Thursday, 20 June 2013

How one left-wing Hollywood actor became a convert to the death penalty

I’ve just read Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by former FBI agent and the Bureau’s pioneer criminal profiler, John E. Hughes. The book is rivetting from start to finish, but I was particularly struck by the following passage, which reveals how one left-wing actor became a death penalty enthusiast:

“When the director and cast of Silence of the Lambs came to Quantico to prepare for filming, I brought Scott Glenn, who played Jack Crawford – the special agent some say was based on me – into my office. Glenn was a pretty liberal guy who had strong feelings on rehabilitation, redemption, and the fundamental goodness of people. 
I showed him some of the gruesome crime-scene photos we worked with every day. I let him experience recordings made by killers while they were torturing their victims. I made him listen to one of two teenage girls in Los Angeles being tortured to death in the back of a van by two thrill-seeking killers who had recently been let out of prison. 
Glenn wept as he listened to the tapes. He said to me, “I had no idea there were people out there who could do anything like this.” An intelligent, compassionate father with two girls of his own, Glenn said that after seeing and hearing what he did in my office, he could no longer oppose the death penalty. “The experience in Quantico changed my mind about that for all time.”

I don’t want to make fun of Scott Glenn – a good actor – or those people who believe in the rehabilitation of convicts (it happens now and then, I suppose). But what does flummox me is that anyone can get to middle age and claim they didn’t know that “there are people out there who could do anything like this”. Glenn was a Hollywood actor – hadn’t he been aware of the Manson murders? He must have lived in California – did the activities of the Zodiac killer pass him by? Richard Ramirez? The Hillside Stranglers? I’m pretty sure they were mentioned in the papers and on TV at the time.

What Scott Glenn meant, of course, was that, until John Douglas (not exactly a pantywaist bleeding-heart) rubbed his liberal nose in the evidence, he’d always assumed that criminals did what they did because – somehow – society made them do it. It was all a matter of conditioning – bad parenting, poverty, lack of opportunity, underfunded schools, an uncaring criminal justice system, blah blah blah... i.e. the same world-view that led Tony Blair to prattle about being “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”.  People commit serial murder and rape and sexually abuse children because they are evil: the fact that they might have had "disadvantaged" upbringings, and that there might have been identifiable external “triggers” preceding their actions doesn’t mean we are all guilty in a very real sense. The perpetrators are guilty in a very real sense.

Still, it was good of Scott Glenn to admit the error of his ways and to eschew that peculiar left-wing penchant for bending over backwards to find excuses for serial killers and suchlike human rubbish: every time a liberal is mugged by reality, the world becomes a safer place.

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