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When the Chewbacca Defense Just Won’t Do, There’s Always… Affluenza

The far left invented the term. They shouldn't be too surprised an enterprising trial lawyer ran with the idea.

Ed Driscoll


December 14, 2013 - 3:00 pm

“Texas teen Ethan Couch gets 10 years’ probation for driving drunk, killing 4,” CNN reported yesterday:

To the families of the victims, Ethan Couch was a killer on the road, a drunken teenage driver who caused a crash that left four people dead.

To the defense, the youth is himself a victim — of “affluenza,” according to one psychologist — the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the boy.

To a judge, who sentenced Couch to 10 years’ probation but no jail time, he’s a defendant in need of treatment.

The decision disappointed prosecutors and stunned victims’ family members, who say they feel that Couch got off too easy. Prosecutors had asked for the maximum of 20 years behind bars.

Yesterday’s article was a good basic, just the facts, ma’am piece of reporting. Perhaps because it’s Friday the 13th, a follow up article CNN ran today gets caught up in a serious case of the stupids, literally asking in the headline, “‘Affluenza’: Is it real?”

Is “affluenza” real? Or is it a way for coddled children and adolescents to evade consequences for their actions?

Not surprisingly, “affluenza” does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, the “psychiatric Bible.”

Here’s what I found with about two minutes worth of Googling, but which isn’t referenced in the above CNN article. According to Wikipedia, “Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic is a 2001 anti-consumerist book by John de Graaf, environmental scientist David Wann, and economist Thomas H. Naylor:”

Viewing consumerism (with its accompanying overwork and dissatisfaction) as a deliberately spread disease, the book consists of three parts — symptoms, origins, and treatment. Affluenza is described as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more”.

The book was considered one of the eight best non-fiction books of the year by Detroit Free Press, and copies were given to every freshman by two universities. lists 38 books citing it. The book was highly recommended for academic and public libraries by M. Bay from Indiana University in Library Journal. The Idaho State University has focused its Book Reading Project 2007 on the book.

Naturally, the book was quickly adopted into a similarly-titled “documentary,” which aired on PBS that same year, before an even more punitive critic of capitalism really made his mark on American society on 9/11. Here’s a link to the PBS Webpage accompanying the show, which, foreshadowing the expert government coding the Obamacare Website, looks all the world like a 2001-era Geocities page:

Af-flu-en-za n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. 4. A television program that could change your life.

Affluenza is a one-hour television special that explores the high social and environmental costs of materialism and overconsumption. Here you can learn more about the show, get an Affluenza diagnosis and check out resources for treatment. Don’t miss our Teacher’s Guide, available only on this Web site.

The “diagnosis” from the network is of course the usual attempt by PBS to guilt their viewers over excessive levels of consumption, complete with shots at President Reagan and the economic revival of the 1980s. (Funny how Bill Clinton wasn’t similarly chided for presiding over the go-go ’90s.)

It was likely around that same time that Rush Limbaugh produced a parody ad, proffering his radio show as the cure for Affluenza. I wonder how many people who heard the ad, which often filled station breaks in the online version of his radio show — and may very well be still in service to this day:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(Click here for direct link to audio, if player isn’t visible.)

Jonah Goldberg once wrote that “Liberals are geniuses at unleashing social panics because A) it never occurs to them that their motives are anything but pure and B) because they are almost exclusively focused on short term tactics. And yet they are invariably shocked when these moral frenzies come back to bite them.”

Or as Allahpundit writes:

If there’s any justice in this world — and there isn’t, as you’re about to see — the victims will bankrupt them with wrongful death suits. The ask right now is $20 million. Beyond that, the lesson for parents (wealthy parents, at least — the poor are screwed here, as usual) is to work hard at turning your child into the most privileged, entitled A-hole possible. If you fail and he somehow turns out to be a decent person and then ends up running someone over, well, then he might have to do time.

The far left invented the term “Affluenza” to goof on free markets and free choices of consumer consumption. They shouldn’t be too surprised an enterprising trial lawyer ran with the idea, Chewbacca Defense-style, and used it to successfully, albeit disgustingly, if the facts of the case are as CNN presents them, get his client off the hook, at least temporarily.

Cross-posted from Ed Driscoll’s blog

Blogging since 2002, affiliated with PJM since 2005, where he is currently a columnist, San Jose Editor, and founder of PJM's Lifestyle blog. Over the past 15 years, Ed has contributed articles to National Review Online, the Weekly, Right Wing News, the New Individualist, Blogcritics, Modernism, Videomaker, Servo, Audio/Video Interiors, Electronic House, PC World, Computer Music, Vintage Guitar, and Guitar World.

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All Comments   (3)
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Government is always trying to have affluence declared a disease so that it can justify everything it does to "cure" us of our affluence.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The fact that someone is privileged and doesn't have limits is *zero* excuse for their actions.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I never imagined white privilege as a debilitating disease, aside from putting me in the default position of a racist from now til the end of time. If it can make me an unconscious Hitler, I certainly need even more privilege to stymie its effects. Piling consideration on top of consideration because I'm the Princess and the Pea probably won't make black activists happy. Tough luck since white privilege is their invention. What's next? Will black activists call for segregation from doxy white people infected with the pressure of putting rovers on Mars and inventing things? I can't imagine Einstein foaming at the mouth while sitting at the patent office writing E=hmmmm... but then I wasn't there.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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