Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Witch Hunts in Contemporary America: Is the United States Turning Into a Fascist Country?

The question above is one we would normally associate with a liberal column (or hysterics) and dismiss with a sigh or a smirk. It is therefore with profound sadness that I confess that the title is mine, with no irony intended.

Indeed, if I were not of the optimistic type, I would have titled this post Has America (Already) Turned Into a Fascist State? Like many conservatives, I assume, I have been more of the optimistic type, thinking that conservatives lovers of liberty were winning the battle of ideas against the liberals statists, or at least doing a pretty good job of holding their own.

It is therefore highly distressing to discover a book that not only says that conservatives are losing — scratch that; that Americans and lovers of liberty are losing the war but that they have hardly been aware of the main battle in the first place, which has swept by under their (under our) noses.

We thought that feminism was all (or mostly) about "date rape and sexual harassment" and the like, and we believed (or at least hoped) that perhaps the term "feminazis" was slightly exaggerated, finding the gals (and their male allies) slightly inoffensive and amusing; and so it is that we find our society has been warped and hamstrung for the past 30 years by related, if unrecognized, hysterics — with the government and the law on the side of the feminists (i.e., the statists and the state interventionists). What is double maddening (as we can read in the second and third next-to-last paragraphs) is how the bleeding-hearted liberals deliberately (if unconsciously (?)) create poverty and add ever more people to the ranks of the poor.

By fascist, naturally, I don't mean the popular meaning used by liberals, i.e., to "describe anything outside the control of the state". No, I mean just the opposite, the type described by Jonah Goldberg in his Liberal Fascism:
Fascism, at its core, is the view that every nook and cranny of society should work together in spiritual union toward the same goals overseen by the state. "Everything in the State, nothing outside the State," is how Mussolini defined it. Mussolini coined the word "totalitarian" to describe not a tyrannical society but a humane one in which everyone is taken care of and contributes equally. It was an organic concept in which every class, every individual, was part of the larger whole.
In that respect, I call upon Stephen Baskerville's Taken Into Custody (The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family) which I have been reading for the past couple of weeks, during which time I have been feeling ever more down, pessimistic, depressed, all the while trying not to "tremble for my nation". Just read what Baskerville reports from the trenches (emphasis in bold mine):
…the ideologues who control organized feminism today have found that the penal apparatus provides an effective instrument for waging gender warfare on the most personal level, institutionalizing feminist ideology within private life, and criminalizing individual men (and sometimes women) who fail to measure up to the feminist ideal of ideologically correct behavior in their private lives…

Child custody is not the only area where feminists have discovered they can commandeer the criminal justice system to punish ideologically incorrect private behavior, and certainly it is not the best known. Their agenda in more politically salient issues such as date rape and sexual harassment has commanded far more media and scholarly attention (where it is frequently characterized as "totalitarian"). "Feminism today, in its erasure of the boundaries between public and private, is writing a new chapter in the dystopian tradition of surveillance and unfreedom," observes Daphne Patai, "… whereby one's every gesture, every thought, is exposed to the judgment of one's fellow citizens."

Yet while the trends are connected, the intrusive tendencies of law governing sexual harassment or date rape are minor compared to the invasiveness government-enforced feminism has already realized in family law. Yet this receives no comparable scrutiny from critics of feminism, let alone from the mainstream media or civil libertarians. As recently as 1996 a scholarly critique of "feminine jurisprudence" did not address family law at all. Nevertheless, we were warned then that "through the use of civil rather than criminal law for purposes of censorship, and under the guise of legislating equality, large areas of speech are becoming per se illegal, unbeknownst to the majority of Americans."

Ostensibly scientific feminist scholarship is similarly revealing. Fathers trying to see their children following unproven accusations is described as "further violence" and the "threat of kidnapping"; simply responding to court proceedings is described as "violence." One highly influential feminist scholar claims to have examined 100,000 cases where women "reported" that "the batterer threatened to kidnap their children," "batterers had threatened legal custody action," and "the battering man used court-ordered visitation as an occasion to continue verbal and emotional abuse of the woman." This is not violence; it is fathers trying to recover their children through the same legal process by which their children were removed and which, in most cases, they themselves did not initiate.

What we confront here is a bureaucratic machine of a kind that has never before been seen in the United States or the other English-speaking democracies. … The implications reach far beyond fathers and even beyond the family itself, for forcibly severing the intimate bond between parents and their children threatens the liberties of all of us. "The right to one's own children … is perhaps the most basic individual right," writes Susan Shell, "so basic we hardly think of it." By establishing a private sphere of life from which the state is excluded, family bonds also serve as the foundation of a free society. "No known society treats the question of who may properly call a child his or her own as simply … a matter to be decided entirely politically as one might distribute land or wealth," Shell continues.

To understand what is at work here, it is necessary to examine and discard some legal jargon that serves more to obfuscate than to illuminate. Foremost is the term "custody," which I have adopted in my title. Common sense notions of young children needing their mother — along with the mistaken belief that fathers are behind the dissolution of most marriages — lead many people to accept the overwhelming bias towards mothers in custody decisions. But it is important to understand that "custody" is not the right to parent one's children; it is the power to prevent someone else from parenting his children and to marshal the penal apparatus — courts, police, and jails — to ensure he stays away from them. [Similarly, it would be more correct to speak of plundered pops than deadbeat dads.]

…Contrary to popular belief (and centuries of common-law precedent), child support today has nothing to do with fathers abandoning their children, reneging on their marital vows, of even agreeing to a divorce. It is automatically assessed on all non-custodial parents, even those divorced over their objections and who lose their children through no legal fault or agreement of their own. It is an entitlement, in short, for all divorcing mothers

child support is no longer primarily a method for requiring men to take responsibility for the offspring they have sired and then abandoned, as most people are led to believe. Overwhelmingly it is now a regime whereby "a father is forced to finance the filching of his own children."

…Ironically, the one thing that cannot be debated in the court is legal guilt or innocence — such as violating the marriage contract or leveling false accusations. For to admit the most rudimentary notions of justice would be to undermine the logic of the proceeding.

In the jargon of family law, faithfully parroted by the media and academia, this father has "lost custody," a simple and harmless enough sounding formulation of events, so common as to be mundane. But this jargon disguises far-reaching implications. In plain English, this father's unauthorized association with his own children is now a crime.

the media will go to any lengths to avoid admitting that we are in a massive epidemic of government-sponsored child stealing. So pervasive is the demonization of fathers today that fathers themselves share in it even after they have become its victims. "It is typical for a man to believe … the media myth of the Evil Male," writes Robert Seidenberg. "While he knows that he is a great father himself, he thinks everybody else is a deadbeat dad."

The growth of this machinery has been accompanied by a huge propaganda campaign that has served to justify punitive measures against citizens who are not convicted of any crime. "is there a species on the planet who is more unjustly maligned than fathers?" writes columnist Naomi Lakritz. "Fathers are abusers, bullies, deadbeats, molesters, and all-around sexist clods who have a lot of gall wanting a relationship with their children once the initial moment of conception is over."

… "The overwhelming majority of so-called 'dead-beat dads' are just judicially created," says [an] attorney. "Why all this talk about so-called 'deadbeat dads'? Because there is a lot of money to be made through that myth." … Contrary to highly publicized but inaccurate figures on the cost of divorce to women, peer-reviewed economic research concluded that "it is the non-custodial parent, usually the father, who suffers the most [from divorce]."

…The December 1999 issue of Government Executive, a trade journal that describes itself as "government's business magazine" representing public and private bureaucracies, ran a cover story that blared out, "Where's Dad? HHS is leading a forceful change to make deadbeat parents pay up." … Strikingly, the article never addressed its own question, the most likely answer being that Dad is being kept away by the government.

…"We're ratcheting up the pressure on these deadbeats," Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano tells the New York Post, which allows its pages to be used to publicly "shame" citizens who have been convicted of no crime by publishing their photograph. Were these citizens wanted for murder, they would be described as "suspects," but the government and media have already convicted them.

…social scientists have found that as much as 95 percent of fathers having no unemployment problems for the previous five years pay their ordered child support regularly, and that 81 percent paid in full and on time. Columnist Kathleen Parker concluded that "the 'deadbeat dad' is an egregious exaggeration, a caricature of a few desperate men who for various reasons — sometimes pretty good ones — fail to hand over their paycheck, assuming they have one." Deborah Simmons of the Washington Times observes that "there is scant evidence that crackdowns … serve any purpose other than to increase the bank accounts of those special-interest groups pushing enforcement."

…The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement and its state affiliates now maintain an army of some 60,000 enforcement agents (13 times that of the Drug Enforcement Administration, which has about 4,600 agents worldwide) … What may be most striking about this police mobilization is that the initiative has come entirely from government officials. No public outcry ever preceded these measures, nor did any public perception of such a problem exist until government officials began saying they did … Needless to say, the voices of pursued parents are seldom heard amid the chorus of condemnation. The bipartisan certainty of their guilt is sufficient to set aside their right to trial and declare them public enemies by general acclaim. Yet there is reason to believe that this problem is largely an optical illusion and that what is being portrayed as irresponsible fathers is in reality a massive abuse of government power.

What is taking place here should be made very clear: Citizens who are completely innocent of any legal wrongdoing and simply minding their own business — not seeking any litigation and neither convicted nor accused of any legal infraction, criminal or civil — are ordered into court and told to write checks to officials of the court or they will be summarily arrested and jailed. Judges also order citizens to sell their houses and other property and turn proceeds over to lawyers and other cronies they never hired. Summoning legally unimpeachable citizens to court and forcing them to empty their bank accounts to people they have neither hired for services they have requested nor received on threat of physical punishment is what most people would call a protection racket. Were any other public officials to use their position of public trust to coerce money out of private citizens, they would likely face indictment. Yet family court judges do this as a matter of routine. This is by far the clearest example I have ever encountered in my professional research of what we political scientists term a "kleptocracy," or government by thieves.

The regime of involuntary divorce, forcible removal of children, coerced child support, and knowingly false accusations is now warping our entire legal system, undermining and overturning principles of common law that have protected individual rights for centuries. The presumption of innocence has been inverted

…It is always tempting to dismiss such violations as aberrations, the result of excess by a few overzealous officials, since civil and human rights are violated be every government, even in democracies. Yet considered in the light of constitutional principle, the destruction of ancient protections is clearly systematic with the nation's family courts and endemic to a governmental regime whose very existence is predicated and dependent on the power to remove children from their parents. Far from simple violations of particular constitutional clauses, these practices and powers are undermining constitutional government in its most fundamental principles. The power to take children from their parents for no reason is arbitrary government at its most intrusive, since it invades and obliterates all of private life. Yet we have created a governmental machinery that exists for no other purpose.

…But what may be most insidious — because it undermines the material foundations of constitutional government — is when systematic means are mobilized to finance unconstitutional government operations. Like any system of accountable government, the divorce regime can only be sustained so long as it can be paid for. This is the effect of the system of child support, coerced on pain of incarceration whose children have been seized by the courts literally through "no fault" of their own.

…The federal funding also supplies an added incentive to make guidelines as onerous as possible and to squeeze every dollar from every parent available (as well as to turn as many parents as possible into payers by providing financial incentives for mothers to divorce)…

Perhaps most destructive is that this federal funding is subsidizing middle-class divorce and fatherless children. "While the new measures resulted in virtually no measurable improvement in the lives of impoverished single-mother families,' [Robert] Seidenberg points out, "it did create a windfall of income for middle-class and upper-middle-class divorced women." Misleadingly promoted as a measure to help poor children whose mostly young and unmarried fathers had allegedly abandoned them, the new laws ended up as a means to plunder middle-aged and middle-class fathers who had done no such thing and whose children were taken from them through literally "no fault" or agreement of their own. Empirical evidence indicates that this is precisely the effect. Economist Robert Willis calculates that child-support levels vastly exceeding the cost of raising children creates "an incentive for divorce by the custodial mother. His analysis indicates that only between one-fifth and one-third of child-support payments are actually used for the children; the rest is profit for the custodial parent. "We believe that this recent entitlement," write two other scholars, "… has led to the destruction of families by creating financial incentives to divorce [and] the prevention of families by creating financial incentives not to marry upon conceiving a child."

This simply extends well-established findings that increased welfare payments result in increased divorce. In this case, however, a dimension of law enforcement is added, which effectively becomes a system of federal divorce enforcement … In other words, a mother can simply escape the uncertainties, vicissitudes, and compromises inherent to life shared with a working husband by divorcing, whereupon she acquires the police as a private collection agency who will force him, at gunpoint if necessary, to pay her the family income that she then controls alone.

…The pursuit of these fathers by armed federal agents has now reached the dimensions of a national witch hunt, by far the most extensive this country has ever seen … A look at the government machinery reveals that it was created not in response to claims of widespread nonpayment but before them, and that it was less a response to "deadbeat dads" than a mechanism to create them.

Men who are truly intent on abandoning their progeny have little difficulty in disappearing; it is fathers who want to see their children who allow themselves to be snared. This may reveal the cruelest and most cynical side of the child-support machine: its willingness to use a father's love for his children to plunder and destroy him.…

To the question of why so many ejected fathers are unemployed or penurious, this is not to difficult to answer once one understands how the courts operate. Once the children are separated from their father, neither the courts nor the bureaucracy has much incentive to ensure his continued solvency — indeed, a solvent father is a threat — so they can happily reduce him to penury. After all, a fresh supply of fathers is constantly being brought into the system. The myopia was starkly illustrated during periodic controversies over whether to give child support priority over other debts in bankruptcy proceedings, when noone stops to ask the obvious question of why so many allegedly well-heeled "deadbeats" were going through bankruptcy in the first place…

To what extent child support is responsible for the very poverty it is claimed to alleviate is unclear. It has long been known that the vast majority of the homeless are male. Widespread anecdotal evidence suggests that family courts may be partially responsible for their plight.

Do these questions matter? Yes, they do matter, because in these questions lies the difference between a father who is pursued because he has abandoned his children and a father who is pursued because he refuses to abandon his children. Courts exist to dispense justice against those who violate the law or agreements. When they abandon this role to become a "social service delivery system" it is much more likely that the justice and penal systems will be perverted to persecute the innocent.
Update: “We’re from the Government, and We’re Here to End Your Marriage”; Ces parents qui tuent leurs enfants quand ils se séparent in Le Monde; Breaking the French Family Up Even More By Giving Parental Rights to the Step-Parent; Au Japon, la garde partagée est un combat in Le Monde

Update 2: Protecting Children by Empowering Parents: check out the Parental Rights website…

Update 3: A truly new kind of politics, the most personal and thus potentially the most total ever devised: the politics of private life and sexual relations

Update 4: An Exposé of the Family Court System: Parents Have a Right to the Care, Custody, and Companionship of Their Children

Update 5: A Legal System Run Amok: The Violence Against Women Act includes a definition of domestic violence that is so wide you could drive a Mack truck through it

Update 6 by Phyllis Schlafly: Marriage is being assaulted by unilateral divorce, feminist hostility toward marriage, the bias of family courts against fathers, and the taxpayer-paid financial incentives that subsidize illegitimate births

Update 7 by a feminist veteran of the 1980s fight for the rights of a woman to be believed (which brought about a culture of “women don’t lie”) whose perspective changed somewhat when her own son was falsely accused decades later of attempted sexual assault: If you think that women don’t lie to get back at men, how naive can you be? And who is going to protect our sons? (Related: "More than 30 percent of [Baltimore's rape] cases investigated by detectives each year are deemed unfounded")

Update 8 by Phyllis Schlafly: Federal and state laws and subsidies that undermine marriage are the biggest fiscal as well as cultural issue of our times

Update 9: Frustrated with years of exasperating distress thanks to the divorce industry, a father sets himself on fire on the steps of a New Hampshire courthouse; Tom Ball's Last Statement: "The only thing you really have in this world is your family"; Now, thanks to the government, neither we nor our children have that

Update 10: Father's Day should be a call to action

Update 11: Ignored in the Facebook Killer story: the divorce industry's contribution to the father going bonkers in the first place ("How does it feel to not have your child when I did not have mine for three months?")

Update 12 by Phyllis Schlafly: Feminist Pork — Women who make domestic violence accusations are not required to produce evidence and are never prosecuted for perjury if they lie

Trailers for two documentaries: Overruled (Government Invasion of Your Parental Rights) and Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Update 13: Phyllis Schlafly on the feminist theory that in all sexual controversies or accusations, the man is guilty unless he proves himself innocent 

Update 14: Glenn Reynolds:
One characteristic of modern feminism is the strong belief that men are not entitled to judge women for anything, coupled with the equally strong belief that women are entitled to judge men for everything.
Update 15: from Stephen Baskerville himself:
The Sexual Revolution’s promise of a new age of freedom is already manifesting itself as a new form of tyranny … determined, disciplined, and organized activists can seize power by wheedling their way into key institutions, such as the police, justice system, penal apparatus, and military … New gender crimes and new forms of criminality, based on sexual relations, are rapidly debasing our understanding of justice and criminalizing our population. … The reality of the witch hunts thus bears no necessary relation to what is suggested by the inflammatory language and jargon:
  • “rape” that includes consensual relations and in most instances is no more than that;
  • domestic “violence” that involves no violence or any physical contact or threat of it;
  • sexual “harassment” that can mean anything from simple flirtation to unauthorized opinions about morality or politics;
  • “child abuse” that is routine parental discipline, or homeschooling, or concocted altogether to win advantage in divorce court;
  • “bullying” that involves criticism of the homosexual agenda or other differences of belief and opinion; 
  • “that is forcibly divorced fathers trying to see their own children;
 … It is in this context that current attacks on marriage and the family must be seen.  Past redefinitions of marriage effected by unilateral and involuntary divorce laws have already resulted in the most repressive government machinery ever created in the United States.  In the name of divorce, legally unimpeachable citizens are now summarily evicted from their homes, forcible separated from their children, expropriated of all they possess, and incarcerated without trial – while the world mouths excuses and averts its eyes.  The divorce apparat is the government’s purpose-built mechanism for dismembering families and criminalizing the embodiments of the hated “patriarchy”: fathers.
Update 16: from Dalrock:
 … starting in the late sixties we reorganized our legal and social structure with the (unquestioned) assumption that replacing marriage wasn’t a necessary evil, but a moral imperative. … Suddenly child support and alimony went from necessary evil to an open bribe available to any woman who was willing to betray her husband and children. Now we not only promise a woman cash and prizes if she will agree to betray her family, but we have created a presumption of guilt on the part of the very husband she sells out.
Update 17 — from Dalrock, again:
 … we don’t live in a sane culture, we live in a feminist culture.   Feminism’s founding motto is “I never get to have any fun!”  Instead of curbing the worst instincts of women, our culture instead amplifies them.