The Attorney General of the United States is all in for torture and vigilante justice
Back when I read Rick Perlstein's seminal insight into Trump's place in the conservative ecosystem as the "Avenging Angel," (and wrote a piece that was headlined "They all think they're Clint Eastwood") I never dreamed that we would have an Attorney General who would declare that he too is an unabashed believer in torture and vigilante justice.
Want to know what will make Attorney General Bill Barr’s day, especially when it comes to the ineffable yearning for justice?
According to a recent interview, it may just be Clint Eastwood torturing someone for information by shooting them in the leg.
“I believe a sense of justice is hardwired into human beings,” Barr recalled during an interview with Crime Story podcast host Kary Antholis. “Don’t ask me why, but it is there and it’s satisfying to see justice done.”
Barr elaborated on his theory of justice, recalling the Charles Bronson movie Death Wish and Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, icons of vigilantism in ’70s filmmaking that spawned movie franchises.
The original 1974 exploitation classic Death Wish tells the story of how a do-gooder Manhattan liberal sees the light after his wife is murdered and his daughter is raped. He becomes a one-man vigilante squad, roaming New York City and executing petty thieves.
“Death Wish, yeah,” Barr said. “That gives people a sense of satisfaction when they see it.”
Barr then recalled a scene in 1971’s Dirty Harry where Eastwood’s character – a loose-cannon cop – confronts a serial killer who has surrendered, but buried a hostage alive. Eastwood’s character has seconds in the movie to act to find and rescue the hostage, but the serial killer won’t give up the information.
In the attorney general’s telling, Dirty Harry “shoots him in the leg or something and the guy tells him where it is.”
“I say, now, was that an unjust or morally repellent act? Is the reason that the audience applauds when that happens because the audience is morally bankrupt?” Barr asked, incredulously. “Or is there something else going on there?”
Barr’s response on the podcast came immediately after a discussion about the ongoing response to documented instances of police brutality around the country.
Antholis had asked Barr about his belief in the so-called “Ferguson effect,” the idea that anti-police brutality protests following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, have led to more timid police and increased crime rates.
“If police feel that they are going to be unfairly treated or unjustly disciplined for something they felt was a righteous act of self defense, and there’d be what they feel is unfair Monday morning quarterbacking, they will not take those risks,” Barr said.
In response to the next question, about his love of the TV show Banshee, Barr said that he enjoyed the show in part because it delves into a “basic tension between justice in the sense of the ultimate outcome versus justice as a process.”
“Americans have tended recently to view [justice] more as a process, as if the criminal justice process is justice, and it isn’t,” Barr said. “It’s a process that’s supposed to achieve justice, but very frequently doesn’t.”
“That’s the theme in the Dirty Harry movies,” he added, before also referencing Death Wish.
The top law enforcement official in the United States of America basically saying that the justice system doesn't work and it's understandable when people take it into their own hands.
Somehow, I don't think he feels the same if African Americans or Latinos decide they want to take matters into their own hands. I mean, they have a LOT more bones to pick with the authorities and the criminal justice system than angry white guys and cops.
This certainly does explain Barr's indefensible explanation of Trump's obstruction of justice as his have a right to "fight back" when he believes he is being unjustly accused.
I have not been one to worry overmuch about the backlash if Trump is defeated in 2020. I guess I just figure that we should take one step at a time and we'll deal with that if it happens. But this certainly makes me think we should be prepared. There is a sickness on the right that has infected the Republican party at every level. Anything can happen.