Monday, October 3, 2016

The Lady Who Cried "Superpredators!"

This morning I happened to hear a clip of Hillary Clinton's now-notorious 1996 description of "superpredators":
We need to take these people on. They are often connected to big drug cartels, they are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called superpredators — no conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first, we have to bring them to heel.
This inspired a lot of liberal hand-wringing when it resurfaced earlier this year, sometimes in places that surely wouldn't publish such complaints about Clinton now.  (DailyKos just sent me an e-mail bragging that they will have a Clinton surrogate live-blogging for them.  Which I guess is only fair; MSNBC has Rachel Maddow, and CNN has their Trump surrogate.)

I'm skeptical about such categories in any case.  I know very well that there are criminals who are remorseless, genuine sociopaths.  But "superpredators" sounds like one of those terms that an academic might come up with, which is then run with by politicians and media; it's catchy, it's a soundbyte, you don't have to think about it, whether you're "liberal" or "conservative."  When I encounter such terms I'm always skeptical, as I am when I hear about the latest drug menace that is so powerful you'll become addicted just by being in the same room with it.  It always turns out that addiction is something that must be worked at, like running for political office or writing news commentary.

What I realized this morning, though, was that Clinton could just as easily have been talking about high-level political elites like herself.  "We came, we saw, he died."  Or Barack Obama:  "Two words: predator drones.  You'll never see it coming."  Or Madeline Albright: "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?"  (I could add numerous Republicans to the list, but it's the Democrats who want us to believe that they're different.)  As Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out decades ago, the scale of violence committed by governments is vastly greater than that committed by gangs or rioters.  Empathy?  Conscience?  You check those into a blind trust when you become a head of state, or a member of his or her administration.  Those gang members are just prepping for their future careers.