Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Like maggots to carrion

Ever find yourself in a position where you think most of the people who share your opinion on the proper course of action are utterly repulsive? Watching the response to the arrest of Roman Polanski, as his apologists rally to defend him against the unsophisticated flyover country types who think raping a 13 year-old kid is kind of a big deal, has been demoralizing.

There is one and only one argument advanced by people opposed to prosecuting Polanski to which I assign any relevance- his victim does not wish for him to be prosecuted. Crimes are committed against individuals, not the state or “society,” so I believe that the decision to demand restitution and/or vengeance rightfully belongs to the victim; if they no longer want the crime prosecuted, so be it. The idea that a crime committed against a particular person is a crime against all of us, merely by virtue of being part of the same society, carries the implicit claim that the victim in some sense belongs to the public and not herself, a noxious notion in general and perhaps especially objectionable in the case of sexual crimes. I’d like to see Polanski nailed to the wall, personally, but he didn’t rape me.

(This does raise the related question of what people are morally entitled to do about a known violent predator living in their midst if the victim does not demand restitution or retribution. If use of force is justified, it would have to be justified by something other then retaliation for the original crime, and whatever the answer, people would have no business compelling the victim to assist or participate.)

However, I don’t for a moment think that any significant number of Polanksi’s defenders believe that- anarchocapitalists being somewhat thin on the ground in the media- so that’s hardly a satisfactory explanation for their defense of Polanski. In any case, aside from libertarians and some feminists, arguments against prosecuting Polanski are not generally taking the form of, “Polanski is reprehensible and it would serve him right if he were made to pay for his crime, but if his victim prefers to drop the matter we should respect her wishes.” It's rarely even about alleged problems with his original trial and conviction. It goes further than that, much further.

Polanski’s arrest brought a stunning outpouring of support from figures on the political Left and in the entertainment industry. Not all, by any means, but it’s remarkable how many people have tried to defend Polanski in one way or another: Because his exile is punishment enough (being an acclaimed, prosperous filmmaker in Europe instead of America- its just like something out of Les Miserables!) Or because the victim was was asking for it, and/or the victim’s mom was asking for it by leaving her daughter with Polanski. Or because the crime happened so long ago, or because it’s wrong to do vengeful, unforgiving things like prosecute a man for raping a 13 year-old when by now he’s probably too old and frail to do it again. (I’d be curious to see how many of the people I’ve seen take this tack would say the same thing about a Catholic priest who molested a child three decades ago.) Or, in some of the more bizarre examples I’ve seen, because the intensity of some people’s disgust with Polanski is a symptom of how Americans are ridiculously uptight and fussy about sex, or because Polanski’s loudest detractors are mostly conservatives who didn’t complain about Bush invading Iraq and causing far more suffering than one measly rape, or because people are just condemning Polanski so they can feel self-righteous.

(In my experience, there is usually no one more self-satisfied and self-righteous, more certain of their moral superiority, more proudly and smugly judgmental, than the person who says that morality is relative, or that morality does not exist, or that we should not judge others.)

The support for Polanski is especially jarring when you consider the fact that Polanski is one of the most prominent and dramatic living examples of what most people consciously left-of-center supposedly regard as one of the great evils of the world. Polanski is a wealthy, prestigious man who has used his superior place in society to gravely harm and exploit someone far less powerful than himself and get away with it. Give him a monocle and he could be an allegorical character named Rich Privileged Oppressor in a left-wing version of a medieval morality play.

Also interesting, for similar reasons, is the existence of some feminists who have joined in. (And a great many of Polanksi’s apologists in general would almost certainly self-identify as feminists if asked.) Interesting, but not surprising; anyone who was politically aware during the Clinton years should have seen this coming. Polanski isn’t nearly as politically important as President Clinton was and isn’t getting the same sort of political firepower brought to his defense, but the basic phenomenon is familiar.

There really is no limit whatsoever to the depths to which some people will descend to defend a member of their tribe or someone they've elevated above the level of us mortals, is there? None. Polanski rapes a teenage girl, escapes justice to spend decades basking in luxury and adulation, and is shown more concern, support, and sympathy than genuinely innocent men falsely accused of rape can ever dream of. I feel like I need either a drink or a shower.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Support for Male Survivor

WARNING: The first, third, and fourth links in the first paragraph of this post lead to written descriptions of rape. For those interested in this topic, a listing of all posts at The Superfluous Man concerning sexual violence and related issues can be found by clicking here.

It's only come up as a post topic on this blog once, because I don't feel qualified to do the subject full justice, but one issue I have a strong interest in is attitudes towards male victims of sexual violence, and particularly adolescent and adult rape victims and abused children who have reached adulthood. I grow more and more convinced that mainstream attitudes towards this issue are an invaluable and largely ignored window into the monstrous callousness that lies at the heart of statism's justifying ideology, and I hope to write about that some day if I can put my thoughts on the matter together well enough, but for now I simply hope to encourage greater attention to this evil as a matter of basic humanity. Libertarian blogger and activist James Landrith, who endured a torrent of ridicule and contempt to speak openly about being a male rape survivor, was the principle catalyst that led me to delve more deeply into the issue; Wendy McElroy was also invaluable.

Whatever spats they may have, the cultural Left and cultural Right come together on this issue: These men don't exist, if they exist they don't matter, and if they dare to claim that they do exist and matter they should be despised, shamed, stigmatized for supposedly being future predators themselves, and silenced, and their suffering denied, belittled, minimized, anomalised into irrelevance, or blamed on the victims themselves. One runs into all sorts of vile things on the internet, but routinely and unashamedly expressed attitudes towards this issue from both young and old, feminist and traditionalist, male and female, are still singularly astonishing in the staggering quantity and intensity of stupidity, malice, cruelty, and sheer evil on display.

I bring this up because (Hat tip to Toy Soldiers) the organization Male Survivor has suffered a drop in donations due to the economic downturn. Male Survivor is an extremely admirable organization dedicated to helping male victims of rape and sexual abuse and providing information about this largely ignored issue. Politicians seeking political points for their "compassion" have no reason to care about them. Celebrities looking for a hip social cause to attach themselves to don't talk about them. People aren't pinning ribbons to their shirts to express their concern and support. But these men and boys are real, and the crimes against them are real, no matter how hard the rest of the world tries to avoid thinking about it. If you give to charitable causes and have something to spare, please consider donating to or otherwise assisting Male Survivor.

Update: Had a few of the links jumbled. It's fixed now.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Let a million death panels bloom

Here's an article from Great Britain about Christine Ball, a woman who had to fight to save the life of her mother, Hazel Fenton, after the government's doctors decided her mother (who is currently still living, nine months later) had only days to live when she arrived at the hospital with pneumonia and decided, over Ball's objections, to deny her food and let her starve to death as part of the hospital's "Pathway" program for the terminally ill. Fenton went without food for twelve days before her daughter was able to convince her doctors to relent.

This only came out in public because Christine Ball was willing to 1. challenge the opinion and expertise of the doctors, and 2. continuously and persistently argue with them until they backed down. I doubt that happens very often, given the quasi-priestly status the medical profession has, so I'd be surprised if this were some isolated incident that came out because it just happened by sheer chance to involve one of the rare people who would speak up. Of course, I'm the kind of awful cynic who wonders if the additional government involvement liberals are advocating in health care now might set the stage for even more government control down the line, and gets suspicious when the police claim that the security cameras in the station just happened to break down and stop recording 30 seconds before a calm, compliant suspect with no criminal record suddenly went berserk and had to be cudgeled to death in self-defense, so perhaps I'm biased.

This is a valuable reminder that the idea that government health care would involve "death panels" is just irresponsible Republican scare mongering. "Death panels" suggests some sort of centralized decision-making body choosing who to dispose of, and carries the implication that such a body would have known, readily identifiable members subject, at least in theory, to public scrutiny and accountability.

Baseless right-wing nonsense! Hospital administrators or individual doctors can decide who isn't worth trying to keep around without bringing the federal bureaucracy into it, and quietly let them die (or kill them outright, Dutch-style) without unduly agitating reactionaries who think there's something bothersome about giving people fatal drug overdoses without consulting their opinion on the matter, or abandoning deformed babies to die, or just killing them, or whatever else wins the endorsement of the Enlightened and Compassionate and Progressive. (I will be shocked if open advocacy of legal infanticide has not become a common, mainstream position among American liberals within the next 20 years, and among moderates within 30.) There's no need for "death panels" or other conservative bogeymen when the staff of your local hospital is already perfectly qualified to decide which people are surplus to the government's requirements and act accordingly.

Hat tip: Crash Landing.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Reality outstupids parody once again

I was up very late last night, as is my habit (one of the nice things about a job done mostly from home is that if I want to sit at my computer playing Victoria: Revolutions at 3:30 AM, that's my prerogative), and I saw the news that Barack Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize minutes after it started hitting news sites. I honestly thought it was some sort of joke until I punched "Barack Obama Nobel" into Google and got some confirmations.

I suppose I shouldn't get my dander up about the sanctity of an award that has been given to Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger (though at least both of them received their award for significant involvement in actual peace-ish activities), but this is absurd. It's as if an article from The Onion ridiculing the Obama cult of personality somehow rose from the page and took over the real world.

There was a widespread perception that Paul Krugman's Economics Prize was politically motivated as an anti-Bush gesture, but there was a time- before he became the Platonic Form of the Partisan Hack walking the earth in human guise- when Krugman actually was a contributor to the science. Obama's award has been justfied on the grounds of his alleged intentions: he thinks it would be sort of nice if there were no nuclear weapons and people in the Middle East didn't murder each other so much. (It should also be noted that some of Obama's anti-nuclear statement were in the context of trying to intimidate North Korea and Iran, the latter of which he has openly threatened with military force for failing to comply with inspections.)

Meanwhile, he continues to wage Bush's war in Iraq and intends to escalate the war in Afghanistan. He has escalated the bombing of targets in Pakistan, killing hundreds of noncombatants, and has threatened preemptive attacks on Iran. These are the actions of a man awarded the world's most prestigious award for makers of peace. Given that we now have such thorough confirmation that The One is indeed an infallible, transcendent being, could we just stop beating around the bush, have the Senate declare Obama a god, and be done with it? We could throw in the Hugo for Best Fanzine, the Stanley Cup, and the Outstanding Asian-Americans in Business Award while we're at it; his qualifications for those are at least as strong.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"Your eyes are full of hate, forty-one. That's good!"

Gene Callahan talks sense on a pet peeve of mine- overuse of the term "hater." It's an obnoxious term not only because it's usually absurdly hyperbolic, but because it frequently carries the implication that anyone who doesn't like whatever the speaker likes- or just doesn't like it as intensely- must be driven by mindless ill will, because God knows no one could ever have actual reasons for not enjoying the movie Twilight as much as you did.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Dodging a bullet

I just read that Chicago is no longer in contention to host the 2016 Olympics, eliminated by the International Olympic Committee in the first round of voting. As a Chicagoland resident who lives a few minutes from the city itself, all I can say is Thank God. One less excuse for the city and state governments to suck our blood when the inevitable cost overruns start pouring in. (To give some sense of what Illinois is like, let me point out that we currently have one former governor in federal prison for corruption, and his successor was recently indicted by the federal government on corruption charges that include, among other things, an attempt to extort kickbacks from a children's hospital and trying to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.) I shudder to think of the orgy of corruption and boodle-grabbing that would have ensued if the bid had been successful.

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