Symposium: Why Do Progressives Love Criminals?

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Adding further to Mr. Hollander’s observation, the race of the victim also matters these days with the Obama administration.  Consider the deafening silence from Eric Holder’s DOJ regarding the racially motivated mob attacks at the Wisconsin State Fair in 2010, or in Ohio in 2009, or any number of similar incidents where whites are beaten senseless by mobs yelling racial slurs as they bloody women and children.  18 U.S.C. Section 245 covers this behavior, but people inside our Justice Department (I name the names in Injustice) are unwilling to enforce the law against the black wrongdoers because the victims are white.  They’ve probably been reading The New Jim Crow and can excuse a racially motivated beating from time to time, depending on who is involved.

Dalrymple: Paul Hollander is of course right in saying that the sympathetic understanding extended to criminals by intellectuals is selective, and does not apply to certain kinds of criminals who victimize designated types of victims. In England recently, for example, two white racist thugs were convicted of killing a young black man. The liberal press extended no understanding to the perpetrators, nor do I see any reason why it should have done so, though of course the behavior of these thugs must have had as many social and psychological influences as does the behavior of anyone else. The liberal press was punitive in its attitude, and again rightly so; but that punitiveness does not transfer to crimes committed by favored groups, whose behavior is explained away.

I think there is one general point that needs to be made. The romanticization of crime is not new or confined to one country. The criminal with a heart of gold is almost a stock figure in literature. One laughs at Falstaff, our life is enriched by him, but he is nevertheless a criminal. Dostoyevsky promoted the idea that the greater the sinner, the greater the saint. Sartre’s book about Genet, a psychopathic criminal, is called Saint Genet. William S Burroughs thought that criminals were authentic in a way that ordinary middle class people were not. Mailer saw in the murderer Abbott a man of great talent and in effect aided him in killing someone else.

Balzac said that behind every great fortune lies a great crime, but romantics say that within every great criminal there is someone good waiting and wanting to be redeemed. That is why notorious and brutal killers seldom lack for declarations of love and even offers of marriage. There is a wonderful, hilarious and terrible Australian book on this subject, called Dream Lovers, by Jacquelynne Willcox-Bailey. It recounts stories of delusion about criminals that truly are extraordinary.

A mixture of sentimentality and intellectual pride distinguishes the attitude of many liberal intellectuals towards crime, which almost never affects them personally. On the one hand there is a reluctance to believe that ordinary people can behave very badly; on the other they believe that it is the function of the intellectual to uncover the underlying ‘reality’ of phenomena (if he is not for that, what is he for?), so that it represents a loss of caste to express the ordinary man in the street’s horror at or revulsion against crime.

Thus crime has to become not really crime, but something else altogether more noble, which it takes nobility and intelligence or acuity on the part of the intellectual in turn to recognize. People don’t steal or rob because they want something and think it is the easiest way to get it; they are uttering a protest against injustice. Moral grandiosity and exhibitionism are the occupational hazards of intellectuals.

None of this should, of course, be taken to mean that we should not oppose injustice where it really exists.

Hollander: Mr. Adams listed a number of dismaying incidents (some of which I never heard of, e.g. the mob violence at some Wisconsin state fair) in the realm of law enforcement which illustrate the general themes of this discussion. Apparently officials in the Dept. of Justice on occasion incline to the views which prevail on the campuses. These views and the associated policies can be understood in light of past discrimination, thus there is some plausibility to the argument that if a disproportionate number of black students are disciplined in school or black drivers stopped by the police for alleged traffic violations, racism, that is to say, a hostile predisposition is bound to play a part. Same goes for the disproportionate number of blacks in prison.

But there is the crucial empirical question: do more black students misbehave in school than white or Asian? Do more young black males commit more crimes than their white or Asian counterparts? Even if it is established and agreed that they do, it is still possible to fall back on a more nuanced explanation that includes racism. Thus it can be argued that their behavioral problems or higher rates of criminality may very well originate in the racism of the past (and its impact on the family structure, upbringing, levels of education etc) and not present day discrimination. While the long term after effects of such past discrimination are real, it does not follow that black criminals or misbehaving students bear no responsibility whatsoever for their behavior, or that their behavior is completely dominated and determined by social forces over which they have no control. Concepts like “disparate impact” or “structural racism” are dubious unless there is evidence of actual discrimination. Is the small number of black mathematicians or brain surgeons or musicians in symphony orchestras due to racist discrimination? I rather doubt it. On the other hand, it does have something to with the history of black people in this country and the injustices and deprivations they suffered.

Theodore Dalrymple provided further excellent examples of the literary romanticization of crime and the benign attitudes of some intellectuals towards it. He is also right in emphasizing that, as a rule, these sympathizers have no personal experience of crime, of being victimized by criminals, and criminal violence in particular remains an abstraction for them. Poor people, by contrast, are more punitive partly because they are more often victims of crime and because they don’t embrace moral relativism.

Let me summarize why many intellectuals seem to be favorably disposed toward criminals, or certain types of them:

1) many of them come from the ranks of the poor, the underprivileged, they are putative or genuine victims of society, their behavior determined by inexorable social forces. At the same time, and contradicting the former perception,

2) they are also considered fighters for social justice, their crimes perceived as social protest;

3) they are brave, they take risks, often of impressive physique and physical strength that also impresses timid, sedentary intellectuals;

4) they are authentic, they act out their rejection of the existing social order, they lead dangerous and seemingly adventurous lives.

But as I said earlier, these sympathies are selective and ideologically or philosophically defined. Few people are inclined to be sympathetic toward, or ask for understanding, rapists, child molesters, serial killers or white collar criminals, and their behavior is rarely excused or mitigated on the grounds of inexorable social forces which shaped it.

Adams: It is true that petty criminals have been endearing figures in literature. I’ll add the Artful Dodger to the list provided by Mr. Dalrymple.  What distinguishes the positive portrayal of these fictional criminals from Alexander’s sweeping racialist explanation for crime in The New Jim Crow is perhaps the absence of a political and ideological component to give quarter to the fictional criminals, at least not an overt one.  Alexander’s attitude toward criminals is rooted firmly in a racialist and corrupt ideological perspective.  Simply, people are in jail because a structurally racist system has conspired against them and has criminalized behavior they either can’t help, or shouldn’t be held accountable for.  Her intense ideological perspective bears little resemblance to the good natured and jovial fictional criminal.

Then the troubling figure of Falstaff enters our forum.  If anybody was a loveable and politically enabled criminal, it was Falstaff.  His relationship with Prince Hal gave him all sorts of license, and he expects it to continue after Harry’s coronation.  Unfortunately King Henry has other ideas, “I know thee not, old man: fall to thy prayers; How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!”  The King has terminated whatever political relationship allowed Falstaff’s crimes. Alexander does not share Henry’s sense of universal justice.  She is willing to excuse.

Regarding the unpunished mob violence since Obama’s inauguration, I discuss it in more detail here or you could listen to Rush Limbaugh read the same article here (starts at 5:30), which I never cease to enjoy.   What I describe in the article finds its justification in the ideas of Michelle Alexander, even if the criminals were not familiar with her latest book.  The racially motivated mob attacks are the natural result of ideas like Alexander’s.  Worse, the failure to prosecute the crimes by the Eric Holder Justice Department also finds support in Alexander’s rotted ideas.

That’s why none of what you have been reading in this forum is theoretical.  The fist to the face of Marty Marshall of Akron, Ohio, is rough and real.  The brutal violence against Michael Chambers isn’t speculative.  These attacks, and the want of legal consequences, are the result of ideas like Alexander’s, and they must be rejected.

Dalrymple: Again, Paul Hollander is right in alluding to the existence and importance of prejudice. It is surely not very difficult to believe that policemen or even courts are often prejudiced against blacks, and that a whole vicious circle of expectation, response, expectation, further response, is set up.

But as he rightly says, the existence of prejudice does not absolve people of personal responsibility; and if a black burglar is sent to prison and a white burglar is not, to whom is the injustice done, to the black burglar or the white, to the victim of the first or that victim of the second? It is surely a prejudice that, if there were justice in the world, everyone would be better off than he is. Many people would be worse off.

Since I know England better than America, let me allude to an interesting phenomenon here. The last time I looked, rates of imprisonment of Sikhs and Hindus were so low that they were not deemed worth calculating. By contrast, rates of imprisonment of Muslims of Indian sub-continental origin were four times higher than expected by comparison with their numbers in the population.

Now it is possible, though I think very unlikely, that this difference in outcome is the result of prejudice. I think I can, with a fair degree of accuracy, distinguish a Hindu from a Muslim, just by appearances (I can’t easily describe how I do it). And of course names are different. But the kind of person who is likely to act on his prejudices – and there is a difference between having and acting on prejudices – is not likely to make subtle distinctions. Therefore it seems to me likely that the difference in imprisonment rate of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus in Britain is the result of prejudice and not of a real difference in conduct, however that difference arose in the first place. Incidentally, this is borne out by the relative economic success of these groups, which is very different.

I am not sufficiently well-up in American criminological literature to know whether the figures for black imprisonment have been disaggregated, as surely they could be.

Any criminal justice system has to deal with the cases that come before it; and it is no defense against a charge that others have got away with exactly the same behavior (which is always the case). I cannot say I was not guilty of speeding because the car in front of me was going even faster, and the driver is not appearing in court.

One of the most alarming things to me about Alexander’s book was the use of the term ‘racial justice.’ I think you have to have a tin ear to use it, given its historical connotations. However, a lot of injustice, it seems to me, could be avoided if the plea-bargaining system were reined in; though whether this would seize up the courts I do not know. But plea-bargaining is essentially unjust.

Hollander: Perhaps it is a sign of moral progress that in some societies, such as the American, there is public concern with the fate of those imprisoned rather than taking for granted that they got what they deserved.

This discussion also raised the question, at least for me, of the part played by moral indignation in criminal justice. The two authors whose books we made reference to, directed their moral indignation at the criminal justice system, and the larger society it is embedded in, convinced as they are, that the overwhelming majority of black and Hispanic inmates are innocent of any crimes, or serious crimes. These writers seem to have little emotional energy left for moral indignation stimulated by the victims of those who are not innocently imprisoned. These victims themselves are often black and Hispanic. Doubtless there are also many people in this society who do not have sleepless nights over people imprisoned for minor offenses, or on the basis of insufficient evidence, or because of some type of bias on the part of the police, judge or jury.

Apparently it is very difficult to display moral indignation that is balanced and directed at wrongs which are irrelevant to our ideological disposition.

FP: Christian Adams, Theodore Dalrymple and Dr. Paul Hollander, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.

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  • maturin20

    Progressives love criminals because everything is now illegal in the United States. You name it, there is a way to construe it as a crime. Accusations of crime are now the way to keep our oligarchical collectivist civilization in a state of stasis. The only way to move ahead now is to break the law.

    • Spider

      You are absolutely right – and do you realize how corrpt this is ? Any so called official can simply decide for himself who what when or where the law will be applied or ignored.. As always it will be some favored or disfavored person or group who gets either the wrath of the law or the big break depending on the officials political goals. Think Eric Holder

  • John

    The core problem is that we subsidize these nut case ideas in our universities. But for that the followers would be a tiny minority. They posture being a revolt against what is wrong with current society, but they are not because they do not offer a viable alternative. They damage any real effort at reform with a smoke screen of distraction.

    • Rifleman

      If you want an idea of what their society would look like, look at the fleabagger camps.

    • Randy

      Great point!

  • Questions

    This forum is productive, but could have benefited from more emphasis on blacks having a genetic predisposition toward violence and theft well beyond that of whites, something that is conditioned through learned behavior. That's why Black Panthers and other "community leaders" so often find a sympathetic audience among other blacks.

  • Alex Kovnat

    What frightens me is the way Norway about to treat a guy who brutally murdered over 50 people, as insane rather than an outright criminal. If that guy is turned loose, who knows what may happen next.

    • chris

      Apparently, Norway abolished the death penalty and the maximum sentence this killer can get is 21 yrs. Breviik is 33 yrs old and he'll be 54 when released. Glad I do not live in Norway. Take that you progressives, may you live next door to him.

  • Rifleman

    Many, if not most socialists believe they must collapse the "capitalist" society first, to create their socialist utopia. Anything that can help bring about that collapse is supported overtly or covertly by marxists, and criminals in a society that isn’t marxist are natural allies, at least until the marxists are firmly in charge.

  • Western Spirit

    Of course progressives love criminals they serve the same master.

    Lincoln said a house divided against itself cannot stand and in this he was quoting Christ who said Satan’s house divided against itself cannot stand.

    And indeed Satan’s house stands undivided still as criminals, the Islamists and the Left are standing together to bring down “the “great Satan”, .the “great Satan” that has done more good in the world than any other nation.

    Which gives us a clue to the real source of inspiration for the nation and the reason Satan’s undivided house real and true house is flailing against it..

    The Left’s culture, that once was the counter culture, has made great inroads into making this a degenerate nation under the pretext of doing “good”. Satan usually does work under the smokescreen of “ good” until he gets the upper hand and that’s when he shows his true colors. For example the Nazi’s.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Well leftists do love themselves inside or outside of jail………..criminality comes in many guises.
    Progressives recruit from prisons the same as Islamists, they are all family…………William

  • trumpetman

    Is there a typo in this from Dalrymple?

    Therefore it seems to me likely

    Should "likely" be "unlikely"? It would make far more sense in context.

  • Fred Dawes

    Most or all are crimimals or want to be! the USA Has about 8 months before the war starts inside the FORMER USA, IT Will be both a race war and a civil war the end game will be 7 nation states being made all will be on race lines and 4 billion people will die after the USA Disppaers and freedom and justice will also disappear from this earth and never come back. and that has always been the strategic of the one world monkeys. just get in line for the real butchery.

  • mrbean

    The worst example I can think of the left and criminals is Mumia Jamal. To think he is innocent requires believing that as he ran over to the policeman rousting his brother, someone else (whom no witness could see because apparently someone else was invisible) took Mumia's revolver from his cab, then walked over and shot the cop. The cop then turned around and shot not the invisible man firing the revolver at him, but by an inexplicable coincidence the man who owned the gun, apparently for no reason other than he was black. The invisible man then executed the cop, dropped the revolver, and strolled off whilst Mumia lay there bleeding. That's far beyond wild and the mysterious dude defense. That's even arguably beyond a mysterious alien landed from Mars defense. And for this rope haired dreadlocked chimpout Mumia still breathes.

  • Stephen Browne

    The motivation of intellectuals who lionize tyrants and criminals may be deceptively simple.

    Intellectuals tend to be a tad on the wimpy side. They admire strength, they want to be strong, but they have no idea what real masculine strength is.

    And too often, they think it is brutality.

  • Deepred

    Stalin started his revolutionary career as a bank robber. During his rule theft, murderer, rape,and most all criminal activity was considered a non-politcal offence (exept stealing from the state of course). Criminals became known as the "socially freindly". Stalin used them as internal camp police and sicked them on the political offenders (article 58) . They could steal, murder, whatever they pleased while the guards watched. or looked the other way. And when Stalin proclamed an amnesty it was only for these monsters so they could be let loose on the population which had no lawful means to defend itself.

    Progressives look to the wisest of the wise.

  • eidos

    I have no interest in attacking the main thrust of your panel discussion but I do want to put forth some fundamentally provocative thoughts about a premise being bandied about that, if your panel is not hopelessly engaged in partisan warfare, it will surely need to consider:

    The “Ricidivist Innocent”

    The evidence of recidivism is multiple convictions.

    The assumption is that those plea bargaining out (especially on misdemeanors) are innocent (because, lets face it, most cases do not go to trial)

    Wholly ignored is the fact that once arrested individuals are on police radar.

    The panel can pretend it is not possible that any great number of arrestees are actually innocent. My experience says otherwise. Once arrested, an innocent faces extremely high chance of re-arrest.

    Even felonies get pleaded out before much discovery is exchanged, and forget real investigation — no one can afford a good P.I.

    With misdemeanor and infractions I assert that my experience has taught me that false arrest is epidemic, and that is not an easy thing to study. It takes years in the trenches and the ability to acknowledge human nature. The ability to track arrests and access records of arrest has never been greater or more instantaneous for cops on the beat.

    Actual evidence of cases of arrest and re-arrest of the innocent is not uncommon at all, and it is against this backdrop of access to prior record.

    You can major in college or get your PhD in police misconduct, testilying and fabrications and you can read papers in legal journals about the victims, who now have this cynical, newly coined moniker to go by: The “recidivist innocent.”

    And that term was not invented by a progressive either. It was invented by a conservative who argued that such hapless victims should shoot for plea bargains!

    Race IS an issue because poverty is an issue – the greatest numbers of innocent arrested/ innocent convicted are poor, and a disproportionate number of the poor are minority.

    But anyone without clout, without influence can be arrested falsely once, and, if not vigilant in pulverizing the fall out from that arrest, (and I mean pulverize) will live the rest of his or her life at much much higher risk of re-arrest.

    As for the grousing about how we deal with guilty parties in this country — I have opinions about it but don’t wish to argue them here. I think it is much, much more important to start discussing the least discussed yet very serious issues, issues that should have bi-partison support.

    Let’s stop convincing ourselves that the police aren’t fabricating arrest reports every day in this country. The fabrications are boilerplate and ludicrous. I read them all the time. I have read thousands.

    And lets start to conceive that especially among misdemeanors and infractions it can be out of control. I believe it is. Everything I see every day ratifies it. I personally have witnessed it first hand several times and have been collecting informaiton about it from others also entrenched for years. Also cops tell me it is so and that it is conventional practice. I have absolutely no doubt about it.

    Become a little disabused of these notions so more innocent people don’t have to be subjected to abuse.

    • aspacia

      The problem is that too many excuse criminal, often violent perpetrators. The black on white mob attack, the recent release of the Muslim who attacked the atheist. The liberals do a huge disservice to our youth and society by excusing bad behavior. I have never been arrested, and for the first 25 years of my life, my last name was Candelaria, brown eyes, brown hair. The only problems I encountered stemmed from my lead foot.

      Ten to one, you are guilty as sin and I doubt police would tell you squat. We have 3 detectives (two are retired ) and one retired sheriff in our family, and frankly, this is not the case.

  • eidos

    PS. A typo and to clarify one sentence.

    Typo: “The assumption is that those plea bargaining out (especially on misdemeanors) are innocent”

    Meant to say the assumption is that they are guilty, or that most of them are guilty.

    Clarification: “I have read thousands.” I have read thousands of probable cause narratives by police. I don’t know how many of them contained material fabrications.

    Final thought: As someone dissatisfied with the left and the right, I have to say, this was not an unreasonable discussion but look at the context? The headline: “Why progressives love criminals”

    and the publication’s philosophical overtones: Let’s get tough on crime!

    Is there no nuanced venue to match what at times was a nuanced discussion?

    Much of the criticism of progressives is criticism I share, and I consider myself a progressive. I have voted Republican only in one local election in my whole life.

    What I need is a populist movement on the left that discards the once extremely relevant and useful collective group-centered progressive paradigm of the civil rights era with a return to individual rights.

    As it is now, I remain with progressives because they acknowledge that innocent people are being arrested and that policing has virtually no checks and balances, and that policing is rife with false arrests. There is impunity.

    I manage to get that much out of progressives, albeit, as a white constituent/member who would get no sympathy if victimized by a crime perpetrated by a minority member.

    • aspacia

      eidos, that is right, Holder and the progressives will throw you under the bus, and ignore any violence perpetrated against you by a minority.

      Do not be foolish.

  • eidos


    I get nothing but a glimmer of loyalty towards individual rights among libetarian-minded folks on the right and otherwise, am buried under the greediest, unregulated capitalist interests where I am expected to back sending troops overseas to protect mostly corporate minded interests where the corporate interests involved can barely be described as american corporate interests beyond a piece of paper in the Delaware recording office.

    It's not enough to cause my defection.

    And Mr. Adams, although I was against closing the investigation into the New Black Panther voter rights case at DOJ, what loss is it to us when the agency is NEVER bold on civil rights enforcement, and LEAST of all color of law prosecutions?? Come Come now, what is the big loss — one prosection by an agency that does almost none anyway no matter who is in the white house or who is the attorney general.

  • eidos


    By the way, it is established that the New Black Panther Party is a hate group and is listed as such by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps a list of hate groups in the USA. It is listed right along with the KKK. The Black Panthers (The Old Black Panther Party) never approved of and do not approve of the New Black Panther Party and they are NOT related.

    As to incarceration: Will any of you care to assert a solution for the incredibly high rate of incarceration in this country and also address the draconian, ever evolving passive torture methods we are increasingly implementing, such as are used in the supermax prisons?

    The USA has had rather sadistic notions about rehabilitation since colonial times. Note that Charles Dickens was appalled at Ben Franklin's model prisons in Pennsylvania. I am sure we would not accuse Dickens of loving murderers.

    • aspacia

      A bullet for murderers with only 1 appeal. Have prisoners live in tents, plant and harvest their own food, and make their own clothes. I bet that would end the bs recidivism pecitivism rate. No more weight rooms, televisions, magazines and radio.

  • Martel64

    So-called "progressives" do NOT love ALL criminals;specifically,White criminals that are Pro-White.If they did,Matt Hale,Joseph Paul Franklin and others would be free, and holding jobs.

    Like all their mindsets, they side only with only those who BLAME WHITEY.

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