Who Gets A Chance

Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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15 Responses

  1. Richard Hershberger says:

    I have gone through periods of subscribing to and avidly reading the NYRB, of making a point of reading it regularly at the library, and of picking it up casually when in the library to see if there is anything of interest to me. FWIW, of late there has been little that captures my attention. I was not aware that it had a new editor: just that it wasn’t publishing stuff that interested me. Without suggesting that my interests are normative, from a strictly personal point of view I an glad to see this guy replaced, even apart from his appalling sexual politics.Report

  2. Em Carpenter says:

    My normal human side is completely on board with you here. I have a hard time giving the benefit of the doubt to a man with that many accusers, trial verdict be damned. Because I know very well that acquittal does not equal innocence. Your title is apt, as it really is the question: who should get second chances? Because I do place sexual crimes in a separate category from others when it comes to redemption and rehabilitation and participation in society.

    My lawyer side, and more specifically, my former criminal defense attorney side, worries about a precedent for not presuming innocence or not allowing people to participate fully in society after the conclusion of criminal charges. Of course, that doesn’t mean publishing them in the New York Review of Books, or, say, appointing them to the Supreme Court.

    As for Buruma, he is guilty of atrocious judgment including from a business standpoint and his firing was justified.Report

    • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Em Carpenter says:

      @em-carpenter I recognize the lawyer side that you are talking about, but keep coming back to the fact that our legal system is overwhelmingly tilted in favor of abusers, and wondering what exactly it would take for that to change in any sort of meaningful way.

      As for re-integrating abusive people, and particularly abusive men, into broader society, I would note that, very often, those anxious to do so often much more concerned with providing those men that rehabilitation than they are with seemingly anything else.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

        Unless you want to get rid of the presumption of innocence and the burden being on the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, changing the legal system will end up being a cure worse than the diseSe. I’m relatively certain that men of color would fair worse than white men under the new, revised system. The new, revised system could spread to other more mundane crimes like larceny. We could end up with something more draconian than our own. If you want a humane justice system you really need to treat the indecent with decency.Report

        • Sam Wilkinson in reply to LeeEsq says:

          We should at least acknowledge what sticking with the current system accomplishes, which is aiding and abetting widespread abuse. We could at least acknowledge that the system is horrifically bad at dealing with abuse in any sort of meaningful, influential way. Instead, we end up with these systemic defenses that implicitly say, “Making sure that certain men never endure anything is more important than than the suffering of their victims.”Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

            The law has a lot of archaic features that really don’t fit well with contemporary knowledge about many things or modern social norms. I don’t trust Americans to create or fund a real rehabilitation system though. In order to avoid something really grotesque things, there are some fictions that need to be respected. The presumption of innocence is one of them even if it does enable abusers, rapists, and white collar thieves to go free when they should be found guilty or receive a lighter sentence.

            I’m an immigration lawyer rather than a criminal lawyer. Jeff Sessions is currently issuing many decisions that is going to create an inhuman deportation machine because he can. Reforms that are to allegedly help the abused will make the criminal justice system like the immigration court system. Victim rights will be used to support tyranny and the police state.Report

            • Sam Wilkinson in reply to LeeEsq says:

              It shouldn’t be ignored who benefits, and who doesn’t, from that arrangement. The same people continue to suffer. The same people continue to thrive. Respecting a fiction comes with incredible cost for some people, especially since that fiction has only ever really been true for a select few.Report

  3. Em Carpenter says:

    I agree with you. To be clear, because I can’t tell if I was or not, when I place sex offenders in a separate category from others with regard to rehabilitation and integration, I mean that I am less likely to advocate that for them than I am those who sold drugs or committed theft.
    I feel like so much criminal behavior is tied to environment, mental health, etc, things that can be improved. But sex crimes to me speak of deeper character flaws that may not be correctable.Report

    • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Em Carpenter says:

      @em-carpenter I think for the folks who want immediate rehabilitation and voluntary ignorance going forward, they simply don’t view themselves as threatened in any meaningful way, and thus have no problem with exposing others similarly.

      When I was growing up, there was a man who worked in our school with a student who was severely disabled. It ended up being the case that he was assaulting the student as well. But he also regularly hosted other neighborhood kids who lived nearby for various parties, which included both watching wrestling and (allegedly) watching pornography. He was arrested, served his time, and was released. There are those who content that having paid his price, he should have been cut loose and treated like everybody else. For very obvious reasons, there are very good reasons to object to such immediate rehabilitation, which included things like him moving one county away, and starting work with a charity that worked with children, while promoting wrestling events as fundraisers for that charity.

      To my mind, the concept of something like “trust by verify” works here. But there are others who want absolution for committed crimes. It is a bizarre want, considering the stakes. But again, if somebody doesn’t personally feel threatened, it might be easier to subject others to that threat.Report

  4. Chip Daniels says:

    As people like Erik Loomis have pointed out, none of these people are being arrested or fined. Instead they are being dismissed from their at-will jobs which are extremely privileged, open only to the most selective group of people.

    We as a society seem to have little pity for a MacDonald’s worker who gets dismissed for trivial reasons, or no reason at all even though the consequences of their dismissal are much more dire. Ian Buruma isn’t going to get evicted from his house, or lose custody of his children.

    I notice that there is a whole mantra of “accountability” regarding teachers and school choice, or privatization versus unionization, where the ability to fire underperforming workers is seen as a vital corrective.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I’m with Chip here. I care not one whit about a highly privileged person getting booted from a highly privileged job because they misjudged the climate. Highly privileged people in highly privileged positions are supposed to be good at judging such climates, and if they show their ass, then they should get a boot in it.

      Both Buruma and Ghomeshi can go flip burger at McDonalds for a while, for all I care.Report

  5. CJColucci says:

    When Buruma was appointed to succeed — you couldn’t replace — Robert Silvers, he was widely thought of as a good choice. The NYRB has published its share of controversial pieces, as well as pieces by awful persons, and took the heat without pushing people out. I can’t help thinking that there was more to this than publishing one ill-advised piece.Report

  6. LeeEsq says:

    It was Yom Kippur this week. In the Jewish tradition, repentance only makes the decree against you less harsh. It doesn’t eliminate this. What it seems that many of these men want is complete forgiveness after a brief period away There does not seem to be any repentance at all.Report

  7. DavidTC says:

    Punching women against their will.

    Those are the allegations, but as we both know, sexual behavior is a many-faceted business. Take something like biting. Biting can be an aggressive or even criminal act. It can also be construed differently in different circumstances. I am not a judge of exactly what he did. All I know is that he was acquitted and he is now subject to public opprobrium and is a sort of persona non grata in consequence. The interest in the article for me is what it feels like in that position and what we should think about.

    Good Lord this is stupid.

    I’m not going to say sexual behavior can’t _ever_ include punching, and I’m hardly the expert on BDSM stuff, but…this is just completely idiotic. The number of people willing to _punched_ during sex is…microscopic. Slapped, sure, but punched?

    There might be a fine line between pleasure and pain, but ‘Getting punched in the head’ (As he is alleged to have done) is…pretty far over that line.

    I mean, I’m for teaching people that sex should have explicit and enthusiastically consent, but realize that process might take a while. But the actual _BDSM_ community already does that, from what I understand! The people who actually do this sort of stuff in bed just don’t go around…randomly punching their partner in the head, or choking them, or slapping, or all the stuff he’s alleged to have done.

    So, yeah, changing to explicit consent for sex will take a bit, but can we at least get the media and the courts and everyone to understand that anyone who tries to justify _physical assault_ as sex play has to have some sort of actual, real, formal consent in advance? Preferably written down. And if they don’t, and the victim says it was unwanted, we should actually believe it was assault?Report