Years ago, before Academia and I decided we weren’t really compatible, I taught a variety of criminology and sociology courses — including courses on criminological theory. You know — what is crime, why do folks commit crime, how do we explain what’s going on? That sort of stuff. One of the theories I taught undergrads was Matza and Sykes’ theory of neutralization.
Matza and Sykes studied juvenile delinquency back in the 1950s. People, they said, are aware of their obligation to follow the law, so in order to skirt that obligation and do stuff they know they’re not supposed to do, they concoct a series of techniques to neutralize that obligation. In other words, they find ways to escape responsibility.
I mention all this because if you paid any attention to the news over the last week, you saw Matza and Sykes’ theory in action. Here are their five techniques of neutralization:
- Denial of responsibility — Dude, it’s not really my fault.
- Denial of injury — Dude, nobody really got hurt.
- Denial of the victim — Dude, really it’s their own fault.
- Condemning of the condemners — Dude c’mon, it’s not like you’re innocent.
- Appeal to higher loyalties — Dude, I did it for my friends (or family, or god).
We saw ALL of these techniques in play over the last week. Every single one of them. We saw them employed by Comrade Trump, by his followers, and by most Republican politicians. Denial of responsibility: “Dude, Trump didn’t mail any of those bombs.” Denial of injury: “Dude, the bombs weren’t even bombs; they didn’t detonate and nobody got hurt.” Denial of the victim: “Dude, the people who got the mail bombs wouldn’t have gotten any mail bombs if they hadn’t tried to undermine the president like that.” Condemning the condemners: “Dude c’mon, it’s not like Democrats are innocent; I mean, a Bernie supporter shot a Republican congressmen who was playing softball, right? And people were rude to Sarah Sanders in a restaurant.” And yeah, even an appeal to higher loyalties: “The people who got the mail bombs were traitors and the real enemies of the people.”
Even this morning, Trump was obliviously tweeting out neutralization techniques with all the desperate need of a spawning salmon.
There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!
He really can’t help himself. Trump seems to be completely incapable of accepting the notion that by labeling the news media as ‘fake’ and the ‘true Enemy of the People’ he’s not only inciting the anger he’s condemning, but also emboldening his followers to act on that anger. Dude, it’s not my fault if the Enemy of the People get hurt; I’m just talking and words can’t really hurt you; besides, it’s the Enemy of the People who are at fault for being the Enemy of the People; and it’s not like they’re innocent, just look at how mean they are to me; and if I call the Enemy of the People the enemy, it’s because I want peace and harmony. Bitches.
It’s sad and infuriating that the only way to explain the behavior of the President of These United States is to rely on theories developed to explain criminality. Jeebus in handcuffs, we used to be a semi-decent nation.
People, you have GOT to vote. If you value decency and truth and science and integrity and compassion, you have GOT to fucking vote.