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.”

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