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The Power of Whinerism

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The subject of this post is not specifically about criminal law, but its undertow is very much about the direction in which criminal law is headed.

The subject is Whinerism.  Whinerism is liberal braying about whatever group the Left elects to portray as "victims."  Criminals, and particularly drug pushers, are a Big Thing on the Whinerism agenda just now, see, e.g., the Smarter Sentencing Act and Eric Holder's clemency initiative.  But football Sunday brings to mind another item high on Whinerism's list:  Changing the name of the Washington Redskins.
The Washington Post, a laundry list of pro-"reform" Senators and none other than Eric Holder have demanded that the name "Redskins" be abolished because it is  -- have you heard this before?  --  insensitive.  Offensive. At least if you're into the Racial Balkanization of Everything, and are looking to take offense in order to grab the moral high ground and bully your adversaries into submission in the wildly ironic name of tolerance.

The anti-Redskins opinion is not shared by the Redskins' owner, the players, the team's fans, NFL fans generally, the American public, or a majority of Native Americans for that matter.

The problem, as is so often the case with Whinerism, is that the elite in the press and academia think that what they take to be their advanced "sensitivities" should dominate everyone else, and that if you're not yoked to their cart, you're a racist.

This is the same deal we hear over and over again with everything from the death penalty to criminal justice "reform."  Evidence, for example, that the death penalty is just, and that the crimes for which it's imposed are ghastly, simply does not count. The nature of the crime might be mentioned as a parenthetical on the way to denouncing retentionists as morons or sadists  --  or it might not be  -- but that's it.

Ditto with sentencing "reform."  The fact that prison works, and that this has been proved by more than a half century of statistics, is dismissed or minimized (or lied about, we wouldn't want to forget that one).  The fact that inmates earn their way into prison with greed-driven behavior they could easily avoid is likewise considered unmentionable or troglodyte. Criminals, you see, are victims. They are, as progressives now say, "the other," namely, people who are "marginalized" only because of the callousness of Very Uninteresting Bourgeois Dolts like..........well, like you.  And me.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't think that the name of a pro football team has much if anything to do with the subject matter of a criminal law blog.  But I have been taught better. The Redskins name controversy has a whole lot to do with the ascendancy of Whinerism, and the ascendancy of Whinerism, most unfortunately, has a great deal to do with the future of criminal law.

16 Comments

I agree, but the only victim of all of this are the Redskins fans who have to deal with the shoddy product Daniel Snyder puts on the field. Go Seahawks!

How do you decide, Bill, whose "whines" and which "victims" are legitimate or not? Let us stick with football to probe you views here:

1. There have been a lot more complaints about domestic violence in the wake of the Ray Rice matter. Are DV victims really victims in your view, or are they just whining?

2. There is now much litigation over football and concussions/brain injury suffered by NFL players. Are NFL players with brain injuries true victims in your view, or are they just whining?

3. There is now much discussion over college football players not being significantly compensated for playing. Are college football players victims in your view, or are they just whining?

I ask these questions in part to see the role political perspectives play in your analysis. I am inclined to suspect you consider justified and noble (not "whining") any and all vocal/persistent complaints you agree with --- e.g., about Obamacare, about gun control, about anything Eric Holder does in office. But then you quickly label as Whinerism those vocal/persistent complaints with which you disagree.

For what it is worth, I do believe that there is way too much "braying" in modern public discourse. But I fear this is largely a result of a free-market media and political parties having discovered that politically-driven "whining" --- on both the far left and the far right --- helps generate attention and ratings and resources.

Douglas asked:

"1. There have been a lot more complaints about domestic violence in the wake of the Ray Rice matter. Are DV victims really victims in your view, or are they just whining?"

To the extent they are being hypercritical of the NFL, yes, they are whining. DV has gone down in the NFL since Goodell took control. An NFL player is half as likely as others in the same age demographic to commit a DV crime. NFL players commit a fraction of the crimes as the rest of their age demographic.

"2. There is now much litigation over football and concussions/brain injury suffered by NFL players. Are NFL players with brain injuries true victims in your view, or are they just whining?"

Whining. There is not an NFL player who did not know the dangers of the game and chose to play anyway.

"3. There is now much discussion over college football players not being significantly compensated for playing. Are college football players victims in your view, or are they just whining?"

Whining. A free education and they know the deal when they enroll at a university. No one forces them to play (unlike China).

Doug --

"How do you decide, Bill, whose 'whines' and which 'victims' are legitimate or not?"

Here are some helpful hints: Arrogance, bullying and refusal to acknowledge responsibility for your own situation.

"There have been a lot more complaints about domestic violence in the wake of the Ray Rice matter. Are DV victims really victims in your view, or are they just whining?"

Tarlsqtr gives an apt answer, to which I would add only a bit.

It depends on the facts of the case. If the man has knocked the woman cold, then she is a victim and he is a criminal who belongs in the slammer. This is true even if -- ready now? -- he's an African American, and thus presumptively immune from incarceration because, as so many of your commenters would have it, the country is a shameful, disgusting, racist quagmire that has already imprisoned vastly too many black men.

If, on the other hand, the man has merely established his own bank account, then, no, that is not "domestic violence," contrary to what I heard just this weekend from some radical feminist freak -- the kind of freak you get when Whinerism is full-throated (as it is, for example, in the smarter sentencing movement).

"There is now much litigation over football and concussions/brain injury suffered by NFL players. Are NFL players with brain injuries true victims in your view, or are they just whining?"

Mostly whiners. They got paid far, far more than the average Joe to go into the business of colliding regularly with 300-pound men in their twenties. They didn't know doing such a thing could and often would produce injury???

"There is now much discussion over college football players not being significantly compensated for playing. Are college football players victims in your view, or are they just whining?"

They are among the worst Whiners around. It truly takes the Major Whiner Mentality even to imagine that college jocks could be "victims." They get everything paid for, are campus heroes, and have a good (shall we say) social life that every other guy on campus can only envy.

This is being a victim?

PLEASE, MAKE ME A VICTIM!!!

Glad to hear you think most football players, and not liberals, are among the biggest Whiners.

One most question: how about "whining" about paying too much in taxes to support parts of government one does not like and thinks does not work well? That is the basis for my support for smarter sentencing, but it seems to put me in the same basic group as most of those involved with the Taxed Enough Already crowd.

Of course, I would say we are all engaged in political and social discourse, but you seem to like the label Whinerism. So I continue to want to be sure I can speak on your terms effectively.

Thanks.

Doug --

"Glad to hear you think most football players, and not liberals, are among the biggest Whiners."

MOST football players? Where are you getting that? Among football players (pro and college together, since you referred to both), it's only a small minority who are suing for injuries or wanting to get salaries for playing. Where's the documentation that "most" football players are in those categories?

"One mo[re] question: how about 'whining' about paying too much in taxes to support parts of government one does not like and thinks does not work well?"

Only you could not possibly think that incarceration doesn't "work well." You've never to my knowledge disputed that it works fine as punishment, and its incapacitating effect on criminals is beyond serious dispute, given the crime figures over the last fifty (not to mention over the last five) years.

"Of course, I would say we are all engaged in political and social discourse, but you seem to like the label Whinerism."

I like the label Whinerism because it fits for those who refuse to take responsibility for their behavior and its consequences, and instead constantly (and poisonously) disparage people who disagree with them -- people they blithely, repeatedly and scurrilously brand as racist or Nazi or kapo. And they do this, not merely to insult them, but to silence them.

So much for "political and social discourse."

Good point, Bill, that I should be precise and say you call only some football players Whiners (though I suspect most college players would be eager to get paid for their service). Do you likewise think it is only some on the left who are Whiners or do you think most or all liberal merit this label?

Meanwhile, it is true that incarceration "works" in depriving people of liberty, just like the death penalty "works" in depriving people of life. But that fact is not alone enough to justify mass use of these costly punishments on efficacy grounds

What evidence do you have that incarceration for drug crimes reduces drug dealing or use? I trust you know there is considerable evidence showing prison INCREASES the likelihood of recidivism for certain offenders, and these are the offenders whom I think we ought not have the government spending lots of money to punish them in ways that statistics show makes them more dangerous.

I know you stress violent crime rates to support your "works" claim, but what about drug crime rates? And what about drunk driving rates/crashes, which we have lowered with relying only on costly incarceration? No one calls for no incarceration, just for a smarter approach concerning who we incarcerate and for how long.

I agree that we have too much vilification in public discourse, but the I try to address this problem by seeking to set a higher standard rather than devising new label (e.g., Whiners) to disparage those with who I disagree.

Finally, Bill, you still have not answered my question: are those who complain about high taxes and government programming they dislike "whiners" in your view?

I have to disagree on the concussion and college athletes getting paid part.

I think there is a decent amount of evidence that the NFL was aware of some of the long term problems from successive concussions and that information was withheld from the players. I think it is incorrect to say the players especially from the 80s on back were fully informed as to the long term effects of concussions.

As to paying college players, there is not any organization in the United States more hypocritical and corrupt than the NCAA. Big time college football is big business and to deny the players any financial benefit from the massive profits they produce is just plain wrong. I suggest if you disagree, at least read the Judge Wilken's statement of decision in O'Bannon v. NCAA to see how weak the NCAA's case was.

I am not surprised the DV hysteria is overblown. As always there are a few bad apples, but that is true in any large organization.

Doug --

1. I don't demand that you be precise. Just accurate will do. The statement that I described "most" football players as whiners is not so much imprecise as it is wildly inaccurate.

That is also true, while we're at it, of your statement that I call whiners whiners simply because I dislike them or their views. This trivializes my arguments as matters of mere thoughtless taste. That's not so -- although that characterization of the views of conservatives is becoming increasingly frequent, and is a facilitator of the next step, to wit, insulting them as racists and Nazis.

2. I believe I've already said what differentiates whiners from responsible advocates: arrogance, bullying, and refusal to acknowledge (much less take) responsibility for one's own actions. I might add a fourth, now that I think of it: a strong self-serving and clubbish quality. Those pushing "smarter" sentencing are, by-and-large (1) the defense bar, (2) pro-criminal think tanks like the Sentencing Project and HRW, (3) adjudicated criminals themselves, some of whom openly comment on your blog, (4) hard Left politicians playing to their contributors, e.g., Shelia Jackson Lee, and (5) academia, where pro-defense advocacy is decidedly in and pro-accountability advocacy (except for the police, where accountability is popular indeed), is decidedly out.

Basically, whining and its now-closely associated scurrilous (if routine) accusations of racism, sexism, classism and all the rest are used as battering rams to insult and, as I have noted, silence the opposition. Thus does mere (though very annoying) Whinerism become liberal fascism.

Whinerism is, not coincidentally, used to stoke guilt and shame in the white majority and in males, and thereby facilitate shoveling tax dollars to one Whiner cause after the next. I think you can guess who winds up with these tax dollars in their pocket. You can start with Eric Holder's good buddy, Al Sharpton.

3. It is wonderfully symptomatic of how skewed the debate has become that you mention the costs of the death penalty and incarceration without ever mentioning, or even vaguely hinting, that just desserts might be involved in there somewhere. Indeed, the notion that criminals should take even slight responsibility for their fate simply seems to have disappeared.

I think this accounts for a good deal of your negative views about my analysis of Whinerism. People have A CHOICE whether to commit crime. I never once met a criminal who did it because he needed to put food on the table. Not once. They do it to make a fast buck, period. They have a shriveled conscience and little or no empathy for their victims, be it some old couple they fleeced (non-violently, of course) or the teenage addict they sold the hit to.

When people make a choice to get money the easy way by engaging behavior they know full well is both socially destructive and illegal, and then bellow that it's Everybody Else's Fault But Not Theirs, that is Whinerism. I will continue to call it by its name, and to call its spokesman by theirs.

4. There's more to say, but at this hour, I need to stop.

Glad you have more to say, Bill, because I have more questions along with prior questions still unanswered.

1. I got it now that you think "arrogance, bullying, and refusal to acknowledge (much less take) responsibility for one's own actions" are the key facets of Whinerism. But I am still wondering about whether you think some/many/most folks involved with the Tea Party movement merit this label. I know plenty of folks who see arrogance, bullying and refusal to take responsibility coming from the likes of Senator Ted Cruz, especially when he helped force a government shut-down last year. Similarly, these characteristics surely have a part in vocal complaints about Obamacare and gun control. I need you to explain whether you think some folks whose views you like also could be reasonably called Whiners in order for me to know if I am wrong in fearing that you apply this label only to those you disagreeing with.

2. I know you know that there is an (ever growing) group of prominent folks on the right pushing smarter sentencing, including Senators Lee and Paul as well as the Right on Crime folks that include conservatives ranging from Ed Meese to Newt Gingrich to Grover Norquist to Ken Cuccinelli. So you think these folks are all Whiners, too. That you do not mention all this support for smarter sentencing in your complaints about Whiners reinforces my view that you use this label only to describe those whose views you always dispute, not those whose views you sometimes embrace.

3. The smarter sentencing act is, in my view, about getting more bang for our tax dollars in the criminal justice system, not about "just deserts." I know lots of folks support long prison sentences and the death penalty based on retributivist views, and I respect there perspectives. But, at least for me, smarter sentencing is about less government an wiser use of limited tax dollars. Ergo, any discussion of just desserts (or folks who whine about retributivism) would be a distinct conversation.

4. I hope your "more to say" will include some effort to provide data to indicate that the expensive drug war has had much/some/any success in reducing drug crimes.

Doug --

You're a better politician than you give yourself credit for. You've learned the old Obama/Clinton trick of staying on offense.

This blog is not about the Tea Party or opposition to Obamacare, although those are favorite targets of liberals like yourself (this is when you're not donning your libertarian garb and heading in the opposite direction).

Whenever a Tea Party person, like Ted Cruz for example, supports the SSA, he is, in your accounting, a thoughtful visionary. But when he, in your opinion, helps force the shutdown to make a point of government deficits, he morphs into at least a prospective Whiner, and I am solicited for my opinion of How Awful He Must Be.

Well, that's nifty, I guess, but the stay-on-offense strategy tends not to work with me, in part because I've dealt with it before. So instead of discussing the Democratic Party's favorite election-time boogeymen (especially since the Koch Brothers seem to be running out of steam and the Senate looks increasingly grim for the Dems), let's try to stay on the criminal law-related topic discussed in this entry.

To reiterate, here it is: Criminals don't steal and sell drugs or swindle or all the rest of the stuff they do because they need to. They do it almost always because they want to make a quick buck, don't want a regular job, have little or no empathy for the victim, and think rules are for suckers.

Do you disagree with that? I really would like to know. I often think you know it's true but strongly prefer not to say so out loud, lest the Reigning Ideology get poked.

That is how I see them, however. Seen in that light, when they go ahead with their criminality borne of greed and callousness, knowing that what they're doing is against the law, and almost always knowing that the penalties can be severe -- and then, when caught, yelp endlessly that The System Needs To Change Because I'm Just A Poor ______ (fill in your favorite Whiner group) and You People Are Mean Spirited Exploitative One Percenters -- when that happens, do you really think they deserve to be called something other than Whiners?

Do you not recognize the concept of whining? Do you not recognize the difference between complaining about grossly illegitimate behavior YOU CAN CHANGE ALL BY YOURSELF (crime) and legitimate political debate you plausibly think is right (Tea Party activism)?

Doug --

Now that I have some time, I'll respond a bit more.

-- "I know you know that there is an (ever growing) group of prominent folks on the right pushing smarter sentencing, including Senators Lee and Paul as well as the Right on Crime folks that include conservatives ranging from Ed Meese to Newt Gingrich to Grover Norquist to Ken Cuccinelli. So you think these folks are all Whiners, too."

First, could you show me where Ed Meese has endorsed or implied endorsement of the SSA or the JSVA? Because I sure missed that.

As to the others, I think they're a bunch of things, ranging from mistaken (Mike Lee); crass, opportunistic campaigners (Rand Paul); over-the-hill serial husbands and PR hounds (Gingrich); tunnel visioned (Grover Norquist, who has zero knowledge of criminal law); and, yes, whiners (Cuccinelli).

-- "The smarter sentencing act is, in my view, about getting more bang for our tax dollars in the criminal justice system, not about 'just deserts.'"

Would you mind if I quote you on that for the next few years? Or should I just imitate that reasoning by saying, "The Reduction in Funds for the Post-Conviction Innocence Research Act is, in my view, about getting more bang for our tax dollars in the criminal justice system, not about 'just deserts.'"


Not that the SSA is about bang for the buck, either. At the same time the SSA backers are pushing the "let's-save-money" argument, they are eagerly pushing more and more expensive sentencing commissions (a favorite of yours), more money for rehab, and vastly more tax money to funnel Obamacare and other services to the inmates you would release. Indeed, you have put up more than one entry urging such increased spending.

The fiscal argument is nothing but a smokescreen designed to lure gullible conservatives, of whom there are, unfortunately, lots. (But not enough to get the SSA anywhere but out of Committee, and even that small step only in one chamber).

-- "I hope your 'more to say' will include some effort to provide data to indicate that the expensive drug war has had much/some/any success in reducing drug crimes."

You make a good point -- better than you know. Let me follow that logic.

Since, between 1960 and about 1990, the murder rate shot up, the War on Murder was a failure, and laws against murder should be repealed.

Since, between 1960 and about 1990, the robbery rate shot up, the War on Robbery was a failure, and laws against robbery should be repealed.

Etcetera.

Or, of course, there are those of us who think that a battle against behavior having grossly adverse social consequences -- behavior like drug use, for example -- is a battle worth fighting EVEN IF IT'S HARD.

Bill, this post was about Whinerism, not about whether I think criminal are bad people. I generally think criminals are bad people who can and should change their way and that punishment should try to help ensure those ways are changed. But the issue with the SSA and other sentencing reform discussions is what kind of punishment and how much are sensible and healthy in a society committed to limited government and personal freedom. In light of those commitments, I want to make sure we get the most for our taxpayer dollars while punishing (as do lots of the the folks on the right you are eager to disparage on this front). I also what to get the most from our bucks in other settings, too, and that is why you can and should feel free to assume I will support you in criticizing any and all expensive and ineffective government programming.

The reasons I keep pressing on here concerning who you consider to be whiners is because you have coined a term, and I am trying to understand what you mean by it and how you would apply it. You tell me I was wrong to say you use the term whinerism only for those whose views you dislike. But when I ask if you would apply this term to some Obamacare opponents or Tea Party types --- and I believe I have now asked this question four times in this thread --- you continue to avoid providing an answer. This, in turn, reinforces my sense that you view those who disagree with you are mostly whiners while you view those who agree with you as involved in legitimate political debate. That is fine, but it shows that "whining" is a political judgment, not an objective description, as you use the term. That is all I was hoping to discover and establish.

One last point: you know (or should know) that alcohol Prohibition --- not murder or robbery --- is the more accurate parallel to the story of the drug war. Murder and robbery causes direct harms to others, whereas booze and drugs are just risky items when used irresponsibly (much like guns and cars which can be used in murders and robberies). And when we repealed alcohol Prohibition, alcohol became safer and our streets did, too.

I am hoping repeal of extreme parts of drug prohibition might have similar benefits as the repeal of alcohol Prohibition, though a lot of this is contingent on a lot of societal factors. And, of course, folks like you who favor big brother/government paternalism in this arena have done an impressive job keep tough drug prohibition going strong many times longer than alcohol Prohibition.

Let me take one more shot at this, since I'm apparently not getting through.

In the context of crime and punishment, a "Whiner" is a person, or an ally or spokesman for a person, who incurs punishment because of his own, usually greed-driven criminal choices, then relentlessly insists that -- despite the fact that he could have averted the problem by more empathetic and responsible decision-making -- he's not accountable, only the system is accountable.

This is very frequently accompanied by portrayals of himself as the victim of some adverse social force(s) set in motion by callous (though employed and productive) people in society. Because he is the "victim" of these forces, he occupies a morally superior position, a position from which to demand changes in the behavior of those other people, said changes usually being that they give him stuff rather than punish him.

The other people, however, are portrayed not as actual victims (say, victims of assault, rape or theft, etc.), but victimizers, whose callousness/racism/indifference is the true cause (or "root cause") of the defendant's plight.

Given this situation, the defendant and those allied with him and his cause are entitled to lecture society about (1) his blamelessness (if not Jean Valjean-like virtue), and (2) society's selfishness and culpability for his plight. The idea that the defendant himself should take responsibility and/or show humility is simply off the board.

The theory and practice of all this is Whinerism, and the people giving the self-righteous, blame-shifting lectures are the Whiners.

Doug,

Let me just ask this: When defendants and defense counsel routinely minimize their own responsibility, and equally routinely inflate the responsibility of everyone and everything else, from their mother to their boss to racism and militarism, do you really not see Whinerism in that?

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