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Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hiding
The "alcohol made me do it" defense -- most recently employed by Jew-hater Mel Gibson and page-perving Rep. Mark Foley -- gets called for what it is by Reason's Jacob Sullum:

Alcoholic impairment may be the world's oldest excuse. It was the reason Noah cavorted naked in his tent, the reason Lot slept with his daughters, the reason (some say) Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu, brought "strange fire" into the Tabernacle.

The defense does not always work; Nadav and Avihu, for instance, were immediately consumed by divine fire. But it must work often enough for people to keep trotting it out after all these years, and why it does is a bit of a puzzle.

Foley seems eager to be known as a drunk as well as a pervert, pressing his case in the face of skepticism from associates who never noticed he had a drinking problem, who can't even remember seeing him with a drink at any of the Washington receptions he attended during more than a decade in office. And since one of Foley's incriminating instant message exchanges occurred during a House vote, he wants us to believe he was passing judgment on legislation while he was plastered.

Picturing Foley staggering into the House Chamber to cast a vote is supposed to make us think better of him. If he's an alcoholic, suffering from a disease that makes him incapable of drinking moderately, he is not fully responsible for his behavior. In those online exchanges with pages, it was his disease talking, not him.

Even Alcoholics Anonymous, the group that has done the most to promote the idea that habitual drunkenness is an illness, does not go quite that far. For one thing, people who know they have difficulty drinking responsibly can be held accountable for drinking to begin with. And while A.A. members have to acknowledge they are "powerless over alcohol" and submit themselves to God, they also have to accept responsibility for their actions and make amends to people they've wronged.

Even if some people are predisposed to drink heavily, that tendency does not explain how they act when they drink. Does anyone really believe that alcohol made Mel Gibson temporarily anti-Semitic, causing him to rail against the Jews when he was pulled over in Malibu for drunk driving? Or that Bob Ney, the Republican congressman from Ohio who mentioned "a dependence on alcohol" when he pleaded guilty to corruption charges, was driven by demon rum to accept lobbyists' goodies in exchange for official favors?

Posted by aalkon at October 11, 2006 11:58 AM

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I think the wider point is not so much as specifically alchoholism, but being a victim. Note also(if I remember correctly) that he said he himself was abused years ago by a clergyman.

To be anybody today you have to be a victim. The Race - Class - Gender refrain of the Left is all about being a victim. The world used to care for the Jews because they were the victims. But now that Israel has a stronger military than their neighbors, most have abandoned them in favor of the new great victim. The poor opressed muslims who are beaten down by the Jews, ridiculed by the Danish, and oppressed and subjugated by the Great Satan America. Victims. Any atrocity committed in the name of Islam gets excused by the Left as mere consequences of the victim lashing back at the cruel world of Western domination.

So Foley is a victim, poor guy. Send him to rehab, lets all try to make him feel better, its not his fault.

Posted by: Jon at October 11, 2006 6:40 AM

The "devil made me do it" defense never seems to go out of fashion, does it-- it merely gets re-phrased a million different ways.

Posted by: Melissa at October 11, 2006 6:44 AM

Jon is totally right. Fo some reason "I did it cuz I wanted to" doesn't play well in the media.

Posted by: Darry at October 11, 2006 7:43 AM

"Even if some people are predisposed to drink heavily, that tendency does not explain how they act when they drink."

No kidding! That girl I slept with was disgusting!

Posted by: Hasan at October 11, 2006 7:58 AM

Any atrocity committed in the name of Islam gets excused by the Left...


Poppycock.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at October 11, 2006 8:26 AM

When I drink too much, I get giggly and sloppily affectionate. When I drink way too much, I puke and then go to sleep. I don't rail about the jews, send nasty e-mails to underage kids, or accept bribes. I fail to see how being an "alcoholic" affects your ethics when you're sober.

Posted by: amh18057 at October 11, 2006 9:00 AM

Um, I know a bunch of lefties, and I don't see them excusing "any atrocity committed in the name of Islam."

Aren't Christians the new victims? I mean, that's what Ann Coulter says. Poor, persecuted majority, I mean, minority.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 11, 2006 9:02 AM

Alcohol just releases all the bitterness and anger that lives in your subconscious. If there is none there, you just giggle and go to sleep, like amh18057 does.

Posted by: Chris at October 11, 2006 9:28 AM

Christopher Hitchens said it best: "One does not abruptly decide, between the first and second vodka, that the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion are valid after all." (Sure, he's a neocon now, but he can still write well). I find it strange that entire social philosophies or tendencies towards pederastry could be created ex nihilo out of a bottle of jack.

Posted by: jill at October 11, 2006 10:32 AM

Likewise for me, drinking makes me giggly and unable to walk. Well, that's how I am a lot of the time when I'm sober, so perhaps I'm a bad example.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 11, 2006 10:42 AM

Clearly every leftist does not make excuses for all of Islam's atrocities. That would make for very long days. I was thinking more along the lines of the Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill types. The leaders of the "why do they hate us" crowd.

You are right about the Christians claiming victimhood as well. Again, I try not to follow political rants too closely for my own sanity, but the Christian victimhood wail seemed loudest around the Ten Commandments and Terry Shiavo debacles where they were handed a couple setbacks all at once.

Poor theocratic victims. Lets pat them on the back and encourage them to impose their deadly standard of morality on something else, like stem cell research.

The left and the right are not so far apart, both attempting to impose their morality on us.

Posted by: Jon at October 11, 2006 12:51 PM

Was this issue brought up during the Patric Kennedy DUI incident?

Posted by: Arclight at October 11, 2006 2:20 PM

>>(Foley) said he himself was abused years ago by a clergyman.

BTW, the local diocese has demanded that Foley name his abuser. So far he has not done so.

Posted by: Gary S. at October 11, 2006 5:56 PM

Back when I was in college, one of the guys broke an expensive marble tabletop in the commons room. Fell on it or something, as I recall.

His excuse and why he shouldn't pay for it? "I was drunk, and not responsible for my actions."

Incredibly, his rationale got a lot of support from the scholars. And this wasn't a frat or some similar heavy-drinking population.

Posted by: Todd Everett at October 11, 2006 6:10 PM

> Sure, he's a neocon now...

This is a superbly weird time in the life of this young word. Nobody knows what it means... At least, no two people using it can ever describe a single quality described by it (other than "Does not find the 43rd President repugnant at all respects in all hours"). But people spit it with all the condescension and menace of our finest historical curses and expletives. People like to belong... It's cute!

> the bitterness and anger that
> lives in your subconscious.

Liberals aren't all assholes, and Gibson deserves his humiliation, but if alcohol were truth serum, we'd know by now. Drinking probably catalyzed bad behavior from sentiments he'd otherwise have kept to himself. But it's not a mechanical process. It's human and mysterious and variable. People shouldn't drink too much. I have some experience with this.

Of course Foley's using the best possible excuse... Is anyone surprised that a congressman would do this?

Posted by: Crid at October 11, 2006 7:51 PM

I agree, but the trend today is to never take responsibility for your actions. It's the most basic thing but it's epidemic.

Posted by: Michelle at October 11, 2006 11:04 PM

Yes, but because it's so basic I think it's not a trend. People have always been shits. It's fun to make fun of Senators who talk about tubes full of internet, but much of Congress serves constituencies whose ethical and financial imaginations are grounded in the early 19th century, and the rest of the voters aren't paying attention. Are you taking odds on Foley? Marion Berry came back, you know, and is still in government in DC.

Posted by: Crid at October 12, 2006 4:26 AM

This is a superbly weird time in the life of this young word. Nobody knows what it means... At least, no two people using it can ever describe a single quality described by it (other than "Does not find the 43rd President repugnant at all respects in all hours"). But people spit it with all the condescension and menace of our finest historical curses and expletives. People like to belong... It's cute!

By "neoconservative," I mean a person who supports the ideas of the Project for the New American Century think tank. It is a fairly imprecise term, but since Fukuyama--who used to be affiliated with PNAC--uses it, it's fair to think that it describes that particular intellectual movement with some accuracy. I don't really belong to any specific ideological movement, nor would I describe most Bush supporters as "neoconservative," but thanks for making assumptions.

Posted by: jill at October 12, 2006 11:15 AM

> thanks for making assumptions.

You make it so easy!

> By "neoconservative," I mean...

Yes, right. Whatever. Find me another person (nonmedia/nonacademe/nongovt) who's used the word with that intention in the last month. The reason the term has found a home on the popular tongue is that people think it means a whole bunch of other stuff, like "Bush sucks!" Do you think the Rolling Stones wrote that song because they're afraid of Elliot Abrams? Do they have the brains to be afraid of Elliot Abrams?

Fukayama has his amusements, but take this to the bank: Any time anyone, *anyone* uses the word "realism" with respect to international relations, you should read it as "cynicism."

Also, the topic of Alkon's post is given tidy review here:

http://www.reason.com/sullum/101106.shtml

Posted by: Crid at October 12, 2006 6:23 PM

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