Crime: A must have!

Who would have thought that Communism and Homosexuality would have something in common?  Like extensive surveillance and misconceptions on security and blackmail.

Because of the secrecy surrounding homosexual identification the RCMP felt that they would be more susceptible to communist insurgents.  The secrecy was mainly because of societal pressures and especially the negative pressure by the RCMP.  The RCMP’s reasoning was that because they had something to hide, etc. homosexuals could be blackmailed by communists because of character defects (Hainsworth 2011).

According to Durkheim, crime is a normal part of society and is necessary and universal (Pavlich 2011).  But what does this mean?  Crime is the othering of some of its community members. “Commie, pinko, fag” (Kinsman and Gentile 2010) where what the author described his experience of othering during his schools days.  “A type of cutting out operation” (Kinsman and Gentile 2010).

For instance, a murder is committed.  Because murder is deemed outside of majority holder’s social norms there is a punishment attached to the commission of the perceived crime.  In layman’s terms – because the majority deem murder as ‘wrong’ those who murder are brought to answer for their transgressions before the law courts.  Now these are only viewed as ‘criminal’ because such action is taken.  Take the attempt to legalize marijuana in Canada.  Since many law enforcement officers have not charged those carrying the drug it has helped with the acceptance in the community by the general community in conjunction with the changing prevailing attitudes concerning its consumption.

Durkheim’s terminology of mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity could also be applied here.  With mechanical solidarity, Durkheim means “a social solidarity…which arises because a certain number of sates of consciousness are common to all members of the same society”, as quoted by Palvich (Palvich 2011 pg. 77).  The main religion from the 1950s till at least the 1980s in Canada was some amalgamation of Christianity: Catholics, Presbyterian and so forth.  There is strong opposition in the Christian community against homosexuality (Kantor 2009).  Because of similar beliefs different influential community members banded together and instigated belief that to hide something is more a chance of blackmail.  Organic solidarity is now introduced as “interdependent systems” (Palvich 2011 pg. 77).  Meaning that everyone is dependent on other systems for support.  Take, for example, the computer your reading this on.  To use this computer, you first had to get to it, via transit, car or walking.  The store intern relied on trucks to ship the product to their store, employees to open and prepare the store and the systems can interconnects at miniscule levels.  Essentially someone else is relied upon to help complete their task or to make the items that helps them to complete their task.

As McCarthyism rose in the States, the thoughts of an unknown person who could be manipulated to the communist’s side was frightened to the RCMP and other officials.  So in addition to what was explained above there was also a ‘brain drain’ (Burrows 2010).  Those with technical knowledge and skills where forced out of their jobs.  Howard Mackenzie believed that this “affected policy formation regarding the Soviet Union” (Hainsworth 2010).  “In their research, Kinsman and Gentile found repeated tales of surveillance, illegal searches, interrogations and attempts at blackmail by police who attempted to force queers to out others so they could be targeted as well.” (Hainsworth 2010)  By 1977 an openly gay woman, Private Barbara Thornburrow, was discharged from the army.  The armies excuse, she was “not advantageously employable” (Hainsworth 2011).  Thornburrow poigently counters with “if I’m open about it, how can I be blackmailed?” (Hainsworth 2011).  A few years later Gloria Cameron, part of the navey, was discharged after an 9 hour long interrogation where she was found to be loyal to Canada but still discharged because she was gay.  “Despite the admissions you have made openly and notwithstanding that your loyalty to Canada has not been questioned, a potential hazard to security remains,” Dextraze said.” (Hainsworth 2011)

References

Burrows, M. (2010, March 18). Gary Kinsman’s book Canadian War on Queers takes on gay issues in government | Vancouver, Canada | Straight.com [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.straight.com/article-298209/vancouver/book-takes-gay-issues-government

Hainsworth, J. (2010, January 1). How Canada tried to purge its queers [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.xtra.ca/public/Ottawa/How_Canada_tried_to_purge_its_queers-8065.aspx

Kantor, M. (2009). Homophobia: The state of sexual bigotry today. Westport, Conn: Praeger.

Kinsman, G. W., & Gentile, P. (2010). The Canadian war on queers: National security as sexual regulation. Vancouver, B.C: UBC Press.

Pavlich, G. C. (2011). Law & society redefined. Don Mills, Ont: Oxford University Press.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Crime: A must have!

  1. It is evident that considerable research and thought went into the preparation of this post. Good work.
    Note that the interpretation of the social reaction to crime as ‘othering’ or ‘cutting-out’ reflects more contemporary sociological theories. These concepts fit with Durkheim’s sociology of law because they relate to the policing of the boundaries of ‘normal’ morality.
    The post would benefit from a straightforward explanation of how the ‘Canadian War on Queers’ reflects Durkheim’s remarks regarding the normality of crime. Let me give it a shot. Tell me if this is what you have in mind:

    Durkheim proposes that crime is normal, by which he means two things. First, transgressions of recognized social rules and norms and sanctions for such acts are a universal and inevitable feature of human societies. Second, that these transgressions and the social reaction to them are necessary insofar as they create opportunities for the reaffirmation and clarification of norms. Put differently, in sanctioning that which is ‘wrong’ or ‘deviant’, a society implicitly affirms a particular definition of ‘that which is right’ or ‘normal’, and this contributes to social solidarity.
    During the period in question (which overlaps with the Cold War), Canadian society was characterized by heteronormative values, officially-sanctioned homophobia, and intolerance. Being gay was regarded as a form of deviance, and gays and lesbians faced considerable pressure to remain ‘in the closet’. In the federal service, the prevailing idea was that gays and lesbians working for the government represented a threat to national security. They were regarded as having a ‘character weakness’ and, given the climate of intolerance and homophobia, being susceptible to blackmail. The idea was that Soviet agents could extort classified information out of a gay public employee by threatening to ‘out’ them. The RCMP set out to pre-empt this imagined threat by investigating suspected gays and lesbians and forcing them out of the public service – ironically (and tragically) applying the very forms of extortion that they feared Soviet agents would employ. Kinsman and Gentile document this in their research on the ‘Canadian War on Queers’.
    Applying Durkheim’s sociology of law to these events, we could say that the ‘Canadian War on Queers’ contributed to the entrenchment of official heteronormativity by constructing gays and lesbians as deviants and security threats. The security campaign functioned – as Kinsman and Gentile would say – as a ‘cutting out device’, identifying excludable others and, in so doing, reaffirming the dominant image of the normal (straight, and by implication loyal) Canadian.