Ed Driscoll

How Much More Can We Define Deviancy Downward?

Back in 2002, Jonah Goldberg explored the late Patrick Moynihan’s seminal 1993 “Defining Deviancy Down” essay ten years on:

In 1993, then-Senator Patrick Moynihan wrote one of the most influential articles of the last decade. In the essay, titled “Defining Deviancy Down,” Moynihan argued that deviancy – crime, mental illness, out-of-wedlock births, etc. — had become so rampant, had so thoroughly soaked into the culture, that we simply had to redefine the abnormal as normal to cope. By setting the bar lower, we comforted ourselves with the notion that the percentage of abnormal behavior was still manageable.

Moynihan’s most famous example was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. That event was a major turning point in American history, credited with helping to convince Americans to abandon prohibition. It warranted two entries in the World Book Encyclopedia. The actual details? Four gangsters murdered seven gangsters.

In the early 1990s, Moynihan noted, Los Angeles suffered from the equivalent of one St. Valentine’s Day Massacre every weekend.

And modern-day Chicago, the springboard for our current president’s political career? “At least 22 shot in separate shootings, 1 dead,” the Chicago media reported yesterday.

(H/T: Mark Steyn)