Monday, July 30, 2012


I continue looking at Roger Lancaster’s (RL) book.*

RL then considers how the government set out “institutionalizing victimhood”. (p.200)

All of the States and the District of Columbia now have adopted some form of a victims’ bill of rights and thirty-three have actually amended their State Constitutions to do so.

He rightly observes that “these newly minted rights tilt law enforcement practices away from a constitutional emphasis on rights of the accused while embedding a punitive pre-emptive orientation even more deeply in institutional practices everywhere”. (p.200) I would add that this dynamic has been carried on even more lethally in the courts, where the zero-sum of ‘rights’ between accused and accuser has resulted in a subtraction from the Constitutional rights accorded the accused and an addition to these “newly minted” victims’ rights. There’s no way to put a happy-face on that, or to wish it away. From the get-go, victims’ rights had to be taken from slices made into the corpus of rights accorded to the accused in Western law and the Constitution.

He mentions the ‘right’ of the victim to be protected from the accused, and rightly traces its origin to feminist and womens’-services advocates who saw such a demand as a neat way to prejudge the accused in domestic violence case: i.e., the accused is soooo dangerous, that the accuser has to be protected by the government and the police. Once that thought is planted (by a helpful media) in the public mind, then any accused is effectively pre-judged before anybody gets to the court-room and the legal process.

The presumption of innocence, RL rightly notes, is gone – even reversed.

I have always thought that the reversal of such a profoundly basic and essential principle of Western law should have raised a red-flag from Day One. And many legislators were themselves law-school graduates (although as Joe Biden cheeribly admitted, law school “bored” him – no wonder he was just the Senator to steer the Violence Against Women Act and its add-ons through the political process).

And once this dynamic is in play, the assumption of guilt “favors pre-trial detention and thus gives prosecutors a powerful weapon to wield against the accused” since isolated and incarcerated defendants “are more likely to seek a plea bargain or enter a guilty plea than are those who remain at home awaiting trial”. (p.200) It is anybody’s guess how many guilty-pleas and plea-bargains were made under such duress, deliberately fabricated by the pols and administered by the prosecutors, the whole shebang eagerly amplified by the media.

Victimism is lethal to a democracy as well as to Constitutional jurisprudence. It requires – if you think about it – that the common-bond of the Citizenry and of The People be fractured, bluntly and forcefully sliced-up into Victims and Perps (or potential Perps). Somebody should work out a pie-chart of the population: each Victim group, its claimed ‘oppressor perps’ (and potential perps) … and draw lines through the pie for each pairing from each Victim group: by the time you get through, most of the Citizenry is somehow a sheep or a goat or perhaps both simultaneously.

But the sex-based Victim groups (shading so complexly into the Domestic Violence groups) enjoy – at the moment – the greatest cachet, reflecting the pols’ eagerness to placate the radical-feminist Advocacies and their hanger-on pandemonium who get a cut of the sizable government monies allocated for the Problem generally.

RL notes the claim that participation – and influencing outcomes – by Victims in various phases of the legal processes is “therapeutic”. And so it may well be; in the same way that road-rage against somebody you feel has cut you off at a traffic light is – for a moment – “therapeutic”: you feel a really neat surge of power and – not to put too fine a point on it – vengeance. Until, anyway, you realize what you’ve done, especially if – say – you cause an accident or injury to somebody while in the process of getting your “therapeutic high”.

It is anybody’s guess how many such persons are now trudging around the country, their initial ‘high’ gone, an awareness of damage caused (especially if it was disproportionate to the allegated offense or if the initial report they made was a false one). But then would an addiction dynamic kick in? Since the first high has worn off, might you need to somehow get another dose? Surely psychological ‘addiction’ experts are flexible enough to consider that type of addiction, on top of all the other types said to be rampant in the country.

But – and RL discusses this (p.201) – how genuinely and lastingly ‘therapeutic’ can such vengeance be? While ‘getting back at’ somebody for some hurt real or imagined has always had its seductive charms, hasn’t the more mature and enriching course been to first master your own responses to your experiences and then, once those are mastered, to consider what retributional options might be available?

And – as RL also considers – what, really, are the reliably-known dynamics of “trauma”? Why is it that some people are not ‘traumatized’ by substantial events that they experience, while others are ‘traumatized’ by much less substantial events? (All of this presumes that sufferers honestly report their internal experiences, which is a verrry big presumption – especially when the government has gone and guaranteed that if are ‘traumatized’ you can collect some free money.)

Worse “the prevailing rhetoric of the victim’s movement is that no punishment is ever severe enough”. (p.200) That’s true. Although to no small extent this demand is slyly masked: no punishment is ever severe enough because we are always ‘discovering’ how utterly horrific even the most minor ‘victimization’ can be. It’s not, then, that the victimists are trafficking in state-abetted vengeance; it’s just that they are honestly reflecting the ever-increasing ‘knowledge’ that is constantly being ‘discovered’ to the effect that even the most minor instances of victimization can have ‘soul-killing’ consequences.

This is especially true in the sex-and-violence arenas, where things have now reached the point that it is difficult to draw distinctions and gradations for the purposes of sentencing those convicted: it’s no longer the guilt for the Charged Crime that drives matters, it’s the presumed horrificness of the victim’s (claimed) internal experiences. There might as well be just the one crime of Victimizing, which would carry a minimum twenty-to-life sentence.

RL discusses “emotional pre-sentencing testimony” by victims (or their kin or friends) – as if the judge were not able to make his/her own assessments from all the trial material. And once again, it injects a queasy soap-opera or melodrama note into what should be more serious proceedings (people’s liberty, property, futures, or even lives are at stake here).

But I would also add – as we have seen in the recent Santa Clara trial where a man assaulted an old man he claimed to have sexually molested him 40 years before – the hardly unpredictable gambit of introducing emotional ‘testimony’ about the alleged molestation (which had itself never been examined or proven) at the beginning of the trial as a justification for the A&B he admitted he committed. And the jury bought it and refused to convict him of A&B even though he admitted he had done it.

RL notes legal experts who have pointed out how lethally all of this undermines the necessary impartiality of judges and jurors. (p.201) But I point out that it was precisely a demand made by radical feminism** that, ‘impartiality’ and ‘abstraction’ are nothing but patriarchal and macho refusals to enter into the pain of the story and that the justice system therefore needed to be ‘reformed’ to make it more ‘sensitive’ to – as radical-feminists put it – women’s very special and non-macho way of processing and constructing experience: by feeling – the theory goes – rather than by thinking or ‘abstracting’. Also you shouldn’t be so insensitive and macho as to ask questions about deeply felt stuff (such as the truth or accuracy of stories told in police reports or under oath) … Radical-Feminism gave Victimism a philosophical ‘justification’ for gutting the American justice system of some of the most primary principles and practices of Western and Constitutional law. And that’s what happened to the Rule of Law, in case you were wondering.

Nicely, RL quotes attorney and author Wendy Kaminer that “the prosecutor and defense are not engaged in a ‘duel about punishment’; they’re engaged in a duel about guilt”. That’s the way it should work and did work. But now in victim-friendly law you can’t really ‘duel’ about guilt because the victim’s story cannot really be questioned … so what’s left to do?

Further, Kaminer rightly asserts that defendants should be the center of attention at trials because they are the ones being tried. And because it is their liberty or property or even life that hangs in the balance. It is therefore a gross and fundamentally grotesque deformation and derangement of the trial-process to make anybody else the center of concern. Trials are not primarily spectacles; they are workaday processes to handle the vital but lethal deployment of the government’s sovereign coercive power against an accused Citizen.***

RL neatly gives Kaminer’s neatly-put conclusion: “It’s hard to argue with the desire to reform trials in order to help victims heal – unless you consider the consequences. Because the victims’ rights amendment decreases the rights of defendants. It’s not simply a grant of rights to the crime victims; it’s a grant of power to the state.” (p.202) And – I would only add – it’s a grant of rights to the victims that are taken from the accused. (And while the formal Victims’ Rights Amendment to the Constitution has failed, the government has continued to keep the ball rolling in lesser venues, especially courts and law-enforcement policies.)

All of which “naturalizes vindictiveness”, as RL nicely puts it. (p.202) And such a naturalization of one of the more primitive human emotions is nothing less than a deliberately-induced regression in the nation’s civic and cultural life. If this or that genuinely guilty perpetrator may often said to be ‘primitive’ (and in need of some growing-up as a Citizen and an adult), the entire Citizenry is seduced into such regressive primitiveness by participating – even if only as a spectator from a distance – in the staged state-administered vengeance-sessions that so many trials have now become.

Nor does RL mince around the more delicate of the lethal ‘reforms’: “If vindictiveness seems natural, even honorable, today, it is thanks in no small part to the careful placement of white, infantilized crime victims at center stage in the national political drama”. (p.203) In a sly but viscerally powerful PR move, the Victimists, themselves fronting for the government police-power (either from the Left or the Right), hold children up to the cameras like  – I’ll say it – baby harp seals. Despite the fact that the alleged myriads of missing and exploited children are mostly fictional.

Yes – there are instances of genuine outrages against children, but are they enough to derange the Constitutional walls that protect Americans from the power of a government gone wild? (And still going wild – as the National Defense Authorization Act **** clearly indicates.)

And “during the 1980s and 1990s, victimization emerged as a durable new source of identity”. I can’t begin to calculate how vulnerable so many people are in modern-day America to the seductive lure of an easily-acquired sense of ‘identity’ and of ‘social status’ and of ‘belonging’ and of ‘achievement’ (how easily now the term ‘hero’ is tossed around). On some of the websites where victim-interested types tend to comment, you can almost feel the strong pull.

 And “as a quasi-religious movement, the new victimology extended an evangelical invitation to every corner of society”. (p.204) Here I’d only note that aside from ‘men’ generally, the most sustained assault target of the Victimist-nourished SO Mania Regime has been a church – namely, one of the largest and most established.

And, in that regard, recall that the ‘invitation’ was then sweetened by the lure of easy money, as legislators made it even easier to present a story from the long-ago, claim ineffable trauma, and collect a hefty settlement. The possibilities for mischief here are not small.

And such victim status also brings with it “privileges”. In that role, one can “enjoy the empathy and indulgence of otherwise unreceptive authorities” (especially once the Beltway let it be known that federal money would be available to receptive authorities, and federal hostility would be visited upon unreceptive ones). (p.205)

And – as RL rightly continues the catalogue – “victimhood too comes as a relief, a disclaimer of personal responsibility” and the victim becomes “the undisputed hero of his or her story”. (p.205) Although this is a heroism too-easily acquired: rather than achieving anything by dint of sustained personal effort, one simply declares oneself a victim and perhaps preside over a spot of vengeance courtesy of the government and perhaps even a few moments in some form of media attention.

But that was the scam the government itself lured so many into.

It was Janet Reno, when she was Attorney-General in the Clinton years, who really opened up new vistas for Victimism in a 1997 speech at a victim-rights conference: she “sanctified” it as the core of American identity by asserting to the crowd and the cameras that “I draw the most strength from the victims, for they represent America to me: people who will not be put down, people who will not be defeated, people who will rise again and stand again for what is right … You are my heroes and my heroines. You are but little lower than the angels”. (p.205) [italics mine]

There are two tropes woven into this astounding bit.

First, that being a Victim is now a credible – indeed valuable – social role and identity. Is this a good message to be sending to the young? Is this really a life-project or life-role that can sustain a productive society and a common-weal? And, of course, every ‘victim’ requires a victimizing perp – so for that huge chunk of society that embraces its victimhood, an equally hefty chunk of society has to be cast in the role of victimizer. And the presumption will have to be continued: this country and culture and society runs and works mostly through victimization. And how develop a robust respect for and loyalty to the Framing Vision if that is your basic take on what makes this country work and run?

Second – and this is truly a sly pre-emptive gambit – Reno tries to make the ‘victim’ into some modern version of frontier settlers: hardy, scrappy, resilient, no-nonsense, refusing to take No for an answer, and – so familiar now – courageous and ‘heroic’. And yet this is hardly the presentation mainstream Victimists proffer to the public in the endless horrific ‘stories’ and the claims of ‘soul-killing’ ‘traumatization’, especially in sex-matters where you are supposed to believe that the merest incident of the lowest-grade ‘abuse’ can derange and derail personal competence and development.

But Reno’s spin lets you get to have your cake and eat it too: hugely fragile and damaged and yet at the same time possessed of a sturdy and robust and mature life-competence.  

But this is all spin. It’s political pandering to a useful demographic. And yet that’s a demographic that demands the most lethal and profound derangements of American law and jurisprudence and – ultimately – civic competence that would support a commitment to the common-weal.

And can it seriously be accepted that what has become victim-friendly jurisprudence and the general manipulation of the public Stance toward an accused is accurately describable as “right”?

And lastly, I note that queasy, childishly sentimental faux-theological flourish about “the angels”. For a secular-Left government, Victimhood is somehow now a quasi-religious substitute for any genuine religious life. As if you could nurture yourself spiritually merely on the governing dynamics of Victimhood as it has mutated in this country.

But her speech served shrewdly to provide a talking-points memo for ‘the faithful’ and you can see echoes of her spin still surfacing 15 years later in various comments on various sites.

As I have often said, the government – from both Left and Right – has embraced Victimhood and helped mutate it into the monstrosity that it is today.

And the Rule of Law, and the boundaries of truth and honesty that are vital to any genuine civic competence and integrity, are much the worse because of it.


*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.

**The radical-feminist law professor and activist Catherine MacKinnon goes into this at length in her 1989 book Toward a Feminist Theory of the State.

***And have you noticed that this tendency has migrated to other equally lethal arenas? So, for example, the killing of ‘insurgents’ or ‘terrorists’ or whomever happens to get hit by gunfire or drone-fire in this or that of Our military misadventures becomes merely a spectacle to be played on the evening news (if footage is available)? Victimism has made vengeance – albeit mostly through a deformed legal process – a ‘spectacle’; and those who watch it start to resemble Roman crowds at the gladiatorial arena. (If you watch the Starz satellite channel, their series “Spartacus” plays on this reality, I think: when the gladiators are in the Roman arena, the camera spends much of the time on the crowds, leering, cheering, jeering, and generally giving in to their most primitive instincts. It is not a pretty sight – but I think it is very revealing and deserves much thought.)

****You can see here  an article by Morris Berman, author of the recently-published book ominously entitled Why America Failed. He discusses the National Defense Authorization Act signed by Obama in December, 2011.

As Berman puts it, this is the “indefinite detention bill”: and “it has no temporal geographic limitations, and can be used by Obama or any future president to militarily detain U.S. citizens” so that “as in pre-Magna Carta days, you can simply be swept up and put away forever with no explanation of why, no right to call or lawyer or anybody else, and no right to a trial.” It is, he opines, “probably the greatest rollback of civil liberties in the history of the United States”.

Definitions are elastic: “literally anyone can be described as a “belligerent”, or as they are now called, “covered person”. And “the universe of potential ‘covered persons’ includes every citizen of the United States of America … who could one day find himself or herself branded a “belligerent” and thus subject to complete confiscation of his or her constitutional civil liberties and nearly never-ending incarceration in a military prison”.

Recalling that America now has “more people under ‘correctional supervision’ that there were in the Russian gulag under Stalin at its height”, he observes ruefully that “the distinctive characteristic of American democracy, from 1776, was the protection of the individual and the preservation of individual rights” but now “that no longer exists”. I would say that the SO Mania, driven by Victimism and also by the Radical-Feminist dismissal of the Constitution and all its protections as mere props for ‘patriarchy’, worked powerfully to undermine the integrity not only of the legal system and of the government itself, but of any official respect for the Rule of Law.

So I can’t help but think that all of this was clearly waiting in the wings when the curtain first went up on the SO Mania two decades and more ago: the dynamics that render so many vulnerable to the classification as “belligerent” or “covered person” are pretty much the same that opened so many Americans up to the classification as “sex offender”. And to read some of the Radical-Feminist and Victimist tracts, all men were almost by definition rapists and ‘sexual terrorists’. Half the population, ‘classified’ in a single sweep.

Berman also notes that even before the passage of this law, the president had the ‘legal’ power to declare anybody on the planet a “terrorist” and have him/her assassinated. There need be no trial since guilt was presumed.

I think you can see here where Victimism as it has mutated in this country in the past decades has actually weakened the Constitutional protections for Americans. But worse: it has gotten too many Americans used to the idea that Evil can easily and quickly and with certainty determined, and that such Evil has no rights and that if you just know somebody is Evil then it’s only a matter of carrying out the punishment.

And it clearly has gotten the government into some very dark habits. Before Dick Cheney suggested that this country would have to take a walk on path to the Dark Side, I think Victimism as it has mutated here was already paving that path.

And yet, judging from how the SO Mania Regime was given so much unthinking and well-intentioned public support or at least acquiescence, so many will find themselves with nothing to say except “It seemed like a good idea at the time”. But that won’t repair the damage.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


That State’s legislature has just passed a Statute of Limitations (SOLs) extension. See here for an article about it.

As with so much SO Mania legislation, it was slyly passed by an untraceable voice-vote after the Rules were suspended. Thus no pol can be skewered in the media by Victimist advocacies for voting against victims (or for sex-offenders, as it might be put) while – in a neat balance – no pol can be personally held responsible for the troubles and consequences the law might or probably-will create.

What sort of laws can these be that the legislators so often don’t want to be individually associated with them? I think many legislators have already figured out that these Mania laws are not really good examples of competent and conscientious law-making – but they haven’t got the chops to Just Say No.

And a lot of these pols have been to law school and are card-carrying attorneys-at-law.

I recall that in his 1969 book The End of Liberalism the sociologist Theodore Lowi observed – with an acuity that has only been proven even more powerful and devastating in the ensuing decades – that ‘interest group liberalism’ (where the pols let the ‘interest-groups’ write the laws they want) is utterly antithetical to any established and stable Rule of Law. Because it leads to what I would call ‘deal politics’ and in such politics the last thing the pols want – Lowi observes – is a solid wall of laws and the Rule of Law, which will only serve to obstruct the ‘flexibility’ they want and need to cut their deals with this and that ‘interest-group’.

And, as I have said before on this site, the interest-groups Lowi knew forty-plus years ago (business, labor, and ‘the farmers’) have since been joined by the Identities erected especially by Radical-Feminism and Victimism, which I call Level 4 Advocacies: seeking to bypass any genuine democratic deliberation by the Citizens or by the pols, and instead manipulating public opinion with false and selective information and with horror-stories while also seducing the pols into this and that ‘deal’ (i.e., you give us this law, and we’ll tell our particular issue-group or Identity that you’re reliable on this single-issue of ours).

So if you are wondering when the Rule of Law in this country really started to get kicked to the curb, you have to go back beyond ‘Bush/Cheney’ to 1969 and then to 1990 when the cadres of  ‘governance feminism’ and Victimism realized they were heading for the Beltway bigtime with the coming of the Clintons.

And the whole thing was being lubricated philosophically by Richard Rorty’s witless but very useful insistence that there is no reality anyway, but instead just different ways of naming stuff; which Democratic uber-thinker George Lakoff is now pushing as a full-blown election and governance strategy: there is nothing but ‘framing’ and ‘spin’ and the only task of politics (and politicians) is to come up with the best ‘framing’ by which to ‘spin’ the public (about what they have already made up their mind to pass into law anyway).*

In precisely the type of dangerous practice that Lowi warned about in 1969, this law was written with the input (a lot of it, I bet) of a tort-attorney who has made quite a bit of money representing ‘victims’ in lawsuits about allegations that happened in the long-ago. The fox is allowed to develop the blueprints for the hen-house.

But the said fox pronounces himself very unhappy because the law doesn’t go far enough (he had been pushing for an almost total-eradication of any SOLs at all). But that doesn’t mean he won’t take what he’s been given here – and neatly he is on record both ways, and can have his legal cake and eat it too.

See here for the text of this Bill, H.4329.

So now (Sec. 2) anybody wishing to start a lawsuit has 25 years from the date of the alleged incident or to the age of 43 (if the allegation involves child-sexual abuse). Or within three years “after the date upon which such cause of action accrued, whichever is later”.

This last bit is a sly doozy: to “accrue” in legal usage means that date upon which the claimant knew or should have known that s/he has somehow been injured or had a tort of any sort committed against him/her; and tort-attorneys can go to town making the case as to how the allegant couldn’t have known until … just recently. (Perhaps the enterprising attorney might also toss in that the allegant didn’t develop the ‘heroic courage’ to come forward until just recently.) So it’s entirely possible that one way or another the SOLs have for all practical purposes been almost-completely gutted.

But that’s not all. While ‘private’ institutions or charities can be sued within this time-frame, yet if you want to file a claim against a public employer you only have nine months (Sec. 1).

Two thoughts come to mind.

First, imagine that the legislature passed a law giving allegants all those years to file a claim of abuse against a public institution (a school, say) but only nine months against a private institution or charity (the Church, say). What would you think about such a law? And can you imagine the outcry by public-employee unions?

But this is precisely the dynamic in play here. For a law that is supposed to be concerned for the ‘prevention of child sexual abuse’, the entire realm of public-institutions are almost entirely exempted. While private institutions or charities are rendered vulnerable to a window of vulnerability almost completely bereft of SOLs.

Second, what sort of mentality or Stance is driving legislators to make such an obviously selective law? I would say that clearly the pols are not letting themselves be ‘obstructed’ by any concern for the integrity of any genuine Rule of Law. Rather, they are making a deal-politics type of law: they can keep the Victimists happy while not enraging the demographically powerful public-employee unions. (Although since just recently a 55-year old man just started a lawsuit against Harvard for abuse by a swim-coach that allegedly occurred while the man was a student there decades ago, it remains to be seen how the hefty elite University-demographic is going to respond to all of this.)

But those aren’t the only holes in the wall in this Bill.

In Sec. 5(c) any aspiring plaintiff can file a certificate of merit to bring a case from the long-ago, that includes a notarized declaration by a duly-licensed “mental health professional” who might be “but is not limited to” such practitioners as “psychologists, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, or clinical social workers” to the effect that “there is a reasonable basis to believe that the plaintiff was subject to one or more acts of sexual abuse as defined … that would cause emotional or psychological injury or condition”.

Two more thoughts occur.

Who else besides “psychologists, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, or clinical social workers” are licensed by that State? This opens the door to pretty much the entire pandemonium of cottage-industry (and perhaps well-intentioned) persons who, with whatever ‘credentials’ (or not), set themselves up to ‘counsel’ anybody claiming or suspecting to have been abused.

For a) a person now in adulthood or b) a child whose personality traits and characteristics are not yet fully describable it has to be asked: just what particular “emotional or psychological injury or condition” can be accurately characterized as having been  ‘caused’ by the act for which the now-adult/then-child now seeks damages? This is the mushy core of so much of Victimist civil-litigation theory. Which, of course, they would very much like you to not-notice, hopefully because you have been stampeded into outraged sympathy by a sufficiently ‘horrific’ story from that long-ago.

The good news in this Bill is that if you are determined to be wrongly accused, you can recover attorney-fees from the plaintiff ( Sec. 5(d)). But to get there it’s not enough to have the jury in the lawsuit decide in your favor. You then have to go to the court and convince a judge that the accusation was made “with no basis in fact and with malicious intent”.

The only unalloyed bit of good news is that none of this will apply if you have already signed an agreement for damages under the guidance of a competent attorney (Sec. 5(e)). Although perhaps even then you might find an attorney willing to argue that your prior attorney was not competent. In tough economic times, who knows?

So there you have it.

You can see where all of this is still going.


*Another major bit of Lakoff’s: the Democrats support a “nurturing” and participatory democratic approach to government, whereas the Republicans represent a “strict father” approach that doesn’t nurture or discuss but simply insists and demands.

But this is hooey and baloney. Advocacy-group and Identity-group politics no longer look for any participatory democratic public deliberation (after all, most of the Citizens still ‘just don’t get it’ so why bother with them?). The ‘nurturing’ bit describes the best-case outcome of the agenda they demand to have erected into laws; but there is to be no risky ‘democratic deliberation’ about how the law itself is to be passed.  You as a Citizen will simply wake up one morning and discover that you are now required to obey a new ‘sensitive and nurturing’ law and the only ‘democratic deliberation’ allowed is to figure out how best to make it work.

But if you democratically disagree about the law itself, then that automatically marks you as ‘insensitive’ and ‘non-nurturing’ – in which case you don’t deserve a say in this ‘democracy’ in the first place anyway. Neat.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


In a clear example of electoral politics and the SO Mania, there is a push on now in the last week of that State’s legislative session to bring Massachusetts into AWA compliance.

Yesterday, the Boston Herald, sort of the tabloid-y alternative to the clearly liberal Boston Globe, ran a highly and selectively slanted piece announcing that a “silly policy shelters offenders” in big bold type. The 'offenders', as the story itself goes on to demonstrate, are sex-offenders.

As you might already have imagined, the fact that the Herald strikes an anti-‘liberal’ pose doesn’t prevent it from playing the Sex-Offender card; since the paper affects a populist or ‘blue collar’ pose, then it can play to law-and-order and ‘family concerns’ and can do so in an assertively red-blooded way, and not in any whiney ‘liberal’ way.

Not that it makes much of a difference.

Possessed of a strong State Constitution that dates back to 1780 (and thus can be considered the oldest written constitution still in force on the planet), Massachusetts (henceforth: ‘MA’) was able to retain at least some significant procedural protections during the formative years of the SO Registration Mania, even though the state was home to major contingents of both blue-collar ‘family’ folk and a formidable array of ‘liberal elites’ resident in its many universities as well as significant Knowledge-&-Service economic new-rich elites.

Thus any Citizen of the Commonwealth convicted of any sex-crime (that elastic and ever-expanding category) had the right to appeal his classification as a Level 1, 2, or 3 offender (3 being the most dangerous) at a Hearing conducted on the authority of the state’s Sex Offender Registration Board (SORB). And further appeal of classification was possible to the state courts.

Given the political demographics, it has probably been the State Constitution more than anything else that has kept some of the more advanced Mania whackery at bay – including the presumptions and regulations of the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) of 2006.

But there are several levels of politics at work at this point. First, the state’s governor is a Democrat and all Democratic governors are no doubt being pressured into helping make the White House look good and play to certain ‘bases’ in a difficult election year by trying to bring their states into compliance with AWA (a dubious dignity for which most States have declined to apply). This is especially true since one of Congress’s most rabid SO Mania legislation supporters is now chairperson of the Democratic National Committee (Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of FL).

Second, the state’s governor is himself black, and has evinced an interest – as have other recent governors of the Commonwealth - in spring-boarding from the drudgery (and increasingly onerous responsibility) of elective office to some nice appointment in the upper echelons of the government.

So bringing MA into AWA compliance would be a nifty two-fer.

The Herald’s take on AWA is that hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal law-enforcement monies are being lost because the state is not AWA-compliant. It has lost $322,000 this past year and stands to lose more. But the paper says nothing about the huge amounts of tax-money that it will cost the state to administer a vastly expanded, AWA-compliant regime in perpetuity.

The co-chairman of the state’s legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee, however, has been holding up the Bill submitted by the governor in June of 2011, because “as submitted [it] is blatantly unconstitutional” and its “crimes and penalties don’t match Massachusetts law”.  No rationally-grounded lawmaker or attorney could disagree. The chairman (Eugene O’Flaherty, a Democrat) worries about “privacy protections”, among other things. He wants to do some “tweaking” because he isn’t sure that Level-2 SOs should have their information posted online. *

But “that’s just a silly argument” and “it’s nonsense” says local SO Mania child-protection advocate, the former Assistant DA and now law-professor (at an – ummm – non-first-tier local law school), Wendy Murphy. Murphy – it may be recalled – has crowed loudly over various victim-friendly reforms, asserting cheeribly at one point that she was pleased as punch that “lack of evidence” no longer stood in the way of getting “justice” for children. How any legitimate Western and Constitutional form of “justice” can be achieved without solid evidence is a Question that does not concern her.

The state only posts its most-dangerous, Level-3 SOs online (assuming that the Level-3 classification accurately described that individual); AWA would have all SOs posted online, with a hugely expanded panoply of personal information.

The article mentions none of this.

It does, however, assert that “the record is deep with previously convicted Level 2 sex offenders, accused of committing later sex crimes”. And – in a now-classic move – the paper gives three particularly vivid examples (and – slyly – no overall numbers or stats).

Additionally, the first example is for a Level-2 convictee now (merely) indicted for multiple counts of child-rape of a 13-year old daughter of a friend. Another received two years in 2007 for “multiple counts of indecent A&B on a person 14 or older” – which seems a remarkably light sentence, although the definition of “indecent A&B” and the age (somewhere over 14) might hold more information than the paper finds it convenient to report. A third was sentenced to 10 years for a parole violation: found guilty of child-porn offenses, “he asked an elderly neighbor to hold onto DVDs, tapes and a computer with depictions of adults raping children”.

Curiously, the paper reports that the state missed “last year’s deadline” to comply with AWA. Yet the 2006 AWA allowed a three-year window for states to conform and, subsequent to that July 2009 deadline, for only two extensions, each of one-year, the last of which expired in July of 2011. Last year’s was the ultimate final deadline – and most states chose to give it a miss. You can review an extensive list of difficulties and objections  in regard to AWA here . You can review the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services 2008 letter to the governor listing the difficulties with conforming MA to AWA here .

But it’s a tough election year and the governor would no doubt prefer to be a little further from the front-lines as the economy threatens to put all public officials at state levels on a very uncomfortable hot-seat. And the White House needs all the ‘bases’ it can attract, inveigle, or seduce.

The Governor tried to float this Bill in 2008 (see that Letter to him explaining the problems with it just linked-to above). The legislature did not go along with it.

Now he’s trying it again, claiming that the AWA deadline is July 27, 2012 – whereas the last AWA deadline expired in 2011. (Although at this point the feds may be willing to cut any deals that any State can come up with.)

But the new version of the Bill (see here for text ) is – the Governor claims – adjusted to be AWA-compliant while also not violating the State Constitution.**

But that’s not possible. A major problem with the basic AWA scheme is that there is no leeway for any state’s sex-offender review board or agency to make an independent assessment of an individual’s eligibility for Registration (or not) nor is there much leeway for assignment of a Level-status. The Governor’s Bill will simply pay lip-service to that vital step in the MA process while removing all of its actual authority to make an independent determination.  The whole ‘justification’ for the AWA scheme is precisely that it will ‘correct all the discrepancies’ among the states as to how they classify SOs by imposing a one-size-fits-all approach from the top-down.

And – as the legislators now realize (although the Herald prefers not to talk about it) – the law-enforcement monies the State is losing are nothing compared to the financial burden that the State will saddle-itself-with in the long run. (The feds may try to neutralize this huge problem by promising more money to States to administer compliance, but I doubt that the feds can cover the whole expense for all States and – alas – if the feds run out of real money then that deal will be off and the States will be left holding the bag. And state legislators, I think, now realize all that.)

So we’ll see how this plays out. Here’s hoping the legislature sticks to its guns. AWA is one giant step toward the precedent of a police-state – and nobody wins if that happens.


*Even the Massachusetts 3-tier system is a blunt analytical instrument, when you get right down to it. Level-1 is pretty much reserved for those caught urinating in the woods at night and such; Level-3 is for the most heinous and/or dangerous and the most probably recidivist SOs. Which leaves Level-2 for everybody else – and that’s a sizable and widely-varying bunch of registrants, with not a few of them shading much closer to Level-1 than to Level-3’s classic Monster Sex Offender.

**I can’t help but recall an exclamation that LBJ once made about one of his Great Society laws that got the Beltway into verrrry bad habits and has now become a standard political axiom: “Hell, just pass the damn thing and we can go back and amend it later”. If AWA is any example, passing a badly-conceived law on the pious hopes of ‘fixing it’ later on down the road is not the way forward for any intelligent and sober legislature to go. And that has only become more true as the national political discourse has passed out of the control of the legislators and all sorts of ‘special interests’ now deploy their selective ‘narratives’ far and wide, manipulating and even stampeding public opinion in bursts of carefully-calculated irrationality.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I continue looking at Roger Lancaster’s (RL) book.*

The snowball would be thrown by the victims-rights movement, RL observes, which was “arguably the most successful social movement of the late twentieth century”. (p.194)

I call it Victimism, as it has evolved in this country. After World War 2 there was a great deal of high-level international concern for people who are deliberately victimized by their governments (Hitler, Mussolini, Imperial Japan, and Stalin) or collaterally victimized as a result of their government’s policies. Among other efforts that were generated by that concern, the U.N. formulated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

But in this country – especially after the international victim-rights movement was blended with the dynamics of Identity Politics and the hostilities of the ‘culture wars’ (especially the radical-feminists’ Gender War) – you begin to see Victimism develop here.

And thus what had begun after World War 2 as a concern for people being victimized by their own governments suddenly morphed over here into Advocacies of this and that Identity actively demanding that the government’s Sovereign police/coercive authority be deployed, not only through legislation and policy but through the criminal law, on behalf of those whom the Advocacies claimed to represent.

And this blended with a very characteristically American Hollywood-PR dynamic that called for  a melodramatic and even Manichean ‘script’ or ‘framing’ or ‘narrative’ in which Innocent Good is threatened by Utter Evil and then ‘rescued’ by the heroic Hero (that role to be played by the Advocacies and their political enablers in the Beltway).

This in turn required romanticizing the Victim and demonizing the Perp. And ‘the Evil Perp’ would be whatever Evil Ones this or that particular Advocacy had selected as its particular ‘oppressors’.

And as that turned out, after cutting-and-pasting all of the various Advocacies’ particular versions of the Evil Perp, you wind up with the ‘white patriarchal male’. And since the radical-feminist Advocacy quickly became the primary Advocacy, then the male preoccupation with ‘sex’ became weaponized as the Big Stick by which that Advocacy would whack its tormenting oppressors a mighty whack.

And I would add – as the SO community well realizes – that this was not simply a “social movement” but, rather, quickly morphed into a hydra-headed agenda of legislative, jurisprudential, criminal-law and policy ‘reform’ – all of which was lapped up for its PR value by story-starved mainstream media that were looking to attract as many viewers/readers as possible to keep up profitability; the ‘story’ and the ‘framing’ soon became more important than any ‘facts’.

And RL – while acknowledging the role of the law-and-order Right whose concerns were ignited by rising crime rates and a general loosening of social habits and rules – observes that “paradoxically, leftist social movements – civil rights, women’s movement, gay liberation – provided the model for the political mobilization that also gave rise to victim’s rights”. (p.194)

“The game-plan”, he says, “was remarkably straightforward: (1) define an injury; (2) create an identity around this grievance; and (3) mobilize to seek legal redress, material compensation, and protection from the state”. And thus, before long, a whole bunch of people “would step out of the shadows to claim rights” and then “over time, redress and protection took increasingly punitive form”. (all the foregoing, p.194)

I would only add that all of this dangerous whackery was clear at the very latest by 1989 when Catharine MacKinnon published her radical-feminist social and legal philosophy book Toward A Feminist Theory of the State just in time for it to become a prime handbook for ‘governance feminism’ as the Dems took the White House for the Clinton years. Yet, she said, all of these ideas had been floating around among Advocates and in the Beltway since “at least 1971”.

In RL’s estimation, the four major sources of what I call Victimism in this country were the welfare state of the 1960s, the women’s movement (I would say especially the radical-feminist elements within that movement), the self-help movement, and “social service activists and organizations” (I would add the increasing pandemonium of remora-like ‘experts’ and garden-variety ‘therapists’ who quickly battened on the federal funding lavishly made available by the Beltway).

And while in the very early phases – that welfare-state era of the 1960s – it was the ‘victims’ of poverty and social injustice who were also the victims of violent crime, yet before too very long radical-feminism had injected their Gender War agenda into the mix: the government had to insist that ‘sex’ – which, they claimed, was almost always ‘rape’ – had to be the primary focus of ‘violent crime’ redress and – very soon thereafter – of government suppression and elimination efforts.

The earliest of the victims-of-violent-crime compensation schemes was enacted in 1965: if you were a victim of a violent crime you were eligible for monetary compensation by your state government.

And thus, almost overnight, “a new social identity – that of the crime victim” was “incorporated into the machineries of the state”. (p.195) And the defining characteristics of that new social identity – and, I would add, its new social status and its remunerative prospects – began what RL characterizes as a “gradual construction” that kept expanding and intensifying (in a lethal synergy with state and then federal politicians’ willingness to fund the whole process with ever-increasing chunks of public funds).

But I think RL is spot-on with his selection of the term “construction”: the whole thing was increasingly ‘constructed’ the way Dr. Frankenstein stitched-together his Monster.

Naturally, the radical-feminists started steering this whole parade toward their own advantage, while the pandemonium of ‘helpers’ realized that creating ever more categories of victims and ever-expanding definitions of victimization was a surefire quick path to funding and cutting-edge status.

 Thus Victimism quickly began operating in an ominous synergy with the Right’s War on Crime, even as the Left’s radical-feminism and ‘liberation from oppression’ agenda began to forge new pathways of ‘alliance’ with the Right. And all the while, the Beltway funded what it had helped create as a primary and surefire pathway for the political payoffs of passing ‘victim-friendly’ reforms and for the overall engorgement of the government’s intrusive police powers.

A kind of Perfect Storm. And a very very lethal and dangerous one for the rule of law and for the Constitution and the Framing Vision, I would add.

Feeding into this was one of the politically lethal built-in consequences of Identity Politics: “single-issue politics”. Each new political Identity was formed by collecting a ‘demographic’ of persons who were politically defined not as Citizens, but rather as victims of this or that single specific ‘oppression’. Thus, politicians had to deal with each Identity’s ‘oppression’ and nothing else, if they were to garner that Identity’s (or at least its ‘official’ Advocates’) political approval and support.

Thus too, politicians at all levels began to give up on their traditional – and Constitutionally expected – role of thinking about the commonweal: ‘politics’ was now only about the best ‘deal’ that could be made with this or that Identity’s Advocates around tables in non-smoking smoke-filled rooms just off the legislative chamber.

And thus too, the Citizens began to fall away from any effective concern for the larger common-weal. You weren’t so much a Citizen of the American polity and society; rather, you were first and last and always a member of this or that interest-group or Identity (thus also primarily a victim of this or that outrage and oppression). And you would take your voting cues from your ‘Advocates’ who would let you know – through the media especially – which politician was going to be most ‘responsive’ and ‘sensitive’ to your victimization. Nothing else should matter to you. And so it has too largely come to pass.

Almost immediately upon his election, Ronald Reagan set up an Office of Victim Rights after convening a President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime in response to Advocacy lobbying for a Basic Bill of Rights for Crime Victims and Witnesses.**

RL nicely notes that that Task Force quickly produced a ‘report’ which was “based largely on anecdotal horror stories of ‘double victimization’ and ‘official unresponsiveness’ to crime victims”. The math of it went – neatly – like this: you were first victimized by the crime/criminal, and then you were ‘double-victimized’ when the government somehow wasn’t ‘responsive’ to what you wanted or wanted to see happen in the justice system. (p.198)

I note the introduction here of “anecdotes” about “horror stories” to be taken as indisputable “evidence” of crimes. If you claim to be a ‘victim’, then any ‘story’ you produce in support is going to be taken by the government as ‘evidence’ – nor will the government continue to ‘blame the victim’ by having the temerity to ask any questions about your story. And this, as we know well, was enacted into DoVi and SO Mania Regime law before very long.

Further, the report opens by piously intoning that “Something insidious has happened in America” because “crime had made victims of us all”. (p.198) So Americans, beginning during Reagan’s Morning In America, were now primarily to identify themselves as “victims”.

Moreover, RL notes that the Chairperson of the Task Force “pointedly calls for an emotional, not intellectual, approach to crime”. (p.198) And this, surely, is the beginning of a lethally insidious fundamental shift in American public discourse about ‘crime’ (and, but of course, about ‘sex offenses’ and the ‘horror stories’ told by self-declared victims and amplified by the voracious media). And not only in American public discourse about crime but also about everything of national concern.

Further, the Chairperson instructs all Americans that “you must know what it is to have your life wrenched and broken, to realize that you will never really be the same”. (p.198) And again, here you see a lethal shift that the government is working to impose, seducing all Americans to see themselves as irreparably damaged or ‘traumatized’ by any ‘victimization’ whatsoever. Any idea of resilience or of the human capacity to deal with and even master whatever experience they encounter is pushed away in order to get Americans to see themselves as irreparably damaged by any claimed ‘victimizing’ experience (which was nothing but the purest catnip to tort attorneys as well as to enterprising prosecutors and – of course – the media).

(Eerily, this is stereotypically a more female than male approach to life: males had always been taught to master their experiences, whatever those experiences might be, and – as the Brits would have said – ‘get on with it’, get on with their life.)

And – I add – as so many Americans came to believe this, then any potential jurors in a civil or criminal case had already been ‘tainted’ and ‘prejudiced’ even before they got the summons to jury-duty.  Tort-attorneys and prosecutors lived the ancient dream of having a defendant-hostile jury simply because the entire potential pool of jurors had already been tainted, without the tort-attorney or the prosecutor having to risk trying any unethical or illegal jury-influencing during the actual trial.

Today, the annual budget of the Office for Victims of Crime is about one billion dollars, ladled out to grassroots organizations and programs, a variety of government agencies or state-subsidized organizations, and various “national centers” that “raise awareness” and “promote compliance” with various victim-friendly laws and policies. (p.199) I would add that this doesn’t include whatever hefty amounts are earmarked in such other budgets as the Department of Defense – which has hugely increased activities and regulations in this area – and various police and law enforcement budgets.

Neatly, the Reagan-era changes were ‘strategized’ to be funded on the federal level by fines and property-seizures levied against those convicted of federal crimes. (p.199)

But – as RL acutely observes – “this gives victim-services providers an obvious stake in punitive laws”. (p.199) [italics mine] And also in expanding the range of those punitive laws.

This is a profoundly lethal dynamic to set in motion. The government is hereby constructing a Problem and funding special-interests to address that Problem, but whose own interests lie precisely not in solving the Problem but in perpetually expanding it. Thus the ‘victim industry’ is set on the same track as the military-industrial-congressional defense-contractor industry: there must always be yet another ‘enemy’ (or ‘oppressor’ perpetrating ‘oppression’). And meanwhile the government and the pols derive Constitutionally-dubious benefits by exactly the same perpetual expansion of police authority and deal-inspired votes.

A self-licking ice cream cone. But a truly poisonous one.

And the government police/judicial-authority is drawn into being merely the instrument of vengeance for ‘the victim’ and precisely not fulfilling its role as the impartial, objective (and Constitutionally-boundaried) judge of demonstrable facts in any matter against any accused.

This was precisely the theory behind Lenin’s concept of ‘revolutionary justice’: that ‘justice’ was defined merely and completely by the maxim that What is against the revolution is by definition a crime and thus that The only purpose of the revolutionary courts is to “strike” such counter-revolutionary agents (who, once accused, are presumed guilty and God help anybody who says different).

RL concludes this section by quoting (p.200) an author who notes how quickly under such a regime people began to ‘accuse’ business rivals and persons against whom they harbored grudges, in the sure and certain knowledge that if they just made the ‘right’ claims, the legal system would without further ado remove these targeted defendants from the scene.

That has an ominously familiar ring to it.


*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.

**Despite any boilerplate and pious declamations to the country, the increase in any ‘rights’ for victims had to come from only one source: those ‘rights’ had to be cut out of the ancient and Constitutionally-enshrined rights of the accused. It is a zero-sum game. As any review of so-called victim-friendly jurisprudential ‘reform’ quickly indicates. Up to and including the most recent scam in this department: shrewdly and slyly calling Statutes of Limitations and other long-enshrined protections for the accused “predator-friendly”, thus neatly re-framing the Problem and distracting attention away from the increasingly apparent Constitutional dangers of ‘victim-friendly reform’.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I continue looking at Roger Lancaster’s (RL) book.*

RL looks at “some explanations for the punitive turn”. (p.181)

Given his own natural liberal tendencies, he turns first to “social conservative” explanations, which center around a “logical” response to the high-crime rates associated with the 1960s and 1970s. While this explanation accurately marks the moment in American history “when crime issues began to be politicized”, it is insufficient – he thinks – as a sociological explanation.

Concern over “juvenile delinquency” was ignited as juvenile crime rates began rising as early as the 1950s. And while crime rates climbed dramatically in the 1960s, they essentially remained flat – although at a highly elevated level – from 1972 to 1992.

Thus while the experience of crime in the 1960s and 1970s was congruent with the actual climb in crime rates, yet in the 1980s – when the conservative law-and-order Reagan tilt toward Victimism was initiated – the crime rates had actually flattened: it was, to RL’s mind, the perception of rampant crime rather than the experience of it that fueled – almost phantasmagorically – the national concern over crime.

In other words, while in the earlier era there actually was a spike in crime, in the 1980s that spike had flattened and it was a matter of public opinion, inflamed by “imagined dangers and an exaggerated or misplaced sense of risk”.

And it is here in the early 1980s that RL also points out “the sensational sex panics that played an important role in the punitive turn”.

I have often discussed the political elements active in all of this: the growing power of Leftish advocacy-Identity politics throughout the 1970s, tightly and widely embraced by the Democrats in 1972 and extending throughout the 1970s.

But the first ominously powerful outburst of ‘sex panic’ was the Satanic Ritual Day-Care Child Sex Abuse wave that occupied the early 1980s. The more I think about this phenomenon, the more ‘constructed’ it appears: the ‘satanic ritual’ bit reflected the concerns of that fundamentalist-Christian demographic which the Republicans in the Reagan era had quickly embraced as a counter-force to the secularist and ‘liberal’ elements that the Democrats had deeply embraced; the ‘day-care’ bit reflected concern over the changes to family-structure (including the radical-feminist insistence on the deconstruction of the Family in order to provide ‘liberating’ economic opportunities for women, coupled with a Beltway awareness that in order to keep up accustomed levels of income and financial security, both parents would now have to work); and the ‘child’ as subject of all this Victimization provided a useful image of a Victim around whom the largest number of interests might be united in an otherwise divided national discourse on the role of ‘women’ and ‘men’.

But the ‘sex’ bit – which ultimately was proven to be almost completely non-existent – was, I would say, the most telling aspect of this government-and-media-manufactured early phase of Mania: it captured nicely the Right’s concern for the un-boundaried ‘sexual liberation’ of both the Boomers and the radical-feminists on the Left: even ‘teachers’ were now unreliable, since they had been ‘infected’ with the sex-crazed libertinism of the 1960s.

And yet it was here – I would say – that the radical-feminist and Victimist advocates (rapidly organizing into permanent pressure groups that I characterize as advanced-level Advocacy) first saw a) how the Beltway and the media could literally create a mass ‘Issue’ or ‘Crisis’ where none existed and then b) how that possibility might be turned to their own advantage in the radical-feminist-required ‘war’ on patriarchy and males.

Especially since ‘sex’ (defined as the act of inseminating in order to produce more offspring) was something that males were invariably driven-towards (as the theory of Evolution supports).

If then, those Advocacies could ‘criminalize’ sex as widely and deeply as possible, then they would have an almost-permanent ‘stick’ with which to beat males, even with the criminal law. ‘Sex’ could be weaponized in the Gender War.

Thus, as RL observes, “while the sensational sex panics that played an important role in the punitive turn in the 1980s were buoyed by imagined dangers and an exaggerated or misplaced sense of risk … many of the most punitive laws actually were passed after 1992, a time of rapidly declining crime rates”. (all of the foregoing, p.182) [italics mine]

I agree. Although I note a) that 1992 and the arrival of the Clinton presidency also marked the arrival of ‘governance feminism’ as the Democrats’ strongly-embraced radical-feminist Advocacies were given hugely expanded entrée into the Beltway and the federal bureaucracies and into formal roles of governance; and b) efforts were immediately reinforced to actually intensify and expand the crime-rate numbers by casting almost all heterosexual sex as somehow criminal.

And thus, even as crime-rates (meaning ‘crime’ as classically-defined) were falling, the category of sex-crimes was suddenly made the focus of intense and manipulative efforts to create a ‘crisis’ both huge and ongoing.

I would say that crime and punitive efforts to control it – by a broad and sustained government-sponsored campaign to ‘control’ and re-shape public opinion about ‘sex’ – became a tool or weapon in the Gender War: the gender and Victimist Advocacies got funding, status, and authority (with the help of legislators from both Right and Left); the media got a never-ending supply of ‘horror-stories’ artfully scripted along the necessary melodramatic lines of Innocent-Victim and Leering-Villain; and the government authority itself (distinct from the political benefits to politicians and Parties) got to engorge lethally and enormously.

And then there were all the ancillary beneficiaries of this gambit: an increasing pandemonium of ‘therapists’ and ‘experts’ who could cash in on the Mania; enterprising prosecutors and law-enforcement types who could quickly build career-advancement or even a career-itself by providing well-publicized ‘cases’ and the “spectacle” of arrests; and even university-level scholars who saw what had to be done to keep government happy and its vital funding flowing.

(Curiously, of course, and to no small extent incoherently, the radical-feminist Advocacies were demanding far wider ‘sexual freedom’ for ‘women’ precisely as they were also demanding the vast increase of draconian law and policies designed to control (‘shape’ is perhaps more accurate) sexual activity.)

Forthwith, the prison population that had been shrinking suddenly began to spike upwards.

The Left that had started out in the 1960s as an adversary of government police repression and brutality suddenly morphed into the greatest enabler of it by the 1990s. (p.183)

Nicely, RL mentions David Garland’s observation (in his 2001 study, Culture of Control) that the idea had come to take root in society that “nothing works”.** I wonder, really, how anything could have worked: the government, at the behest of its Identities and Advocacies was simultaneously trying to create ‘liberation space’ that almost seemed to require a certain tolerance for crime and violence; the Boomery infatuation with drugs was a ‘liberation’ that was criminogenic in and of itself and would only prove more so as time went on; the police power was simultaneously seen as repressive and incompetent and/or ineffectual; an d- generally – the government was trying to impose a hugely novel social revolution (or many of them) while at the same time reigning in the repressive aspects of police authority while at the same time trying to demonstrate that it could keep law-and-order.

And I can’t help adding here that the very notion of ‘law and order’ was anathema to the radical feminists at the deepest conceptual levels: Constitutional law-and-order was merely patriarchal law-and-order. And yet – as the SO community knows well – once weaponized in the service of their Gender War agenda, the Left became verrrrry law-and-order oriented, to the point of the police-state regimes of the Mania.

As Garland observed, the sense that “nothing works” somehow discouraged genuine progressive efforts at prison-reform and rehabilitation, and fueled socially-conservative*** demands to simply lock’em all up and throw away the key. (Which fueled a public increase in prison-building, and then spawned an entire private, commercial prison industry that is still chugging right along.)

RL attributes “zero tolerance” policies to the (social and cultural) conservatives, but we have seen how quickly and completely “zero tolerance” became a watchword of the Left-Victimist Advocacies as well. (p.183)

But then RL does point out neatly that “zero tolerance” has become an instance of “the punitive culture rationalizing its own existence”. (p.183) This, I would say, works this way: if we presume that ‘zero tolerance’ is a good thing, then the government must have enough coercive and intrusive police authority to prosecute every instance of crime whatsoever. And then, of course, if you factor in preventive intrusion and imposition, the equation necessary to create a full-blown police-state is completed.

So the redefinition of ‘crime’ in the popular mind from ‘street crime’ to ‘sex crime’ is, in my opinion, a lethal and ominous gambit that has opened up the gate in the Constitutional wall that had kept Kong away from civilization: Leviathan is unleashed once again.

And then RL notes the mostly unmentioned reality that the vast increase in (mostly male) prisoners also serves to keep increasing numbers of males formally out of the work force (and out of the official unemployment statistics and off the voting-rolls). In a time of declining employment opportunities and the almost-doubling of the eligible work-force through the demands of radical-feminism, the vastly expanded incarceration of males creates needed ‘space’. (p.188) And I would add that Registering so many others as SOs then adds to that dynamic.

But RL then wants to get below the realm of statistics to note the cultural consequences: this country has lost any sense of balance and of rehabilitation and of second-chances. (p.189)

This almost had to happen. If in order to whomp up public outrage and interest, the Advocacies had to perform the PR magic of turning the ‘accused’ not only into the ‘perp’ but also into the monstrous and incorrigible and Evil Perp, then clearly any thought of ‘rehabilitation’ had to be kicked to the curb. You can’t – in this theorizing of the ‘crisis’ – rehabilitate Evil. (You can only imprison it and – if you have to let Evil back out eventually – ‘register’ it with an electronic-database equivalent of a Yellow Star.)

And – as RL begins to arrive at it (p.189) – you can also quickly and easily increase the amount of ‘proven’ Evil Perps by greatly weakening evidentiary and jurisprudential standards (thus ‘victim-friendly’ ‘reforms’ that make any ‘story’ presumptively true and undercut any possibility of the accused defending himself against the allegation).

I simply point out here that if these dynamics can be deployed against SOs today, they can be deployed against anybody else tomorrow. The government simply has to ‘discover’ and ‘declare’ some new ‘outrage’ and ‘crisis’ and who knows where that can lead? Once Kong is out of the cage and through the ancient Gate, then does anybody really think the monster can be controlled?

If LBJ came up with the image of ‘War’ with his ‘War on Poverty’ in 1966, then Nixon followed with his ‘War on Crime’ in 1968. It would serve, RL says, as both a counter-movement to all the Democratic liberal talk of ‘War’ (on poverty, on conventional morality and traditional cultural assumptions and society) while also distracting from the failing shooting-war in Vietnam. (p.191)

Thus the matter of political demographics took a commanding role. The rise of the Religious Right in the South and West merged with a Northern blue-collar abandonment of the formerly-New Deal and now ‘revolutionary’ Democrats; “hardhat conservatism” was born as a major realignment of the political map.

The police (and – less noted – the government’s coercive police power) became the heroes of the Right; the Right embraced “the veneration of policing and the idealization of tough law enforcement”. (p.192) I note here that it would be a simple matter of political chemistry for the Left to gain control of the levers of this rapidly-developing Machine in order to deploy it – as we saw in the 1990s with the DoVi and SO Mania Regimes – for their own purposes.

Wave after wave of instances of “cultural paranoia” started up. There was an abiding mistrust, now, of ‘others’. RL notes the early 1980s ‘tampering’ scares, where disgruntled or incompetent employees were imagined to be tampering with medicine bottles on a vast scale. (Recall also the Satanic Ritual Day Care Child Sex Abuse cases of the same era.)

Worse, the ‘celebrity’ dynamic began to emerge: copycat ‘tamperers’ actually came forward to claim they too had done such things, simply for a few minutes of media-attention and ‘celebrity’.

Worse, RL notes, the AIDS epidemic began to give many people serious anxieties about sex. That epidemic “was fostering new anxieties involving sex, and ever more bizarre imaginings of predation proliferated”. (p.193)

As a result of which “sexual fears – some reasonable, some delirious – would play a pivotal role in conjuring up sinister enemies, feeding the frenzy for harsh retribution, forging strange alliances, domesticating and co-opting elements of the Left, and planting the psychological conditions of the state of panic in the seedbed of the family”. (p.193)

Yes indeed. But I point out that almost all of this was included in the radical-feminist menu of targets and tactics put forth (to give just one example) in radical-feminist law-professor Catharine MacKinnon’s 1989 compendium of radical-feminist objectives, Toward A Feminist Theory of the State. (See my mini-series on her on my other site.) Victim-friendly legal ‘reforms’ justified by the illegitimacy of ‘patriarchal’ Constitutional protections, the pervasive use of ‘sex’ as ‘oppression’, the role of the Family in sustaining ‘patriarchy’ … they were all there, and – MacKinnon says – had been there since the very early 1970s, waiting for the right political moment to be introduced into the national culture and the Beltway.

Worse, ‘rescue fantasies’ became a Hollywood staple: the Rambo series became immensely popular – first as the hero invaded and brushed aside evil foreigners to rescue Americans overseas, and then as the hero (and spin-off heroes of other films) began to do the same thing domestically, against this or that criminal or Evil criminal mastermind. (p.192)

It seemed that since “nothing works” then the only thing left to do was to take the law into your own hands. (I can’t help pointing out that just within the past two weeks this theme resurfaced in a still-underappreciated court case in Santa Clara County, CA, where a jury refused to convict a man, marvelously named Lynch, who had admittedly carried out an assault against somebody he claims raped him almost 40 years ago; the little-noticed but always possible Victimist-Rambo connection, shading clearly now into lynch-mob type activity, has now started to enjoy official legal status.)

And then came the War on Drugs, with its lurid tales of teens (especially ‘innocent’ white and middle-class) being lured into taking drugs and becoming addicted. Although they were so often termed ‘children’ for the obvious PR reasons.

But ‘Just Say No’ wasn’t all there was to the Reagan-era drug War. Substantial expansions of the intrusive and coercive police authority were instituted and the era ushered in “draconian” drug laws and rates of imprisonment. (p.193) You can see, again, where the equation was almost complete, whereby the mere substitution for a radical-feminist emphasis on ‘sex’ could create an entirely fresh and untapped field of expansion for this engorged and expanding Machine.

The SO Mania didn’t just suddenly ‘appear’, much as its proponents want everybody to presume that ‘suddenly’ heroic advocates simply ‘discovered’ huge and real amounts of sex-crimes. All the elements of a perfect – and anti-Constitutional – storm were simply waiting for further opportunities to engorge; the snow was all there, bunched up and ready to go – it merely required somebody to throw the ball.


*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.

**I recall an episode of the TV detective series Kojak in the early 1970s where the precinct commander says precisely that – “we keep trying and nothing works” – to Kojak as they face the task of law enforcement in the New York City of that era.

***I repeat a thought I’ve worked before: you can be socially and culturally conservative without at all being Constitutionally conservative. And indeed, neither social and cultural  conservatives nor social and cultural liberals nowadays are actually Constitutionally conservative in the classic sense. To the ‘conservatives’, Constitutional restrictions and protections obstruct the punitive police power and to the ‘liberals’, Constitutional restrictions and protections obstruct the deployment of the punitive police power on behalf of ‘victims’. The Constitution has few major political defenders – and that cannot be a good thing.