Almost 40 years ago, criminologist Carl Klockars termed the proclivity of some police officers to brutalize citizens and break other laws in the name of their own version of justice as “the Dirty Harry problem.”
The moniker, of course, comes from Clint Eastwood’s “Go ahead, make my day” Inspector Harry Callahan character in several movies of the 1970s. Harry got the job done but used dirty means to do it.
Much of Professor Klockars’s analysis can be analogically applied to what has become known as the Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) among those in the progressive Left because they, too, deploy dirty means to achieve supposedly good ends — the destruction of President Donald Trump, his family and his supporters.
The progressive Left have, at least in a metaphorical sense, appointed themselves to morally police the personal ideologies of everyone else. Anyone who does not conform to their agenda is treated as being some sort of violator who must be disciplined — through verbal and sometimes even violent punishment. It is in this sense that they can be equated with Inspector Callahan. Both see themselves as personally responsible for righting wrongs for the “good” of all.
Dirty means by Trump Derangement Syndrome
Klockars defined dirty means as “both ‘repugnant’ in that it offends widely shared standards of human decency and dignity and ‘dangerous’ in that it breaks commonly shared and supported norms, rules, or laws for conduct.”
To be “dirty,” one’s actions must abstractly reflect a generally shared public judgment of immorality and a “threat to the prevailing rules for social order.”
The list of specific instances of dirty means perpetrated by those with TDS is essentially endless, but some of the dirtiest include the following:
- Enlisting federal agencies to push false “collusion” narratives and official probes
- Lying to the FISA Court to obtain an illegal search warrant to spy on an opposing party’s political campaign
- Destroying evidence and obstructing justice and tricking confessions without lawyers present, trying to smear the moral character of more than 50 million people by calling them racist, sexist, homophobic and so on without any evidence other than opinion
- Unifying monopolistic political deceit among the most powerful cyber companies on the planet. Fabricating outrageous accusations and slurs against presidential nominees and lying to Congressional committees in the process.
- Advocating and practicing the corruption of the rule of law
These actions, among other meaningless acts of violence against people with differing opinions, are “repugnant” and “dangerous,” as defined above because the perpetrators of these deeds would be universally outraged if identical behaviors were aimed a different president and supporters.
These behaviors abstractly reflect a generally shared public judgment of immorality and a threat to the prevailing rules for social order.
The cognitive dynamics of TDS
Professor Klockars outlined a three-step cumulative process necessary for the existence of a Dirty Harry Problem:
- The perpetrator must be able to connect the dirty means to the achievement of ends thought to be good.
- They must know there exist dirty means that are likely to accomplish the good end.
- The deployment of dirty means must be capable of achieving the desired outcome, even if that achievement does not work.
As Klockars explains this latter point, “the good to be achieved is so unquestionably good and so passionately felt that even a small possibility of its achievement demands that it be tried.” This statement about the Dirty Harry Problem, indeed, is the driving core essence of TDS.
Clearly, there are many people who dislike President Trump or his policies but who would never condone dirty means. For those with TDS, on the other hand, politics is far more than the proverbial contact sport. It’s a war that has the future of humanity at stake.
The failure of the progressive Left — as Klockars notes about police — “to regard dirty means with the same hesitation that most citizens do seems to suggest that they juxtapose them to the achievement of good ends more quickly and more readily than most of us.”
Donald Trump and those in his circle are guilty
Just as Dirty Harry Callahan and other police officers see their occupational world as full of guilty people, so does the progressive Left. First, there is what Klockars calls the Dirty Harry Problem’s “Operative Assumption of Guilt.”
Because President Trump, his family and his supporters are the enemy, all of their behaviors are viewed under an assumption that they must be up to something nefarious.
A classic though trivial example happened last week when President Trump tweeted that he was waiting in the Oval Office for the Democrats to negotiate an end to the shutdown. Simply because someone with TDS noticed that there was no uniformed Marine standing guard outside his office, it was immediately assumed that Trump was lying about his whereabouts because he’s up to no good.
He was in the Oval Office.
There have been countless examples of assumption of guilt that have occurred in the media since the very beginning of Donald Trump’s candidacy, many with much more serious implications than the missing Marine.
Most notably: innocent happenings that people assume have to do with the president’s “collusion” with Russian operatives to influence the 2016 election.
Not only do people with TDS see Donald Trump as guilty, he is dangerously so. Whatever he has done or is about to do, it is perilous for the future of personkind.
Just as Inspector Callahan would see “the bushes as a place to hide,” the paranoid progressive Left perceives “guilty” places such as Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago, and of course the White House to be sinister locations.
“Dirty Means as ends in themselves”
Klockars makes the following statement about the police, but it surely may well apply to those with TDS: “
[I]f [those with TDS] are inclined … to believe they are dealing with factually, if not legally, guilty subjects, they become likely to see their dirty acts, not as means to the achievement of good ends, but as ends in themselves—as punishment of guilty people whom [those with TDS] believe deserve to be punished.
Klockars notes that in such cases dirty means become a way to accomplish dirty ends rather than good ones rooted in bettering society.
In our context, if those afflicted by the TDS use dirty means as a way to punish Donald Trump and those around him, TDS is actually a dangerous vigilante-inspired mental illness.
Gary S. Green, Ph.D., is retired Professor of Government at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.