Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I continue looking at Roger Lancaster’s (RL) book.*
RL begins his eighth (and final) chapter, entitled “The Victimology Trap”, with a quotation from Brit writer Margaret Atwood: “I know you’ve been told that this is for your own safety and protection, but think about it for a minute. Anyway, when did you get so scared? You didn’t used to be so easily frightened.” (p.214) She wrote that in her “Letter to America”.
Here RL is going to take a few bulls by the horns: “What is the connection between the punitive turn, with its expressly authoritarian politics, and the liberal political tradition with its emphasis on individual rights?” (p.214) I would answer here that built into the Beltway’s eager pandering to any demographic group that looked like it could promise electoral success, were three anti-democratic dynamics.
First, the government will have to selectively exalt that demographic and treat its agenda and demands with favoritism; and second, the government will have to impose upon everybody else that demographic group’s agenda and demands – including going-after that group’s Necessary Enemy; and third, the government would have to involve itself actively in both reshaping the most profoundly interior mentality of the Citizenry while also ‘pursuing’ the Necessary Enemy deep into every structure and sanctuary of the nation’s culture and society.
And then – of course – you have to factor in the cumulative reality: each demographic had its own Necessary Enemy so the government was simultaneously pursuing numerous classes of such Enemies.
The government thus in effect declared war on substantial chunks of its own citizenry, ostensibly merely on behalf of other, more ‘marginalized’ chunks of that citizenry, but once governments get the taste of this type of blood – so to speak – they are not often returned to their former non-feral and domesticated condition.
And, RL then asks: “How is the punitive state related to capitalism, especially the privatized, deregulated variant that has prevailed since the end of the 1970s and is known as neoliberalism?” (p.214)
Economically, the Beltway’s failure, starting 40 years ago, to keep American jobs here (lubricated by radical-feminism’s demand for the deconstruction of the ‘macho, patriarchal, hierarchical, sweaty, lunch-bucket culture of the Industrial Age) resulted in a general sense that the ‘Male’ as he had been traditionally conceived was expendable and no longer necessary to national success. Thus it became much easier to indulge in demonization of Him.
The many hundreds of thousands of Registered SO’s would also – even without a prison record – effectively be out of the job market and perhaps off the voting rolls, thus clearing jobs for the newly ‘valorized’ Identity-groups (had the Adam Walsh Act scheme worked as fatuously intended by the Beltway, the number of SO’s affected would have increased substantially).
And – as with any large government Initiative – numerous jobs at all levels of skill and pay would be created: whatever government bureaucracy was created to keep the files on SOs and whatever law enforcement agencies required more hires to pursue them and whatever government resources were needed to spin the whole Thing to the public and sell it to the State governments. While simultaneously, the government would make public tax monies available to an increasing pandemonium of cottage-industries and entrepreneurial efforts somehow connecting themselves to some aspect of this whole Initiative.
Before the TSA was erected in the period immediately after 9/11, a Sex-Offense demi-world of government hiring and funding had already been created, replicating ominously the purpose and shape of the old East German Stasi organization, the domestic elements of the old Soviet KGB (and its predecessors: the Cheka, the OGPU, the NKVD), and the marquis monstrosity of the Third Reich’s Gestapo. But – and this was the work of the slyly-constructed and presented Stampede – it all seemed to far too many Americans such a good idea at the time.
The German people – so roundly ridiculed for it in the later 1940s – made the same defense of what they had gone along-with in the 1930s.
It has to be admitted that Americans could no more imagine their own democracy deliberately and formally starting down the police-state path than the passengers and command staff of the Titanic could imagine that mystically marvelous modern vessel destroying herself on her maiden voyage. It was precisely this failure of imagination – which, actually, was enabled by a PR campaign that cheeribly oversold the vessel’s strengths and slyly ignored the dangers of early Spring crossings of the North Atlantic – that caused not only her passengers but her command staff to minimize the very real dangers she (and all of them) faced.
And if this country will no longer have the productive abundance to ensure her ‘economic independence’, and indeed may experience significant civil unrest greater even than the period from the 1880s to the 1930s, then the temptation for the government will be to set in place and to ‘normalize’ – by whatever pretext necessary – mechanisms by which hefty numbers of Citizens can be detained or tagged or imprisoned and/or ‘registered and tracked’, all on the flimsiest of evidence and on an emotional appeal to ‘the emergency’. This, I would say, is the still-unseen strategic consequence built-into the SO Mania Regime matrix of laws.
He acknowledges that “the dominance of a vengeance orientation today is linked not only to various forms of conservatism but also to a genealogy of liberalism.” (p.214) And that point can never be made too much – both sides of the political spectrum are involved in this. (Which is why, I think, in a hotly contested political campaign and race nobody but nobody – Democratic or Republican – talks about their Sex Offense ‘successes’ or the other sides Sex Offense ‘failures’: because there is plenty of evidence that both sides were in this mess up to their ears from the get-go.
And now, nobody wants to talk about it. What sort of ‘success’ has nobody who will acknowledge having caused it? The kind of success – I would say – that we call ‘failure’.
He mentions author Wendy Brown, who in her 1995 book States of Injury, speaks out against “the politics of victimology she sees inherent in modern liberalism, especially some of its feminist variations”. (And yet by 1995 Megan’s Law was already before the New Jersey Supreme Court, which would issue its now-ludicrous upholding in the Poritz decision.)
At this point neither ‘liberal’ nor ‘progressive’ would care to claim responsibility for the SO Mania Regime; nor would the law-and-order bunch. After all, in an election where each side is desperately trying to demonstrate that they can come up with workable solutions that are both intelligently conceived and effective practically, who wants to be tarred with responsibility for the SO Mania Regime?** Is there any larger Picture into which this dishonestly-justified and dishonestly continued and dishonestly sustained Program can conceivably fit to make it seem worth the effort and the damage it has cost?
It was built into liberalism’s embrace of victimism from Day One: if you were going to ally yourself with Victims, and those Victims demanded that you do whatever it takes to get the Perps who had victimized them, then liberalism was going to have to adopt the techniques of the police state, especially if you were going to try to give the impression you could “outlaw injury” or even just ‘prevent’ it, everywhere and all the time.
As RL puts it: “Freedom, defined as protection, comes to mean subjection”. (p.215) It’s going to be a hallmark failure of the recent 25 or 30 years that far too few on any side of the Question, on any point on the political spectrum, realized that soon enough to do something about it. What did people expect, as “fear” began to “colonize social spaces”. (p.214) [italics mine] We have been ‘colonized’ by fear in this country, in a way We never had been prior to the victimist-radical feminist Ascendancy of the past several decades. And that fear has driven Us to accept alarming amounts of government coercive intrusion, under the guise of ‘protection’ and ‘prevention’.
He notes that liberalism has an innate tendency to “justify government action narrowly as intervention on behalf of the weakest and most vulnerable” – but that actually results in a liberal government that “aims to correct the worst abuses, rather than address the logic of the system as a whole”. (p.215) In other words, in trying to put out the fire they pour on all the water from all the fire hoses they can bring to bear; and so they wind up flooding the ship and rather than burning up with fire it fills up with water from the fire hoses and sinks anyway. Such government. Such problem-solving.
This tendency to over-react and under-think and under-visualize on the part of the Beltway (now a bipartisan hash of leftists and rightists simply looking for their side to ‘win’) has resulted in the feminist-victimist ‘special interests’ being allowed to write their own agendas and dampdreams into law, and what that has led to is that they have adopted the techniques, tactics, panoply and pandemonium of a classic police state and made it all seem like A Good Idea and The Next New Thing.
 Liberals, RL says, have proven disturbingly susceptible to the political seductions of “victimization narratives” and the concomitant “narrative of rescue” script. And even though liberalism is theoretically as traditionally averse to emotion as was its ancestor the Enlightenment, yet the not-always-subtle hysteria and histrionics of victimization and its narratives still quietly flood the foundations of American political liberalism. (p.215)
RL takes the bull by the horns and proposes outright that “victimist statutes, with their mania for exacting detection and excessive punishments, represent a disintegration or involution of political norms, not their extension”, resulting in the alarming reality that “liberal political traditions, for all of their shortcomings, now take abnormal and unhealthy forms”.  (p.215) [italics mine]
And there were even more serpentine connections. RL quotes author Marie Gottschalk, whose research indicates a curious twist in the turn toward the punitive state: “As social services began to shrink in the 1980s due to the tax revolt, the recession, and the Reagan revolution, services for crime victims … expanded”. (p.223)
It seems to me that, in connection with political pandering to the agendas of the Victimist and Radical-Feminist advanced-level advocacies, the Beltway embrace and valorization of Victimhood also enabled the pols to keep up re-distributional pay-outs to selected Identity-groups, even as formal social-service funds were being cut: if you could (and it wasn’t difficult) establish your official status as a ‘victim’, then public monies would be made available to you either directly from the feds or through State-administered programs.
Thus the Punitive state – quite happy engorging and ‘normalizing’ its authority against this and that Identity’s Necessary Enemy – also serves as a hidden sub-support of the Welfare state. But what many don’t realize is that with their victim checks and victim status comes also the living specter of the police-state’s engorged coercive power. Which, further, once established sufficiently to stand on its own authority – instead of borrowing the authority of an ‘emergency’ or an ‘outrage’ – may well turn on anybody; as Clint Eastwood’s ex-gunfighter Will Munny says to an aspiring apprentice: “We all got it comin’, kid”.
Once again, it is a failure of the American civic imagination not to realize just what sort of a Vampire-power has now been invited into the national hearth. (It is a painful irony that a civic imagination far too easily able to conceive of Monster Stranger Sex Offenders Everywhere, was yet too weak to conceive of the imminent though well-established historical dangers of an engorged coercive authority and the clear procedural adoption of police-state dynamics.)
I will conclude this mini-series on Rl’s book in my next Post, with an overview of what he sees as the current condition of the Punitive State and its future potentials and possibilities, in relation to the SO Mania Regime.
*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 have noticed that even nowadays, as both liberal-progressive and conservative commentators are uncovering more and more evidence of government trampling on citizens’ rights with the cocky impunity of a police-state, and where commentators are trying to trace the causes of this alarming problem, yet nobody has traced the causes back to the SO Mania Regime nor so much as mentioned the term ‘sex offense’ in reams of commentary on How We Got Here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


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

RL had concluded his prior section regretting how things had turned out, with so many “missed opportunities” as feminism mutated here in the United States. Feminism in other countries had taken other paths – allying with prisoners’ rights groups and remaining “aloof from the growing crime-control apparatus of the state” while supporting “a more consistent articulation of social-democratic principles”.

He’s a little too easy on “liberals” here, making it sound as if “liberals vacillated” because “as political tides turned, a punitive and increasingly conservative logic overtook” them. (p.211) I would not give so much away: feminism was overtaken by its own Radical elements – anti-male, hostile, grievance-based and demanding “redress”, aggressive, anti-democratic (since so many people ‘just didn’t get it’) and they had deliberately adopted assorted French anti-traditionalist and anti-foundationalist critical theories as well as Leninist-Gramscian political strategies and visions in order to give themselves a ‘solid’ philosophical grounding for their agendas and demands.**

And thus, fundamentally, the now-Radical feminist approach – which provided the core justifications and gameplans for all the other ‘liberations’ – was keyed from the get-go to require state suppression of the Necessary and Designated Oppressor-Enemy (especially when it came time to try the first wide-scale government suppression-and-control gambit that was the SO Mania Regime).

Radical is hell-and-gone from Liberal; the Radical Stance indicates a Content that is considered both fundamental and essential, and a Method that consequently demands immediate and complete implementation. To such a Stance, the partial and slow processes of democratic politics – persuasion and compromise until a sufficiently wide-based consensus is worked out – are merely obstructions and pacts with Evil. Thus, Jacobins in the French Revolution and Abolitionists in the antebellum era here and Soviets in Russia a century ago did not support ‘politics’ but rather sought to crush political activity in favor of overt revolutionary activities such as capture of the government power and deploying it to impose their agendas.

And so you can see how an SO Mania Regime that sort of seemed in the beginning to have wide ‘political’ support actually turns out to be resistant to all political efforts to change it: what had been driving it all along was not genuinely political but rather a manipulated and fake politics that was really masking a profoundly anti-political and anti-democratic source-vision and power-source.

And, of course, given what I said in recent Posts in this mini-series about Theodore Lowi’s exposure of the true dynamics of “interest-group liberalism” – that the pols let the interest-groups and Advocacies themselves write the laws and regulations, which the pols will simply rubber-stamp (in exchange for votes or cash) – then you can get an idea of what actually went into the writing of all the Bills in the SO Mania Regime that were then passed into law: every dampdream and overzealous excitement that the Advocates came up with was simply written into the Bill that would be sent to the pols’ offices for rubber-stamping. (I can’t help but think of late-night collegiate bong-and-beer sessions back in the day where eager ‘revolutionaries’ whomped up whatever ‘reforms’ to the curriculum and university administration appeared to their wobbly minds as The Very Thing that was oh-so-necessary-and-good.)

At this point, if anything is slowing it down, it’s the fact that the fuel of government cash is starting to run out. If you tried to fight it purely on principles and rational political persuasion, you would never succeed. (And – conversely – if they had tried to get it started simply by convincing you purely on principles and rational political persuasion, they would never have succeeded in erecting the Mania Regime in the first place. Which is why they didn’t even bother to try.)

This is what has been driving the SO Mania Regime, far far more than any rational assessment of the Problem and the emergency and the threat (or not) and more than any serious and careful legislative deliberation about what workable and effective law-making could address the situation.

And thus too I can’t agree with RL’s thought that it was “an increasingly conservative women’s movement” that embraced all this. The radical nature of the women’s movement was – all by itself – headed straight for a police-state government from Day One.

Indeed, no genuine ‘conservative’ could ever have embraced the grossly anti-Constitutional and anti-Framing Vision scheme that is and always has been the SO Mania Regime.

RL then asks – and rather bravely, given the atmospherics surrounding this whole matter – “is injury ennobling?” (p.211)

“The idea that injury empowers or gives insight to the injured has proved difficult to resist, even in scholarly works”. (p.211) How true it is. And it is a vital element in the Victimist presentation: you have to listen to ‘the victims’ not only because they have been victimized (and always ‘horrifically’) but also because victims now constitute the wisest and most insightful Citizens in the country today. Simply because they have been victimized.

He quotes noted radical-feminist writer Judith Butler (‘scholar’ would have to be used in quotes; like any good revolutionary, she only studies in order to ‘prove’ what she had already decided was ‘true’ before she began her research … which happens a whole lot in ‘advocacy scholarship’), who “wishes to preserve the central role of trauma in the leftist political imagination”. (p.211)

Even – he marvelously adds – “while disavowing its uses by the post-9/11 right”. (p.211)

And here RL draws a hugely useful line connecting some vital dots that the Beltway and the SO Mania advocates and the media would rather not be connected in the public mind: well before the Patriot Act the SO Mania Regime had already been set up, and its precedents and dynamics simply migrated and mutated and were adapted to suit the purposes of the Patriot Act.

He quotes Butler as she burbles that “to be injured means that one has the chance to reflect upon injury, to find out the mechanism of its distribution, to find out who else suffers from permeable borders, unexpected violence, dispossession and fear; and in what ways”. (p.212) [italics mine]

In a perfect world, or in an ideal working-out of the victimization experience, that may happen: the victimized individual gets a chance to reflect deeply and maturely on the nature of his/her experience. Look at how Boethius handled it, writing down his profound reflections in his classic work The Consolations of Philosophy (which he wrote, by the way, while in prison for treason because he wasn’t quite in sync with the government of his day).

But that’s all only a possibility, in an ideal world or in the ideal possible working-out of a victimization experience. You don’t have to look at many online comments or published news stories about ‘victims’ to realize that a very very large proportion – and perhaps the majority – don’t quite rise that high to the occasion. Instead, there is anger and outrage and a queasily obvious desire for vengeance, and most surely no serious consideration of any Larger dimensions of their experience than their own personal feelings and the hopefully retributive consequences that the government (and the eager pols) will impose forthwith on the alleged victimizer (or preventive consequences to be imposed on any future potential victimizer).

This type of reaction is understandable and certainly deserves some attention – and also requires some serious working-through efforts, in the therapeutic and personal-maturational forums.

But to demand an immediate response consisting of a dense skein of draconian laws and punishments, and preventive laws as well, at whatever cost to legislative and jurisprudential and law-enforcement integrity … this is too much to ask, let alone to demand. Let alone that the pols (and far too often, the courts) have been doing their best to satisfy such unripe and highly-fraught demands.

Look what happened following 9/11. Building on the ‘trauma’ that all Americans putatively suffered, the government sent out the military in a still-increasing strategy of (mis-)adventures all over the world. To prevent any further ‘traumatic victimization’, of course.

And – in a darkly marvelous reprise of the refusal to reconsider the faulty Findings that ‘justified’ the many SO Mania Regime laws – the government didn’t even care to reconsider when the allegations of ‘WMD’ and Iraqi involvement were demonstrated to have been very wrong indeed; nor – still today – does the government hesitate to fiddle with ‘definitions’ and to drone-bomb funerals in Afghanistan on the assumption that if we kill somebody we decide to define as a ‘terrorist’, then we can presume that only other ‘terrorists’ will attend the funeral. (‘Terrorists’ can now be ‘identified’ by such diagnostic ‘evidence’ as missing a finger, stockpiling too much food, or travelling a lot … mirroring precisely the unending plasticity of the definitions connected with sex-offenses and sex-offenders).

“The Left”, advises RL, “should reconsider its fixation on injury, its attachment to political strategies based on victimization”. (p.212) Yes indeed, although by this point a whole lotta investment has been made in the game: laws have been passed and courts – including the highest – have largely found ways to uphold them; entire cottage-industries of remora-like entrepreneurial types have been set up and have gotten used to cashing in on the huge amounts of government monies made available; the various media have made a lot of hay leading with ‘victimization’ outrage stories; and there are now an awful lot of voters who have pretty much defined their role, status, and purpose as human beings and as Citizens to be based on their victimhood.

And, of course, how can the pols now back off from what they have assured everybody was a very real and very urgent and very permanent Crisis and Emergency and Outrage?

And what happens if they back off, the aura of “inevitability” and Goodness wears away, and the public starts looking more carefully at what has been done under the cover of this whole Stampede? As one member of Lenin’s early governing council put it in a meeting (with an honesty he perhaps lived just long enough to regret): What happens when the people find out what we’ve really done?

“No less resistant to criticism is the idea that empathy with the victim is, or ought to be, the basis for ethical political action.” (p.212)

Here RL approaches the huge Question: just how far can the government go in legislating ‘solutions’ (especially ‘preventive’ ones) before it is no longer the American government – bound and limited by Constitutional principles and Framing-Vision presumptions – envisioned by the Framers?

No legislation and few jurists have dared to approach this Question. Nor very many in the media.

And yet this is the Primary Question that should be addressed in the deliberations about any proposed legislation.

He acutely considers the work of the late philosopher Gillian Rose (she died in 1995): she had examined “the forms of identification and feeling prodded by the early 1990s Stephen Spielberg movie Schindler’s List” and how it illustrated “how the innocence of the perfect victim is made possible by … ‘the sentimentality of the ultimate predator’”. (p.212)

I have mentioned in a Post on Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem in 1961 that the Holocaust was a made-to-order Victimist event: genuinely innocent victims, in their millions, horribly treated and killed, by monstrous Nazi executioners. But, I then pointed out, that the Holocaust was so unique in modern history that the way it was allowed to override usual legal protections for the accused should have been accepted as a huge (if justified) exception to legal process against victimization, rather than – as happened – being raised up as an example of how victimization should be handled by government justicial action.

The presence of “an ultimate predator”, Rose observes acutely, enables such “sentimentality” – meaning an overriding emotionalism – that people can feel far too ‘good’ about ‘doing whatever it takes’ to destroy such a perfectly monstrous predator. The Nazi was certainly suited to the role of such a perfect “ultimate predator”.

Rose, RL notes, then went on to draw a far more disconcerting conclusion: “It is my own violence that I discover in this film”. (p.212)

We humans are all of us violent. Our violence against others in the service of our feelings or desires, individually and acting in-concert, is an ever-present potential.

But then, how can a government, especially a democratic and Constitutionally-limited government, ‘eradicate’ this profound and deep-set human potential? Can it take the ‘criminalization’ path and yet avoid becoming a police-state of near-ultimate proportions?

And what deformations will ensue for a government that allows huge chunks of its own Citizens in this day and age to be characterized (even if only ‘metaphorically’) as incorrigible victimizing Nazis?

And what deformations will ensue for the political integrity and unity of a Citizenry so divided, permanently and profoundly, into sheep and goats, into totally innocent victims and totally evil victimizers?

He concludes that “injury ennobles no one; it makes no one any smarter; it gives no one insight beyond the simple experience of pain … at best, it leads to a blinkered view, in which the world revolves around one’s own pain; at worst, to the development of a perverse politics of identity, in which everyone is defined by exquisite experience of injury and acts politically to extort sympathy”. (p.212) [italics mine]

I would only add that the experience of injury in and of itself offers no magic-path to increased maturity. In ideal – and rare – cases, particular individuals can work an experience of injury into a powerful catalyst for increased maturity. But that’s in ideal – and necessarily rare – instances.

For the rest, there is a much lesser, more violently vengeful, and more self-crushingly centripetal impetus to cave in oneself and one’s pain … and then, as has been seen so vividly in the SO Mania Regime, to demand truly dangerous ‘responses’ to that pain, from government and law and courts and law enforcement and prosecution.

In that direction there lie, as RL concludes this chapter, only “punitive governance” and the “punitive state”, (p.213); a police state – I would only add – that begins to assume precisely the shape of the truly monstrous governments of recent world-history.

So much, then, remains to be done.


*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.

**If any or most of this doesn’t sound familiar, then you now realize exactly how little mainstream media, political, and intellectual elites failed to analyze or at least disclose to the Citizens what was really going on in and what vital first principles were really at stake in the assorted ‘liberations’ and ‘preventions’ of American politics in the past four decades.


On the Truthout site there is an article by Chris Hedges discussing the lethal Constitutional dangers of the recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). And within this article there is a link to an article by noted author Naomi Wolf listing what she sees as ‘the ten steps to fascism’, many of which are already now operating in the United States.

I say again that the SO Mania Regime had already instituted many of those steps when it was erected more than twenty years ago.

I include here a comment made on that site in response to the Hedges and the Wolf pieces:

I offer this thought to support what Wolf notes about how fascism creeps up (Justice Douglas once said something to the effect that it comes upon a country like the darkness after sunset, in a slow process of Dusk where things get imperceptibly darker and suddenly it's Night):

This country set up a sex-offense Regime that was comprised of many of Wolf's elements ... and it seemed like such a good idea at the time. Vague psychological and legal definitions; the creation in the public mind of a type of incorrigibly crazed yet diabolically clever Monster (a combination of Frankenstein's monster and Count Dracula); the whipping up of a Stampede in public opinion demanding action; the ominous mantra that some crimes are so 'heinous' that Citizens accused of them don't deserve Constitutional protections or that the danger creates such an 'emergency' and 'danger' that such protections must be overridden; the passing of draconian police-state laws so reminiscent of Gestapo and Stasi 'registration' files (now enabled by computer databases) and the tagging of an entire group with some sort of 'yellow star' on their 'papers'; enabling legislation that was based on Findings (20 years ago) that have since been demonstrated to be very largely inaccurate and exaggerated; a refusal by legislators to re-examine their assumptions when they passed the laws; the ongoing intensification and expansion of both definitions and restrictions; the legislative enabling of police-overstepping by formally excluding any 'good faith mistakes' from civil or even criminal liability.

As so often, such seemingly 'good' ideas contain the clear potential for setting lethal precedents in legislation and jurisprudence and law enforcement.

And the entire Stance or Attitude or Approach that these laws encourage, and the Method of governing through them, then also migrates into other areas of governmental activity and also mutates as it goes. (So the NDAA has some sort of an ancestor in the sex-offense regime legislation and the media and even jurisprudential support for it.)

And of course, using another of Wolf's categories, to doubt or disagree as to the wisdom of such a matrix of laws becomes a sort of 'treason' ... to 'sensitivity' and to 'potential victims' (in the prevention of whose pain any and all Constitutional deformities and overrides are instantly and indubitably justified).

Such a good idea it all seemed at the time, decades ago. And yet look - I submit - at how such a precedent has rooted itself, and migrated, and mutated.

Nor was all this done in some far-distant past or in some other country: rather, within the adulthood of most readers here and within the very framework of American Constitutional democracy and the Framing Vision bequeathed by the Framers.

Food, I would suggest, for much serious thought.”

Monday, August 13, 2012


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

RL – with a becoming honesty, given his genuinely and decently liberal stance – examines the phenomenon of “feminism and the state”. (p.209)

He notes that there is “a surprising amnesia” when it comes to “the history of women’s reform movements”, as one (female) author noted in her own book about “the rise of the carceral state”. Another (female) author speaks of “the feminist alliance with the state”. (p.209)

He takes this hugely un-discussable bull by the horns: “the dangers of viewing rape and domestic violence through a law-and-order lens should have been obvious”. This is the heart of the Victimist mutation in this country, driven by political efforts to attract voters. The Republicans started it, perhaps – I think – seeking to attract women voters without looking like they had embraced feminism in its more outré ‘liberal’ forms such as the Democrats had done. Hence Reagan’s law-and-order approach, a solid red-meat and red-blooded Republican option.

So, I think, once a political Party embraced the option as a way of garnering votes (and, worse, of playing-to the voters) then the more awful and horrendous and terrible the Problem, the more electorally profitable for the pols as they rode to the rescue.

This was on top of the advocacies’ own selling-strategy: the more awful and horrendous and terrible the Problem, the more pressure could be exerted on pols to accede to the advocacies’ agendas and demands.

The media, of course, would lap it all up like catnip – and thus the more awful and horrendous and terrible the Problem, the more competent, relevant, concerned, and ‘serious’ they would look as they published the various stories and visuals that had already been slyly crafted on the model of old Hollywood silent-film Innocent Victim/Evil Perp scripts.

Like examining a monster killer tornado or hurricane, you can watch this Thing taking shape as multiple smaller dynamics begin to get sucked into its vortex.

And all of this takes place in a dynamic Theodore Lowi** analyzed years and decades ago: Congress, for its own reasons, had come to quietly abdicate its oversight responsibilities, “delegating” its powers to “interest-groups” – which were Business, Labor, and Agriculture in the immediate postwar era, and then about 1970 or so those “interest groups” came to include the assorted Identity-Group advocacies (based on race or gender or what-have-you).

To all of those “interest groups” – assisted by the now ubiquitous “experts” (paid by Congress or by the “interest groups”) – Congress allowed its legislative power to “drain out” (Lowi’s phrase for it): those “interest groups” would be allowed to pretty much write the laws and regulations and policies, which Congress would simply rubber-stamp with its Constitutional authority and power (having yet retreated from its Constitutional responsibilities to soberly deliberate and examine such proposed laws before passing them).

And this, I think, explains three things, among others: first, the Findings that preface the SO Mania Regime laws which were so highly dubious when they were first published and are now demonstrably so obscenely inaccurate and yet the Congress displays utterly no desire to go back and reconsider its legislation in light of the research that has now been done; Congress didn’t pass these laws and adopt these Findings for the country – it did so for the advocacies that wrote them and the demographics those advocacies allegedly represent. And while the Consequences for the country may not be good, yet the advocacies still hold to their agenda … and it is the advocacies who have been allowed by Congress to control the whole thing.

Second, and this is especially so in the case of the SO Mania Regime laws, Members – many of whom are themselves attorneys – are sufficiently worried about the consequences and quality of these laws that they so very often resort to various legislative-rules ploys to prevent their vote for the laws from being publicly connected to them; thus there are suspensions of the rules and voice-votes and any other diversions by which a Bill can be passed into law without the names of those Members who voted for it being made public (and the Member later held responsible for his/her vote).

And of course the ultimate sop to the pols’ consciences is the LBJ approach to legislation: “pass the damned thing – we can always go back and amend it later”. Thus, even as the Mania Regime laws demonstrate both their fundamentally unsound basis in fact and their lethal (and expensive) consequences on so many levels, the laws remain and are followed by further laws: the pols are trying to “amend” what doesn’t work, although really they almost invariably wind up simply intensifying the originally rotten dynamics they had allowed to be set in motion with the original law.

Third, the habit of naming laws after the most PR-attractive victims or their cases, rather than after the essential purpose of the law itself. This is the demographic dynamic compressed into a very small place: you as a Citizen and voter and taxpayer are to be distracted and manipulated by the ‘story’ and not by the actual dynamics (and the consequences) that the law is going to set in motion. This is the carnival midway magician’s old scam: distracting you from the real movement by flapping some bright and shiny diversion. OZ and the citizens of OZ – that’s what Congress and We have become.

In saying all this am I seeking to ‘disrespect’ or ‘re-victimize’ the ‘victims’? No – I am simply saying that in the grave and sober matters of erecting useful and workable legislation, no distractions can be allowed to override the vital responsibilities that both legislators and Citizens bear to ensure the integrity and efficacy of the laws.

RL goes on quickly to note that there were other ways of addressing rape and domestic violence: “in other developed democracies relationships among victims’ rights, women’s rights, and judiciary procedures took less toxic forms, and women’s movements internationally have tended to maintain a critical distance from the power of the state”. (p.209) And “generally, they have not made harsh criminal penalties a central demand”. (p.209)

But I would point out here that it is not simply the formally criminal penalties but rather the “administrative” consequences built-into the assorted Registration schemes that tag and track a Citizen for decades or for a lifetime. In that regard, I think that the developed democracies of Europe still retain personal and institutional memories of the era of Nazi and Soviet ‘classifying’ and ‘tracking’ of citizens by the police organs of the state … and they are not about to go down that road again. No such memories were strong enough here, alas, and Congress has allowed such dynamics to start up here. (And – as I have often pointed out – those dynamics have both mutated and migrated to other areas of national life and government practice.)

And – of course – there remains the general judicial refusal to forthrightly term most of the Registration schemes’ consequences as “criminal” rather than “administrative”.

RL notes that much of the funding for the early rape-crisis-centers was drawn from the old Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) budget pot, which began to draw those movements into the orbit of the police-authority. True enough.

But you only have to read radical-feminist law professor Catharine MacKinnon’s 1989 summa, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, to see that criminalization was a key element of feminist advocacy efforts and so was built-into the radical feminist demands from the get-go, as part of their war not only on “patriarchy” but on the “patriarchal” Constitution and on the “patriarchal” Rule of Law. And in 1989 MacKinnon is talking, as she herself says, about an agenda that has been in play since the very early 1970s (and in the Clinton 1990s era of “governance feminism” would go supernova). (And those agendas have also mutated and migrated into all areas of government practice, as can now – alas – be seen.)

RL notes that “the early domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers aimed to bolster women’s liberation against the power or the state and the power of the police”. (p.209) Rape-crisis counselors began to cooperate with police and prosecutors, setting an ominous dynamic in motion.

And then and thus, with the eager help of the Beltway pols, these advocacy efforts were “co-opted” into an alliance with the police power of the state that has proven (tactically) hugely beneficial to both the advocacies and the pols, although also to the police power of the state and to the great and perhaps permanent and certainly lethal detriment of the Rule of Law and the very first principles and foundations of this country as a democratic republic.

Indeed, before long, even the early advocates themselves were engaging in a type of “vigilantism” (often spun nicely as merely ‘women’s defense’ and public ‘consciousness-raising’, I would add), and some rape-crisis centers “published the names and photographs of alleged sexual assailants; other radicals threatened to submit rapists to various forms of public humiliation”. (p.209) [italics mine]

So you can see that the SO Mania Regime’s Registration schemes were evident from the get-go, and the pols simply accepted them as part of the agenda to be rubber-stamped when the pols decided to enter upon their collusive embrace with the (thus hugely strengthened) advocacies. The various whacky and grossly inaccurate Findings gave the pols their fig-leaf while the courts – alas – so very often bent themselves and the law into pretzels in order to justify the whole shebang as being Constitutional and so very democratic and – of course – vital and helpful.

(RL goes into a fascinating exploration as to how the early 1970s feminists – white and middle class – were much more hospitable to the ‘crime/police’ approach since they did not share the experience of police that non-white females largely experienced. Nor did those white feminist activists care to consider the experience of non-white communities at the hands of unbounded police authority; discussion with Jim Crow-era black females, for example, might have provided sound warning of what happens when a police authority is both un-boundaried and put in the service of a Bad Idea.)

RL rightly mentions “the growing significance of personal horror stories”. (p.210) This element started out as part of the ‘sharing’ experience at rape-crisis centers, and then became part of a corpus of stories routinely (or doctrinally) deployed to raise the consciousness of aspiring activists.

But it then found an entirely new second career when the media (increasingly anxious for ‘customers’, increasingly eager to please any new customer-demographic, just like the pols were eager to please any new voting-demographic) began to run such stories as ‘news’. And then along came the daytime women-focused talk shows that did not resemble Sunday-morning talking-heads, but rather seemed a misch of old-time revival meetings, consciousness-raising sessions, women’s ‘chat’, and – buried deeper down – a highly emotional and manipulative dynamic that I have always felt would have been a frightful tool in the hands of Goebbels or the early Soviets, had the technology been available in their day.

It should be familiar now, how “personal horror stories” then developed a third career as ‘evidence’, both for legislative Findings and, following numerous feminist and victimist inspired deforms (used as a noun; pronounced like ‘reforms’) to the judicial system, for both civil and criminal law (as well as in the far less-noticed military law).

Two of the most significantly-fraught aspects of all this are that a) the ‘story’ itself is almost never interrogated or assessed for credibility (to do so would, of course, be insensitive and ‘re-victimize’ the teller; and b) the deployment of such a ‘story’ on one’s own behalf almost immediately conferred ‘victim’ status on the teller in any forum where s/he chose to play the card. At which point, in any setting, a certain Script pretty much had to be followed: the expression of an appropriate (and Correct) ‘sensitivity’ and emotional response (some mix of sympathy for the teller and outrage at the ‘victimizer’) on the part of all those who heard the story.

Unsurprisingly, such a Script made for great (and useful) entertainment in any PR venue: as ‘news’, as ‘testimony’, and – but of course – as made-for-TV movie scripts.

RL’s assessment is that “In the end, feminism contributed to the development of a specific sort of victims’ rights movement in the United States”. (p.210) By which he means that “mainstream feminists made common cause with law-and-order conservatives, and some in the women’s movement assisted in the promulgation of unmistakable punitive laws”. (p.210) I would add: laws that were not only “unmistakably punitive” but that were also primitive and regressive by any Western and American Constitutional standards (had not those standards already been kicked to the curb by pols eager – treacherously eager – to pander).

Nicely, he notes the Midwestern (and rightist) Women’s Crusade Against Crime (which for a while outranked the lefty National Organization for Women in the then-conservative Midwestern cities): the Crusade’s primary goal was “to support, assist, and augment the criminal justice system in doing its job”. And it was in Washington State (so curiously a blend of coastal urban-suburban liberals and inland rural conservatives) that “women’s groups spun a rape reform law as a crime-control bill” as early as 1975. Further, that “nationwide, new laws made it easier to convict men accused of rape or wife battery”. (All quotes in this paragraph, p.210)

To anybody concerned for the Framing Vision and the Constitution, the entire concept of making it ‘easier to convict the accused’ should have set vital alarm bells ringing. So-called “rape-shield” laws made it possible to lodge formal accusations without having one’s name published, and with a level of anonymity not granted to the accused – which should never have been permitted: if you want to take an issue to the very public forum of the civil or criminal law (rather than the therapeutic or perhaps even media forum) then you are demanding the public deployment of the Sovereign coercive authority of the government, and you must be willing to become public when entering the public arena. Otherwise the case against the accused is tainted from the get-go (you are accused of committing a crime so heinous that the accuser is granted the public protection of anonymity – so you must have done something really really bad).

The whole dynamic, as RL says, “set judicial practices on a slippery slope”. (p.210) How vividly and lethally true. And, of course, so many of these repellent and dangerous deforms did not long remain confined to the ‘unique’ realm of sex-cases, but instead migrated to other realms of criminal and civil jurisprudence and then to government practices, mutating even more virulently as they went.

By the time of the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (1994), enfolded into the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of that year, RL notes that it seemed “natural” that feminist advocacies would be strong and active proponents of the whole thing. (p.210)

He reflects ruefully that liberals should have worried – as few did – when “local police began sponsoring Take Back The Night rallies”. (p.211)

And by the time Bush 2 invoked “women’s suffering” under the Taliban and Saddam as justifications for those invasions, “the legacies of state-sponsored feminism were glaringly apparent”. (p.211)

I still don’t think all that was apparent enough to enough people, but here’s hoping more folks make the connection.

And his usage of “state-sponsored feminism” is surely an eye-catching but not inaccurate formulation.

The profound monstrosity of the SO Mania has been for so long and for far too long encloaked in the comfortable and comforting wrappings of just plain old nice liberal ‘concern’ and homey conservative law-and-order … when really it was from Day One a lethally insidious anti-Constitutional fabrication, a virulently mutating and actively migrating infection that endangers the integrity and deep-political health of the entire American polity, and has spread even beyond Our borders on the wings of warcraft. Nor does the future – without vital public intervention – promise anything but more of the same, and worse.


*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.

**See either of his two books: 1969’s The End of Liberalism or 1995’s The End of the Republican Era.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


The New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote  a few days ago about Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid’s recent and continued accusation that Mitt Romney has not filed tax returns for the past ten years.  (Let me say here that I am not in any way taking or implying a political position on Mr. Romney in this Post.)

Bruni’s is a lament that the SO Community knows well – and perhaps saw this all coming down the pike twenty or so years ago, as the Sex Offense Mania took shape and was catapulted off the deck of the great vessel of the Republic.

“For the dwindling few out there who still believe that big accusations require a little foundation and that truth – as opposed to conjecture – matters” … he begins.

Well, for how long has the SO Community seen that accusations (let alone legislation) not only don’t require serious grounding in truth, but that the law has actually been deformed (not really ‘reformed’) and deranged (not merely ‘changed’) to make that all easier?

Now it’s beginning to dawn on more mainstream types.

So far, Bruni notes, Reid “had backed up his claim … with absolutely nothing more than some vague reference to some unnamed guy who said something of the sort to Reid during some phone conversation some time ago”. Which sounds pretty much like a recovered-memory or other type of claim in any sex-abuse lawsuit or even criminal trial: I don’t have a lot of facts but I just know I was victimized - or, at least, I want you to believe I was victimized.

Now the pols who enabled all these deforms (used here as a noun, pronounced like ‘reforms’) are beginning to use the stuff themselves.

“But for Reid it was enough to level his charge, but also, as the days pressed on, to double and triple down on it, his language and manner growing more righteous even as his evidence grew no more detailed or persuasive”. Surely Reid is taking a page from the old Victimist game-book here. The less facts you have, and the more people are beginning to ask questions, then the more you ramp up the righteousness and the vividness of your claims.

But it gets worse. As the SO Community might well imagine.

In an interview Reid responded: “Well, do I know that’s true? … Well, I’m not certain”. Which is, laudably, more frankness and honesty than you get in the standard Victimist Script. But then, in the Script, there are plenty of maneuvers to be deployed at this point, to take the focus off the credibility of your claims and put it on the ‘horrific’ experience implied in your (un-tested) story.

And, in best Victimist playbook form, Reid upped the ante by then claiming that actually Romney’s fortune (which in the scenario is his key ‘offense’) is “probably greater than published estimates”. In other words, if you don’t believe my story, then I am suggesting that this guy is guilty of even a hell of a lot more than you imagined. Sound familiar?

Bruni is now on the scent. “And so a wild supposition was magically transformed into the given from which yet another bit of speculation blossomed, and any concern with provable information was long gone, a casualty of the craven rules of political engagement these days”. But those craven rules migrated over from the craven rules of Victimist law deforms that the pols have been liberally (but without possibility of tracing their vote) passing into SO Mania legislation for nigh on twenty years now.

People who do this, Bruni says, have put their “conscience on ice”. Which is a vital deform that had to be imposed in order to launch the whole SO Mania to begin with.

“Spew first and sweat the details later”, figures Bruni. And how true it is. And has been – in SO Mania matters – for all these years. And – of course – by now enough deforms have been introduced into the legal system that you rarely have to do any “sweating” later on anyway: no prosecutor or jury is going to ‘re-victimize’ you by either a) asking you probing questions about your story or b) holding you legally responsible for any crimes (perjury, say) that you may have committed in the process of achieving your laudable and heroic goal of ‘justice’, ‘closure’, and ‘sending a message’.

“Speak loosely and carry a stick-thin collection of backup materials, or none at all.” Bingo. The ‘story’ is all. If it’s vivid and gripping, then it will be a good-enough ‘hook’ and your script – pitched to a jury like a script is pitched to a Hollywood producer – will ‘sell’.

But here Bruni goes off the scent, perhaps because he is writing for a ‘liberal’ paper and it’s a tough election year: “It has spread beyond the practiced rabble-rousers of the far Right, and Democrats are exuberantly getting in on this unbecoming, corrosive game”.  The Democrats have been buying-into and funding this game since their embrace of Victimist law deforms long decades ago. And – yes – the Republicans started it in Reagan’s day with their embrace of Victimism, but the Dems quickly got into a ‘bipartisan’ collusion, on behalf of their radical-feminist and other assorted Victim-Identity demographics, united not in a common Citizenship and dedication to the commonweal, but rather merely in a common – if multiform – Victimization.

So it’s not quite the whole truth of the matter to lament that “Republicans were by and large willing to play faster, looser and flat-out nastier”. In fact, I’ll say that Karl Rove, arch-spinmeister with the professional morals of a feral alley-cat, wouldn’t have gotten as far as he did with his plans if he hadn’t been able to take advantage of the already-established deep and vital corrosion worked by Victimist deforms that weakened not only the integrity of the Beltway and the Rule of Law, but also the general public’s intensifying inability to sniff out truth from untruth, fact from fiction, after years of watching the spectacle of the SO Mania unfold.  

Ditto, Bruni notes, that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last week had to issue a formal apology to Republican money-bags contributor Sheldon Adelson, who was accused of “profiting from a Chinese prostitution strategy” at a casino he runs in Macau. And you can see in this Adelson bit (as you saw with Julian Assange) how easily now ‘sex offenses’ have become a handy political tool, or assault weapon.

It seems to Bruni that the operative political ‘philosophy’ here is that a target “[M]ust be discredited and neutralized by whatever means necessary. Details, schmetails.”  This has always been a Victimist play, and I would point to the sustained efforts by ‘secular liberals’ to do the same thing to the Catholic Church by turning it into a piñata for sex-abuse claims and trials, such as the recent Philadelphia show-trial and the Santa Clara trial (about both of which I have written on this site).**

And along those lines, Bruni also notes that Reid’s defenders claim that since Romney won’t release more than a year’s worth of tax returns then that somehow “makes clear that he is hiding something”. In other words, if you don’t give us what we want, then we’ll just claim that your very refusal is grounds (if not also “proof”) that you must be hiding even more stuff. Shades of the Catholic Church in the abuse ‘crisis’.

Bruni asks: “Is this a road we really want to continue barreling down?” Well, the country has been zooming down this road since at least the beginning of the SO Mania Stampede, and – contrary to Bruni’s limited view of the causes at work here – it didn’t all start with the current presidential election cycle. Not hardly.

But he still has some acute insights.

“The new shape of the news-media universe doesn’t help. Balkanized into micro-niches where partisans can have their passions stoked and prejudices reinforced, it gives reckless allegations many place to land and even stick before they get a sober look.” This, as the SO Community knoweth full well, has been going on for quite a long time. And for many that “sober look” is yet to come.

But – in best Victimist playbook form – Reid remains “unbowed … inconsistent too”.  Bruni reports that Reid had told a bunch of (friendly, I imagine) reporters in his home state (Nevada) that “a number of people had whispered to him of Romney’s alleged tax evasion”, although at another juncture Reid issued a statement referring only to a single but “extremely credible source”.  This is a classic from the playbook: you buttress your un-grounded assertions by claiming that lots of people have told you (although you can’t quite name them or recall them specifically). Although Reid slathers it all on rather thickly by then immediately using another trusty bit from the same section of the playbook and claims that he has one hugely reliable source (also – as Bruni notes – unidentified).

And then Reid takes it over the top by saying in twenty-five words or less what the playbook usually recommends that you pussyfoot around: “I don’t think the burden should be on me … the burden should be on him [Romney] … he’s the one I’ve alleged has paid no taxes”.  In other words, once you’ve made your (un-grounded and unsubstantiated) accusation, then the burden of proof is on the guy you’ve accused. This is Victimist jurisprudence 101, but you’re not supposed to expose its ugly kisser to the public – you’re supposed to finesse it.

But Reid doesn’t have to play the Game quite so cautiously – he is, after all, a Senator and a highly-placed one at that.

So much for the first principles of Law in this country: that the burden of proof lies with the accuser. (Except in military sex-offense law, where under Reid’s tutelage that vital Framing principle was overturned in favor of the ‘victim’.)

Said the Speaker of the House (Republican John Boehner): “It’s one of the problems that occurs here in Washington. People run out there without any facts and just make noise”.  But Washington has been erecting this sort of ‘problem’ into legislation for decades now. And at this point the pols have been infected with the same plague-bacillus that they’ve been spreading throughout the entire national culture and the legal community for all those same decades.

So the Victimist Playbook is now becoming the Beltway Playbook.

This can’t be good.  Nor can it end well.


*The print-version appeared in The New York Times, Sunday, August 5, 2012, on page 3 of the ‘Sunday Review’ section.  After garnering 330 or more comments in three days, the Times has closed down further commenting.

**In the specifics of the Rule of Law, of course, it is precisely “details” [such as i) evidence (admitted according to rational objective evidentiary standards), ii) the presumption of innocence of the accused, iii) the focus on adjudging the specifics of matching the accused’s actions and the Charges lodged and not puffing up a ‘show trial’ to ‘send a message’ and iv) the commitment to both objective and rational proceedings and to the principles of the Framing Vision]  that comprise the working structural members of the Rule of Law.

And in this regard I note the acute but profoundly alarming observation made by Theodore Lowi in separate books published in 1969 and in 1995: that liberal politics are precisely antithetical to Law and the Rule of Law, because Law and the Rule of Law provide solid obstructions against the deal-making ‘flexibility’ so vital to modern liberal (Identity-based) politics.

You have only to read radical-feminist law-professor Catharine MacKinnon’s 1989 summa Toward A Feminist Theory of the State to see her striving mightily to ensure the ‘deconstruction’ of Law and the Rule of Law and the traditions based on the Framing Vision and the first principles of the Constitution. And since her book arrived precisely as the 1990s – era of ‘governance feminism’ flourished under the Clintons – were dawning, then you can see what a perfect storm was brewing in the Beltway.

And you can see now, I think, on just what grounds the profoundly and vividly anti-Constitutional foundations of the SO Registration and Mania Regime were ‘justified’ in the minds of the pandering, deal-making pols in the Beltway and in the several States: both the deal-making pols and the Victimists share a lethal presumption, i.e. that if Law and the Rule of Law stand in the way of getting your deal/providing ‘justice’ for the alleged Victim, then Law and the Rule of Law have to go.

Hey hey, ho ho, the Rule of Law has got to go! And as Frank Bruni may now begin to realize: so it has.
So much remains to be done.