Wednesday, July 4, 2012


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

We had left RL discussing the carceral state’s simultaneous pandering-to and need-for the spectacle of punishment. (p.146)

Whereas the knowledge that their criminal-justice system is working well is a necessary and vital consequence if that system is to enjoy the credibility, legitimacy and authority of the Citizenry, yet the use of criminal-justice system’s daily workings as entertainment in something else altogether, and harks back regressively to a more primitive era in society and in Western history.

Worse, while the entertainment element works its seductive magic – engaging the more primal, limbic areas of the brain to take spectatorial pleasure in the carrying-out of the Sovereign coercive authority, it also evokes other primal emotions, such as vengeance: as in the old early silent movie era when viewers actually got up in the theater and shook their fists in anger at the Villain and occasionally threw objects at the Villain’s image projected on the screen, and where film actors who portrayed Villains had to take a care when walking the streets, lest they be recognized as ‘that Villain’.

Nowadays, it’s the reality-TV police shows and the ‘sting’ shows such as the recent “To Catch A Predator”.

As RL observes about that particular show: “NBC has not blurred but erased distinctions between journalism, law enforcement, and the gratuitous arousal of its audience’s baser instincts”. (p.146)

Exactly so.

And let’s not forget that the ‘audience’ must also retain its capacity to function as the Citizenry and as The People. Which is – I would strongly submit – an almost impossible set of hats to wear all at once. What it takes to be a happy consumer and audience-member is hell-and-gone from what it takes to be a competent Citizen and for such an ‘audience’ to also remain The People.

None of which can be surprising to the SO community, that has seen and felt all the consequences latent in this hugely poisonous gambit, in which – of course – the Beltway has colluded and conspired mightily, before and during and after the fact.

Further, RL asserts – and rightly so – that “there is no direct relationship between American’s fascination with the police blotter and the real-world conditions of crime and depravity”. (p.146) Meaning, he explains, that even though “crime rates have fallen dramatically since the early 1990s, crime reportage has actually risen in inverse proportion”. (p.146)

There are several dynamics contributing to this. First, the media are desperate to keep up viewership and consistently choose the most vivid and attention-grabbing ‘stories’, regardless of how little those particular incidents might reflect the overall state of affairs or of how little relevance those incidents might bear to the general common-weal.

Second, there are now hugely well-funded (by the taxpayers, courtesy of the politicians) organized Advocacies. These are what I classify as those Level-IV Advocacies which seek not only to sidestep public deliberation and work directly if secretly with willing legislators but also to manipulate public opinion by selectively misinforming and inflaming it.

Their agendas – meshing with the American criminalization of world-Victimism’s insights – require not only the designation of some Evil which ‘victimizes’ their particular group, but also requires the designation (and even construction) of some Evil-Doer who perpetrates such victimization. And as We have seen in the SO Mania Regime, not simply an individual Evil-Doer or Villain, but an entire group or class of them. (So for example, as radical-feminism synergized with Victimism, men – half the population – became the proscribed class … or, not to put too fine a point on it, the proscribed gender.)

Third, there are the politicians, once the national Parties in the Beltway decided to create political supporters for themselves by embracing any and all new victim-groups that any Advocacies cared to push their way.

And by including in that support legislation and public-funding to keep those Advocacies and those groups well-satisfied. Although – and this is the inherent lethal danger to any constitutional Republic – once you start down this road, the groups and Advocacies will never be satisfied; instead, the more they are given the more they will discover they ‘need’ and the more they will and must demand in order to keep the ball rolling. And thus the more the legislators must give them, regardless of the consequences for the common-weal or to the integrity of any genuine democratic politics.

The legislators are using the public monies to create and sustain groups whose continued existence – regardless of whether that existence is justified – greatly benefits the legislators’ themselves, securing electoral viability for them. This is a kickback scheme from Hell.  (RL will discuss this at greater length further on in the book.)

Worse, “the current zeal for punishment turns on the perpetual cultivation of outsized fears”. (p.147) [italics mine] And once again, an ‘audience’ continuously and habitually titillated by entertainments and agitated by the distracting and deranging frisson of fear … is not easily going to be able to put all that aside and suddenly turn with full and practiced and emotionally sober competence to its task as Citizens and  its role as The People.

“The United States has become a measurably harsher, more punitive place”, says RL, and he suggests the term punitive governance to convey this stunning and alarming reality. (p.147)

It’s even more stunning that all this has happened when – if you base your impressions on the media – the country has been doing nothing but marching to ever-increasing and ever-intensifying levels of ‘liberation’ all this time, especially in the past quarter-century or so.

Clearly, somebody’s ‘liberation’ requires somebody else’s demonization and incarceration. This is a lethal as well as an almost fatally ridiculous policy-path for any government to embrace, to initiate and to sustain.

But that’s what’s going on now.

Worse, this is not simply a form of punitive justice, but a form of punitive governance: many many groups are now looking to the government primarily as an instrument of vengeance against whatever ‘victimizers’ and ‘evil-doers’ their particular agenda has identified. And the government is now basking in its role as Primary Avenger.

This is a recipe for constitutional and democratic catastrophe.

Worse, as RL notes (p.147), in the good old American spirit of efficiency, vital due-process protections enshrined in the Bill of Rights and presumed by the Framing Vision are being ‘short-cut’ or sidestepped in order to get the Avenging done more quickly by removing fuddy-duddy old Constitutional ‘obstructions’. (The pretext might be the need and desire to bring vaguely-defined ‘closure’, but the operational objective is to engorge the government’s intrusive police power and weaken the boundaries that ‘obstruct’ such power.)

Which are also the boundaries that in the Framing Vision give the American form of government its classic and unique Shape. (No wonder the government now seems both more powerful and more Shape-less, like Jabba the Hutt.)

Yet, so very apropos, RL quotes Francis Bacon: “Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man’s nature runs to, the more law ought to weed it out”. (p.147) But instead, under victim-friendly ‘reforms’ to jurisprudence and under the welter of Mania Regime laws, the government perverts the law precisely to pander to that primal though popular wild-justice of revenge.

Thus, RL notes, the perversion of “long standing liberal ideas about the burden of proof”. (p.147) [italics mine]

First, I would say that what has to be done here is to make that Liberal with a capital-L, in order to distinguish it from what ‘liberal’ means nowadays, which is not genuinely Liberal at all, but rather is an authoritarianism that differs from more familiar police-state authoritarianism only in the fact that it is claimed to be done out of ‘sensitivity’ and in the service of ‘liberation’.

Second, the ‘burden of proof’, Constitutionally a burden always laid upon the prosecution and the accuser, has now been perverted so that for all practical purposes in the civilian arena it now burdens  the accused. Thanks to the manipulation of public opinion – with the full and robust cooperation of legislative ‘Findings’ and  vividly selective ‘news stories’ – far far too many people now presume that, say, in a sex-offense case, the accused is always simply the Evil-doer Caught, and the role of a trial is simply to put the official Vengeance into action.

Which is precisely the role for courts in Lenin’s concept of ‘revolutionary justice’: the courts don’t need to carefully establish guilt because that was done by the government when it arrested the accused; instead, the role of the courts is simply to do the administrative theater and paperwork necessary to deal with the accused (who in Lenin’s system is by definition also guilty). In Lenin’s system you’re innocent until arrested; and if you’re arrested, then you are by definition guilty. Sound familiar?

(As I have mentioned in prior Posts on military justice – far more vulnerable to Congressional skullduggery – this shift in the burden of proof onto the accused was actually though quietly enacted into law, although Congress – composed, weirdly, of so many lawyers itself – may change that back in order to avoid a highly-public Constitutional challenge taken to the Supreme Court. This is not merely a matter of Congress making occasional mistakes while trying to ‘find a balance’; rather, this is an example of Congress being caught trying to pander to favored Advocacies with no regard for the Constitution or the integrity of the Framing Vision.)

“The entrenchment of punitive practices at the center of governance today poses a striking challenge to the progressive story line”, RL notes. (p.148) And how!

“The crime and sex panics that erode civil liberties today have lasted far longer than any wars or crises in U.S. history”.  (p.147) So far, yes indeed (although, by an amazing coincidence, the ‘wars’ that the Beltway has now enmeshed the country in overseas may well last even longer).

And those panics, I would add, are not simply eroding civil liberties but – far worse – they are eroding the foundational elements of civil liberties: laws and policies, jurisprudential regulations and standards, the very Stance of the government toward the country’s (and its own) Framing Vision, and – worst of all – the very Stance of the Citizenry toward its own Framing Vision.

And additionally – and even more lethally poisonous – to the Beltway and the assorted Advocacies all of this erosion is seen as both a ‘success’ and as the first-steps in even larger ‘reforms’.

On top of that, RL adds, through all the revisions and redefinitions and expansions of ‘normal’ government police authority – carried out by seemingly “democratic means” – what has happened is that “the difference between democratic consent and rule by terror becomes increasingly compromised”. (p.149)

I would add that this is not simply ‘rule by terror’ in the sense that the government imposes itself upon a Citizenry that fears the terror the government might turn on any or all of them if they object, but even more so the ‘rule of terror’ by which the Citizens themselves have been so terrified by false Findings and ‘facts’ and ‘reports’ that they willingly embrace the government’s increasing and ever-engorging and perverted (in view of the genuine American Vision) terrorization of the ‘evil’ ones.

This, I would say, is the most vital and lethal perversion worked upon the country and against The People in all of these Mania Regime laws and policies.

But what RL then notes is even more alarming: “the role played by liberals and progressives of various stripes in fostering a consensus that government exists, essentially, to protect the innocent”. (p.149)

Now this requires a bit of thought, to fully appreciate what RL has opened up here.

Yes, the first point is that he realizes – perhaps without fully grasping what he has said, since he himself is inclined to be ‘liberal’ – that modern ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ have somehow been vitally instrumental in all of this fundamental perversion. There has always been an ominous authoritarianism and anti-democratic elitism at the heart of liberal and progressive thought: if you ‘get it’, and most of the Citizens ‘just don’t get it’, then why listen to them? Why not instead just do what it takes once you have got control of the levers of power, and lead the clueless herd toward what you – as a liberal and progressive – just know is good for them.

But this mistakes the profound insights of the Framing Vision: the genius of the American way of government is not simply that it does the right thing no matter how that right-thing is implemented. Rather, that it first follows the democratic way and the democratic process in pursuit of as much of that good thing as The People will approve.

Nor is it at all sufficient to brush off The People with the old Marxist bits about The People simply being a cover for whatever status quo those in power wish to sustain or that ‘the masses’ don’t really know what’s good for them so they have to be led like cattle. (And let’s not forget every old Western movie ever made, and the history of all totalitarian governments: the cattle are always led to the slaughter-house. Or does anybody think that those cattle-drives were headed toward some bovine version of Boca for the summer?)

You reach a point where either you have faith in The People or else you give up in democracy altogether. In which case, as Lincoln once observed about Southerners trying to spin slavery as a Good Thing: he’d rather go to Russia where autocracy and slavery can at least be taken straight, and not mixed with hypocrisy and untruth.

So it is with the SO Mania Regime laws: I expect Lincoln’s formula would mean rejecting the hypocrisy and untruth and illogic by which legislators and too many courts try to make the Regime seem a constitutional and a Good Thing.

Second, there is this matter of whether government primarily exists to “protect the innocent”. To which I can only respond that RL is right, if you give it a little thought.

Many may recall George W. Bush letting the cat out of the bag by piously insisting that his job as President was to protect the American people (by, as We soon found out, ‘any means necessary’). He didn’t seem to recall that the oath he swore was actually “to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution”. It is the Constitution that will protect The People, and the President’s (and Congress’s and the Supreme Court’s) job is to protect the Constitution.

Because, just like the generation of the Framers, the American people – The People – have put their faith, hope, and trust in the Constitution and the Framing Vision. And they are committed to following that path wherever it may lead. Otherwise, why have a Constitution?

(Let’s also not forget that by 2002 Bush and all the Beltway would have been soused with the Victimist and ‘progressive’ disdain for the Constitution and enthusiasm for the government’s perverted new role as Avenger as all that played out in the 1990s’ development of the SO Mania Regime.)

For Americans, it comes down to the fact that you either put your faith in the Constitution as the instrument of your governance or you abandon it altogether and raise up idols more to your preference.

But if the latter course is your choice, then at least – as Lincoln observed – have the decency to say it outright and don’t be a hypocrite about it. And thus will end the Republic and the Constitution and the Framing Vision and the Great Experiment that inspired 1776 and 1787. But that is a consequence that you will have to face ineluctably whether you have the courage to admit your choice openly or not. As We are now seeing.

‘Protecting the innocent’ – which sounds very nice and very good – can too easily become a cover and a pretext for government doing whatever the hell it wants to do and calling that Good. Especially if what the government chooses to do – at the behest of this or that Advocacy or ‘interest’ – erodes the Constitution and ignores the Framing Vision. And perverts them.

It is in this sense – as I have often said on this site – that Victimism as it has mutated in this country has become a pretext for and an instrument of a lethally poisonous perversion of the Constitution and the Framing Vision and has opened the Awful Door caging Leviathan from the Right and its new mate, Leviatha from the Left.

If the Constitution is insufficient to meet the Victimist demands for vengeance (masquerading as ‘justice’) and for ‘protection’ (presuming that all alleged victims are innocent in the first place, which is not a presumption that the American system of Constitutional justice can make), then let those Advocacies say so outright, and let the government admit that it also believes that to be true, and let The People realize that this country now faces consciously and outright what it has actually been undergoing for several Victimist decades now: a Constitutional crisis of the most profound type: whether the Constitution is considered any longer to be a sufficient basis for American government and American politics and American governance.

Well, there are a few thoughts for the Fourth of July.


*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.

No comments:

Post a Comment