Saturday, June 16, 2012


I want to continue my look at Roger Lancaster’s (henceforth “RL”) book*.

Part II of his book offers even more insight and information. So instead of doing it all in one longish Post, I will try to limit each Post to five or six pages and continue with this mini-series of Posts until I have looked at all of Part II.

It occurs to me that I did not include page-references in the last Post (in Part I) and I will change that and use them in this and subsequent Posts on this book.

And I remind readers again that in the Notes at the back, this book contains valuable information and excellent lists of books and articles for further reading.

RL opens Part II with a quotation from Justice William O. Douglas: “As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness”. (p.137)

Douglas had seen the rise of Communism and Fascism and Nazism; and how they seduced their target-citizenries while simultaneously undermining the first-principles of the rule of law and of Western democracy – all in the name of Great Good and on the pretext of this and that ‘emergency’ that required strong and immediate government power un-limited by any concerns for ‘democracy’ and ‘law’.

(Douglas – who served for almost 37 years as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court – has left a fine little collection of quotable observations, and you can get a sampling of them here .)          

RL follows that quote quickly with the observation that it was “in the last years of the Bush-Cheney administration” that a number of observers noted that “something had gone terribly wrong in the U.S.”. Again, he remains a ‘good liberal’ (although that term means something far different in the post-1972 era in this country than it does in its ‘classical’ sense) and unless he watches himself carefully he starts to slide into blaming it all on the Republicans and the Right. In this he resembles Al Gore, whose 2007 book “Assault on Reason” also makes acute and incisive comments about the frighteningly irrational quality of American political discourse nowadays, and assesses the role of the Right in all of this sharply and clearly, but does almost nothing to examine the role of the Left in the past forty years or so, especially in the many years before G.W. Bush came to the Presidency.

Among those observations he includes “the subversion of democracy”. But I have to add that since subverting democracy was precisely the objective of the gameplan of 1920’s Italian Communist thinker Antonio Gramsci and of the Eurocommunists of the 1960s and 1970s – all of whom were ‘valorized’ by Radical-Feminist thinkers here after 1972 and embraced whole-hog by the Democrats in 1972 and later by the Republicans – then this genuinely lethal development should be coming as no surprise to any informed observer of American politics and democracy.

Ditto the thought that ‘it all began’ with the shock of 9/11: as the SO community may well realize, a great deal of subversion-of-democracy had taken place before 2001 in this country.

In Part II RL wants to look at the connections between “sex, crime, and terror”. (p.138)

He gives an overview of what he will be arguing in Part II: “Fear of Crime”, which spiked in the later 1960s and 1970s, predated the most recent (and still kicking) American “sex panic”.

This most recent bout of sex-panic developed in the later 1970s, concomitant with a “period of waxing nervousness about the fate of the white, heterosexual nuclear family and its attendant moral hierarchies”. (p.138) I would add that it was precisely the agenda of Radical-Feminism to ‘deconstruct’ each element of that phrase and force the country, the culture, and the society to abandon them (even if by ‘expanding’ the definitions of those elements beyond any workable meaning at all).

He notes the concerns and the parallel timing of many developments (the increasing wobbliness of the economy is one he notes especially – but I would add a social-psychological anxiety, deeply repressed, about the effect not only on sexual-morals but also on the consequences for children of ungrounded ‘family’ arrangements, abortion, and a general emphasis on the happiness of the adult rather than on the needs of the children) helped to make this nation “a more conservative” one “than it had been previously”.

I don’t want to get into political theory too deeply here, but I add here that RL’s simple liberal-conservative axis of analysis is not sufficient to plumb the actual complexity of what was happening in the country. The ‘liberals’ after 1972 were not really Liberals and the ‘conservatives’ after 1980 were not really Conservatives – and all of them were working toward an un-democratic, even anti-democratic, polity, using Leftist or Rightist arguments to get there and to make it all seem like a Good Thing, or at least a Necessary Thing.

(The SO Mania Regime and its sibling, the Domestic Violence Regime, were the first large-scale bipartisan thrusts toward that dark future.)

His second argument is that everything converges on “the valorization of the victim, who is seen as wholly innocent and whose interests are understood to be wholly antithetical to those of the criminal wrongdoers; the stigmatization of the offender, whose guilt becomes a permanent, irremediable condition of his being and who must therefore be marked or set apart from the rest of society; the application of criminal sanctions to growing numbers of behaviors (defining criminality ‘up’); and the elaboration of laws and surveillance practices designed to anticipate, preempt, detect and punish lawbreakers”. (p.138)

Which as you can see is a pretty good opening sketch of the SO Mania Regime.

His third argument embraces the insights of such writers as David Garland in 2001 that this country is evolving a “culture of control” in order to preserve “social order”. I would add that this was always the danger in the later 1960s ‘liberation’ of both the sex-drugs-free-love Flower Children and the ‘revolutionary’ social-changers: it was going to take a police-state level of government to keep any sort of Shape and social order in the country, once generations of citizens had been raised with the idea that for every individual ‘liberation’ meant ‘total freedom’ for fun and pleasure or that ‘liberation’ meant doing-away with the ‘oppressive’ and ‘dominant’ ‘hierarchies’ that merely served to ‘marginalize’ most people.

If so many people – especially youth – were trying to live their lives internally ‘free’ from any sense of order or hierarchy, then what happens to the Shape of the culture and the society and the Order that helps define culture, society, and person? The only possible outcomes would be a) the whole shebang would dissolve and fracture or else b) that Shape and Order rejected by individuals would have to be provided by Government and imposed on everybody ‘from the outside’.

Thus, as RL rightly reads Garland, “crime control has become the central ‘pivot for governance’”. This is a government, now, that is bigtime into the business of ‘control’. And if you want to get into ‘1984’ or Kafka territory: the government will control everybody in order to liberate everybody. And an even more toxic variant of that is what we have seen in the SO Mania Regime: the government will do ‘whatever it takes’ to ‘control’ one half the population (male) in order to ‘liberate’ the other half.

RL calls the emerging system “punitive governance” in order to “emphasize its connection to perpetual punishment, a presumption of guilt, unending vigilance, and modes of citizenship that would have been understood as premodern forty years ago”. (p.138) (What he means by that last bit is that for Americans before 1972, no American citizen would have accepted such a role for government; it would have seemed to an American of forty years ago some sort of throwback to monarchy or communism or Nazism … which is an insight that offers an awful lot of food for thought about the past forty years around here.)

RL will “stress the role of fear in organizing power and regulating social relations under this regime”. (p.138) ‘Fear’, I would add, is the great lubricator of all such ‘emergencies’ that are specifically designed by governments to stampede their citizenries into becoming cattle, with the government being the Trail Boss (alternately singing to them or whipping them along to keep them moving – if you recall your old Western movies).

He also notes, most insightfully, that this type of regime is inherently unstable. This is a level of political analysis you aren’t often going to see in general public discourse about the SO Mania Regime. In his view, governments operating on this gameplan are sooner or later going to be pushed “to the point of excess or breakdown, giving rise to abuse, overreach, and other illicit form of power”. (pp.138-139)

I would say that the government went over the line in its very first attempt – the DoVi and SO Mania Regimes. No, I am not denying the ‘victimization’ (where it is genuine) and not defending ‘victimizers’ (if they are genuine) and not denying the good intentions of various advocates and advocacies. But I am pointing out that no matter how good the intentions, these schemes have consequences that – this has to be a matter of wide public deliberation – are so very dangerous for the legitimacy and robustness of democratic governance that you have to consider whether the ‘cure’ is more lethal than the ‘disease’.

And I would add another factor to RL’s causes for inherent-instability: once a government has kicked-free from the limiting requirements of solid evidence and even from fact-based, rational, careful analysis, then there is no limit to who can set themselves up as needing the government to ‘control’ some other group of Citizens. And there is no limit on the government deciding that it is both authorized to and competent to expand and impose its controls even more widely and deeply.

And I would also add that to some advocacies and politicians nowadays this type of government abuse and overreach and expansion is precisely not illicit, either because from the Left they can’t imagine that the government helping to bring ‘closure’ or ‘justice’ can possibly result in anything dangerous and because the Constitution is fundamentally flawed in not being concerned for ‘victims’ in the first place or because from the Right there has to be law-and-order and the government can and must do ‘whatever it takes’.** And both buy into a government that can and must ‘protect’ from pain and ‘prevent’ it by whatever means necessary.

RL’s last point here is that it “may seem that the culture of fear is in retreat today” (p.139) [italics mine] But, he continues, “the authoritarian political culture that I am tracing is no simple or unitary phenomenon”. This “increasingly repressive political culture” has become attractive to persons concerned for a broad range of public issues: he names urban unrest, street crime, drug uses, gang activities, and pedophiles as well as terrorism (since 9/11). There has been an intensifying “erosion of rights and liberties” but he then goes on to say that this development has been going on “over the past forty years” – and in that observation I completely concur.

“The system of panic, punishment, and preemption” has become part of legal practices across the board at this point, and spans not only ‘conservative’ and Rightist administrations but also “center-left” presidencies such as Carter’s and Clinton’s.*** (p.139)

As RL concludes in this Introduction to Part II, “This decades-long reconstruction of U.S. society has been advanced by Democrats no less than Republicans, by liberals almost as often as conservatives”. (p.139)

I would only disagree with him about that “almost as often as”: the agendas and gameplans of Radical Feminism were dangerously authoritarian from the get-go, long before Reagan’s first administration and the first full-blown governmental embrace of Victimism by the Right.

Well, that’s RL’s Introduction to Part II. In my next Post I’ll move into that Part.


*Lancaster, Roger. Sex Panic and the Punitive State. Berkeley: U/Cal Press (2011). ISBN: 978-0-520-26206-5 (pb). 246pp plus Appendices, Notes, and Index.

**It should be no consolation (or surprise) whatsoever that Rep. Peter King (R-NY), a staunch and vigorous supporter of SO Mania controls, is now Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

***Although this is a very recent (2011) book, he omits reference to Obama’s presidency here. I would say that this omission is itself worthy of note: Obama’s presidency has turned out to be as ‘controlling’ and ‘authoritarian’ as the prior presidency of G.W. Bush. And – although I don’t want to politicize these essays – I would say that this is not only because Obama has found himself being carried along by an already well-established and strong and dangerous political riptide, but because in the essential Left-philosophy in which he was politically raised there has always been an inherent authoritarianism that sought control of the levers of government in order to impose and bring about its desired ‘new model’ American society and culture.  


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