letter is being made the basis of claims that the Vatican somehow was urging local bishops not to report abusers to the police in order to avoid the aforementioned “embarrassment”.

The confidential letter from the Papal representative is pretty much the same as a letter sent from the Supreme Court to subordinate courts advising judges to make sure they follow the proper procedures at their level so that if an appeal gets up to the highest level it won’t be demonstrably deficient in law, such that the Supreme Court will have to create the double embarrassment of overruling a subordinate court and turning someone loose on a technicality.

But to the American Mania the entire point of view of the Vatican letter is lost. And that is hugely revealing in itself. Once a Victim has declared some priest an abuser, then to the Maniacal mind the matter is settled. It remains only to get the bum thrown out of town with as little time as possible wasted on legal ‘technicalities’ and ‘niceties’ (you get to thinking, reading these Mania types, that you are not very far at all from the pitchfork-and-torch days of a less progressive age of Western history).

Indeed, especially since the Vatican is proving far more faithful to the principles of its canon law than the US Supreme Court and many subordinate courts have proven faithful to the principles of American and Western Law, the Maniacs are whipped into even more of a frenzy. Apparently convinced that principles are merely pretexts for ‘oppression’ (and where oh where did they – and the American law schools – get THAT idea?) then if you stand up for principles you must be an oppressor yourself, or in this case an ‘abuser’, or at least an abuse-enabler. Or at the very least ‘insensitive’. But why quibble and think too much? The Victim (it is a disrespect to preface that with ‘alleged’) has spoken; so – as the old Third Reich newsreels used to intone (threateningly): Mehr als dies braucht ihr nicht zu wissen! (More than this you do NOT need to know!)

Further thoughts in this regard are treated in the primary piece I mentioned in the first sentence.

It is a sworn declaration filed by a Los Angeles attorney who for many years has been working on defending priests from this type of allegations.

He does not go into the specifics of any case but rather gives an overview of the general state of this phenomenon as it applies to court proceedings (civil, more than criminal – of which there have been so few cases, curiously enough).

In many of these civil settlements the accused priest was not even named as a Party Defendant and everything took place between the bishop’s staff and attorneys and the attorneys representing the allegators. And thus the image of a court-room trial (such as they are in sex-offense cases in the Mania Regime) with a Defendant being confronted with witnesses or alleged victims, evidence presented and weighed, attorneys for both sides putting it all out there for the jury … none of that has happened in the huge majority of these ‘cases’.

The civil attorneys shrewdly sued the Archdiocese and it was that organizational entity (which also had the deep pockets) and not any individual priest (probably not so deep pockets) that did the dealing with the litigant attorneys.

Hence it is not accurate to say that the priests in the civil-settlement cases – which means the vast vast majority of them – have actually been ‘proven’ to have done anything at all. (I am NOT claiming or implying that no abuse took place; I am saying that very few cases have actually been examined in a trial – to the extent, alas, that a trial in these times of Mania can be expected to seek truth objectively and impartially.)

You can make a good case that the individual priests were, in a legal and not simply figurative sense, sold down the river by their organization, i.e. the specific diocese or archdiocese being sued: the diocese was sued (not the priest), and in order to minimize its losses in attorney fees and settlements, the diocese chose to do the horse-trading with the allegators’ attorneys that are the stock-in-trade of civil litigation practice. Curiously, in very few instances did the local prosecutors think that an individual case would survive a trial.

But somehow the spin has been put on things that if the priest was named in a settlement (Xmillion dollars to so-and-so for an allegation made about Father B) then Father B was clearly ‘guilty’ of the allegation, and had been proven to be so ‘in court’. Which ain’t necessarily so at all.

In his sworn statement as an attorney and officer of the court (and with some experience in these types of cases), Attorney Donald Steier affirms that one retired FBI agent who has worked on the cases figures that half of them are “either entirely false or so greatly exaggerated that the truth would not have supported a prosecutable claim for childhood sexual abuse”.

Steier further recounts – again in a sworn statement – instances where priests voluntarily took lie detector tests – which they passed, while allegators consistently refused to take such tests; cases where basic facts in the allegations were proven to be utterly untrue by the discovery of further evidence; allegators who did not recall abuse until discovering that somebody they knew had received sizable financial payouts for their allegations (this was a major dynamic in the Shanley case in Boston); stories presented by allegators changing significantly over time; the inevitable ‘repressed memories’.

He also observes that the requisite Certificate of Merit required by California civil law in Clergy Abuse cases has, in almost all of the recorded 700 civil cases in the State, been issued by the same single licensed mental health practitioner. A doctor with a similar track-record in dispensing Scheduled drugs would be on a DEA watchlist.

But I think what is most significant is this attorney’s insider-opinion on such ‘advocacy’ groups as S.N.A.P. (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). On the basis of his experience and observation, Steier concludes that this outfit is actually working hand-in-glove with the major Clergy-Abuse civil lawyers and providing, under cover of Victim Assistance, all sorts of queasy grease for the skids of abuse-allegations.

They provide on their website interactive Forum and Message-Boards in which individuals (anybody, actually) can share their ‘story’ in as much detail as they wish. Conventional and Correct wisdom asserts that this helps ‘healing’, ‘closure’, and the karmic balance generally.

BUT what it also actually constitutes is an easily-accessible database for a person looking to make an allegation and seeking to avoid gross errors (claiming that Father drove them somewhere in his SUV when the man has never had a license and hates autos, say) and perhaps even hoping to burnish the story by adding a few already-known (such as the term applies in these matters) details (he likes Classical music but only up to the Baroque period, he has a stuffed muskellunge on his living room wall over the zebra-striped sofa).

Having done such homework, with or without the help of an advocate, the allegator may then present him/herself to a suitably disposed attorney – perhaps advertised or mentioned on the group’s site – who with a straight face can take all these ‘facts’ down or – out of the milk of human kindness – suggest to an otherwise uninformed allegator that s/he visit the site for ‘support, care, and concern’ and then, having thought things over, come back in a couple of days. That sort of thing.

Steier actually uses the term “blueprint”, suggesting that the site just happens to provide all the necessary assistance to drawing one up.

He also notes – again under oath – that enterprising law enforcement personnel (and I am not suggesting that this includes all law enforcement personnel) troll the site looking for new ‘victims’ within their particular jurisdiction.

The gentleman who put Steier’s Declaration up on his site notes that S.N.A.P. issued a “hasty press statement” that simply abused (my term) Steier and called his sensitivity and integrity into question, without bothering (or daring) to refute any of his actual assertions (made, as I have said, under oath) and claiming that since Steier has been employed by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in some cases, then he is simply a paid shill and not to be trusted.

But most damaging of all, this gentleman adds that he has been personally rebuffed by S.N.A.P.’s national office when he asked how much of its budget comes from ‘contributions’ from the selfsame noted Clergy Abuse allegator attorneys or their firms.

And this raises the ugly matter of – not to put too fine a point on it – kickbacks. You might want to put a more charitable term to it, such as Referral Fee (although that is usually a sum paid by one attorney to another attorney who referred the client) or perhaps Finder’s Fee – although that too is a bit of a stretch.

Kickback, I think, does nicely under the circumstances.

The advice is to “stay tuned” and I can hardly disagree. My immediately previous Post noted that the Ph.D. candidate who had researched the subject in the Boston area had concluded by mentioning at the very end of the Dissertation that more serious and objective study of the Boston clergy-abuse cases would probably reveal more than is currently known.

Why mention this matter at all?

First, because it is offensive – a stench in the nostrils of any decent citizen – to see such brazen chicanery practiced on a regular basis AND under the color not only of Law but of ‘sensitivity’.

And secondly because it is lethally dangerous to the integrity of the judicial system and to the integrity of every professional from the several fields (attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement, mental health, and judicial personnel) and, ultimately, to the integrity of the Law itself.

And lastly because it may very probably be undermining – through gross exaggeration and even untruth – the credibility of a religious organization that has played a major role not only in the formation of Western civilization but also in seeing that civilization through some mighty tough times (don’t think you have problems until you imagine daily life in the Dark Ages).

And because of the fact that American society and culture is now declining from its once-fabled culture of Super-Abundance and sassy, unthinking self-confidence and indeed is regressing to a culture of Scarcity and Troubles from which it shall not soon emerge. The strength and Help that didn’t seem necessary in the bright, sunny noon of the nation’s history may be desperately needed as the evening shadows begin to fall, and the darkness returns.

As best I can see, the Church – and she wasn’t alone – did not take a strong enough position decades ago in the matter of abuse. That has since been corrected in large part (very very few new cases have been reported and most of the incidents in the news are decades old).

And the President himself, preferring not to look ‘back’ at who tortured whom and when and on whose orders and authority, seeks to move forward and look ahead rather than back.

I am not making a facile equation between torture and abuse (feel free to compute your own calculations on that) but I think that if he believes – as he seems to – that all things considered the US government has enough to do without going down the dark ‘back’ road, then the clergy-abuse cases, which are far far more dubiously grounded than the reports and claims of torture, should also be put behind us.

We are approaching a time when the Church’s work may (once again) be as important, and perhaps more useful and effective, than the government’s.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I came across this 190-page Dissertation*; it is not at this point widely available, but it addresses rather candidly a vital but touchy subject and I think that it holds a great deal of value for the SO Community and anybody concerned about the Mania Regime(s).

The author, Ms. Patters, takes a look at three Boston-area entities of the 1970s and 1980s and compares-contrasts how they deployed “children” (as a concept, not as individuals) for their own purposes.

Her careful study, with few punches pulled – an impressive achievement in itself nowadays in this subject area – yields documented insights woven together into a coherent vision of just what sort of strategy (if you’re feeling generous) or chicanery (if you’re not) and manipulation (in any case) went into what seemed at the time to be simply the surprising and unexpected revelations of all sorts of monstrous malfeasances on the part of individual males, males in general, and the society and culture and law that they built ostensibly to enable and sustain their predations and oppressions.

As always, I will use quotations from the text for any point I discuss, so as to give you a chance to see for yourself, whether or not you can access the document in its entirety.

Also, note that the text I am working from is in Adobe format: that means that each page actually has two page numbers: the number assigned by the Adobe system, and then the actual number of the page of the text (if you were, say, holding a hardcopy in your hand). Thus page-references will look like this: 10/13. The ‘10’ is the number of the page in the Adobe system, and the ‘13’ is the number of the page actually typed onto the text of the page by the author.

Her Abstract sets a stimulating scenario and task. She will “take the child as focus to understand both liberation politics and conservative social movements in the postwar United States “ (7/iv). Patters is picking up on the idea that both Left and Right have come together – like two separate forest fires – to create the massive wildfire of the Mania Regime(s).

The “libratory rhetoric” of sexual freedom collided with the “protectionist rhetoric” (7/iv), especially catalyzed around the explosive reality of the Child or ‘the children’: just how much sexual liberation can be admitted into the lives of children?

Patters simplifies – and conveniently so in a way, I think – the dynamics underlying this insight. She assigns the libratory thread to the Left (as I would call it) while assigning to the socially conservative Right - and especially to a “burgeoning rhetoric of the religious right” (7/iv) – the useful “broad call to ‘save the children’.

I think it’s a bit more complex than that, although Patters is certainly heading in the right direction. The Left – already committed in the more profoundly radical threads of its programme to reducing the burden of commitment, family, and even motherhood in the lives of women (at least as those lives were conceived by the cadres of the Left) – found it politically useful, necessary even, to somehow connect themselves to life-positive stances, and so ‘saving the children from the monstrous male’ would have been a vitally useful and efficient two-fer or three-fer.

Thus the Necessary Monster Male was simultaneously a construct of both the revolutionary and dogmatic Left as well as of the fundamentalist Right (since, as I said in my previous Post, revolutions and fundamentalisms have in common the indispensable need for a Necessary Enemy-Monster).

As she further concludes that this study will trace “the shrinking of progressive political possibilities and the emergence of a consolidated conservative discourse” I again note that – as has always been noted about American Progressivism over the past century and more – there are distinctly anti-democratic, elitist and centralizing threads woven deeply into the Progressive worldview, no matter how well-intentioned the visions which it seeks to impose through government action (law, regulation, policy) upon the suffering and unenlightened.

So I would not simply cast this vital and fascinating dynamic as one of purely Left-Liberation and Right-Restriction. Within the Left, especially once you get beyond the winsomely addled Flower Children themselves in that summer of ’67, there was always the threat of forceful imposition: after all, if you are advocating in a very Good and Urgent Cause, and if you also feel that you have made a world-class discovery about how most people live unknowingly as either oppressors or oppressed, then you aren’t going to be interested in wasting your time and energy on a ‘democracy’ comprised of such lumpish predators and donkeys.

Patters has chosen three 1970s Boston-area institutions – the Boston Women’s Health Collective, the Elizabeth Stone House, and the North American Man-Boy Love Association : “each adopted seemingly altruistic child-focused agendas to benefit their adult members”. (7/iv)

Moreover, “in advancing these agendas group members participated in the creation of a symbolic child-victim” and furthermore that “invocation [of that child-victim concept] would become a means of foreclosing political debate and establishing a cultural consensus of protection in the 1980s”. (7/iv)

And you can see here precisely those elements coming together that would help fuel the Mania Stampede that used the ‘emergency’ of a selectively-described situation to both inflame (through misinformation) public opinion and then to foreclose any of the traditionally and structurally required public deliberation and debate that might well have served to prevent the Stampede in the first place.

The child, Patters notes, that was so vivid a concept to the liberation of the 1970s (and Sixties with the ‘Flower Children’, I would say) that it ironically served to limit the spectrum of liberation in the 1980s: the child that had “repeatedly emerged as a political tool in leftist activism”. (7/iv)

Most leftish histories fail to explore (I would say: recognize or acknowledge) the ways that the concept of children’s sexuality “was deployed to expand discourses of violence while contracting discourses of liberation”. (24/16)

Patters takes a moment to point out – very usefully and nicely – the divisions that existed between these three left-identified ‘radical’ organizations. The females of the Elizabeth Stone House (a women’s alternative to state mental-health institutionalization, and committed to the theory that women’s diagnoses of madness or mental dysfunction was primarily a result of male oppression, while also exploring the links between violence and poverty and mental health) did not see the “radical-queer” North American Man/Boy Love Association as brothers in the great struggle for liberation, even as that group sought to support the overall lefty effort to reduce the authority of ‘parents’ and ‘tradition’ in order to increase ‘liberation’.

(In a thought-provoking aside – and I don’t want to get sidetracked into the NAMBLA material – Patters notes that, finding themselves unable to achieve acceptance even among the most putatively ‘radical’ of the leftish groups of feminists, multiculturalists, and even gay-liberationists, the NAMBLA folk concluded that they must therefore be the most truly radical of all the groups of the left. NAMBLA had exploited the yawning void in the foundations of all post-1960s ‘radical change’: that if all change is good, and radical change is automatically the best of all, and nobody has the right to be ‘judgmental’ about whatever that ‘radical change’ might actually be, then the entire foundation of post-60s ‘change’ was built on not just swampy ground, but explosive ground.)**

If only the Beltway had given all this some serious thought back in the day.

Acutely, Patters notes the problem of definitions. The ancient Chinese called it the Rectification of Names: if you haven’t named or classified something properly, then you aren’t going to be able to deal with it effectively. In modern terms, consider that there are several classes of fires depending on their cause and fuel, and what will extinguish one type of fire might not extinguish another (or might actually intensify it). “Neither ‘violence’ nor ‘child’, although used repeatedly, can easily be defined here.” (25/17)

Nor does she pull punches as to why this might be: “the actors examined herein [those three groups, especially] sought to define violence so that they could be perceived as persecuted radicals and to define child in ways that would further that perception and curtail opposition to their political agenda”. (25/17)

“Broadly exploitable, this [concept of the] modern child was seized-upon by feminists, boy-lovers, anti-pornography activists, and the newly-consolidated moral majority”. (26/18)

Proceeding into vital but dangerous waters (given the Mania Stampede and Mentality), Patters describes how feminists in the 1970s redefined ‘maternalism’: where before it was focused on the child and its welfare and future, second-wave feminism sought to redefine the maternal experience as being all about the mother, the woman, and her fulfillment. The compleat, liberated woman of the second-wave vision would make a better mother, it was imagined, than the housewife from the prior cultural concept. (28/20)

This, I would say, was a huge and – even for the feminists – dangerous gambit: ‘individualism’ in the context of being a mother could very very easily shade into ‘selfishness’ and for the political expectations of the feminist cadres that would never do. Hence ‘victimization’ and ‘male violence’ had to be relentlessly emphasized – and such stories kept fresh in the public’s mind – if for no other reason than to distract from the substantive and dark problem at the heart of their own agenda.

Thus, Patters says, the three groups “framed themselves and the figure of the child as victims of violence and [then] argued that their group’s mission contained the solution to the widespread cultural problem of child exploitation … Violence against children became a site to illustrate the victimization of the group members”. (30/22) Whether it was the feminists emphasizing poverty and “rape culture” or NAMBLA emphasizing the “repression of the child” and children’s liberties … the concept of the child was being used as an appealingly distractive cover to shield the advancing agendas – far less cute in every way – of this and that bunch of adults.

Equally insightful, Patters notes that members of the groups sought to cast themselves – simultaneously – as both saviors (of the children) and victims.

In tracing out this development, Patters goes back to the 1909 U.S. publication of “The Century of the Child” by one Ellen Key. Placing the child at the heart of many then-current public debates, Key also asserted that raising children was “the central work of society”. (33/25) (Even without mentioning Key’s description of the “holiness of generation”, it becomes clear just how much American concepts have changed through the feminist efforts that – with the Beltway’s enabling help – began in the late 1960s.)

As the child ceased to be viewed simply as a “miniature adult” and was seen to have a life and developmental needs of its own, “experts” began to pop up on just about every aspect of child-development, including the sexual nature of the child. And that first decade of the 20th century being the heyday of Progressivism, then the general impulse was to figure out what the right thing to do was and then use the government to do it forthwith with no democratic shilly-shallying. Which sounded kinda nice, but has turned out not so much so at all.

Patters reviews the child-centered writing and thinking throughout the rest of the 20th century, limning the development of what the 1970s writer Paul Robinson had called “sexual modernism”, the idea that sexual experience and activity was “neither a threat to the moral character nor a drain on vital energies” but rather “an entirely worthwhile, though often precarious, human activity whose proper management was essential to individual and social well-being ”. (41/33) This was in reaction the older Victorian approach which was to stifle all such distracting and potentially deranging imaginings and simply get on with the business of making the world a better place; and which concerned itself more with the moral formation of child, rather than its mental or emotional development.

And in the process Patters remarks on such lesser-known thinkers such as Lee Edelman, a current queer-studies advocate who charges that a child-centered culture commits “reproductive futurism”, concentrating for the sake of ‘the children’ on ‘the future’ rather than ‘the problems of the present’; he would prefer looking at “‘non-reproductive capacity’ as a social good” (39/31) and concentrating on what he considers the problems and challenges of the present. Which is as good an actual example as I have yet come across of how advocates of this or that, in order to lever open social and cultural ‘space’ for their cause and their particular version of the ‘oppressed’, manage to so profoundly distort and derange the essential and vital dynamics of culture and society – while making it all seem like a good idea.

The decrease in public competence to Kick Tire when ‘change’ and ‘reform’ and ‘progress’ – let alone the now eternal ‘emergencies’ – are turned loose in the public arena is one of the truly vital problems of ‘the present’. After decades of Political Correctness and advocacy-journalism, abetted by a political class and authority committed to whatever demands are made upon it and considering society and culture to be a species of play-dough, the public has lost much of intellectual capacity to skeptically and thoughtfully Kick Tire and its confidence to stand up and say so in public.

It caught my attention particularly that the noted literary critic and historian Alfred Kazin had once said that “the greatest and most beautiful effect of Freudianism [was] the increasing awareness of childhood as the single most important influence on personal development”. (48/40) It strikes me as accurate as far as it goes, but opens up a panoply of substantial public questions. In public policy: to what extent does so vital a reality as childhood justify extensive government intrusion into the private and familial realms and is there a ‘tipping point’ for a democracy and a constitutional republic beyond which government action, no matter how well-intentioned, becomes profoundly deranging in its own right?

And in human maturation: to what extent is it a given in human life (not a few millennia of which had been somewhat successfully completed before the enlightened decades of the American Progressive Era) that any adult must consciously undertake the assessment and repair or compensating-for whatever shortfalls were present in his/her childhood? Surely 18th century sea captains had to be adept at compensating for whatever failures or mistakes were committed at the builder’s yard when the ship was constructed; this would have been a vital part of Mastery and Command. While I think that it’s always wise, whenever possible, to prevent rather than have to repair, damage, yet it can do neither the polity nor individual adults any good to presume unthinkingly that humans are helpless to conduct their lives once beyond childhood (although both hands-on elitism and victimism would lead you to think that such was the case).

I also note that “beautiful” of Kazin’s: it is this sentimentalizing of childhood that somehow extends beyond the Victorians and continues into the Progressive Era and, with some sinister morphing, into the post-Sixties era of revolution and victimization.

I also think Patters helps greatly by spending several good pages on the career of the behaviorist psychologist John Watson, whose basic insight was that the human in infancy was indeed some combination of ‘machine’ and ‘play-dough’, that environment counted for far more than human nature, and that “with behaviorism he could transform any physically healthy infant into the adult of his choosing – doctor, lawyer …” and so forth. “Babies are made, not born”, he said in the 1920s. (53/45)

Although not concerned with what would be the turf of the gender wars of a future era, Watson’s assumptions predispose the unwary to the sense that ‘gender’ can be as easily ‘constructed’ or arranged as any of Watson’s other categories, with just some tinkering or judicious ripping-up of this or that cultural wall or frame.

Coming up into the immediate postwar period, Patters accepts the feminist assertions that that period was one of “domestic containment” where women – who had been needed in the factories and offices to fill in for the millions of males away on military service – were once again squashed into their confining and oppressive ‘housewife’ roles.

That dynamic is surely at play. But I have always wondered to what extent this cultural retrenchment did not reflect the desire of those who had been to war to embrace, once back home, a ‘normalcy’ whose absence – in the shattered societies of Europe and Asia – they had experienced with horror at first hand. To experience the stunning horror of an almost complete breakdown of order and of Order, to walk in the realm of true Disorder, must have made so many returning vets eager to ensure that such an awful catastrophe never befell their own loved ones.

Hence the domestic ‘orderliness’ of the 1950s, so clearly symbolized by the older, experienced, and long-ripened Eisenhower (against whose expertise the shrewd handlers of JFK had to ‘create space’ for their boy by spinning ‘new’, ‘fresh’, ‘bouncy’, ‘creative’, ‘change’ and ‘youth’ as good; and ‘old’, ‘familiar’, ‘careful’ ‘traditional’ as bad).

I say this not to dismiss the feminist insights, but rather to add another hugely possible explanation for what has so often been spun as nothing more than a massive instance of ‘oppression’ and ‘re-oppression’ in the perverted interests of ‘oppressors’.

“Sexual psychopath” laws had been popping up here and there throughout the early part of the century (once women had the vote, I note) as the expanding medical and legal establishments began to interact. What was ‘normal’? What was ‘deviant’? To what extent could such acts justify some sort of Registration and reporting-to the police station. (Eerily, these early 1930s ideas were precisely what the Soviets and Nazis were doing: ‘Your papers, please’ was a far more profound matter in those societies than simply the occasional border-guard checking to see that you had a properly endorsed passport.)

Patters also touches on the curious spill-over of conceptualizing the Nation-As-Child, simultaneously a being of Innocence and Great Potential but also Vulnerable. (64/56) I simply say here that it would have been much more useful – and perhaps less damage-causing – had folks conceptualized the Nation-As-Adult and gotten down to the hard but fully human adult work of conducting a life that seeks – to use Lincoln’s fine phrase from the Second Inaugural – “to achieve a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves and with all nations”.

“Youths of greater ages became children”, Patters observes. (66/58) At this point, depending on the context, a ‘child’ can include a military recruit, and certainly legally authorized to operate motor vehicles and various types of sharp-edged machinery. Again, you wonder about some Rectification of Names.

In the postwar era, it was mothers who were so responsible within the Family setting for the raising of children that – in their roles of “guardian and caregiver” – they could make demands for “broader social reforms in the name of children and families”. (68/60)

It was this “maternalist orientation” that “enabled women’s participation in public politics” while “it established and maintained the child as a strategic political tool”. (69/61) You can start to sense a certain constellation of influences and elements forming.

Patters cuts to the chase: “In the 1960s and 1970s several feminist groups latched onto maternalist rhetoric as a way to advance female independence and self-actualization.” (69/61) By claiming that “fulfilled women” made better mothers, they quietly overturned the definition of maternalism so that it focused now not on the well-being of the child but on the ‘fulfillment’ of the mother. “Individualism became the central component of motherhood”, as Patters puts it, and through this stratagem feminist activists of various types were “able to radicalize maternalism rather than use it to contain pre-existing radical politics”. (69/61)

And, equally acutely, Patters concludes that thereby “the lines between radical and reform-oriented activism were blurred”. (69/61) It contributed, I think, to the corroding civic competence and quality of American political discourse that the Citizenry was being subjected to such a (deliberate) confusion between two hugely different realities: radical politics and reform-seeking politics.

Even more acutely, Patters observes that while many second-wave feminists consciously rejected motherhood and maternalism, yet “the rhetoric” of maternalism (corrupted as noted above) was proving very useful politically. (70/62) And, as she had already said, this second-wave maternalism had a completely different center-of-gravity: it was the woman’s fulfillment and interests that were paramount, although presented as merely necessities to a more competent motherhood and performance of the familial role. This, I think, goes a long way to explaining why now, after decades of pervasive and invasive ‘reform’, the American Family is yet in such a difficult and weakened condition.

This also enabled women to “claim superior knowledge” in matters of the Family and the Child, effectively undermining male input and neutralizing male doubts about or objections to this or that ‘reform’ while also endowing women with the moral stature that has always accrued to women whose political activism was based on a concern for Family and Children (temperance, Prohibition, child-labor laws, public health reforms, educational reforms, and – Patters does not say here – right on up to the Mania Regimes of Domestic Violence and Sex Offense. (71/63)


The agenda of women’s rights was in some way piggy-backed on the rights and needs of the threatened and vulnerable child (somewhat like the old WW2 movies where a submarine would make it into the enemy harbor by hiding itself beneath an enemy vessel as it went through the antisubmarine net). Women who presented themselves merely as ‘concerned mothers’ would be more politically palatable than women who acknowledged themselves as radical-activists or even “solely as citizens”. (72/64)

Alas, this shrewd gambit would also introduce a deep thread of deceit into American politics. And by side-stepping extensive public deliberation – either because the public didn’t realize just what was at stake or because anything having to do with ‘helping and protecting the children’ had to be worthwhile (and couldn’t possibly have any ill consequences) – then few of the ‘reforms’ were subjected to the refining fire of wide scrutiny. So much similar to the run-up to the Iraq War invasion, come to think of it.

“Rarely perceived as radical itself, maternalist assertions [sic] were often used as a way to translate socially unpalatable positions into culturally normative language”. (73/65) Because “inasmuch as the maternal bond was considered sacrosanct, those activities that aided its formation and maintenance could be safe-guarded from criticism”. (82/74) And again I say that it is precisely here that a profound public political corrosion was begun.

In both the Boston Women’s Health Collective and the Elizabeth Stone House groups, activists attacked institutional medical authority and the very definition of mental health and dysfunction, while they simultaneously “paired women with children to advance feminist politics”. (74/66) The key trope was that through improving the health of women, then families and children would automatically be helped.

Mothers thus helped would be better-equipped to educate their (female?) children, which would include preserving the child’s “natural sexual expressivity” (instead of trying to impose fuddy-duddy old conventional and oppressive patriarchal forms and strictures upon it). (81/73) You can see where this ‘libratory discourse’ about children’s sexuality was going to collide with the 1980s’ ‘protectionist discourse’. You can also see where the usual American conceptual mechanisms such as ‘Left’ or ‘Right’ were not going to be adequate to deal with the rapidly mutating streams; the Sex Offense Mania would be, I would say, an effort – grounded in new and ominous government-heavy theories of law and enforcement – to impose some sort of ‘order’ upon the wild sexual confusion engendered by the ‘libratory discourses’ of the 1970s.

Patters does not fail to note that both institutions employed “consciousness-raising” and the use of “anecdotal stories” combined with “secondary research information” (which might include all sorts of material that had not gone through any of the rigorous testing and peer-review that one might expect would be the case with “research”). (80/72)

Patters also notes, in the context of mental health ‘reforms’, the deinstitutionalization initiative of the 1970s: aware that the Victorian era asylums had by the mid-1900s come to be merely warehouses for the mentally afflicted, a ‘liberation’, widely approved, was implemented whereby most of the state mental-institutions were closed down and their inmates and patients largely cast out on their own.

This initiative was partially fueled by the politicized effort to redefine ‘mental illness’ from being an actual disease to being a “social construction”. Given a feminist twist this approach (propounded by thinkers such as Foucault and radicalized psychiatrists such as Thomas Szasz) held that much of female ‘mental illness’ was merely an oppressive form of labeling and keeping women subordinated, concocted and literally ‘constructed’ by the oppressive patriarchy.

You can also see where, trying to lever open ‘cultural space’ by dismissing ‘old’ ‘constructions’ and traditional cultural criteria of acceptable behavior, the assorted advocacies that arose in the Sixties removed – in my view – the cultural Trellis upon which children and adults could shape and limit and boundary their energies and behaviors (sexual, in this case). To some extent a well-intentioned response to perceived problems, this general gambit was bound to create great social and cultural disorder, shading toward chaos.

But the Sixties were soused with the assumption first enunciated by Jean Jacques Rousseau in the late 18th-century: that the human spirit would grow quite nicely and naturally if it weren’t deformed by social conventions. ‘Society’ was, for Rousseau, the great inhibitor; society’s and culture’s limitations were artificial and the great enemies of naturally-good human growth and self-expression.

Persons ‘labelled’ as mentally ill would do better when removed from institutions and “returned to the community” (where, it was happily assumed, those who really needed medications would sustain a daily order of going to their local community mental health center for their vitally necessary doses of new wonder-drugs that would keep them balanced and – go figure – ‘normal’).

Additionally, society would simply have to ‘loosen up’ and get used to the ‘increased range of behaviors’ (my term) that would now increasingly be seen on the streets of any community. And you can see how this thread would also be woven into the 1980s social-conservative reaction, seeking to restrain ‘monster sex offenders’ who were simultaneously criminal and mentally-aberrant, requiring institutionalization (prison, asylum) on the grounds of both legal-public safety and mental-health concerns.

Needless to say, the whole thing – at least with respect to the mentally-ill – was cast as a “civil rights” issue (88/80); in the 1980s an extremism would arise in response to this ‘libratory’ extremism: the community and its standards would be asserted as having ‘rights’ as well, which could be asserted against the ‘individuals’ of the Sixties and Seventies.

And it was here that the anti-individual and anti-individual-rights threads, gravid with such ominous consequences for democracy, limited government and limited government police power, and the general ethos of American Constitutional praxis, would be woven into the Mania Regimes.

Patters makes the assessment that the entire gambit of deinstitutionalization, “though grounded in good intentions, yielded dubious results”. (87/79) Nobody should have been surprised.

Interestingly, Patters mentions the development of a “good-enough mothering” philosophy: that whatever a woman was able to do to raise her children once she had gotten some managed control over her own personal concerns and ‘issues’, would have to be accepted by society and culture as sufficient for the children. (89/81)

As more and more women began to have children out of wedlock and without sufficient income – the ‘single mother’ espoused by advocates – the introduction (invention, you might say) of this ‘philosophy’ was entirely predictable and indeed necessary to somehow address – or at least appear to address – the vastly increasing consequences now becoming visible in society generally.

The Elizabeth Stone House approach, therefore, considered the individual woman’s health and wellness to be the core concern, “from which familial improvement would spring”. (89/81)

Patters immediately goes on to opine that “’good-enough parenting might be seen as the logical end of this individualized, maternalist, woman-centered politics …centered on women’s needs, addressing familial health only as it grew from the total health of women”. (89/81)

The Family – I capitalize it to indicate its profound and vital structural centrality to American (and Western) culture and society – was instantly demoted to just one more of the ‘old’ and ‘oppressive’ structures that needed to be somehow ‘reformed’. Simply on the basis of prudence when dealing with deep-structures, such a demand should have been given the most careful and prudent consideration, the same way that you would want a contractor claiming the need to alter the foundations of an occupied skyscraper to provide verrrrry careful and extensive plans. But that was not the spirit of the age and the Beltway – eager to please new voting demographics and stay ‘with it’ – did no such thing; at best, it presumed that any demand had a certain ‘right’ to some amount of fulfillment and the only job of the political class was to broker a ‘deal’.


Furthermore, beyond the purely formal procedural and structural considerations outlined above, there is the fact that so much of the ‘justification’ put forth for this and that demand was so speculative and ungrounded in any experience. (Neatly, rather than have to admit the possibility that over the millennia of Western and even human civilization human beings largely judged The Family to be essential, it was loudly asserted by the advocates that only a most deliberate and ill-intentioned oppressive patriarchy could be the cause of The Family’s widespread and continuous existence; even though, as the historical and archeological and anthropological records were examined, no evidence of any Original Matriarchy could be found, certainly not in any of the larger civilizations in world history, proving the existence of that storied golden age before ‘males’ went and stole cultural control from a well-established and well-functioning Matriarchal Power).

This is of relevance to the formation of the Mania Regime(s) because it becomes clear that in the decades between the Sixties and the Nineties the government, the media, and public opinion got used to the idea of accepting sweeping ‘change’ and ‘reform’ without really very much evidence or deliberative and prudent thought at all.

And while the country had been primed throughout the 20th century (starting - tellingly – not with the anarchist assassins who had been killing crowned heads, statesmen, and even President McKinley but with the Red Scare of 1919-20 against Communist infiltrators): the postwar decade saw the McCarthy mania over domestic Communists in government, and throughout the 1950s there was the permanent ‘emergency’ of atomic war.

But with the Sixties and Identity Politics there came the Necessary Enemy and Necessary Monster for each advocacy’s particular purposes, which in effect opened up not simply ‘culture war’ but a form of government-sponsored civil war, with the advocates pretty much initiating the attacks essential to whipping up support for – or at least acquiescence in – their agendas.

And the dynamic spread like kudzu. And thus to the Male as Monster and then the Sex Offender as Monster in the Eighties and especially the Nineties.

Patters then goes on to note that not only was ‘health’ redefined according to the visions and preferences of advocates, but ‘ill health’ as well. Women were, they said, rendered unhealthy by the “effects of sexism: not only the effects of physical violence but also the damage to “self-esteem” and the consequences, inevitably, of “sexual violence”. (84/76) And you can see where all that led.

Additionally, such ‘health problems’ were quickly touted as justifications for whatever “social change” (85/77) had to be introduced – and in light of the ‘emergency’ any and all such change had to be introduced forthwith, immediately, and without the obstructive delays of democratic deliberation.

The formation of the perfect-storm of the Mania Regime(s) was not far off and was almost inevitable now.

The Elizabeth Stone House advocates went so far as to indict “an inadequate medical establishment, an ineffective political apparatus, and a violent patriarchal culture”. (85/77) And, of course, what was bad for women was also bad for ‘children’ so the ‘children’ in effect became the equivalent of those wide-eyed seal pups whose doomed gaze filled the public-advocacy commercials of environmentalism at the time.

The culture and more specifically the gender war quickly and robustly embraced a “politics of pathology”. (85/77) And another thread in the Mania Regime(s) was put in place.

I’d also note that the “ineffective political apparatus” included deliberative democratic politics.

But Patters also notes that the Stone House approach did not so much emphasize the strengths of women so much as their vulnerability; they – and of course their children – needed to be “protected” since they were all victims and “survivors” of “sexist patriarchy”. (91/83) And another thread was woven into the warp and woof of the Mania Regime(s).

(I point out these differences, difficulties, and  incoherences in various feminist efforts here primarily to demonstrate how such huge – and ineffective and politically ominous – ‘changes’ were made in the country on the basis of substantial amounts of less-than-clearly-rational demands and justifications. The rejoinder, naturally, would be that the ‘emergency’ was so great, and perhaps a matter of pre-existing ‘rights’ and even ‘public health’, that the time-consuming and uncertain processes of deliberative democratic politics would simply postpone what needed to be done. Which was yet another thread woven into the fabric of the Mania Regime(s).)

Patters quotes one feminist author to the effect that males were engaged in wholesale “sexual terrorism” which, although that particular book came out in 2007 “owed a great deal to Susan Brownmiller’s mid-1970s assertion that “rape” is nothing more than a mechanism by which all men keep all women in a state of fear. The 2007 book adds “children” to the list of victims. (92/84)

The Boston Women’s Health Collective went so far as to assert that since the whole national culture was corrupted with male “sex and violence” then only women were really “the best people to provide support and ensure conditions that would reduce incidences of rape”. (92/84) Those “conditions”, I note, would be the bright sunlit uplands envisioned in an America governed by the Domestic Violence and Sex Offense laws. Which, I would say, has turned out not to be the case.

Patters quotes the Collective as explaining how there could be anywhere from 4 to 10 times as many rapes as reported by asserting that the male-dominated judicial and law enforcement agencies not only did not prosecute allegations but also counseled women to “be prepared to feel as though the police are raping you again”, (93/85) which is a lethal bit of hyperbole, especially when deployed in so traditionally dangerous an area as the deployment of the police power and the criminal law against citizens.

Curiously, in 1973 the Collective is also preaching that “it is not the police, the courts or men who will stop rape; it is women who will stop rape”. (93/85) Which actually turned out not to be the case: in the Nineties ‘governance feminism’, combined with the consequences of hiring policies going back to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (that out of the blue tossed in ‘gender’ alongside ‘race’ as a category of discrimination), essentially infiltrated the police and courts (the Beltway was already on board) to use the several bureaucracies of the federal government to impose their desired ‘changes’.

Indeed, the Collective’s 1973 approach was quickly subsumed in a government-and-police heavy recasting of fundamental American and Western jurisprudence, which by the Nineties resulted in the Mania Regime(s). But the recourse to having your demands met by official imposition rather than broad public consensus pretty much guaranteed such an outcome, such a mutation.

Patters notes that there were “similarities” in both the Stone House and Women’s Collective approaches: they both “framed sexual violence as something of particular concern to women, children and families”. (99/91) Further, that flowing from the definition of rape in the influential early book “Our Bodies, Ourselves”, sexual violence was a crime perpetrated by men against women and children. (99/91) (The children were victimized as secondary and collateral damage to the mother.)

Patters sums things up here by observing that “at the core of these new frameworks was the formulation of a radical agenda that relied on the pairing of women and children” but that in the end this “strategic reliance” (‘stratagem’ would not be inappropriate) on a maternalism of women-grouped-with-children “ultimately undermined the libratory goals of the very groups that re-imagined the politics of women and children”. (101/93)

At this point Patters devotes a long but informative chapter (starting 102/94) to the contortions surrounding the North American Man/Boy Love Association, starting with a 1977 police raid on a working-class neighborhood where adult males were allegedly having sex with male teens; the District Attorney opened up a campaign against ‘child molesters’; an openly lesbian politician doubted whether the men were homosexual at all but instead simply indiscriminately sexually-aggressive males; the gay community disowned anybody who would have sex with a minor; several gay activist organizations came to the men’s defense as being persecuted for primarily being gay; and the NAMBLA group claimed that in its assertion of the sexual-independence of the youths it was probably more authentically radical than any other gay or feminist group on the stag and that it seemed the moralizing of the Left was now coming to match the moralizing of the Right and that NAMBLA was actually standing up against the “ageism” that would deny youth the freedom to define their own sexual activity and fulfillment.

I mention it all here just to give a sense of the complexity of threads that arise in a politics with no overarching or underlying common consensus.

Also, in a Footnote to that chapter (Note 180 on 117/109), Patters mentions that the first UNICEF conference on “saving the children” was held in 1989. Recall in my immediately previous Post Christine Stansell’s recounting of how American feminists, faced with more rebuff than they wished to admit domestically, took their issues international in the 1980s– especially that of violence against women. Patters notes that domestic concern about the welfare of children was incorporated into the government’s foreign policy “and provided justification for U.S. intervention in other sovereign states”.

I seem to recall that for a while there U.S. presence in Iraq was spun as being imposed in order to protect children; but after resistance/insurgency and the U.S. efforts to quell it resulted in numerous civilian deaths this ‘justification’ was quietly dropped down the rabbit-hole.

In her following chapter, Patters sets out to point out what happened when both feminist women-empowerment advocates and NAMBLA began to cast themselves as somehow saviors of the endangered Child or Children. “… [P]rogressive groups in the 1970s unknowingly contributed to the development of an iconic child-victim whose protection became central to the broader cultural conservatism of the 1980s”. (129/121) Funny how the night moves!

But I don’t agree with her when she then says “I use conservatism here to signal a foreclosure of dialogue and the introduction of a protectionist imperative whenever the image of the child-victim is invoked”. (129/121) I agree that conservatism as is has devolved might well be capable of such a gambit but that – even as Patters has demonstrated earlier – the Left advocacies were doing the exact same thing decades earlier.

She quotes one queer theorist author who asserts – accurately enough – that “the figure of the child cannot be opposed when it is conjured in public debate”. It is precisely this manipulative ‘conjuring’ that has so eroded the quality and competence of American political discourse now: rather than deliberate ideas, proponents and opponents seek, at the best, to come up with just the right ‘quarter’ which, when jammed into the public jukebox, will play the desired tune.

But “’victim’ is an unruly word”, as Patters quotes a recent feminist writer (131/123), who also observes that you really can’t know what it’s supposed to mean until you see it in context: does it denote, say, the heroic victim fighting back or the helpless victim victimized? You can’t know what the word is supposed to mean until you look in the context. And is one the ‘victim’ of a criminal act, a systemic characteristic of a system, or a cultural bias?

Those are dangerous words indeed, like chemicals that behave unpredictably in reactions. The Mania Regime legislation and discourse is swimming with words like that. The Victorians called such words ‘portmanteau words’ or suitcase-words: they were largely empty space but could be filled with whatever the owner wanted to fill them with.

(In a sort of eerie synchronicity, they resemble ‘unattended baggage’ in the post-9/11 era: are they innocent and harmlessly unattended or are they lethally dangerous and deliberately left where they are to cause havoc? You aren’t supposed to ask – just call the authorities, perhaps scream to get other people away from it, and follow orders. One also thinks of the suspicious-envelopes of the ‘anthrax emergency’ that flourished for a brief moment after 9/11, when cities and towns were filled with the screaming sirens of special squads assigned to race to the report of each such envelope.)

Patters sees a deep inconsistency in the libratory groups’ approach to ‘children’: ostensibly of the Left and concerned for empowerment and liberation, they quietly embraced a “conservative protectionist politics when addressing child-victims”. (132/124)

But the she puts her finger on a useful point indeed: the ‘victim’ discourse was a “necessary precondition” of the libratory discourse: no liberation unless you were first a victim. (132/124)

She goes further and suggests that in addition to the libratory “positive liberty” (the freedom to pursue a course of action) there must also be now an “invented negative liberty (freedom from a particular form of victimization” (132/124) [italics hers] Because, I would say, you need – as any scriptwriter could tell you – a Necessary Enemy against whom you can define yourself and conduct your ‘struggle’.

Thus, she continues, you have a Necessary Goal, and are struggling not only to be free of victimization but to free society from victimization. No scriptwriter could have put the Hero-dynamics together more effectively.

Further, “by expanding the definition of violence members of these groups created a space to position themselves as victims”. And on top of that, “the ability to link their victimization to that of the child was central to group efforts to communicate their political efforts to a broad audience”. (133/125)

In this way, Patters sees, groups could cast themselves as occupying a sort of double high-ground: as both Victim and Savior. (134/126)

Moreover, “the role of victim assumed a measure of strategic importance to social movement groups, especially those involved with children’s issues. Inasmuch as public sympathies rested with victims of violence rather than its perpetrators, those groups that could perform their own victimization while also tapping the culture weight of the figure of the child held powerful tools for swaying public opinion and winning political victories”. (134/126)

“Social movement groups often used this pairing of adult and youth victimization to legitimize their claims about violence … the definition of violence was expanded; the group was poised to counter that violence; and the child was central to both efforts”. (135/127)

And where there was a victim there had to be a victimizer.

And in a most impressive bit of fine-tuning, the groups arranged the story such that they were not simply allies of the child-victim, but were indeed co-victims themselves, thereby maximizing their payoff. (135/127) That’s how rhetorically powerful the victim-role or victim-position is, “compelling interest, amassing allies”.

But the power of that victimhood relies upon the ability to re-define violence as convenient to your purposes. Thus the elastic definitions of ‘abuse’ and of ‘rape’ and even of ‘violence’ itself (physical, sexual, emotional, demonstrable, perceived, conceptual, non-verbal, even non-threatening, and so forth). And, of course, once you are accepted as victim of violence however defined, then you also get to define your victimizer. (136/128)

And once things have reached this point, you can see where the ‘discourse’, freed from any limiting power of actuality or of stable definitions, simply spins off wildly. And by the late Nineties there were ‘definition’ problems even about “what the word ‘is’ is” and in the Iraq War ‘what torture is’ and what it is not.

Patters notes that in the second edition of its Handbook(3 years after the first in 1973) the Collective went further than it had in its first edition and asserted that rape is not simply a crime against women through which children also suffer, but that “far more children are victims of rape than most of us realize”. (136/128)

Yet that edition also proceeds immediately to assert that rape is “a crime which might be viewed as the ultimate expression of attitudes toward, and contempt for, women of all ages”. (137/129) Yet how then do children figure into as victims of rape? Unless the ‘children’ are presumed to be all female? And if there are male children so violated, what is the purpose? Does it reveal a distinct conceptual hatred of males in the same way that it does when a female is the victim?

The Collective concluded by indicting not just rapists but all those who might never think of committing a rape but who (somehow) “condone” others’ crimes of rape of Rape Culture generally. So the indictment list is now expanded exponentially, to include persons who don’t even know that they are complicit in rape and who themselves never have and never would commit a rape.

“In many cases advancing shared victimization with children involved a dramatic revision of what constituted violence, who could be imagined a victim of it, and what was understood to contribute to it. The different aims of these groups can leave little doubt that the left did not produce a singular definition of violence in this period.” (138/130)

But, of course, establishing a single, solid definition of ‘rape’ (or of any other term in the Mania vocabulary) would be precisely what the advocates would want to avoid. So long as you could continually expand this or that definition, then you could expand your operation indefinitely, taking advantage of new political opportunities or events or even any useful ‘studies’ that would give you even more claim to legitimacy (and perhaps funding). It would become - in the vivid Pentagon phrase – “the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone”.

And of course, by casting themselves as saviors – and of children – such groups would also burnish the appearance that they were acting out of altruism rather than self-interest. (Which was particularly devious since the new maternalism precisely sought to put the mother-woman’s interests ahead of the child’s or the family’s interests and needs.) (140/132)

Patters then hits upon one of the most clearly ominous of the political dynamics inherent in all of this. Western political thought had always been liable to a dualistic tendency whereby Reason was opposed to Emotion, and further that Reason was considered ‘masculine’ and Emotion ‘feminine’.

Hence, feminism had two options: try to reduce the role of Reason in politics and increase the role of Emotion, or insist that Reason was as female as it was masculine. Already committed to a certain manipulative rhetorical strategy with victimization and the child-victim, and not really confident enough or patient enough to trust a wide and deep public analysis of its demands and justifications, I think feminism slid down the path of Emotion. After all, since both the oppressors and the oppressed were too selfish or too unreflective to want the entire system overturned, then Reason wasn’t going to advance many of the necessary agendas.

And between advertising psychology and the psychological manipulation inherent in ‘mass politics’ as perfected in the Third Reich, there was more than enough knowledge as to how one goes about organizing what I would call ‘controlled political stampedes’.

“When these groups privileged emotion over reason they were effectively reframing the method of political debate”. (142/134)

That’s being a bit too nice. By altering the core criterion and method from Reason to Emotion you weren’t simply re-framing the method of political debate; you were undermining it completely – an ‘emotional’ rather than a ‘rational’ debate is no longer a debate. It is a rhetorical feeling-fest where whoever can generate the most favorable emotional response in the audience is going to win.

This, I hope it’s clear, constitutes a huge regression in political and civic competence and also undermines the entire ethos of the American democratic polity grounded in and ultimately governed by The People.

Patters is sharp enough to realize that the feminist-inspired change to Emotion was different from anything that had come before. There had always been an element of the emotional in politics and even in political debate, but – she notes – such Emotion was always subordinated to the service of “logical argumentation”. (142/134) But what was now being introduced was something else altogether: change was being demanded purely on the basis of Emotion (and logical argumentation was actually disparaged as obstructionist and abstract and ‘male’ and so forth). (143/135)

When such Emotion then migrated from politics to Law … well, you can imagine what began to happen to the foundational stability of Law.

Worse, it erected at the heart of the national political process and discourse and consciousness, a sleazy dishonesty (my term): because “the performance of victim and savior, though it involved a radical expansion of cultural understandings of violence and radical revision in the language of politics/political debate, was designed to allow groups to take root in the public imagination as approachable and sympathetic rather than being perceived as radical extremists”. (144/136)

I’d add that their being ‘radical extremists’ was not simply a matter of perception but of actuality: what was being done here was nothing less than a profound derangement of the entire American political vision and system.

It paid off though – at least in the short run: “Compelling performances were rewarded with legislative initiatives, victories in court, or changes in public opinion polls.” (145/137) And that’s really all they wanted. A public comprised of either oppressors or donkeys wasn’t really worth their time trying to engage as The People.

Patters examines at some length – and usefully – the child day-car ritual abuse trials of the 1980s and early 1990s. (starting on 152/144) Suffice it to say that from what we now know, and there was some truly repellant skullduggery on the part of adult parents and mental health practitioners and law enforcement, the overturning of so many of those cases was insufficient to counter the lethal damage done to an entire generation or two of politicians, legal and law enforcement professionals, media types, and the public that had to sit still like a pin-cushion as horror after inconceivable horror was ‘reported’. And the children who were used as pawns and the accused who were used as Necessary Monsters.

I can’t pass up this one bit: in a Minnesota case from 1983, in a case that even the State’s Attorney General admitted was a shocking example of law enforcement “gone awry” a jury acquitted the single defendant that the prosecutor eventually managed to get to trial: said the female prosecutor (although I imagine that given what they’re teaching in law schools now, it could as easily be a male): “This means that we live in a society that doesn’t believe children.” (165/157) [italics Patters’s]***

Despite the kiddie-TV movies (and I suppose the film “ET”) where sharp and resourceful kids solve huge problems that adults are too stupid to even be aware of, I don’t think there are any parents worth their salt who make it a rule to “believe” whatever kids say; ‘the dog ate my homework’ wasn’t a line invented by dogs, after all.

Such knee-jerk ‘believing’ is also not wise praxis for those public officials entrusted with enforcing and administering the Law, especially criminal law. And yet, and yet …

“Inasmuch as the 1980s revealed fissures in children’s credibility, the child became dangerous not only to itself but to others.” (174/166) Ditto.

She concludes with some recommendations, among which is the intriguing thought that the Boston Archdiocese priest sex-abuse scandals should be the subject of “future research”. One can only imagine what will come to light.

In her last pages she makes her only specific reference to Sex Offenses by observing that “the pedophile continues to looms large as the United States considers registration and civil commitment of sex offenders”. (179/171) For a paper written in 2010 the otherwise impressive Patters is a bit behind the times here: it’s been 20 or 21 years now and many persons – very few of them pedophiles (itself an insufficiently-defined term in public and media discourse) are on Registries, or languishing in prison, or have had their lives wrecked.

So much remains to be done.


*Patters, N’Jai-An Elizabeth. “Deviants and Dissidents: Children’s Sexuality and the Limits of Liberation”. U/Minnesota: 2010. UMI Access Number 3422605. If you have access to the U/Minn archives or through the Pro-Quest service you may access it. Otherwise it is not yet widely available.

**Let me reiterate here what my position is on the whole adults-having-sex-with-children thing: I classify it as being in the same category as fans-having-sex-with-their-favorite-stars: something that in the privacy of your own mind might help you get through the day (although in such a case you really need to develop some better get-through-the-day strategies) but not something that you can ever act upon, not something you can ever consider as justifying your intrusion into your fantasy object’s actual life and affairs, no matter how much you’ve convinced yourself that what you bring to the table is so life-changingly good that your ‘target’ (let’s be honest here) would benefit immensely.

***I just came across this relevant bit in the magazine “First Things” (January 2011 issue, p. 66). Apparently the Brits are holding UFO drills in middle schools: some ‘wreckage’ is scattered about by the authorities at a ‘scene’, the children are brought in and taught how to handle themselves in such a scenario and – the education part, no doubt – they are required to write reports with their observations (the ones, that is, old enough to write). So far, so postmodern.

The interesting point, raised by a police constable who has presided over some of these exercises, is that “older pupils were asking questions about the crash site … but the younger children were convinced they’d seen the crash happen”. (italics mine)

And in this regard, I pass along this insight from the author Christopher Lasch in his 1991 book “the True and Only Heaven” (pp. 91-2). He notes that for the early 19th century Romantics childhood was prized for its potential adulthood, and “childhood memories as the ‘hiding places of man’s power’”[quoting Wordsworth]; but for the Victorians the child was “a passive, incorruptible victim of adult domination”.

Moreover, “For the Romantic poets in general, childhood innocence was ‘valuable for what it might become’ … With the Victorians, however, the emphasis shifted ‘toward the state of innocence itself’, not as a resilient expression of man’s potential integrity” but as something different from and opposed to human experience, and in retreat from it.”

Hence the Victorian child-deathbed scene, where the passively innocent child is celebrated for leaving this impure world, literally “better off dead” because Innocence had no home in this broken world.

Lasch sums that point up by recalling Peter Pan’s desire “always to be a boy and to have fun”, a wish – he says – “that only jaded embittered adults could have conceived”. For no actual child would or could ever imagine itself to be in childhood, anymore than a fish could consider itself in water; let alone imagine itself in the midst of the happiest time of its life. Ironically, the Victorians wind up denying reality to children as well as credibility to adulthood and the entire adult approach to life.


This article recalls Dick Cheney saying that torture is necessary in order to “protect our kids from another 9-11”. You see how these things migrate, and corrosively so.