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August 28, 2013


About pedophilia, I have a vague feeling that because decreasing age of the onset of menarche is something that correlates with various measures of societal development, this seems to go hand in hand with the societal impulse to become more draconian on the starting age of acceptable sexual activity. At least in the US, this doesn't seem to hold in places like Denmark. On the other hand, there seems to be an increasing adultification of children in advertising (link and link) I think all of this is linked, but I really don't have a handle on how.

Your first link ('discussion') seems to be broken.
As for your question, I'd say Yes, there always will be at least one of those 'unforgivable sins'.
But it is not limited to the US, although there tends to be the loudest hysteria about it. Another thing we should not forget though: it does matter who commits these 'sins' and under what circumstances. There were the ex-Trotskyites that defined the foreign policy under Bush the Lesser. And the old rule that dead girls and live boys in a politician's bed ruin his career forever had to be amended too. True terror connections may also not hurt, provided it's 'our sonovabitches'. You might add the hypocrisy about drugs to the list. To have taken the wrong controlled substance can also pass as unforgivable for the commoner. It's still newsworthy that Clinton and Obama made it to the top despite confessed weed consumption. It's not as if there had been no serious attempts to make dope the rope to hang them with (it is still used by their opponents to tar them with and at least the base is willing to follow).
To be cynical, there is a cottage industry to come up with new things that can be labelled as unredeemably evil, at least in the political context. Look at all the new litmus tests.
On par with communism is of course atheism. If the polls are right the average voter would rather vote for a Red than for a Godless. Admittedly 'finding religion' may buy you redemption but at least in some of the more conservative religious communities that would also cure 'the gay'(often used synonymous with pediophile) and 'the terrorist' (fake converts from terrorism to Kristianism(TM) are as much of a staple as 'ex-gays').
Unforgivable sin #1 of course: not been born to the right set of parents

Thanks Hartmut. I updated the post.

lj, seeing kids as something different from undersized adults (including clothing) is relatively new historically, possibly connected to our increased life expectancy.
One side effect is that there is deliberate Dawson casting with regard to the classics to avoid raising the impression of pedophilia (and we would have trouble with seeing Viking hordes consisting in part of 13-year olds or medieval armies led by kids the same age).

hmmm. 'relatively new historically' kind of covers a lot of ground. ;^)

There is that problem of casting, not just with classics, but with short term historical contexts (one of Ambrose's complaints about Saving Private Ryan is there is no way that Capt Miller would have been as old as Tom Hanks was, not to mention having 52 year old Ted Danson as a paratrooper captain).

Still, it seems like something more than just seeing children as undersized adults but more as sexual objects, that the pictures at this blog post really underline. (safe for work) The blog post discusses a bit how race figures into this.

A quick look at Wikipedia suggests that childhood was all Rousseau's fault but I had the distinct impression that it was a medieval philospher who first argued for/created the notion, though the name escapes me. Does that ring any bells with you or anyone else?

The basic idea has turned up occasionally (even in the Bible) but the breakthrough seems (in my view) to have been only in the 19th century (blame the Victorians again ;-) ). But I think it is highly class based in any case. One had to able to afford offering kids a 'childhood' and no need to use them for other purposes. So, something for the wealthy non-aristocrats. I wonder whether kiddie pQrn arose in similar circumstances* (the Victorians pioneering a lot of perversions), esp. because photography became available to non-specialists too at roughly the same time. Baby clothing has existed for millenia but when became special clothing for kids widespread that was not just scaled down adult? There was a fashion wave in Germany in the late 19th century with the sailor suit for children (boys and even girls) but for the working class I have the suspicion that it took until after WW2 before the mini-adult went for good. These days I see even a reverse trend with the elites putting their kids into adult clothing (suit and tie) as early as possible while the underclass goes to extremes to clothe theirs in as colourful rags as can be obtained. But it's also them (the 'trash') that send their girls to beauty pageants as soon as they can crawl.
Another question (totally off-topic by now) would be, if 'childish' activities extended farther up the age line before kids became a strictly separate category of their own. The farther I go back in time the more often I find descriptions of adults doing things we would consider 'child's play' without anyone objecting while the same things are considered totally unbecoming of an adult in more recent times (19th/20th century).

All of this just observations about the West, of course. I have little idea about other cultures in that regard.

*active sexual child abuse is as old as history, but mass produced dirty images involving them imo are not.

The 16-year old who fondles his (or her) 13-year-old lover may be caught in the same web as the brutal penetrator of a 7-year old.

In most states, this can't happen because the law excludes people within a few years of age of each other. And most prosecutors aren't really interested in convicting teenagers for having consensual sex.

I'm sort of interested in a related question though: why was it that for so many years, our society didn't take sexual abuse of children seriously? I mean, I presume that if Catholic priests in the 50s were killing and eating children, people would have objected, right?

But some US states do and have ridiculously high mandatory minimum sentences on the book too. That can and does lead to extremly long sentences for e.g. consensual sexting (because that's kiddie pQorn). Even judges have complained that they have to treat kids as hardened criminals in this context when a harsh word and maybe detention would be more than enough.
There was an absurd case over here with a girl having sex with a slightly older boy* while watching a pQrnographic film. The boy got sentenced not for the sex but for making the film available to a minor, i.e. the girl was old enough for the former but not for the latter. Or, as a satirist put it: watch pQrn, no; do pQrn, yes.

*must have been 16 for the girl and 18 for the boy.

If it wasn't Communism, terrorism, or pedophilia, what would it be?

Poor grammar?

Nah, that's quintessential American. As is spelling by ear*. Who was it who said that America is the only country where speaking the language correctly marks one as a foreigner? Ain't it not so?
Hm, maybe speaking a foreign language while being a US citizen could become a candidate for unforgivable sin (with French of course being punishable by death). Politically one can see signs of it** and some crazy nativist pundits openly proclaim their desire to make speaking a non-English language on US soil a crie or at least a misdemeanor that should be punished with hefty fines.

*almost inevitably combined with overuse of the f-word
**see the attacks on Kerry and the eggshell walks around Romney and his Mexican and French connections.

For the question of "what came before": it was Satanic Ritual Abuse in the 1980's.

Hm, maybe speaking a foreign language while being a US citizen could become a candidate for unforgivable sin..

Speaking Spanish is unfortunately getting close some places.

The basic idea has turned up occasionally (even in the Bible) but the breakthrough seems (in my view) to have been only in the 19th century (blame the Victorians again ;-) ). But I think it is highly class based in any case. One had to able to afford offering kids a 'childhood' and no need to use them for other purposes. So, something for the wealthy non-aristocrats.

You need to read this book.

Not to forget that it has now become possible for a presidential candidate candidate (i.e. in the primaries to become the party candidate) to claim again that child labor laws are unconstitutional and an impediment to prosperity without getting booed or laughed out of the room. At best there is a 'you were not supposed to say that in public yet'.

Maybe we should look at the 'unforgivable sin' also from the other direction. What was once totally beyond the pale and has become acceptable or even mainstream now? But let's exclude divorce and abortion from that.

Smoking tobacco may be on its way to replace pot on the abomination list ;-)

Snarki: Good catch. I overlooked "Satanic Ritual Abuse," in part because I was living overseas for most of this period. But my impression was that though SRA was abominated by those who fulminated against it for a few years, there were always a substantial number of skeptics who were not convinced that it actually existed, which vitiated the panic.

Moreover, in terms of my OP, SRA didn't (AFAIK) really capture the national imagination to the point where those accused or suspected of it were in serious danger of being deprived of their constitutional and human rights, as was the case with Communism, terrorism, and pedophilia. I may well be wrong about this, however, since (as noted) I was out of the USA then, aware of big trends but not in a position to calibrate scale or observe nuance.

I was (am) most primarily in the question not of what is the #1 crime on this year's Hit List, fascinating though that may be, nor how over the centuries "children" came to be re-defined and re-perceived (with studies going back at least to Philippe Aries' 1960/2 Centuries of Childhood), also fascinating, but in the process by which the "top crime(s)" of an era come to be seen not just as heinous, but unforgivable, beyond the pale of the law and common decency of treatment.

Yet writing blog posts is a little like raising children. You can control them (to some extent) while they're still at home, but once you release them to the world, they'll wind up as what they want to be, which is not always what you originally intended.

Sorry, it was me who started the derailing (I think) by looking into (or speculating about) the historical background on the pedophilia issue (and why it was not really one in the past).

I think humans need a boogeyman. Or, at least, Americans seem to need one. So I think that there will always be the unforgivable sinner.

Maybe back in the 1700's it was the black man who had sexual relations with a white woman, or seemed to have the potential for doing so.

My husband is a retired psychologist who specialized in treating sex offenders who also had mental disorders and who were confined to one of the state mental institutions. He designed treatment plans.

His clients were people who had done very bad things to children and often to animals. Most of them were victims themselves. He didn't regard them as unforgiveable but he didn't think any of them would ever become normal. The most that he hoped for his clients was that they would be able to live in supervised group homes outside of an institution.

His clients were true sex offenders. I think that an awful lot of the people who get labeled as sex offenders are not. I don't have any statistics about this, just an impression from anecdotes. It does seem to me that there is a hysterical over-reaction and an over-labeling going on. Example: a high school boy who carried the label of sex offender for years because he played sex games with a little girl when he was about twelve himself. He was raised in foster care, had been sexually abused, but managed by high school to be a nice, polite, normal kid. But he still had the label.

To some Republicans "socialism" is a boogeyword. Here's an example of DeMint using the word to scare his listeners even though neither DimWit nor his listeners seem to understand what the word means or why it is evil: Heritage Foundation president and former Senator Jim DeMint suggested to a town hall audience in Wilmington, Delaware Thursday that health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid are “un-American” and built on the principles of “socialism and collectivism.”

“I cannot think of anything that’s more un-American than national government-run health care,” DeMint said. “Those who believe in those principles of socialism and collectivism we’ve seen over the centuries, they see as their holy grail taking control of the health care system.”

Though DeMint was referring specifically to the Affordable Care Act, a law the Heritage Foundation is urging Congress to defund in next month’s continuing resolution, his comments could also apply to existing programs that have more direct government involvement than the ACA.

I've always disliked the practice of calling the hunt for communists a "witch hunt". After all, the thing about "witch hunts", is that there aren't any witches. If there were, you certainly WOULD want to be hunting them, wouldn't you?

There were, of course, communists infiltrating our government, and they were foreign agents. We know this for a fact. I think sometimes that the continual references to "witch hunts" are intended to obscure this.

Actually, I think the perjorative use of 'witch hunt' is completely accurate.

The original witch hunts, here and elsewhere, focussed on finding and punishing people who practiced unorthodox religions. In Europe, pagans, or folks who practiced syncretistic mixes of Christianity and paganism. In the famous Salem witch trials, the source of the witch scare was a West Indian woman, who quite possibly actually did practice a traditional Caribbean, African, or Native American religion.

And, basically, there ought to have been nothing whatsoever wrong with that. Any of it. It was only the prejudice and unreasoning fear of the 'mainstream' community that made those practices worthy of condemnation and persecution.

There definitely were 'witches', which is to say anarchists, communists, socialists, and other varieties of radical leftism, in the US, during all of the various Red Scares. Some of them may well have been acting for foreign governments, and if so deserved to be prosecuted *for that*.

Some of them weren't acting for any foreign government, they just wanted to blow sh*t up. So, for example, Galleanists. Blowing stuff and people up deserves prosecution.

SImply being anarchist, communist, socialist, anarcho-syndicalist, or whatever flavor of radical leftist you choose, is a matter of personal political persuasion, and deserves to be left the hell alone.

The 'witch hunts' ruined the lives of a hell of a lot of people, and many of them had nothing but the best interest of the country in mind, according to their understanding of things.

You'd sh*t a brick if the feds decided to round up, interrogate, and imprison or deport anyone who decided they were a sovereign person, or a member of a militia not answerable to the federal government, or an Oath Keeper, or any of the other fringe right-wing perspectives that fly around these days.

Ruby Ridge!! Ruby RIdge!! Right?

And don't try going off on me about it, because I am in agreement that the Ruby Ridge and Waco episodes were egregious examples of the feds running off the freaking rails.

It's the same thing, buddy. Except, anarchists and Weathermen excepted, the leftists weren't really into guns all that much.

Some of them may well have been acting for foreign governments, and if so deserved to be prosecuted *for that*.

I also note, as long as I'm on this particular rant, that many many many folks who were openly supportive of, and worked to promote the interests of, foreign right-wing fascistic regimes like Nazi freaking Germany, were never prosecuted or harrassed in any significant way for their actions.

Lindbergh, Prescott Bush, the German American Bund, usw. It's a fairly long list.

Which of those folks were imprisoned / called before Congress / lost their livelihoods / were deported?

There are all kinds of witches, not all get hunted.

Lindbergh, Prescott Bush, the German American Bund, usw. It's a fairly long list.

While Lindbergh was supportive of Hitler in the 30's, taking a step back to look at the larger picture is worthwhile. Lindbergh was part of America First and a lot of the rationales he was giving then could be picked up whole and dropped in the debate over intervention in Syria. I realize that that was then and this is now, but that's the benefit of hindsight.

He also left for the UK at this time.

On the night of I March 1932, the Lindbergh’s’ child, lovingly called "Fat Lamb" by Anne and "Buster" by Charles, was kidnapped and murdered. The weeks of anguish which followed embittered Lindbergh, heightened by the intrusions of the press and hideous crank calls that mocked his grieving. Nothing quenched Charles' disappointment - in America and its people. On 7 December 1935 he made a decision, telling Anne to pack and be ready to leave on a day's notice. They would abandon the U.S. Fifteen days later the two set sail for England.

Lindbergh's dalliance with Europe forever changed his life. An earlier acquaintance and distinguished British civil servant, Harold Nicholson, offered Charles and Anne the use of Long Barn Cottage, near Nicholson's castle at Sissinghurst in southeastern England. At that place the Lindbergh's rebuilt their lives in the solitude of the Kentish countryside; from that place Lindbergh ventured out into a changing world.

Over the next few years he became acquainted with a number of people but it was through the Army Air Corps' singular attaché in Berlin, Major Truman Smith, that Lindbergh went to Nazi Germany. He accepted an invitation from the Nazi Government, initiated and forwarded by Smith, to visit Berlin. Once there, German officialdom threw down the red carpet and dazzled Lindbergh. The Lone Eagle came away from that trip with a changed perspective.

At heart Lindbergh had one serious flaw. An honest man, he believed people returned that honesty. That others lied, the man found hard to accept; that a government lied was beyond his comprehension. His tour had been carefully staged; unseen were the political camps and obvious anti-Semitic demonstrations. Instead Lindbergh saw a dynamic Germany churning out "defensive weapons," awesome in numbers and quality.

The epicenter of his crises, however, devolved on a simple fact - Lindbergh feared for the U. S. How could the Depression-crippled nation he left behind compete with the material and moral superiority of a resurgent Germany? Lindbergh returned home in the spring of 1939. But he had seen and understood too much to remain silent any longer. So the Lone Eagle set in motion events that would eventually see him fly with Satan's Angels’.

In the years following his return, Lindbergh slowly alienated himself from the Administration and the American people. He joined one of the strongest Noninterventionist groups, the American First Committee, in April 1941, and became a major figure in its campaign to keep the U.S. neutral. The crunch came with a series of radio talks in which Lindbergh warned against supporting the Allies because of a perceived German conquest of Europe. His stature among Americans was seen as a powerful counterweight to FDR.'s attempt to support the Allies " short of war. "link

What does 'redeem' Lindbergh, at least in my opinion, is that after Pearl Harbor, he made every attempt to join the USAAF. He was, after a number of rebuffs, able to go the the Pacific theatre as a civilian consultant, and he flew in combat. With his insights into long distance flying, he was able to advise pilots on how to increase their range.

I also tend to think it was not just his tours of Nazi Germany that misled him. The British upperclass, which was where Lindbergh landed when he left the US to escape the press attention after the kidnapping, was full of people who admired Hitler and thought he was on the right track. In that environment, any positive observations about Nazi Germany would have been amplified and reinforced.

This is not to bust you for busting Lindbergh, (and I agree entirely with your rant on the selective deployment of witch hunt) and you are probably aware of all this, but this is just to give some links.

Lindbergh made significant - very significant - contributions to the war effort during WWII, and I'm sure he would not have supported the extraordinary cruelty and genocide practiced by the Nazis.

My point is this:

If, during the turmoil of the 30's, you found yourself sympathetic to Hitler, you would not then find yourself, ten or twenty years later, hounded out of public life and professionally ruined, if not jailed or deported.

If, during the turmoil of the 30's, you found yourself sympathetic to the Soviet Union, you could expect exactly that.

Many people's lives were ruined by the Red Scare witch hunts, of the 20's, the 30's, the 40's, the 50's, and the 60's. The scope of that bullsh*t went way, way, way, way, way beyond any kind of good faith attempt to find people who were either (a) acting as agents of a foreign power or (b) planning violence.

a lot of the rationales he was giving then could be picked up whole and dropped in the debate over intervention in Syria.

Except he would have been talking about an aggressive, highly militarized, industrial state that had demonstrated both the will and the capability to invade and occupy neighboring countries.

Nowadays, we would be talking about a small, not particularly powerful nation involved in a particularly nasty civil war.

Horses for courses. Context matters.

Nowadays, we would be talking about a small, not particularly powerful nation involved in a particularly nasty civil war.

Not to deny the fact that Syria's war is a civil war, but to say that the war is self-contained, or that there aren't regional (and international) issues involved, is inaccurate.

Whether the US should be intervening in Syria in an attempt to influence the outcome seems, at this point, to be universally denied. But that doesn't mean that we (and everyone else in the world) don't have an interest in what goes on there.

The criteria that you often cite to distinguish justified US military action (as in WWII) from wrongheaded intervention seem to be 1) that we be attacked and 2) that the attacker is "an aggressive, highly militarized, industrial state that ha[s] demonstrated both the will and the capability to invade and occupy neighboring countries." Not trying to impute attitudes that you don't really have - that's my understanding of your position, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

We live in a world where that exact formula doesn't come up that often, but I think our interests are a bit broader than that. For example, the chemical weapons question has implications beyond Syria and its civil war, and requires us to grapple with a solution.

Suffice it to say that the analogy between American Firsters of the WWII period, and people today who are not in favor of military action in Syria, is not a particularly exact one.

Enough so that, in my opinion, this statement is not really to the point:

a lot of the rationales he was giving then could be picked up whole and dropped in the debate over intervention in Syria.

You do not correctly understand my 'criteria' for when the US should intervene militarily, because frankly I have no such criteria.

My issue in Syria specifically is that any basis we would have for intervening there would be Assad's use of chemical weapons. The reason that would form a basis for intervening would be that such use would violate international agreements against using chemical weapons.

Do you disagree with that? Were there no use of chemical weapons in Syria, do you think that we ought to be intervening with military force in their civil war?

IMO that puts the issue *outside of the sole prerogative of the US to act or not act*. If the motivation to act is based on international agreements, the authority to act must likewise come from some international consensus that the action is lawful and necessary.

We should *at a minimum* allow the inspection process to complete and allow the UN the opportunity to respond to the findings. At a minimum.

Long story short, I don't think the POTUS or even the POTUS + US Congress has, or ought to have, the authority to unilaterally decide to bomb other countries. Absent, of course, an actual threat to the US. No such threat exists in Syria, unless you construe 'our national interest' extraordinarily broadly.

That's how it looks to me, after listening to the back and forth for lo these several days. YMMV.

We should *at a minimum* allow the inspection process to complete and allow the UN the opportunity to respond to the findings. At a minimum.

I agree with this FWIW. I'm not sure what the hurry is. There might be reason for hurry, in which case the administration should explain it.

It's interesting that this comes up in the context of this post on unforgivable sin. I wasn't picking up the comparison between post war treatment of former communists and former supporters of Germany, so I see what Russell was getting at now. However, in terms of Germany invading other countries, you have Austria in March '38, the Sudetenland in October and the invasion of Poland in Sept 39. So the isolationist impulse in '36 and '37 is different, imho. Add to that the fact that Lindbergh was advocating the US upgrade their military because he thought that Germany had become the military powerhouse of Europe and things become even more fuzzy.

I went to wikipedia about Prescott Bush. The section on his involvement with UBC and the accusations about laundering gold from the Nazis is discussed a bit, but I found a few other points that I didn't know.

Prescott Bush was politically active on social issues. He was involved with the American Birth Control League as early as 1942, and served as the treasurer of the first national capital campaign of Planned Parenthood in 1947. He was also an early supporter of the United Negro College Fund, serving as chairman of the Connecticut branch in 1951.

On December 2, 1954, Prescott Bush was part of the large (67–22) majority to censure Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy after McCarthy had taken on the U.S. Army and the Eisenhower administration. During the debate leading to the censure, Bush said that McCarthy has "caused dangerous divisions among the American people because of his attitude and the attitude he has encouraged among his followers: that there can be no honest differences of opinion with him. Either you must follow Senator McCarthy blindly, not daring to express any doubts or disagreements about any of his actions, or, in his eyes, you must be a Communist, a Communist sympathizer, or a fool who has been duped by the Communist line."

Of course, being the grandfather of W puts a big thumb on the other side of the scale...

But seriously, one of the reasons I've been thinking about this is that I quoted John Nance Garner on the vice-presidency in my friday open thread post and bobbyp noted that he was arch segregationist. This led me to wonder if I should have known that and if I made a mistake quoting his observation. But it seems like who you hang out with, the environment you are in, things outside of anyone's control shape attitudes, so the idea that there are acceptable instances of witch hunting underlines the inability to accept that people's attitudes are not made solely by their own will. An interesting lesson to ponder. However, if I limit my quotes to people who don't have any faults, the pickings would be mighty slim.

Apologies for rambling, but this also seems connected, the fact that many are applauding that the British Commons voted down the Syria motion, but one wonders if things hadn't been so heated and personal between Cameron and Milliband, would Milliband asked Labour to support the motion and enough Labour MPs would have joined to pass it? (quick recap, Cameron had, a month previously, accused Milliband of being weak, one of the key points that the Tories have hammered at since Milliband became the Labour leader was that he was unfit to be PM). The initial stories were that language in the commons debate was the trigger, but the earlier comments and phone call between Cameron and Milliband came out later. The motion was defeated by only 13 votes, and there were 2 Tory ministers who missed the vote, so we are talking about a swing of 11 votes. (However, this story suggests that even if Milliband had followed Cameron, he may still have not moved enough votes)

This is not to suggest that they were wrong, or that there isn't a strong desire to avoid military strikes, but I think it's worthwhile thinking how closely-run a thing it was and how that's the way with a lot of things in life.

This was written before Russell's comment about the analogy, so this should not be seen as disagreeing with him. What I said about picking up rationales (and there may be some confusion with what I wrote and with what sapient wrote) was not an attempt to argue for some equivalency, but just to point out that those impulses towards isolationism and intervention seem to always be doing a tango when we talk about the US.

So when you (russell) says "The reason that would form a basis for intervening would be that such use would violate international agreements against using chemical weapons", I would suggest that the basis for intervening is not in international agreements (though those are important) and so would not be to 'punish' so much as to make sure that chemical weapons are not used again in this civil war. That's slightly different than discussing international law and whether Syria is a signatory or not. In the WaPo link that I gave in the other thread, there was this:

Come on, what’s the big deal with chemical weapons? Assad kills 100,000 people with bullets and bombs but we’re freaked out over 1,000 who maybe died from poisonous gas? That seems silly.

You’re definitely not the only one who thinks the distinction is arbitrary and artificial. But there’s a good case to be made that this is a rare opportunity, at least in theory, for the United States to make the war a little bit less terrible — and to make future wars less terrible.
The whole idea that there are rules of war is a pretty new one: the practice of war is thousands of years old, but the idea that we can regulate war to make it less terrible has been around for less than a century. The institutions that do this are weak and inconsistent; the rules are frail and not very well observed. But one of the world’s few quasi-successes is the “norm” (a fancy way of saying a rule we all agree to follow) against chemical weapons. This norm is frail enough that Syria could drastically weaken it if we ignore Assad’s use of them, but it’s also strong enough that it’s worth protecting. So it’s sort of a low-hanging fruit: firing a few cruise missiles doesn’t cost us much and can maybe help preserve this really hard-won and valuable norm against chemical weapons.

You didn’t answer my question. That just tells me that we can maybe preserve the norm against chemical weapons, not why we should.

Fair point. Here’s the deal: war is going to happen. It just is. But the reason that the world got together in 1925 for the Geneva Convention to ban chemical weapons is because this stuff is really, really good at killing civilians but not actually very good at the conventional aim of warfare, which is to defeat the other side. You might say that they’re maybe 30 percent a battlefield weapon and 70 percent a tool of terror. In a world without that norm against chemical weapons, a military might fire off some sarin gas because it wants that battlefield advantage, even if it ends up causing unintended and massive suffering among civilians, maybe including its own. And if a military believes its adversary is probably going to use chemical weapons, it has a strong incentive to use them itself. After all, they’re fighting to the death.

So both sides of any conflict, not to mention civilians everywhere, are better off if neither of them uses chemical weapons. But that requires believing that your opponent will never use them, no matter what. And the only way to do that, short of removing them from the planet entirely, is for everyone to just agree in advance to never use them and to really mean it. That becomes much harder if the norm is weakened because someone like Assad got away with it. It becomes a bit easier if everyone believes using chemical weapons will cost you a few inbound U.S. cruise missiles.

That’s why the Obama administration apparently wants to fire cruise missiles at Syria, even though it won’t end the suffering, end the war or even really hurt Assad that much.

I'm not as sure about that, but I do see the advantage in playing good cop, bad cop on this. Some might say that the US isn't playing bad cop, it actually is a bad cop or that by playing bad cop, it becomes a bad cop, while others might say that it wrongly casts Russia in the role of good cop. Others might say that this kind of theatre is not a good thing because it obscures the truth and things would be a lot better if there were more transparency. However, I'm not sure how you get to that state of affairs.

That dynamic might explain why the US is in a hurry. I've got no idea if there is any truth to that, but it does seem like the relationships between nations is just like the relationships between people. While we imagine that people can turn over a new leaf and change, when we look at the social network, it is often the case that people are locked into the way they act because it is the expectation of the people around them and it seems that nations operate in a similar way. People and nations occupy particular niches, and it is hard for them to break the mold and say I'm different now. I'm trying to think of a country that has been able to make a abrupt change of who they are and what they stand for, and I can't think of many candidates and of those, such as Japan, they've changed because they had to.

Anyway, this has gotten far too long, but that's what I've taken away from all this so far.

Interestingly, the first captcha with that last comment was pray, so maybe someone is trying to tell me something.

From today's local newspaper - the North Carolina Supreme Court allows a stay in the appeal judgment that a law restricting the rights of sex offenders was unconstitutional, violating their rights to free speech, expression, association, assembly, and the press.

In particular, they are barred from social network sites in terms so broad that, said the appeals court, it might keep them from accessing Google, Amazon, or even a cooking TV channel website.

Sex offenders must register, cannot live close to schools or daycares, and are barred from visiting places where children are likely to be present. One has not been able to attend his own child's T-ball games, and a sheriff told him that it would violate the law if his wife went to the game and used Skype to let him watch it.


Also today, a link to a story about people convicted of Satanic ritual abuse back in the day. There was more demonization going on than I had realized, but also more overlap, I suspect with the pedophilia panic.

So this couple is appealing after 23 years in jail (and apart from each other). How many convicted murderers have gone free in those years, to say nothing of those who have gotten away with murder, particularly of denizens of foreign countries?


(PS: Believe it or not, I haven't been looking for these stories. They just popped up in my regular reading/browsing.)

I think that sometimes a competition gets started: who is the most lawnorder? The most pro-life? The most opposed to sex offenders? And, of course, the voice of reason gets confabulated with being pro whatever the competition is against.

?? I posted a second comment linking to another report today about the treatment of sex offenders - in this case Satanic Ritual Abuse! - which has disappeared. Can someone able to help please help?

OK, I'll try again. Couple convicted of Satanic Ritual Abuse, presumably on dubious grounds, is still trying to get out of jail - and see each other again - after 23 years. How many murderers and rapists have been released in the meantime?

This suggests (to me) that SRA was as demonized as the other "crimes" noted, but with more of an overlap with presumptive pedophilia than I'd realized. It also indicates that you don't have to go looking for this stuff; both this and the previous story (on NC restriction of sex offender rights) just showed up in the course of my everyday reading/browsing.


I pulled it out of the spam folder, though it was a copy of your last one.

I went to wikipedia about Prescott Bush.

Just to clarify my point, I'm not here to claim that either Lindbergh or Prescott Bush or any of a number of other people are purely evil.

My point is that the red scare 'witch hunts', all of them, throughout the 20th C., cast a much wider net than simply people in government who were working as agents of a foreign power, or people who were planning the overthrow of government, or people who were either planning or committing crimes of any kind.

If you were involved in, or even sympathetic to, or even friends with someone who was involved in or sympathetic to, leftist politics, you were subject to harassment, imprisonment, deportation, loss of livelihood, and general social ostracism.

That was not true of, frex, people who were sympathetic to fascism, let alone openly fascist. Let alone, frex, participants in plots to overthrow the elected government via coup and install a military junta.

That's my point. The red scares are called witch hunts because they *were* witch hunts, in the full sense of the word - hysterical, paranoid exercises in persecuting people who were guilty of nothing other than being heterodox.

And for the record, I agree that a firm response to Assad's use of chemical weapons is appropriate. What I do not support is the US playing judge, jury, and executioner in the issue and deciding, unilaterally, to respond with military action before the issue has been presented to and considered by the UN.

Sorry this went on at such length, it wasn't my intent to spawn a threadjack.

Couple convicted of Satanic Ritual Abuse

In MA, we had the Amiraults. Mother and her daughter and son ran a day care. A kid wet his pants, the son changed him.

That became weird Satanic sexual abuse in a special room with flying clowns and god knows what else.

Daughter served eight years, the mother I think died in prison, the son served 18 years.

They weren't unique. It was modern day mass hysteria.

Reality check: The CPUSA was a Soviet funded KGB operation, imploded as soon as they decided to stop funding it. Gus Hall was a Soviet agent.

When the KGB archives were thrown open to researchers for a while, we found that the US, including the government, WAS lousy with Soviet spies.

Not everyone that got ruined over spying was guilty, this is different from other law enforcement in what way? But plenty of them were, including the big names like the Rosenbergs, that the left had long been in denial about.

Which is not to say that McCarthy wasn't full of it. Just that his being full of it shouldn't be taken as proof that what he was raving about wasn't happening.

Now, that "Satanic Ritual Abuse" business, that was a real witch hunt, in every sense of the term. Had not just people unjustly accused, or lives ruined, but a significant body count.

Janet Reno was notorious for prosecuting that sort of thing before her gig as AG, and the BATF used that knowledge to press her hot buttons at Waco, leveling child abuse charges against the Davidians which had already been investigated and rejected. But the same woman who was willing to believe that you could rape a little girl with a carving knife and not leave wounds, was willing to believe anything of the Davidians, too, and respond with a hysterical level of violence.

So, indirectly, you can relate the Waco massacre to the ritual abuse hysteria.

"Not everyone that got ruined over spying was guilty, this is different from other law enforcement in what way?"

It's not different. That's the point. Innocent people having their lives ruined over Satanic ritual witch hunts is not different than innocent people having their careers stalled, their reputations smeared, their bank accounts emptied and their time wasted over guilt-by-association charges of having something to do with someone who was rumored to have maybe been a Communist, which by itself isn't illegal.

Lillian Hillman, for example. But lots of less famous people had their careers stalled or ended.

One of the differences between the Communist witchhunts and the sex abuse or Satanic ritual witch hunts is the victims of the Red Scare often weren't even accused of a crime--just of association with an organization or with someone who was in an organization.

"It's not different. That's the point."

So robbery investigations are "witch hunts"? Assault investigations? Both occasionally ensnare innocents.

I repeat my position: The defining characteristic of a "witch hunt", the thing that makes it so awful, is that there are no witches. So only the innocent can be caught.

There were communists. Some were just the proverbial "useful idiots", advancing an evil cause without comprehending what they were doing. (Though one must ask why they didn't know, given the abundance of evidence. Deliberately averting their gaze, perhaps?) Many, however, were consciously acting as agents of hostile and terrifyingly nasty foreign power. Some of these spent years protesting their innocence, and being treated as the victims of a witch hunt, when they were guilty all along.

Like the Rosenbergs.

From Brett's link
Other Americans are vindicated by Vassiliev's KGB notes. For instance, they say that Robert Oppenheimer continuously refused to help the KGB, much to Moscow's frustration. After a public investigation into his loyalty, Oppenheimer lost his U.S. security clearance. Like many other accused "Red sympathizers," he spent the rest of his life defending his reputation. The Vassiliev documents concur with numerous other sources that show it was other scientists and technicians on the atomic bomb program who helped the Soviets develop a nuclear weapon.


What emerges from the Moscow archives and the Venona cables is a picture of two agencies, the FBI and Soviet intelligence, that were both under intense political pressure and inclined to exaggerate their own efficacy. The FBI was largely unable to thwart Soviet spies, was prone to abuses in its hunt for enemies, and often overstated its successes, says Athan Theoharis, a professor at Marquette University and an expert on FBI counterintelligence. Soviet spy handlers, meanwhile, were also under tremendous pressure to produce results and justify, among other things, their expense accounts. They'd sometimes listen to commercial radio news reports or read newspapers, summarize them, and send the results back to Moscow as if they'd gathered top-secret information through their spy networks.

the article concludes

While spy hunts did catch some of the guilty, it is unclear if it was worth the cost to the innocent when nations turned on themselves for crimes both real and imagined.

There were communists glibertarians. Some were just the proverbial "useful idiots", advancing an evil cause without comprehending what they were doing. (Though one must ask why they didn't know, given the abundance of evidence. Deliberately averting their gaze, perhaps?)

Many were mugged by Ayn Rand.

I oh see, Brett. I thought you meant that there was no difference between the innocent people who get harassed for satanic rites or supposed un-American activities.

But here's the thing--there might be no Satanic rites, but there are sex abusers. In most witch hunts there are witches. So far as I know it's just you who has decided tha that the defining characteristic of a with hunt is there are not witches.

Take the witchhunt atmosphere around sexual abuse in this country: there are sex abusers but the people who were tried and convicted in Wenatchee were innocent. There was a sex abuse with hunt in Minneapolis and a very famous one in Southern California. We had one in the next county over that combined sexual abuse with satanic rites.

I do not think it is at all the case that witch hunts have not witches. I think the defining characteristic of a witch hunts is that the hunt is carried out without reference to logic, fact, or due process, fueled by hysteria, resulting in the persecution of innocents.

There actually were witches, if you define witches as people who will use inorganic, organic, or infectious poisons against you or your farm animals.
It wasn't only crazy old ladies who were prosecuted.

The defining characteristic of a "witch hunt", the thing that makes it so awful, is that there are no witches.


witch-hunt Syllabification: (witch-hunt)

historical a search for and subsequent persecution of a supposed witch.

informal a campaign directed against a person or group holding unorthodox or unpopular views.

American Heritage:

witch-hunt also witch hunt (wchhnt)

An investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views.

Collier's English:

witch-hunt n

a rigorous campaign to round up or expose dissenters on the pretext of safeguarding the welfare of the public
witch-hunter n
witch-hunting n & adj


witch hunt

an intensive effort to discover and expose disloyalty, subversion, dishonesty, or the like, usually based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.

Not to say 'witch hunt' can't be applied in cases where there actually are no 'witches', but that's not part of the definition.

I.e., that is not the defining characteristic.

The absence of witches makes the search just more fervent.
And the absence of the objects of hatred may even be essential to keeping it up. Over here the hatred of foreigners (and Jews) seems to be strongest where none has been spotted for many years. I found it quite shocking that kids in Eastern Germany know that it is a very bad insult to be called a Jew without knowing what a Jew actally is. And there is the old joke asking people in the street whether they think that heterosexuality should be legal (alternative: 'X is said to be hetero. What do you think about that?'). The word 'gas chamber' still occurs in the answers occasionally. Put the question right and the hatred comes out with he target being totally irrelevant.
On the other hand a main 'problem' the Nazis had was all the Germans that simply would not believe that their neighbours of many years were in secret bent on their destruction. It was a topic in Himmler's most infamous speech
(Here is an excerpt for those that know German). The best enemy for 'witch hunts' is faceless, so the claims cannot be easily refuted and there should be no personal connection to the presented public face, so the dissonance does not become obvious (who has ever seen Emanuel Goldstein except on the 2-minute-hate?).

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