Victims, The New Untouchables

When Mark Bennett wrote Victimocracy is for Sociopaths, its broader message seemed abundantly clear:

The hallmark of a sociopath, says [Martha] Stout [in her 2006 book, The Sociopath Next Door], is feigned victimhood. “The most reliable sign, the most universal behavior of unscrupulous people is not directed, as one might imagine, at our fearfulness. It is, perversely, an appeal to our sympathy.”

I have noted before the ascendancy of victimocracy, in which victimhood is esteemed even above merit and victims are given special authority to determine the course of the state.

In the world of those who subscribe to empathy uber alles, everybody’s a victim.

Those who had been criticized went into victim mode: they had been “attacked,” “insulted,” “disrespected.” They inaccurately described things that others had said to make them seem like attacks. Both described the criticism as “bullying.” One had “never been so insulted” as by the criticism.

There is, of course, a different view.

If you don’t want someone to call you stupid, don’t be stupid. If you want to speak out publicly, whether in the courtroom, the boardroom or the internet, accept the premise that not everyone is going to think you brilliant and fabulous. Someone will think you wrong.  Someone will say so, speech meeting speech head on.

None of this is, or at least should be, controversial.  So naturally, it is, because . . . reasons.

In There’s No “Ick” in Victim, in which she lauds victims for speaking up, Brooklyn lawyer1 C.A. Goldberg turns her truly dizzying intellect my way:

In a post called “Victimocracy is for Sociopaths,” Mark Bennett, a criminal defense attorney and blogger in Texas, growls at the “ascendancy of victimocracy, in which victimhood is esteemed above merit, and victims are given special authority to determine the course of the state.  He accuses many victims of “feigning” it.  He flaccidly stabs at some blurry claim that self-identifying victims comprise much of the purported four percent of sociopaths, revealing himself to be the one person in America gullible enough to drink Martha Stout’s pop psychology Kool-Aid.  “The more power we give victims, the more power we give sociopaths,” he says.

Goldberg is a well-intended sycophant of the revenge porn, Cyber Civil Rights, crowd.  She’s curiously snarky in her writing, though hasn’t quite got the chops to makes the arguments to justify it. In her twitter bio, she writes of herself “NY lawyer murdering revenge porn.” Aside from whether she’s ever hurt anything, I seriously doubt her use of “murdering” serves her well.

But in defense of the ideology — that no one may question the victimhood of a woman — she not only undermines her budding efforts at credibility, and conclusively provides that sophomoric snark isn’t a substitute for sound reasoning, but her willful ignorance and denial of victimocracy serves no good purpose. No matter which victims one prays to, they have to actually be victims.

Mark’s purpose was to distinguish between true victims and those who wear the clothing of victims, the sociopaths, to prey on blind adoration of people with the “dizzying intellect” of Goldberg.  Her effort in return, to call Stout’s work “pop Kool-Aid” and Mark’s effort “flaccid,” her snarky feminist attempt to attack his manhood, fails for two basic reasons: First, Goldberg lacks both the intellect and credibility to demean the ideas of people who are vastly better respected than she.

But second, and more importantly, Goldberg’s contention that anyone who claims to be a victim must, by definition, be a victim, is intellectually unsound.  No amount of snark changes reality. Sure, her fellow travelers of the Cyber Civil Rights crowd play the mindless choir, giving her the false impression that she’s not nearly as foolish a baby lawyer as the rest of us see, but it doesn’t pass the laugh test.

It’s understandable that adherents like Goldberg attack anyone, like Mark, whose writing seems to detract from their talking points of how all women who claim to be victims are, indeed, victims.  It’s understandable that Goldberg and her ilk fear the reality that not all people who don the mantle of victimhood to gain the empathy, sympathy and protection of the sisterhood are really victims.  It makes their agenda messy, and subject to question. Or, as they call it, attack.

And so what do they do?  They engage in ad hominem attacks to discredit the victim:  she was complicit in it, is lying, doing it for the attention, is a sociopath.  It’s as if some defense attorneys, perhaps as a group the most vocal about they would call “victomania,” can’t zealously represent their clients while respecting the “victim” concept.

At first blush, it may seem as if Goldberg is just terribly disingenuous, but that may overestimate her grasp.  Rather, I think she is sincere in her belief that there is no such thing as the falsely accused, facts notwithstanding.  I think she believes so strongly in victimocracy that she is fully prepared to see the innocent harmed rather than a victim challenged.

The reason is that they fear that if they admit to what everyone else realized, that some people, some women, are being less than truthful, then all women will be subject to attack for their veracity.  Should that happen, given that the only thing distinguishing a victim from a phony is their word, their agenda of rearranging the world to protect the delicate sensibilities of women falls apart.

That some victims are lying, falsely accusing, is beyond question. Not all. Not most. The status of victimocracy isn’t good enough to make most sane people want to wrap themselves up in it.  And that’s Mark’s point, that sociopaths mix into the victimhood because they can.  Because people like Goldberg will protect the nutjob along with the real victim, no matter what.

If Goldberg wants to be taken seriously by anyone outside the falsetto choir, then she will have to come to grips with the reality that false accusations happen, rather than waste her time attacking the obvious at the expense of credibility.

To the extent that she finds criminal defense lawyers the enemy, because we just won’t limit our defense of the wrongfully accused so as not to hurt any victim’s feelings, it’s never going to happen.  While Goldberg may feel comfortable living in her feminist fantasy, criminal defense lawyers live in the real world where victims sometimes aren’t victims, and where zealous representation of the accused comes before feminist dogma.


13 thoughts on “Victims, The New Untouchables

  1. Beth

    Many years ago, I volunteered my time to a rape hotline. In the training for this post, I was taught that when someone calls in NEVER question whether or not they were raped. If they called, we treated them as a victim, offering solace, support and friendship not judgement of their behavior. This seems an appropriate approach for such a post. I wish that when rape victims called the police, they also adopted such an attitude regardless of any personal feelings they might have about a particular situation.

    However, I do not understand the desire to extend of this attitude to the rest of society. While false accusations are not common for any crime and even less so for rape, that doesn’t mean they never happen. Once we move outside of the groups that should be supporting the victim such as help lines, police officers, and hospital staff, there’s no more reason to assume the victim is telling the truth than there is for any other crime. Those supporting the accused, such as defense lawyers, certainly need to ask questions regarding the veracity of the victim.

    1. SHG Post author

      Well said, Beth. It’s critical that we draw lines between functions, purposes, reality and fantasy. When it comes to criminal law, we can’t indulge the fantasy of denial.

  2. DHMCarver

    This post dovetails with something I have been pondering for the last little while — when the word “survivor”, the strongest word in the victim’s arsenal, started to be used so widely. Even before I knew anything much about criminal law, the use of victim impact statements made me uncomfortable, for I have the naive notion that a crime against one person should be punished in the same way as the same crime against a different person (all other things being equal). That is part of the reason Lady Justice is wearing her blindfold, is it not? Victim impact statements seem to create a hierarchy of victimhood — certain victims require stiffer punishments. (I would be interested to know if there is any empirical research in this vein.) And now people are no longer mere victims — they are survivors. When I was young, one survived something that couple possibly have killed you, or was intended to kill you — falling through ice in a frozen lake, being beaten and left for dead, being shot multiple times, etc. Now, one is not only (supposedly) a victim of any of a variety of crimes or afflictions, but a survivor of them. How dare a mere criminal defense attorney impugn the testimony a survivor? How dare you raise constitutional rights — we are talking a survivor here?

    Thanks, as always, for helping me to get the mental juices flowing in the morning. Thanks for the work you do on the blog.

    1. SHG Post author

      If I recall correctly, the popular use of survivor began with cancer, and indeed, cancer kills, so those who lived were survivors. It caught on, so . . . well, you know the rest.

      1. AH

        I think the problem goes further now to the identification of every survivor as being brave and the automatic description of them as heroes. As though they had a choice in the matter and the other option was the cowardly way out.

        1. Dragoness Eclectic

          I’ll weigh in here as the spouse of a cancer survivor–they got called ‘brave’ because cancer therapies such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy are grueling and brutal and push your body to the very edge and often hurt far worse than the cancer symptoms–some people come to the point where they’ve had enough. They’re the non-survivors.

          Anyone who has survived cancer therapy is brave or just damn stubborn.

          1. SHG Post author

            I think AH’s issue was with the extension of survivor, with the brave implication, to people who weren’t “survivors” in the first place.

            1. AH

              To confirm what Scott has said, I was thinking of the extension of survivor to all people who deal with whatever slight and consider themselves victimized as “brave survivors.”

              But to touch on what you have said, I am of the belief that people are brave because of the actions they take, not simply the fact that something bad has happened to them. At risk of sounding insensitive I don’t necessarily believe that every single cancer survivor is brave for having survived, nor do I believe the corrollary that every person with cancer who did not survive was not brave. Your spouse sounds like he or she was very brave, but that is because of what your spouse did in response to getting cancer, not simply the fact of surviving cancer. I’m sure if the result had not been as good (and I’m glad to hear that was not the case), I presume that would not change your opinion about how brave he or she was, nor should it.

              My brother-in-law was rendered paraplegic in a golf cart accident of all things. He’s not brave because he had a crappy thing happen to him, he is brave because he has kicked ass ever since.

              I don’t believe that every person who almost drowned, who was rescued from a fire, who was stuck for hours on a chairlift (honestly, these are the types of things that news outlets assign the descriptor “brave” to) is brave. Nor, getting back to comment I was responding to, do I think the victim of a crime is necessarily brave. They might also be brave, but they’re not automatically brave. Brave is an indicator of something you do, not something that happens to you. I think we should save the word for people who deserve it, like your spouse or my brother-in-law.

              With my apologies and request to delete if you think this got way too off topic.

            2. SHG Post author

              It’s cool. I agree with you, and have made the same point about use of the word “hero” based on mere sufferance of unfortunate events. It cheapens the word to the point of meaninglessness. It’s not to diminish someone who has suffered, but suffering is neither brave nor heroic in itself.

  3. Joe

    “I think she believes so strongly in victimocracy that she is fully prepared to see the innocent harmed rather than a victim challenged.”

    I agree, and I think this is where her line of thinking really falls apart. As soon as the innocent is harmed, then the innocent becomes the victim based on the definition found in her own blog post. I guess I’m not as inclined as you are to dismiss disingenuity.

      1. John B

        From her tone here and in the past I get the sense that the circularity ends when the victim is no longer female. It’s amazing the leaps that happen when we dice us all up from people to the various smaller groups so we can all be special in some way.

        1. SHG Post author

          Identitarian politics is a very dangerous thing. One set of rules for them, another for everyone else, because they’re “special.”

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