…Same As the Old Boss?

Scott Greenfield comments on my take on Robb Fickman’s post about Joan Campbell:

Maybe there’s some variant of entropy that applies only to criminal defense lawyer bar associations, where they start out bold and purposeful, with a clear understanding of why they exist and whose voice they express. But over time, the strong grow old and weary, and new people come into the organization. The old were there out of a sense of duty, and they were willing to risk their personal comfort and welfare to achieve greater goals.

The new come in for other reasons, some because they want to go from unknowns to players in the field, or seek validation, or want to network, are joiners, like the kids nobody notices in high school who are in every club. These are not the sort of people who take risks. They certainly won’t put themselves as risk.

I had written about lawyers who want to return the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association to its halcyon pre-2006 days, when the organization wouldn’t have dreamt of disturbing its leadership’s cozy (and sticky) relationship with the bench by filing complaints with the Commission for Judicial Conduct. It is interesting that Greenfield read this as “new people,” for the H&K lawyers who think HCCLA should return to the old days are Greenfield’s age, and were members (and board members) long before Fickman radicalized the organization. 

In Harris County the “warm and fuzzy voices of not making waves” predominated for many years, if not for decades. HCCLA spent a long time in the wilderness—from when I joined the organization in 1995 until 2006 about the most we did was to write stern letters. Concerted opposition to judicial abuse is a fairly new phenomenon. Maybe the early years of the organization were different; maybe HCCLA was a political power at some point between 1970 and 1995. But I doubt it—lawyers who have been members since the beginning and who praise HCCLA’s new activism never seem to remember any early activism.

So Greenfield’s experience in New York is with an organization (NYSACDL) heading for irrelevancy—becoming “less aggressive, less offensive, less strident”—as new members join who are not dedicated to the mission; mine in Houston is with an organization (HCCLA) become newly relevant—more aggressive, more offensive, more strident—as new members join who are not invested in cozy bench-bar relationships. Fickman is the catalyst, but the driving force is neither Fickman, who’s nearly as old as Greenfield and so should be enjoying his dotage sitting on the front porch eating mush; nor my generation, whose anger is mitigated by its prosperity; but people like Carmen Roe and and former prosecutor Murray Newman and APDs Sarah Wood and Franklin Bynum and countless other young guns whose sense of right is more powerful than their desire to be liked.

Bottom line: hope for New York’s criminal-defense bar, and caution for Harris County’s, as the pendulum swings. There are lawyers young and old who want to be liked, and lawyers young and old who want to be respected. Whose voice prevails will depend on the catalyst.

Mad Feminists: Developing the Argument

Commenter Akio Katano writes in part:

One thing that needs to be established is that the infographic debacle (which, mind, has caused significant criticism across the board) is that it’s a failure of statistics, rather than reflective of a broader ideology.…

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Another, more important point is that it is CERTAINLY possible to be misogynistic – or racist/homophobic/classist/what have you – without intent or knowledge.

* * * * *

[P]eople want to believe that they are reasonable, fair, just, and coherent, and are very good at pretending that their biases are simply The Way Things Are. It’s not just a matter of conscious intent.

My response to the comment became long enough to justify a post of its own:

The infographic was entitled "The truth about false accusation." The number it used for the portion of allegations that are false was 2%—a number not supported by any statistics, but only by ideology.

This is not a "failure of statistics." It is, rather, a failure of ideology and a failure of innumeracy. The graphic was produced and propagated because people—the author and those who republished it—a) wanted to believe; and b) didn't have or didn't apply the simple mathematical tools to question the data.

Certainly other ideologues are as likely to falsify data as feminist ideologues. At least all ideologues that disagree with me* are.

I am comfortable with the notion that we all harbor biases. There is a reasonable hypothesis that we are programmed to have biases because evolution favored biases against people who are unlike us. If you think you don't have any prejudices, that just means that they are controlling you. I have done a great deal of difficult personal work on my own biases, and I think I'm a better person for being able to say, "there is this thing, this darkness within me, but I'm working on it and I'm doing okay." 

I hate to resort to the argumentum ad lexicon, but misogyny is fundamentally different from prejudice, bigotry, racism, classism, homophobia, or any other form of bias I can think of. Misogyny is not fear or preference but hatred of women. It is possible to fear without intent. It is possible to prefer without intent. It is not possible to hate without intent.

When one suggests, based on reading something I've written, that I hate women, she has already abandoned intelligent conversation. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that she then rejects any explanation of my true intent—there is something wrong with her; this is madness.

You might think that "misogyny" is at worst a poorly chosen synonym for sexism, but the word is chosen and used by people who know and preach words' power to do harm. It is used and intended to separate those who disagree with orthodoxy into a group that is of less value than those who agree.

The problem is that once you get in the habit of "othering," it's hard to get out of it.



*This is a joke.