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Seeing It Up Close Has an Effect

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I noted yesterday that one reason there is such a hue-and-cry about the slap-on-the-wrist deal Ray Rice got from the prosecutor  --  after knocking his girlfriend cold  -- was that the assault had been taped, and has now been seen on TV by tens of millions of people. Nothing works like the evidence of your own eyes.  

In the past, with no tape to view, we would have been left with the defense lawyer's breezy, courthouse-steps interview to the effect that, "My client had a moment of misjudgment.  He has taken responsibility, and he and his wife would now like their privacy to move on with a life full of hope."

(I regret to find that I can now write this BS in my sleep).

When a crime can be seen, with all its violence and bullying on unfiltered display, things change.  And now there is evidence, although mostly sketchy and suggestive at this point, that, indeed, they are changing.  This is the news:

As matters of public concern, crime and security are back.
It started, I think, when we began to see the "knockout game" a few months ago, in which gangs of teenagers, mostly although not exclusively black, would punch the lights out of complete strangers, suddenly and for no reason other than that they viewed it as really nifty.

This kind of ruthless, violence-as-giddiness attack on random, innocent people was recently escalated to the Nth degree when we saw, about ten days apart, the beheading of two American journalists.  The overall circumstances were quite different from the "knockout game," to say the very least, but there are two things in common.

First, the acts were incredibly vicious and unprovoked; all the left wing thundering about the sins of the Untied States, at home and abroad, pales into nothingness when you see how deliberate and callous these episodes were.

Second and at least equally important, they were on TV.  No fuzzed-over, antiseptic version by the defense bar or their academic shills could succeed in sweeping them under the rug.  

So what has happened as a result?

A couple of things.  The televised reports I've seen suggest that President Obama and his advisers were strongly influenced by the taped beheadings and the public's alarm about and revulsion to them.  The President has been reluctant to escalate military involvement in the Middle East, and it is not my point here to criticize him for changing course.  The point is different:  When it comes to the public's reaction to thuggishness, it's simply about using your eyeballs.  Seeing up close what violent criminals do is a game-changer.  Normal people are shocked by what we've seen, and their shock is so deep it's being felt even in normally somnambulant Washington.

The second result is that there is abroad in the land an increasingly uneasy feeling about security and crime. This is something we haven't seen for many years. What caught my attention in particular was this excerpt from Molly Ball  --  a pretty much die-hard liberal  --  in the Atlantic:

Less than two months before the midterm elections, American voters are frightened and unsettled by conditions in the U.S. and around the world....Most strikingly, the women in both [focus] groups expressed pervasive worry about violence. From the Islamic State to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, to local crime and school shootings, these concerns were at the top of their minds.

This emphasis on security was a departure from previous groups, many of which I've covered in the past few years, in which economic anxiety has overwhelmingly dominated. Neil Newhouse, the Republican half of the bipartisan team of pollsters conducting the study, said he'd never heard that sense of instability from voters before. Margie Omero, his Democratic counterpart, concurred: "There was so much more salience on crime and safety than I've heard in a long time, and it broke across racial lines."

This is only a straw in the wind, but I think it a significant straw indeed.  For "smarter sentencing" advocates, relatively low crime  --  and the complacency and forgetfulness that come with it  --  has been their petri dish, their best ally, and their surest cover story.

It's extremely unfortunate that more crime, and the grief and alarm it brings, is what revives the public's understanding that crime has not been, and will not be, dealt with by libertarian breast-beating or liberal wishful thinking.  It will be dealt with by having a clear vision  --  literally  --  of the realities the thugs of this world bring into our living rooms, and the resolve to deal with them. 

1 Comment

I think it is easy to have an "out of sight, out of mind" attitude towards violent crime and it sometimes takes something graphic or personal to help remember that some people out there are just plain dangerous (I personally do not like the word evil as I find it to be too religious in nature but "dangerous" is the best atheist synonym I can think of) and need to be kept away from the rest of us.

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