Judicial Impression Management: What Makes False Allegations “True” and True Allegations “False” (and Drives Victims of Procedural Abuses to Despair)

Posted on December 11, 2014


“Politics, corporate bullshit—it’s all the same game of impression management.”

House of Lies

What do political spin-doctoring, corporate PR, government-sponsored science, and judicial rulings have in common?

Each is about impression management, the selective representation of facts to create a composite “truth” that suits a particular set of social, political, and/or economic imperatives.

Pols and corporations engage in flimflam to win votes and increase profit shares. Science, too, seeks acclaim and profit, and judicial motives aren’t so different. Judges know what’s expected of them, and they know how to interpret information to satisfy expectations.

The general context of discussions on this blog is the issuance of restraining orders, an arena of law that receives little scrutiny either from within the system or from the public; there is no oversight. Judges are moreover licensed to rule according to their discretion, so their latitude for impression management is broad. Any set of facts or plausible fictions can be rendered damning with a little rhetorical footwork, which needn’t be subtle—skewed rulings more often suggest clog dancing than ballet.

Nobody’s paying attention anyhow, except to make sure judges are fulfilling their mandate to make government look good and keep special interest groups mollified.

Since judges can rule however they want, and since they know that very well, they don’t even have to lie, per se, just massage the facts a little. It’s all about which facts are emphasized and which facts are suppressed, how select facts are interpreted, and whether “fear” can be reasonably inferred from those interpretations. A restraining order ruling can only be construed as “wrong” if it can be demonstrated that it violated statutory law (or the source that that law must answer to: the Constitution). There are no “mistakes,” only the very exceptional “over-reach.”

The restraining order process is the product of lobbying by special interest groups (collectively called “feminism”), which have secured government favor in recent decades, and this favor has conditioned how judges manage impressions. Favoring special interest groups has translated into the investment of billions, which has directed trends in social science research (including monetarily), swayed public opinion, and besides conditioned police and judicial impulses and priorities, thereby determining how allegations ranging from harassment to violent and/or sexual assault are credited and acted upon by officers of the justice system.

A crude evolutionary précis (not necessarily chronological) might look something like this:

  • Feminism gets the nod;
  • legislation is passed enacting restraining orders;
  • further legislation is passed making them more stringent and punitive;
  • additional legislation is passed: domestic violence acts and statutes, stalking statutes, etc.;
  • the definition of “domestic violence” is broadened to be inclusive of almost anything that can be construed as “abusive” according to judicial discretion;
  • the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is passed;
  • a special office of the Justice Department is established;
  • billions of dollars of federal monies are doled out in the form of grants to police departments and the courts to beef up arrest policies and “train” judges and police officers how to interpret allegations of violence or merely “fear”;
  • and the popular press is enlisted, knowingly or not, to flak the whole business.

Impression management marks the standard operating procedure from top to bottom.

Feminism’s foot soldiers in the blogosphere and on social media, finally, spread the “good word,” and John and Jane Doe believe what they’re told—unless or until they’re torturously disabused of their illusions. Stories like those you’ll find here are often the stories of average people who’ve been publicly maligned and have maddeningly discovered that “the truth” is whatever the system chooses to enter into the record.

To conclude this abstract litany with a concrete illustration, consider these stories, published six months apart (“Son of Whitestown judge charged with animal cruelty” and “Judge’s son pleads guilty to taping kitten ‘inhumanely’”):

The difference you’ll detect between the two versions of the facts and how they’re interpreted exemplifies impression management.

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