Thursday, April 05, 2007

The perfect victim

By Capt. Fogg

Hysterical anger is a very effective tool for the manipulation of the American public. It's easy for instance, to make people forget the large-scale and coordinated export of well paying, technical, engineering, manufacturing and executive jobs to foreign countries by raising the specter of Mexican immigrants taking away our career opportunities in dish washing and fruit picking. Illegal immigrants are excellent pawns in the game as they can't afford to speak out or set the record straight regarding their "burden" on society.

Less obviously motivated by partisan politics however, is the hysteria over sex offenders. They could not be more nearly perfect targets. Nobody has any sympathy. No one wants to be seen having any sympathy and the legal terminology doesn't really discriminate between the monsters who torture and kill children and the damn fools who were sure that teen age girl they picked up in a bar was 21. The category conjures up images of the unspeakable yet it includes, in some States the teenager who got caught "mooning" people from a moving car or the guy who just couldn't hold it in any longer and got caught urinating in the bushes.

Of course adding to the general fear of the public serves authoritarianism and it eases the road to a more medieval justice system in which an offender can never be redeemed nor can he escape suspicion and the presumption of malice. Be he a 90 year old ex con with 70 years of abiding by the law or some harmless bozo with bladder problems, he is marked and cast out like Cain.

The public satisfaction with perpetual punishment and exile for a broad spectrum of crimes seems nearly unanimous. The rules of exile, by which a registered sex offender may never live or work within a half mile of any place where children might congregate are proliferating and perhaps nowhere more than in Miami Florida. Wandering, homeless men, being now without hope of employment or shelter or plumbing would seem to be something society would want to avoid, but the City of Miami is happy to have them living, with official sanction, with rats and other vermin under bridges -- like trolls.

The logic behind a program supposedly designed to make a released criminal less of a danger to society by forcing him into domestic exile from which he can only escape by death or a return to a prison cell; a position from which he has nothing to lose by committing another crime, truly escapes me, but I can't blame a stupid, counterproductive and probably illegal policy on power hungry politicians alone. Without the hysteria and panic and abject safety seeking stupidity of the American Middle Class Conservative, they couldn't get away with it.

Update:

This morning's CNN poll tells us that 45% of respondents would approve of laws forbidding registered sex offenders to live anywhere.

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