Sunday, May 6, 2012


I continue with my look at the Philadelphia clerical abuse trial currently underway in that city.

As I had mentioned, there is a special site set up by a local law firm with a reporter Posting on each day’s session (no sessions on Fridays). That site is here. You can follow the daily reports yourself, and also follow the comments by myself and various other commenters.

There is another site with useful background here.

And my previous Post on the trial is here.

The value of this trial from the overall SO point of view is – in my opinion – that we can see in both the trial and also in the commenting on the law-firm’s site some dynamics that I consider to be characteristic of and revelatory of the dynamics that have driven so much of what I term generally as the SO Mania or Stampede.

It’s been a more or less slow week: the prosecution is still presenting ‘evidence’ in the form of statements made by one of the Defendants (Msgr. Lynn) that were presented to the Philadelphia Grand Jury. Those statements are about how he handled cases of priests accused of material stretching back almost two decades (thus the curiously ‘historical’ nature of this case), and just about all of Lynn’s statements refer to how he handled the cases in the era prior to 2002, which saw the initiation of the most recent Phase of this sustained focus on the Catholic Church.

Rather than call Lynn to read his own statements into this trial’s record, the prosecution has one of its own read the statements from the Grand Jury transcript as if he were Lynn. This is a curious mechanism, and even the reporter who files the daily assessments acknowledges because of this tactic there is in some actual sense a ‘show-trial’ aspect to the presentation.

During the past week I put up an Addendum to my prior Post, but since many readers might have read that Post before the Addendum went up, the first thing I want to do is discuss the point I made in that Addendum.

There exists a phenomenon known in the legal trade as “law office history”: an attorney (for the Defendant or the Plaintiff in a civil case, for defense or prosecution in a criminal case) decides on the theory of the case; s/he then directs the office-elves to hit the books and come up with all useful statutes, case law, and facts which will support that specific theory of the case.

Thus this type of ‘history’ is specifically and selectively designed precisely to support a pre-determined outcome, to wit: the theory of the case that the directing attorney is ‘advocating’, the ‘framing’ of the case which the attorney wants the court (and the jury, and often the media) to accept as being the governing theory for the trial. In this sense, such ‘law office history’ is very literally ‘advocacy history’ since it is not a free-wheeling, independent and candid look at all the relevant factors in the case, but rather is a careful enumeration and narrative comprised of all the factors relevant to the specific and already-determined theory of the case.

This is – as you can see – hell and gone from the actual process of genuine historical investigation, conducted (ideally) by a disinterested and objective and detached and professionally-trained researcher who is trying to get the largest and widest and deepest factual picture of the matter and of all the factors that bear upon the matter, and see where that takes the investigation; and then on that basis and after all that research and careful consideration is done, the historian will formulate some judgments as to the matter.

Further, given that lawyers have played so great a role in advocating for ‘advocacies’ who wish to influence legislators toward making desired laws according to their advocacy’s particular agenda and interests, you also see a great deal of this ‘law office history’ presented to legislators as if it were genuine history. And often such ‘history’ is then included by the legislators as ‘Findings’ that they enumerate in the opening sections of a new piece of legislation, to justify the legislation that they have chosen to erect into law.

Thus so many of the SO laws contain such Findings. But the ‘facts’ in those Findings were not the fruit of genuine history, but of a species of ‘law office history’ – and so we remain bethump’t by a lethal welter of inaccurate Findings: the alleged extremely high recidivism rates of ‘sex offenders’; the assumption that all types of sex-offenses along a broad spectrum yet indicate that any person convicted of even the least of those crimes still poses a major recidivist threat to the public; the assumption that even if a given individual is only convicted of a low-grade offense, yet there exists every possibility that he (so very often a ‘he’) will ‘graduate’ to higher levels of offense at some point in the future (thus justifying registration for decades into the future); the assumption that every person convicted had probably committed far more offenses than the one(s) he was Charged with. And so forth and so on.

Worse, of course, was that the ‘advocacy history’ of the law office also relied upon ‘advocacy science’ which undertook to ‘prove’ the pre-determined presumption that all sex-offenses and all sex-offenders were lethally and forever so dangerous and that all sex-offenses and all sex-offenders were so reliably morally and psychologically deranged by their ‘addiction’ that all manner of first principles of American law and jurisprudence could be overridden: because the sex-offender has been ‘proven’ (by that advocacy science carefully collated into that advocacy/law office history) to be a species of beast that is a) un-reformable that sex offenses cannot be treated according to the traditional first principles of American law and jurisprudence.

And b) that the sex offender is a species of criminal so utterly heinous that he doesn’t deserve to be treated according to the traditional first principles of American law.

The presumptions underlying both (a) and (b) thus work to create an ‘emergency’ for which ‘emergency law’ is justified, even though the demonstrated results of such ‘emergency laws’ in recent world history have been lethal and fatal to the Western rule of law.

But it gets worse.

Because many persons not widely educated into the distinction between genuine history and ‘law office/advocacy history’, and who are susceptible (and even decently so) to giving their energies to a Cause, read this law office/advocacy history and draw the (grossly inaccurate) conclusion that ‘History’ so clearly ‘proves’ – as if in a perfectly comprehensive symmetry of conclusive and irrefutable logic – that their Cause is utterly Good and that ‘History proves that it is’. And – in the obverse – that the Evil against which their Cause is struggling is ‘proven by History’ to be so utterly and clearly Evil that i) the perpetrators of it should be seen as some almost metaphysically (or ‘ontologically’, if you want to use formal philosophical terms) a different being from human beings (who are presumed to be Good). Thus such monstrous beings are not to be considered as accused Citizens but rather as ‘discovered monsters’ in regard to whom the task of the legal system is simply to tag them and get rid of them.

This was precisely the line of reasoning that led Soviet secret police chief Felix Dzherzinsky to assert with a chilling forthrightness that in the matter of ‘enemies of the revolution and of the Russian people’ “the Cheka does not investigate – it strikes!”. (An approach thoroughly congenial to Fascist and Nazi jurisprudence as well.)

There is in this Soviet approach to law and law enforcement and justice in general no presumption of innocence. Indeed, once a person has been declared or presumed to be engaged in ‘counter-revolutionary’ activity, then s/he is by definition no longer a deserving member of the Russian people and the Soviet polity, but rather is and always has been a treacherous and traitorous enemy of that people and that polity, against whom anything is legally permissible – indeed is legally required – to erase so vile and treacherous a threat and a traitor.

These are not principles and dynamics that can be ‘baptized’ into the American legal system. Not even on behalf of alleged or even genuine victims. There, I’ve said it.

And thus ‘reforms’ along these lines and based on these principles and dynamics are not ‘progressive reforms’ but rather are genuinely regressive deformations stemming from – and leading back toward – a far more primitive and truly anti-American legal and political and cultural universe.

So I think that what happens when such eager (and often decently motivated) persons embrace a Cause so grounded and so dedicated is that they themselves become dedicated to their Cause in a manner so very similar to ‘true believers’ in the Soviet Cause: we already know the truth, facts don’t matter, and there is no downside to our Cause. Give us no contrary facts, speak of no ill consequences, point out no complexities or complications. It’s all very simply and mehr als dies braucht Ihr nicht zu wissen! (Goebbels’s perky one-liner that also contained the strong whiff of a threat: “More than this you do not need to know” (and if you know what’s good for you, you’d best not try to find out).

Thus so many believers in the Cause come to behave like ‘secular fundamentalists’. And that’s just the sincere ones. The cagey ones know full well what they’re doing and deploy all the usual and time-honored ploys to defeat any efforts to ‘know more’: they avoid addressing inconvenient facts; they seek to squelch any discussion of ‘ideas’; they seek to maintain a rigid focus on the outrage that the Party (the advocacy) and the Party-line has chosen as the emotional touch-point that serves not to engage public deliberation but rather is rigidly focused on merely repeating the emotionally-arousing anger of the public.

Thus if you saw the purported newsreel films Goebbels put out showing how the Poles were horrendously treating Germans in early 1939, you were supposed to simply get really really mad and insist that the government ‘do something’. If you were to ask the person next to you if all this is known for certain and is really the whole truth (or is any form of actual truth at all) then you could count on a visit from the Gestapo. ‘Good Germans’ simply took what they were fed and reacted accordingly, conforming to what the propagandists wanted them to do – and nothing else.

And if anybody does raise any questions, then s/he is clearly proving that s/he is not a ‘Good German’ and thus whatever s/he has to say is not only factually wrong but is clearly a treacherous traitor, somehow trying to distract ‘Good Germans’ from the very necessary outrage and the actions that are ‘demanded’ by the ‘outrage’.

These are the same dynamics you see when you go over the law firm’s site and read the comments.

Anybody familiar with the history of propaganda and popular reactions to it in the Soviet and Fascist eras can see today a very ominous game-plan – with all its ‘principles’ and all its dynamics – being  followed yet again.

Even more curiously, in this matter of the comments on the Philadelphia site this week, is that after I put up a comment pointing some of this out, and advised the readership to watch the comments that would roll in as they had been doing for the prior weeks, something very odd happened: all of the negative, one-liner, nasty and primitive comments stopped instantly (we’ll see how long that can be kept up).

Now given the fact that some commenters have demonstrated clearly over the course of the past weeks that they most surely are functioning – and honestly, for the most part, I think – in such a ‘fundamentalistic’ mode of thought, then it’s hard to accept the possibility that such a hefty group of folks who are putatively just individuals who just happen to be putting their comments up would suddenly, in concert and immediately, stop doing that (one particularly avid one-liner put up two comments but then deleted them him/herself – an option available through the posting machinery on the law firm’s site, although the machinery then notes for all to see that a commenter had deleted a comment).

It seems to me that a bunch of commenters are coordinating off-site (though emails or however they are in communication with each other). Nothing wrong with that, but you see what may well be happening: there is some concerted and coordinated effort to squelch, if not completely control, the commentary on the site – especially when it comes to making any non-Party-line comments look bad.

Again, it’s the Web and this sort of thing is not illegimate. But by the same token it is what is, and it’s not just a bunch of individual commenters ‘innocently’ putting up their input. I believe there is, rather, a concerted off-site (and out-of-sight) effort to control the commentary by a) creating a chorus of shock and outrage on cue and b) working in whatever way can be done to make any ‘complicating’ commentary look non-credible (e.g., I have a site for ‘sex offenders’ so I am a ‘defender of pedophiles’ and must be a ‘sex offender’ so why listen to me? – that sort of thing).

Unlovely, but in the Webverse things like this happen.

Especially when one is dealing with a trial like this.

I brought up the point in commentary this week that going back to a ‘historical’ case, one that took place before the tremendous watershed era initiated in 2002 when the Church began to tighten up its handling of abuse-allegations, seemed odd for a busy and cash-strapped DA’s Office to do.

I brought up the example of drunk-driving (DUI, although some states call it OUI). Up until the 1980s and the Mothers-Against-Drunk-Driving (MADD) campaign, the country took a rather laid-back approach to DUI, even when fatalities were involved (and not just the death of the drunk-driver, but of persons s/he had hit or had died in the accident s/he caused).

Hardly surprisingly, police chiefs and DA’s also did not take a strenuous approach to accused drunk-drivers. I think a part of that was the culture of the times: the Soviets were said to be ready to wipe out everybody in the blink of an eye with nuclear weapons, and thus concern for individual victimization (50,000-plus deaths a year in motor-vehicle mishaps) did not count for as much as it did following the huge easing of tensions that began with the clear weakening of the Soviet state starting in the early 1980s and culminating in the Reagan-Gorbachev meetings, the withdrawal of the Soviet military from the Iron Curtain satellites,  and – in 1991 – the quiet and peaceful dissolution of the USSR itself.

Since that time, DUI has become much more of a focus of law enforcement and jurisprudence. Far fewer defendants are given a slap on the wrist with the wink of an official eye. MADD as an advocacy succeeded well.

But in this Catholic sub-variant of the sex-offense Mania the advocacies concerned have not operated like MADD. Hence at this point we are confronted with the spectacle of – equivalently – many of those still-living police chiefs and DA’s being hauled before the courts themselves, accused of ‘covering up’ and conspiring-with offenders back in the day.

But to what purpose?

And, on top of that, the advocacies today are not simply seeking such ‘show trials’ but also want the public to believe that the whole legal-system of those police chiefs and DA’s (meaning today in these Catholic cases, the priesthood and episcopacy and the entire reality of the Catholic Church itself) must be abolished for all practical purposes. The assumption being – you are meant to accept – that the entire organization has never been anything more than a ‘pedophile ring’ much like the old Mob was nothing more than an organized on-going conspiracy to promote crime and keep itself going on the fat profits and bennies of a life of organized crime.

That’s an awful lot of presumptions. Especially when the public is being pressured to accept it all in one big gulp, swallow it without tasting it, and expect that the results will be totally good.

But it’s been that way with the SO Mania Regime all along. Just believe the outrage, get good and mad, and let the government do whatever it thinks best in passing laws and creating registries and demonizing a particular class of indubitably guilty accused Citizens as un-reformable monsters who deserve nothing but to be locked away and tagged like animals in electronic – and highly public – registries (the computer has enabled what the Gestapo with its endless file cabinets of 3x5 cards and constantly updated ‘be –on-the-look-out’ books of ‘suspect persons’ could only dream about).

So too, we now encounter a new ‘defense’ of the advocacies which have been behind this Catholic abuse matter for decades: if it weren’t for them, none of this reform would have happened.

But that is specious. The reform has taken place (in 2011 in the entire country there were only seven credible current allegations of any priest-abuse of minors at all). Allegations of long-past actions have actually increased, but as I noted in a prior Post some time ago, given the economic situation and the comparative ease of collecting monies from the Church for an abuse-allegation, it would not be surprising if ‘historical’ allegations going back decades (often involving an accused now deceased) were to uptick.

At this point in the career of MADD, with much more robust law enforcement concern for DUI cases, the advocacy considered itself to have largely succeeded (although even one DUI on the road is one too many, ideally).

But not so in these Catholic abuse matters, which – again – are a sub-variant of the SO Mania mindset.

There is more driving the activity of the advocacies in this Catholic matter, and there is more driving the adherents of those advocacies.

The SO Mania mindset that underlies advocacy and – to whatever actual extent – public support for the Mania Regime is not going to go gently into that good night, even if it appears by all extant measures to have ‘succeeded’. Be advised.  

Anyhoo, at some point the Defense will present its case in Philadelphia and that should prove more interesting than the present recitations (which, really, are merely recitations of what the prosecution presented to the Grand Jury – which is not a trial process).

So much remains to be done.


I have just finished reading a 2011 book: “Sex Panic and the Punitive State”, by Roger N. Lancaster,a Professor of Anthropology and Cultural Studies at George Mason University. I will be Posting on it shortly.

I have found it very informative and useful, and recommend it as very valuable. I don’t completely agree with everything he says, but the book is hugely useful and informative and he brings up numerous interesting points.

From his professional background, he does what I have always felt has had to be done in matters SO: he has stepped back and looked at the SO Mania (he calls it a “Panic”) as a cultural, social, legal and political phenomenon. This is precisely the type of wide-angle and in-depth look that advocacies so often try to avoid or squelch. But it is vital. And sobering and thought-provoking. If you come across it, the book is well worth your time.

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