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’.

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