Frontier Justice

Murderous violence has often been used to settle issues.   Heretics– burn them at the stake, for the love of God!    Those who publicly oppose what they feel to be injustice– hang a few from lamp posts, the rest will get the message. Most humans are not heroic.   A few brave men who resist enslavement?  No problem, just shoot the first couple who step up, the rest of them will quickly calm down.   Violence is necessary to maintain an institution like slavery, there is simply no other way to enslave masses of people.   Thus it has always been, the status quo enforcing the irresistibility of its rights with deadly force.   In America this violence is sometimes called “frontier justice”, which conjures the image of a “necktie party” in the violent old West, or in the former Confederacy, you know, a group of men running down and stringing up some varmint for one reason or another.

My father, a man brutalized as a young boy early and often, had a dark sense of humor that sometimes bordered on the sadistic.  He smiled as he recounted the story to my young sister and me of an old time Texas judge who sometimes let murderers off the hook but always ordered horse thieves hanged by the neck until dead.   “There are some men,” the judge explained, “who need killing because they are evil.   If you kill one of these men, you are actually performing a public service by ridding the world of them.  When you kill a man who needs killing, I cannot condemn you as a murderer.  On the other hand, I never saw a horse that needed stealing.”  My father chuckled after he related the judge’s witty explanation of his folksy ways.

“Guilty!”  Bang the gavel, drop the mic, a lunger into the spittoon, pour a round of drinks, boys, and then, after lunch when it cools off a bit out there, let’s string up this Negro horse thief on the run from his rightful owner.   Yee hah!  (Unlikely as this particular scenario is, an American judge as principled as this one would not confiscate somebody’s personal property without due process of law.  The slave would be returned to the master. Hanging another man’s rightful property would be theft.  Only a free horse thief was fair game for hanging.)

In the United States today, physical violence is no longer the first response to every threat.   You can achieve a lot just by destroying a career, or using a protracted lawsuit to bankrupt somebody.  It is sometimes referred to, if done thoroughly enough, as ‘economic capital punishment’.  

When Charles Koch, still a secretive man who exercised his influence in the shadows of the many organizations he founded and/or funded, got wind of the book being written by long-time New Yorker staffer Jane Mayer (Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right) he hired investigators to find dirt on her.   There apparently wasn’t much to find.  Undeterred, calls were placed by Koch operatives to the editor-in-chief of the New Yorker, seeking to make enough of a stink that Mayer would be fired.  Presumably without her full-time staff salary she’d be unable to finish her book exposing the long history of the Koch’s increasingly effective influence machine.   Also, if she’d been fired in disgrace from a well-known publication, it would be much easier to discredit her clearly vindictive revelations about people who had done her personal harm.  Win-win for Koch, and of no consequence to him if it didn’t work.   Charles Koch refers to this method of exerting leverage as “upping the transactional costs” for his opponents.

I’m thinking about this today, of course, because the most unabashedly corrupt president of our lifetimes has just hastily placed a second corporatist partisan on the Supreme Court.   This one is an actual strident right wing zealot with a questionable background that should disqualify him.   More immediately,  his present day willingness to lie under oath, about things large and small, should make him ineligible for appointment. Not to mention the supremely un-judicial way he hysterically blamed a well-funded liberal conspiracy for old charges of sexual assault being credibly made against him by a reluctant victim.   During the course of reading a written partisan screed he also excoriated shameless liberals for forcing a vulnerable victim of sexual assault to come forward, against her will, thus ‘defending’ her.   If a piece of shit could talk, he’d sound like Brett.  Other Supreme Court judges may have been as nakedly partisan as Kavanugh, but all others had, at least, the skill to hide their zealotry.

I’m thinking about the $15,000,000 that we know about, in perfectly legal “dark money”, that paid for ads promoting this good Christian family man as a well qualified, impartial and independent judge.   Why bother marketing this particular highly divisive nominee of our highly divisive president to the public?   You have the votes to confirm him, why spend millions on ads to convince the public that he is not, in spite of what is easily seen, an angry partisan and clearly not an impartial and independent anything?   The public has no say in his selection, why spend the millions?

Well, the millions spent on ads probably had some effect.  Americans according to a recent poll disapprove of Kavanaugh only 50%-45%, with five percent apparently having no opinion on the matter.   This high rate of disapproval of a Supreme Court nominee is unprecedented, but think of how much worse it might be without the ads.  It would certainly be worse if there hadn’t been the fawning nationally televised interview on Fox right before the resumed hearings when Christine Blasey Ford testified and Kavanaugh repeatedly choked up about the character assassination he was being subjected to.  

That Fox interview was set up by Trump’s communications director, Bill Shine, former Fox executive, former defender of his boss Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and other men at Fox who paid off women they sexually abused.   Imagine how much worse those numbers would have been if the ads hadn’t run, if Kavanaugh himself had not blandly admitted, in a self-promoting op-ed that ran in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal on the eve of the final vote, that, sure he was emotional at the hearing, may have said things that he wouldn’t have otherwise said, but he’s committed to judicial impartiality and independence, if not to integrity.

The millions spent on ads?   That is less than a collective penny to the vastly wealthy donors who anonymously put up the money.  How are they allowed to secretly put up millions to influence the public that way?    Citizens United.   Free speech.  Liberty.  Unlimited liberty, that tree that must be watered with the blood of tyrants from time to time, according to the Author of Liberty, himself born very rich, richer still after marriage.  All the best Americans are born rich, all of them.  If God didn’t love you, why would he have granted you such a blessing?   The rest of the entitled poor people will hate you, sure, but that’s what haters do, wage hopeless class warfare against their betters.  Sticks and stones may break my bones.  Likewise, sputtering rants like this one– ow!   I see your righteousness, boy, and raise you one lynch mob.  What you say now, punk?  Huh?


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