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In a comment on a friend's post, something that's been bugging me finally came together in my head.

In various recent events (Peter Watts' Squidgate, the g20 mess, etc.), there has been a bunch of commenters (live and on the net, natch) who seem to cheer louder the more it looks like the police have abused thier power. These are the folks who say things like "if a cop tells you to do something, you do it *immediately* or you deserve what happens to you", "if you haven't worn a uniform, you don't get to complain", etc.

The general idea of Authoritarian Apologism is that anyone that gets beaten up by the police, or the border guards, or anyone with a bade or a uniform, deserves what they get. That those forces are always justified in whatever they do to thier citizens.

I've been trying to figure out what it is that drives me so nuts about this position, besides the obvious. It finally clicked today - it's the same logical fallacy that drives Rape Culture victim-blaming and shunning of people who are ill. It's the idea that Bad things don't happen to Good people. So when bad things happen to someone previously presumed to be Good, the Apologist makes the inference that the person must be Bad. Because the alternative is that Bad things *do* happen to Good people. And that's terrifying - the Apologist naturally sees zirself as a Good person. If something bad can happen to some random writer, to some random jogger or random tourist, then it means that something bad can happen to *me*!

And a lot of people can't face that. So they go to great lengths to come up with reasons why people deserve to be beaten by cops, to be raped by thier "friend", to get cancer or AIDS. I mean, of course that guy deserved to be arrested and held in a pen in the rain overnight with no drinking water - did you *see* what he was wearing? He was *asking* for it! Good thing I'd never do something like that, so I'm safe.

It's all about Othering victims so that the Apologist can feel safe knowing that bad things only happen to bad people. It's about fear, and letting that fear make your world ever smaller.


( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 29th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC)
I would further suggest that many of those people's belief in their own Goodness is a symptom of a parallel internal awareness of their own privileged immunity to Bad things.

Think, for instance, of the unthinking condemnation of the diet of people living with poverty as being all junk food - not recognizing that buying healthy food is expensive, and that not everyone has the automatic ability to just drop a few more dollars on organic arugula from Chile, rather than another few 33-cent packets of top ramen.
Jun. 29th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
Yup, that's another part of it - the idea that if someone's in a bad place, it's because they're a bad person, and successful people owe it all to being good. Homeless people are all homeless because they're lazy, the poor just don't like to work hard, POCs just aren't as smart, etc. But a rich straight white guy with rich straight white parents succeeds just by thier smarts and work ethic. The money, power and privilege have nothing to do with it!
(no subject) - athenalindia - Jun. 29th, 2010 10:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Food and poverty - minniethemoocha - Jun. 30th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Food and poverty - theevilchemist - Jun. 30th, 2010 09:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Food and poverty - glamazonwarrior - Jul. 1st, 2010 02:34 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2010 05:20 pm (UTC)
Yes. Yes, you're right. That is a large part of what's been going on here. Thank you for articulating it.
Jun. 29th, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)

It's the magical ward against Bad Things Happening.

Only it doesn't work.
Jun. 29th, 2010 05:36 pm (UTC)
Yes. I agree absolutely.

But I also see the other side of that equation: the people who say "I am a Nice White Privileged Person and therefore the rules don't apply to me. I can go downtown wearing a black bandanna on the morning after the riot and then act outraged when the cops want to see what's inside my backpack."
Jun. 29th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
I'm of the opinion that everyone should be entitled to act outraged in that situation, regardless of colour, socioeconomic status, etc. The goal with respect to privilege should, as much as possible, be to get it for everyone.
(no subject) - henchminion - Jun. 29th, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mycrazyhair - Jun. 29th, 2010 07:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kynn - Jun. 30th, 2010 04:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mycrazyhair - Jun. 30th, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - curgoth - Jun. 30th, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kynn - Jun. 30th, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mycrazyhair - Jul. 1st, 2010 02:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - curgoth - Jun. 29th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 29th, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
Yes, I thought that was a really excellent point, when I saw your original comment.

I think in most cases it's unconscious - I don't think very many people who do this are consciously aware of being afraid that any of this could happen to them. It's more like an unconscious mental defense against cognitive dissonance - they "know", on the one hand, that they live in a nice democratic society where if you just follow the rules and live a normal life everything will be OK, and they also know that bad things do seem to happen to some people, and the mental stress created by "knowing" two different, contradictory things that can't both be true causes a sort of logic error, which the brain handles by coming up with whatever remotely plausible excuse can reconcile the two things.

For people locked into this view, nothing seems capable of changing it except having something actually happen to them personally, or to someone they know well enough that the brought-it-on-themselves response breaks down.
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
EXCELLENT summation. I heard someone who called in to CP24 demonstrating that exact dissonance... he was talking about what happened at Queen/Spadina on Sunday evening and was in support of the police action, but also managed to explain that if he had been down there, he would never have ended up in that situation himself because he wouldn't have been doing anything wrong. Now, I know opinions are split on whether or not that group was indeed doing anything "wrong" in the eyes of the law, but from the way he explained what he would have done differently, it really sounded like thought all the kettled folks had been behaving procatively, which is why they ended up kettled, and he wouldn't have provoked and thus wouldn't have been. Certainly reports from inside the kettle would contradict that assertion...
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC)
Nicely articulated.
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear. Thank you for articulating this.
Jun. 29th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
Very well put. This is unlocked, yes? Would you mind if I linked to it on FB?
Jun. 29th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Go right ahead.
(no subject) - littleminx - Jun. 30th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - curgoth - Jun. 30th, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
Yes, yes, and also yes.

I have to deal with so much reflexive defense of authority on a daily basis that this post made me squeal.
Jun. 29th, 2010 11:51 pm (UTC)
UMan's Bob Altemeyer has been researching authoritarian personalities for some years now, and ISTR his findings are that about 1 in 3 people has an authoritarian personality, defined as one who will follow a strong leader. That is, they're people who want to be told what to do, as opposed to people who want to tell other people what to do.

I suspect many of these authority figure cheerleaders fall into that category.
Jun. 30th, 2010 12:12 am (UTC)
Yep. Which means they have no sympathy, let alone any empathy, for those people to whom randomly bad things have happened. Because most of the time it's just plain bad luck, by which I mean pure chance.
Jun. 30th, 2010 01:35 am (UTC)
gah, YES! the lack of sympathy drives me BATTY!
(no subject) - tlttlotd - Jun. 30th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2010 12:32 am (UTC)
(i mosied on over by way of sab's journal.)
i've always had another word to tar apologists with- collaborator.
Jun. 30th, 2010 12:54 pm (UTC)
Hit (a palpable one)
you, nail, head:
right on.
Jun. 30th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you. ♥
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