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Mad Man: Is Kavanaugh’s anger the righteous fury of an innocent man — or the calculated rage of an abuser?

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Brett Kavanaugh: He mad

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By David Futrelle

So what exactly are we to make of Brett Kavanaugh’s anger? Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee began his testimony this afternoon in something close to a boiling rage, presenting himself as the innocent victim of a vast and improbable conspiracy, angrily denouncing those who, he said, had destroyed his reputation beyond repair.

As the afternoon progressed, he repeatedly interrupted his questioners and defiantly repeated a series of scripted non-answers when the questions cut too deep. His anger seemed contagious; by the end of the day his Republican supporters — most notably South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham — were breaking out in veritable tantrums in the Senate chambers.

So what is going on here? Is Kavanaugh’s rage a conscious strategy, or simply a reflection of who he is?

Let’s consider four possible explanations — starting with what I think is the least likely one.

Kavanaugh is displaying the righteous rage of the falsely accused

As Jeet Heer noted in The New Republic, Kavanaugh’s sometimes furious, sometimes tearful “performance won plaudits from conservatives and right-wingers, who see him as an injured party,” including such, er, luminaries as Donald Trump Jr., the National Review’s Rich Lowry and even (reportedly) the president himself. An op-ed in the right-wing Washington Examiner declared Kavanaugh’s anger to be “clear and righteous.”

Of course, if you believe Christine Blasey Ford and/or Kavanaugh’s other accusers, as I do, you have to conclude that this interpretations is utter bullshit. So let’s move on to what I think are the more plausible explanations:

Kavenaugh is pretending to be angry in order to convince people that he’s innocent

If a display of “clear and righteous” anger is enough to convince many that you really are innocent, what’s to stop a guilty person from pantomiming righteous rage? Guilty criminals do it all the time. “[I]f Kavanaugh is telling the truth … he has every right to be thunderously angry,” wrote Robby Soave on Reason.com. “If Kavanaugh is guilty, his goal is to appear innocent, and thus it would not be out of place for him to sound angry. ”

Kavanaugh has deep anger issues and cannot help himself

In this interpretation, there is nothing strategic about Kavanaugh’s fury; it’s just who he is. A deeply entitled white man from a wealthy background who is used to getting his way, he cannot help lashing out at anyone who challenges him or stands in his path. If this is indeed the root of his rage today, it not only adds credence to what his accusers have said about his behavior; it also suggests he’s temperamentally unsuited to serve as a judge on any level, much less on the Supreme Court.

But there is another possible interpretation that seems to me even more likely than these last two.

Kavanaugh, adopting a strategy of many domestic abusers, has learned how to use his anger to get his way — and is now using it to try to bulldoze himself onto the highest court in the land

In Why Does He Do That (Amazon affiliate link), his invaluable guidebook to abusive men, domestic violence expert Lundy Bancroft notes that abusers’ angry outbursts are often far more strategic than they appear on the surface — even violent tantrums. (Bancroft notes that abusers tend to smash things that belong to partners but rarely their own property.)

As Bancroft sees it, abusers don’t abuse because they have an anger problem; they are angry because they are abusive and entitled. In this interpretation, Kavanaugh isn’t angry because he’s innocent; he’s angry because he believes he should be able to get away with the sort of things that in a just world would have sent him to jail.

He may be so used to using anger as a way to control and intimidate those around him that he has no idea how what it looks like when he throws a tantrum in public. Or maybe he thinks he can get away with it. Because he very well might.

Even Kavanaugh’s longstanding habit of telling blatant, easily disprovable lies may be in part an abusive strategy of gaslighting, an attempt to force his “reality” onto others. In testimony today, Kavanaugh asserted that he hadn’t even bothered to watch Ford’s appearance before the Senate this morning; reporting from the Wall Street Journal seemed to suggest that he had. On Twitter, Slate senior editor Sam Adams said he thought that Kavanaugh’s gaslighting on this issue was more an “assertion of power [than] an attempt to be believed.”

It’s all very Trumpian. Which is probably why Trump was apparently so pleased with his performance today.

Whatever the explanation for Kavanaugh’s behavior today, it’s not a good one. He’s manifestly unfit for the job, so much so that a Supreme Court with him on it would instantly lose all legitimacy. Putting this belligerent, abusive narcissist on the court will throw this country into a constitutional crisis, and one that will be damned near impossible to resolve.

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srsly
51 days ago
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Atlanta, Georgia
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gangsterofboats
51 days ago
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The first one.

1138: Lesson Planar

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http://www.GiantITP.com/comics/oots1138.html
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srsly
80 days ago
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Even if you don't read Order Of the Stick, you should read today's.
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Gotham

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

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Meanwhile, without a powerful foe, the Joker channeled his ambitions into serving the public good through high office.


Today's News:
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popular
89 days ago
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srsly
90 days ago
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Atlanta, Georgia
acdha
90 days ago
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Washington, DC
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tante
89 days ago
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A different Bruce Wayne story
Oldenburg/Germany
fxer
90 days ago
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why not just serve the GnTs in a larger vessel
Bend, Oregon
d4nj450n
90 days ago
What are you!? Some kind of barbarian?

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - To Vote or Not to Vote

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srsly
101 days ago
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If you canvas, you can drive dozens of votes for your candidate over the course of a few hours each week. Getting one person to the polls is pretty much meaningless, but when you get thirty that starts to count!
Atlanta, Georgia
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jlvanderzwan
101 days ago
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And how many months did it take to craft this argument, hmm?

Laws and Sausages - 101

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New comic!

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srsly
103 days ago
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Shared so that the RSS feed is quick 'n' east to get for this new comic
Atlanta, Georgia
rlauzon
100 days ago
Too bad the RSS feed doesn't work in NewsBlur. Ahh... it's working now.
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the-swift-tricker: morethanprinceofcats: ...

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it’s really wild to see how batman has evolved over time as a consequence of writers wanting to change everything while also changing nothing because any comic that lives that long is a shambling stitched-together corpse

early batman is a swashbuckler and he’s having a good-ass time beating up these bad guys, because he existed in the context of organized crime being a big fucking problem. they were coming out of the 1930s. that’s the era of al capone, you know? john dillinger only died five years ago and he was a fucking celebrity. and batman shows up to be like YOU KNOW WHAT’S COOLER THAN SHOOTING PEOPLE AND BRIBING GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS? BEING BATMAN.

early batman could not have been more clearly edutainment, pulpy enough to make kids feel like they were reading That Good Shit but always with a really obvious message (the message was DON’T DO A CRIME). he fights a lot of giants because having to protect yourself from people twice your size is very #relatable to children.

when he adopts robin it’s very clearly to give kids a character to relate to more strongly than they can bruce wayne–FIGHTING CRIMES ISN’T JUST FOR RICH MEN, IT’S ALSO FOR COOL KIDS LIKE YOU. see how cool robin is, kicking the shit out of these dudes? don’t you wanna be cool, like robin? he’s from the circus, that thing you wanted to run away to because that’s a viable life choice in this era!

bruce wayne was rich but his whole cover was that rich people are fucking useless. a man who inherited money? a fucking useless, lazy shit, no question. this was just accepted by everyone, that obviously an heir would never be suspected of doing anything that might take effort. the difference in attitude on a fundamental level toward the idle rich is staggering.

his wealth is also MONUMENTALLY downplayed, in the same way you see in old movies. they deliberately did not film the philadelphia story in an actual mansion because they didn’t think anyone would believe that the rich got to live like that. so bruce wayne ends up looking like he lives in a tract home in a suburb. “is this how rich people live? yeah, sure, probably. who cares, let’s fight crimes.”

they only introduce a backstory after the comic has been going for a while, because at first it’s like? why would he need a reason to fight crime? it’s fun? but i guess they figured they had to create SOME reason for bruce wayne to not be completely useless, as all rich men are. why is bruce wayne the only rich man capable of doing cool shit? because his parents died, that’s why. check out robin kicking this dude in the head. fucking sweet, right?

there’s a whole storyline where batman fights a whole fucking town because it’s corrupt and the cops are corrupt and THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM IS CORRUPT so he’s gonna FIGHT THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM IF HE HAS TO, FUCK YOU AND FUCK YOUR COCAINE.

then the comics code happens and fucks everything. batman can’t fight, like, systemic corruption and dudes with tommy guns anymore. all the crimes get CARTOONY AS SHIT. the joker isn’t just a murderous jewel thief with a weird face, he’s a fucking clown. he’s a weird clown man committing clown crimes. puns everywhere. suddenly batman is fighting Supervillains, and they’re all insane. but they aren’t, really? they are a cartoon’s idea of insanity, like a wolf in a straitjacket getting hit on the head with a mallet. when a character is insane what that actually means is they’re wacky, they do weird shit, they have no meaningful motivation and do crimes for no reason because the alternative is having them commit real crimes for good reasons and that’s not good for the kiddos. the fact that batman changed so much after the code is fucking WILD because, remember, it was ALWAYS for the kids. it was BLATANTLY for the kids. the code still managed to fuck it just through the culture shift it created.

then later there’s this shift, again, away from the code and away from kids entirely. late seventies, i think? fuck if i know, i don’t know shit about damn. suddenly they want to be more GRITTY and REAL and DARK. they want REAL CRIME. batman is PUNCHING RAPISTS IN ALLEYS. but this isn’t the era of dillinger anymore. as a society, collectively, we understand more about crime and the societal forces that drive people to crime and so on. there are a lot of alley rapists in this era of comics tbh and this is probably why. rapists always deserve to get punched regardless of class struggle. also at this point we understand more about violence, and people who are violent, who commit acts of violence and solve problems with violence and enjoy being violent. a rich guy having a blast kicking a guy in the head for robbing a bank is no longer great optics.

so batman stops having fun. this is now his dark mission, his grim assignment. he doesn’t like this job, but someone’s gotta do it. he will not smile as he punches a rapist in the head. this is serious business. i don’t necessarily have a problem with this decision, because i think it’s a legitimate course of action to say “in a modern context, these behaviors become unacceptable, and so we will change his behaviors so that he can continue to be a heroic figure”. that’s valid as a motherfucker and i wish more people would remember that the whole point of making batman a grump was so that he could continue to be a good guy, as opposed to the alternative of gleeful violence.

(getting rid of most of the violence is also good–he’s a detective–but these are comics we’re talking about here so lol)

and then there’s the villains. you’d think this would be the point where they say “hey, maybe let’s go back to the way some of our villains were before the code”. you’d think that if they hated the goofy villains so much they’d just move on. but it’s comics so nothing ever goes in the trash for good. and that’s when you have writers who look at a cartoon wolf in a straitjacket and they say “that’s not what insanity looks like! we should make him a sociopath.”

i mean you could have just said “let’s stop calling him crazy and try to find a better motivation for these crimes, like being an asshole” but instead now batman has all these villains with sociopathy and OCD and DID and schizophrenia, because that makes it REAL, because now instead of being cartoon crazy people committing cartoon crimes they are real crazy people committing real crimes!! OH BOY

and at some point someone looks at this and goes “you know i feel like this might be ableist as shit” and writers could have said “yeah in retrospect the only evil clown i’m aware of was legally deemed sane and didn’t actually commit thematically appropriate crimes, so maybe mental health isn’t the issue here” but instead they said “yes, batman is kind of an asshole to be punching these sick people, but he’s a necessary asshole because without him there would be Crazy Crimes and we all just have to come to terms with that i guess”

now we’re at this place where we’re trying to reconcile about eighty years of nonsensical horseshit and all of these decisions that were made because of shifting cultural attitudes or to sell comics or because one writer in particular assumed everyone would love his cool OC as much as he did, and there are writers going “you know, bruce wayne probably has pretty severe ptsd” and there are writers going “what if batman was the REAL villain all along” and there are writers going “lol rich man wears bat costume to punch the mentally ill and poors, did u ever think about that” and there are writers going “hey have you heard of this ayn rand chick because boy howdy i just did and now i’ve got ideas

but the reality is that heroism and goodness are not static concepts that look the same to all people even within the same era and trying to reconcile every different version of what the popular conception of heroism has looked like for almost a century is dumb as hell and batman should have entered the public domain in 2014

i know this has a lot of notes and op is probably avoiding looking at any of this but i just wanted to say that this is the best thing i’ve ever read about batman on tumblr

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srsly
106 days ago
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but the reality is that heroism and goodness are not static concepts that look the same to all people even within the same era and trying to reconcile every different version of what the popular conception of heroism has looked like for almost a century is dumb as hell and batman should have entered the public domain in 2014
Atlanta, Georgia
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