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.

No comments:

Post a Comment