Monday, May 14, 2007

IN OUR TIME

David Rosen has an article over on Counterpunch (“The New Disappeared: Sex Offenders, Civil Confinement, and the Resurrection of Evil”, www.counterpunch.com/rosen/05102007.html). It’s an impressive piece. I’ll quote as I go along, and comment.

His piece is prompted by the new “’liberal’” [Rosen’s quotation marks] governor of New York’s early securing of the passage of “the nation’s most far-reaching civil confinement law”. As Rosen paraphrases the ‘thinking’ behind the law, "these inmates are defined as suffering a mental disorder and, thus, posing the threat of committing new crimes upon release". This thinking – so called – is flawed and ominously leaves the door open for the civil confinement of anybody, should the legislators feel the urge to ‘think’ further and move their illuminations to ‘the next logical step’.

First, there is no disorder called ‘sex offender’ or ‘sex offense’ recognized by the governing bodies and publications of the mental health profession. The Supreme Court itself has enabled things by opining that there’s no reason that legislatures can’t define mental status on their own, even if the (usually deferred-to) psychiatrists won’t do the job the way the pols want to see it done.

Second, if everyone who committed a crime and was found (by legislative fiat, even if not by medical/psychiatric professionals) to be at risk for re-committing a crime, then who isn’t liable for civil confinement? Bank robbers? Murderers? Tax cheats? The case has been made that the behaviors usually considered indicative of sharp business and entrepreneurial acumen qualify as forms of sociopathy. Do we confine CEOs? Do we – for that matter – confine politicians, whose own standard operating procedures seem to involve an awful lot of stuff that should attract the professional attention of law enforcement?

And of course there is the irony that this entire gambit is coming from the ‘liberal’ side; how curious that in their effects the ‘liberal’ and the ‘conservative’ as presently defined are indistinguishable.

“Today the terrorist … and the sex-offender, especially the pedophile, are perceived as the gravest evils to civil society.” Yes, but attention to the time-line yields even further detail: the sex-offender came first (although only 10-15 years ago). The ‘terrorist’ uproar achieved such critical mass so quickly in public opinion because it traveled pathways cut by the mania over sex-offenders.

The governor insists that there are sufficient safeguards in place: a panel of “mental health experts” assess the incarcerated offender before his (always ‘his’) release. But as the New York Times series this past March indicated, and as was noted on this site, the sex-offense ‘mental health expert’ is rarely if ever from the mainstream academic/clinical levels of the profession. More often than not they are social workers or ‘therapists’ or less who have started a cottage industry of providing their own version of ‘benefit of clergy’ to prosecutors and police looking for rubber-stamp approval. Against these the jury – the second level of review – is going to have an uphill time of it, if it is disposed to disagree in the first place.

Continuing the cruel and mendacious scam initiated by the Court, the New York law mandates ‘therapy’, the same ‘therapy’ that the Court piously insists is the efficacious tool that justifies this totalitarian civil-confinement gambit. But mainline professionals, even those as well-disposed toward the thing as Eric Janus, admit that there are few specific therapies, which should come as no surprise since even after all the (dangerous) legislation that has been passed not even the ‘experts’ in this field really know much about the cause or dynamics of ‘sex offenses’ (perhaps one of the reasons why the mainstream psychiatric and medical governing bodies haven’t erected ‘sex offense’ into a diagnosis). Thus, confining a person after he has served his prison term, and requiring him to ‘get therapy’ after final release, is worse than spraying water on smoke; we don’t even know what causes the fire.

There is also in the New York law a new crime category: “sexually motivated felony” that – according to Rosen’s article – “attempts to identify potential sex offenders prior to the committing of the crime” – which, if memory serves, was the plot of a dystopian future sci-fi flick called “Minority Report” not long ago. An ephemeral disease is being dealt with by a fantasy movie plot – all under the authority of American law and government. Is there any wonder that this nation is no longer considered worthy of unhesitating respect in the world? And this is before American performance in the Iraq debacle is factored in.

“America has never known what to do with sex offenders.” Rosen gives too much away here. America hasn’t known what to do with them because until recently ‘sex offenders’ didn’t exist. Yes, crimes involving sex existed, as did the people who perpetrated them, but like any other criminal the American system dealt with them as best a limited human government could: when discovered, they were prosecuted and if convicted sent to prison according to laws applicable to their crime(s), and then – their ‘debt to society’ having been paid - they were released. What else could a government not possessed of divine knowledge do without turning itself into a police state?

Why do people engage in crimes involving sex? Why do they rob banks? Why do they betray their oaths? Why do they evade taxes? Why do they speed? Why do they yield to evil? Why do we? Nobody has the definitive answer, and thus the Framers were not about to allow the government to go mucking about, engorging itself on the pretext of solving mysteries that have eluded solution for all of human history.

The more answerable question, and the more useful one, to ask is: Why are Americans so violently exercised about ‘sex’ recently? Perhaps part of the answer is that the feminists find ‘sex’ an easy and trusty cudgel with which to bash ‘men’ in their self-declared “war on masculine culture”. Perhaps part of the answer is that the invention of male sex-offenders takes the pressure of public concern off the numbers of women who procure abortions. Perhaps part of the answer is that parents increasingly unavailable to their children project their own guilt onto scapegoats. Perhaps part of the answer is that many politicians have seen their way clear to curry favor with unpredictable voters (yet shrewdly so: the focus is kept on Stranger-rapists – the disturbing but rare “violent sexual predator” – although such statistics as appear reliable indicate that the vast majority of sex-offenses against children are committed by parents, step-parents, and those close to the children). Surely, the unsleeping hunger of government - whether leaning to the Left or the Right - to enhance its invasive police power, cannot be discounted.

Justice Clarence Thomas – most recently seen enjoying the dinner company of the producer of the TV show “24” who supports torture – justified civil confinement according to a Kansas statute (putting paid to the illusion that the Midwest is still the home of the echt American ethos) by piously claiming that such confinement is not punitive (therefore not unconstitutional) because the detainee will receive “treatment” – the same treatment that the mainstream professionals report does not exist.

I used the term ‘detainee’. Once again, the timeline tells: these civil confinement laws moved forward in the later 1990s, within a year or so of the sex-offender “Registries” themselves. Did we think even Rove and Cheney – those treacherous children of darkness – were smart enough to think EVERYthing up?

And all of this even as the government’s own figures indicate that ‘sex offense’ numbers are falling significantly, and that ‘sex-offenders’ maintain some of the very lowest recidivism rates of all the crime categories. The scientific-sounding “Levels” are almost useless and ungrounded, merely taking the most horrific crimes and declaring their perpetrators “most likely to reoffend”, apparently on the basis of public opinion rather than any actual scientific grounding (and we wonder where the Creation-science whackos got their business model?).

And – almost as if it were parody – we are informed that at the insistence of animal rights advocates one Jeffrey Hayes of Michigan was forced to register as a sex-offender for having sex with a pair of sheep. Are we to presume he is at great risk of re-offending? Or ‘escalating’ to humans? In Florida – that fortress of values – a court has required several homeless sex-offenders to stay under a bridge at night; the offenders report that the lack of outlets hinders them from recharging their GPS-anklets.

What is going on here? I hold no brief for forcible sex with anybody, nor for any sex with children. But what the sex-offender mania has produced is a disaster morally, politically, and legally. It is based on misrepresentation and half-truth, it panders for the purposes of political gain, and it undermines the rule of Constitution and law under the nazi-soviet rubric of ‘emergency’ and ‘outrage’. And even on its own stated terms, it is consistently failing to address the most significant perpetrator-group.

We have allowed all of this to happen: the almost overnight creation of a full-blown crime category that was previously non-existent, resulting in legislation that peppers the watertight bulkheads of constitutional protection, backed up by ‘science’ that mainstream science and professionals do not accept as valid, supported by a queasy mix of for-profit hucksters and law-enforcement groupies-for-pay, in a trajectory that has steadily ticked off all the classic milestones of 20th-century descent into totalitarianism: identification, demonization, forced registration, residency restrictions, and – on top of trials deformed by abandonment of classic Western canons of evidence and procedure – indefinite civil confinement on the basis of spurious ‘mental health’ dangers.

Worse, this programme ticks off the classic markers of primitive Western banes such as witchcraft-hysteria and an even more ancient form of scapegoating: the Strange Other who is Evil. As if, by loading all ‘evil’ upon one class, the rest are ‘free’ of evil. The National Security State had hardly lost ‘the Communists’ before the National Nanny State erected the ‘sex offenders’. And having watched how quickly that gambit succeeded, the National Imperial State created the Iraqi WMD and Islamofascists. And dragged Us into war.

Can We be surprised at what has now happened? One cannot help but think of Homer Simpson’s heartfelt but uninsightful wail: “Why do things that happen to stupid people keep happening to me?”

Homer Simpson isn’t going to help Us now. But in the great tradition of English satire and parody, it may be time to start looking at this thing from a different perspective. Because what’s happening to Us – and it has now happened twice in 15 years or less – is politically ominous and lethal – and Our descent into public mania is now reaching out to destroy others, in foreign countries, women and children and – them too – men.

If We can’t stop Ourselves, somebody else will.

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4 Comments:

Blogger David said...

All that needs to be added to this analysis is a nod to the role of the mainstream media and its financial interest in the instigation of witchhunt mania to feed the bottomless maw of its twenty-four hour news cycle.

The legal developments (Megan's Law etc.) abovementioned followed a handful of 'shocking' cases popularized by the national media involving abduction and murder of white, upper-middle class children from 'innocent' bourgeois haunts like shopping malls by ex-offenders who had been released by due process of law.

Parents of victims (John Walsh) and girlfriends of victims (Nancy Grace) morphed into cheerleading gargoyles mounted as highly paid commentators onto lucrative Court TV formats. The operations of the criminal justice system became a primary locus of public entertainment attended by the same kinds of crowd phenomena as New England witch-burnings, public beheadings during the French Terror or a good, old fashioned American lynching trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. These were magnified by technology from isolated local incidents to artifacts of the culture as a whole.

Here we have corporate interests functioning as a propaganda arm of their own puppet unitary executive while making $ billions off marketing of the concept of the terrible swift sword of governement untrammeled by quaint notions of due process. Goebbels would be in awe.

7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, I have just gotten word of a movement to actually create a constitutional AMENDMENT to imprison sex offenders, thankfully only in the development stage. Link here:

http://soretra.50webs.com

Scary, scary times.

10:07 AM  
Blogger publion said...

The above-referenced site, while its Page appears professionally competent, has a toolbar that when the buttons are pressed, does not take the reader to About Us or Contact. The news articles on the first page are about fictitious supporters from a fictitious state, and the text of the proposal itself indicates a deeply unlovely spirit and largely uninformed and unformed mind that apparently has tried to compensate therefor by mastering legalistic grammar, construction, and style. My bet is that this is a single-party operation, or obsession. It's not scary so much as mildly interesting from a clinical point of view. But this is the Internet.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Annemarie said...

I, too, went to that web site and it doesn't have any contact information, as the above poster wrote. Also, if one looks at the content, it's nonsense.

I have seen this guy on the internet. He goes by the name of Peter or Peter Valle or something like that. He's a nut.

5:12 PM  

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