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six degrees of victimization

mjvigil.jpgIn Las Vegas, fans of Michael Jackson hold a candlelight vigil to support the man accused of child molestation.

In Bellmore, NY, a group of parents and students rally at a school board meeting to support three football players accused of sexually assualting fellow students.

On internet message boards, people are decrying the suggested penalty of death for sniper John Muhammed, in the belief that he has been railroaded and did not actually commit any crimes.

Are criminals the new celebrity, handcuffs the new fashion statement? It looks like years of pandering to the accused and blaming the victim have finally penetrated the American conciousness and rallying around the arrested is all the rage.

And even if the people supporting the alleged criminals are in the minority, they are the ones getting all the press. Gone are the photos of victims' families holding candles, replaced with video of bereaved men and women crying for a person who abuses children. All we see on the television is Scott Peterson's arrogant grin, Michael Jackson's pained expression, ex-football heros shouting down the relatives of abused players.

Sure, this is nothing new. Women have been writing love letters to serial killers in prison for ages. But it seems to be mainstream now; it's the new normal to protect and coddle the wrongdoer and ask the victim how they could let this happen.

Of course, the talking heads believe we need to understand the criminal mind. We need to find out the root cause of an abuser's anger, the driving force behind a murderer's actions; what did the victim do to make the accused behave this way? In essence, the accused have become the new victims.

Perhaps this can all be traced to the hand-holding, touchy-feely pop psychology that has penetrated our schools, our office buildings and our doctor's offices. Tell us Johnny, were you sending out signals that you wanted to be bullied? Let's try to understand the bully's actions, ok? So the person committing the ugly deeds suddenly becomes the focus of what's going on and we hear about his background, his childhood, what he ate the day of the crime, how his teacher treated him badly. And suddenly, he's the victim.

With a celebrity, it takes on an even stronger tone. The accuser is generally turned into a money-grabber, an opportunist. They're jealous. They're blackmailers. Because lord knows, a celebrity would never commit a crime! And even if a criminal isn't a celebrity to start out with, if the case his high profile enough, they will become one. Want to make an estimate of how many marriage proposals Scott Peterson gets a week?

When did things turn around so that the veracity of the victim's statements are always questioned and scrutinized by the media and the accused gets the adoration and vigils? Why are 12 or 13 year old boys or dead mothers having their lives dissected and spit out for the general public to see and their alleged murderer or childhood-robber gets the rally round the flagpole dedicated to them?

Obviously, there are two classes of victims now. The person who was originally victimized, and the accused, who has become of victim of his own victim. Keep up here, ok? You may need a scorecard. Let's take the Mepham case, for instance.

You have the original victims, who were sexually abused by three high school football players. Then you have the second-degree victims, which would be the football players themselves, who really were just following the time honored tradition of shoving a pine cone up a kid's butt. Then there's the third-degree victims, which would be the coaches, who are being held responsible for the actions of their players, but don't think they should be held responsible because they had no way of knowing what the kids they were supposed to be watching were doing late at night. Still with me? Good. Because we have fourth-degree victims. That would be the entire school body, who are depressed and dejected because their football season has been cancelled and their school name has been tarnished, thanks in large part to those original victims, who just couldn't keep their mouths shut and take it like men. Hold on, not done yet. There are fifth-degree victims. That's the administrators of the school, who failed to step in in a timely manner and failed to take action when it should have been taken but think it really wasn't their place to do that, and they are being chastised - and possibly fired - for nothing.

Now that we have five classes of victims, the original victims -the boys who were raped, remember them? - are the low men on the totem pole. Everyone is in a frenzy about coaches being fired and the school board meeting being disrupted and the accused football players losing a chance at scholarships.

You can apply this degree of victim separation theory to Michael Jackson, to John Muhammed (and don't you know the Patriot Act is the real criminal there?), to Scott Peterson and right on down to the some nameless kid in Anytown, USA, who is being sent to a psychiatrist and prescribed some miracle drug because he is obviously antagonizing the other kids into bullying him.

What's the conclusion? I don't have one. Except for this: As a society, we are pretty much fucked.


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» WE'RE PRETTY MUCH F***ED from DiscountBlogger
Michele has an interesting post this morning on how we jump to the defense of people accused of the most heinous crimes.In Las Vegas, fans of [ed. "He Who Shall Not Be Named"] hold a candlelight vigil to support the... [Read More]

» Degrees of Victimization from aimless
This post by Michele really sums up how screwed up we are as a society. She talks about how far we get from the reality of how brutalized the true victims of crimes are, when we focus on the wrong... [Read More]


I'm a victim too! I'm being constantly bombarded with images of Skeletor's ... er ... I mean MJ's face and it has put me off my feed.

But hopefully this will all stop before we become totally nutless. I expect a fairly severe backlash when/if the pendulum swings the other way.

The solution is to get out the searchlight and put out the call to Batman.


Right on!!!!!

Great post, and oh so true.

Amen, Michele.

It's all about everyone but those 3 boys 'who should have just kept their mouths shut.'

Kudos to the NY Daily News for publishing the pictures and names of the 2 older pricks. Of course, now they are claiming to be 'further victimized' for it. Let's hope they are receiving an 'outpouring of feeling' from everywhere outside of Bellmore, LI, where this behavior is thought to be acceptable.


clap. clap. clap.

Whatever happened to the concept of owning your mistakes? I was always taught that if you commit an act, you accept all the consequences that come with commiting that act. Who knew my dad would turn out to be such a radical.

I blame television, and slow news days, which allows anyone to have his ten minutes of infamy as a "protestor."

But the John Muhammed fans are a different sort. Unlike Jacko and Kobe, etc., he only became (in)famous because of his crimes. One imagines this reduced to absurdity, with marches demanding "Freedom for Willie Jones." Who's Willie Jones? Oh, he robbed the 7-11 last week.

And yet, we're still surprised when the world blames the U.S. for "provoking acts of terror".

Spot on with your analysis, Michele. Why aren't you running for president?

The NY Daily News published names? Damn people, it's time to change our websites and make sure the two bastards names are plastered all over the internet!

I'm struck by the fact that much of this false-victim nonsense involves basic logical fallacies. It's always been my contention that we should be teaching logic in our schools, from the very early grades on. I never had the opportunity to take any sort of logic class until I got to college, and then it was only an elective. It's absolutely a crime to send kids out into the world without giving them the tools they need to evaluate the daily flood of false and misleading information we all face from advertising, politicians and a wide variety of other self-serving entities.

it was when we turned Rudolph into a victim...

It's a very old habit, and I cannot find the Mark Twain essay I was looking for. But no, it's not a new trend, Michele.

There's two threads here, Michelle - and both are pet hobbyhorses of mine.

First is, a person is not a criminal just because charges are laid. They are not a "criminal" until 12 good persons and true decide they are a criminal.

(BTW, I'm of the school that thinks a Jury's job is to both judge facts and commit justice - which may well include asking questions and committing Jury Nullification. The judge is the head; the jury, the heart.)

Second - while in an individual sense, AFTER a crime has been committed, I don't particularly care WHY someone did what they did.

But it's still a good question to ask, and understand, because it may indicate an underlying issue that needs dealing with.

Columbine and the Mideast are both good examples.

No, neither example is the "fault" of those others than those who commit terroristic acts.

Still and all, the circumstances needed to make such acts seem reasonable should be looked into. It's not "coddling" or "excusing," it's pure self-preservation.

I don't hold out a lot of hope, though. There are still a lot of people who think that anyone who differs from the cultural leaders needs to be briskly whacked until they conform.

At Columbine, at least, the circumstances were clear; a "Jock Culture" and support of that culture at the expense of anyone that didn't fit. Being able to push people around was one of the accepted rewards of being a Jock; an entitlement.

And the trenchcoat mafia refused to pay.

Now, had they reacted in a non-fatal way to react to this situation - and there are hundreds of ways to deal with such things, with or without outside support - I'd have been right there behind them.

To quote one of my favorite movies of all time:

"The problem we have heah is a failure to communicate!"

Great post, Michele. Every school kid should read and discuss it. As for "root causes:" read "I'm OK, Your OK" because it spells out -- and advocates -- the situation we're in now.

The book essentially forbids blame or responsibility, and it became a big seller, especially in academia. You can see the results in schools, the media, race relations and anywhere you care to look.

This brings me to the second cause. There is a school of thought that the United States is the root of all evil, that it's corrupt, venal and dishonest. Ergo, criminals are the real victims who must be understood in a political context.

Put them both together and ...

Ok, Muhammad has been found guilty and has had a sentence of death recommended by the jury in Virginia. Now, other states also wish to try him on capital crimes. (Alabama, Maryland, etc.) If found guilty by more than one jurisdiction, who gets the privilege of actually killing him?

You can add the survey that shows most Europeans consider Israel to be the greatest threat to world peace of all countries.

Terrorists and the numerous regimes that support terrorists aren't the threat to peace, no the victims are.

Suddenly all of international politics seems to be about shifting blame. It looks like the little people are just copying the big ones.

First is, a person is not a criminal just because charges are laid. They are not a "criminal" until 12 good persons and true decide they are a criminal.

No. A person is a criminal the minute they break a law. They are a defendant when they are charged by a grand jury. Upon the return of a verdict of "Guilty," they are a convict. As long as we're picking nits.