Serial Cookery and Vigilante Justice

The anarchist interwebs have been abuzz with the news that some people in New York, apparently, took justice into their own hands when dealing with a serial offender within their community.

The subject was accused of… engaging in multiple nonconsensual acts of personal intimacy, which is something the anarchist communities have been absolutely powerless to do anything about for years now.

Part of the problem, of course, is that one isn’t allowed to use “the R-word”, because that might be emotionally traumatizing to individuals who have been victimized by this sort of thing, and so you kind of have to beat around the bush a bit and speak in euphemisms, lest you offend someone without their consent, or something.

You’re also – or so I’m told – expected to provide fair advance warning when you mention these things, so here goes:

The remainder of this post discusses the alleged nonconsensual serial cooking allegedly committed by someone, as well as the vigilante way in which the community repaid his kindness by giving him a back massage with baseball bats. If cooking, baseball, or deep-tissue massage are sensitive issues with you, please don’t read on. You have been warned.

Now, most people, when someone cooks for them against their will, or without their active consent, tend to get the police involved, and rightly so, as this is a quite bad thing which law enforcement takes quite seriously. Further, the criminal justice system has a wide variety of tools for dealing with cooks, and for helping ensure that first-time cooks do not become serial offenders. Overall, it has a pretty good track record of success at reforming cooks and ensuring that they don’t cook again.

Anarchists, of course, generally don’t turn to the police, even when they’ve been cooked for. A lot of people like to try and cloud the issue by claiming that this is because there’s a social stigma atached to being a diner, or that the police and criminal justice system tends to believe that certain demographics “deserve” being cooked for, or are to blame for engaging in what is perceived as high-risk behaviour. (“If you didn’t hang out in restaurants…?” This whole cooking metaphor thing isn’t as easy as it looks.)

That’s really just sophistry, though. The real problem is that, to anarchists, police = The State = authority = bad. Why, they say, if we unilaterally punished someone – against their will, obviously – we’d be no better than they are.

So they want to talk. “Dear sir, if you don’t mind, please sit there quietly while we enumerate the variety of negative emotions and feelings which your undesirable culinary activities engender in us. Once we have finished, please feel free to request any clarification you require for a full and complete understanding of our point of view, and then, if you’re comfortable doing so, please make an effort to adjust your future behaviour such that you only engage in culinary activity with people who have actively and explicitly consented to the same.”

It’s even possible that this occasionally works as intended.

For the most part, though, it’s somewhat self-evident that talking doesn’t really work with serial cooks; if it did, they wouldn’t be serial offenders, after all.

A lot of people like to blame this failure on something they call “kitchen culture” – a heteronormative value system perpetrated by male-bodied individuals that subconsciously promotes disparate power paradigms which themselves directly enable cooking, or something full of psychobabble bullshit like that – and then hold “workshops” on how people can “confront kitchen culture” in their communities. The Cliff Notes version is that men are pigs, and should feel eternal guilt for being, you know, men. It’s original sin, or something; men just can’t help but cook, when left to their own devices, or so say the extremely earnest activists.

As I see it, the problem is more that the anarchist community – kitchen culture or no kitchen culture – enables antisocial, even criminal, behaviour, because it is completely and utterly incapable of dealing with people who are assholes. All the crap about “transformative justice” and “accontability processes” is predicated on the very simple assumption that offenders – cooks or otherwise – somehow fail to grasp that their actions are unwelcome and disruptive, and will immediately stop being self-absorbed douchebags once they’re shown the error of their ways.

This clearly doesn’t work as intended, which is a problem, because the anarchist community doesn’t have a Plan B. When talking doesn’t work… talk some more.

Most anarchists seem unable to see the inherent problem with this plan, and those few who do then almost always immediately decide that taking any sort of confrontational approach with actual offenders is a bad idea, and start babbling on about crap like “kitchen culture” again. “Let’s hold all the male-bodied non-cooks responsible for the behaviour of the cooks!” It’s all talk, a lot of hot air which doesn’t achieve anything.

Now, in New York, a group of anarchists have decided to move beyond talking, when dealing with a serial cook. They went, according to their claims, to his apartment, and confronted him about his being a cook. They… relaxed him… with a… deep-tissue massage… with baseball bats, and got him to open up and admit that he is, in fact, a cook. They have pretty high hopes that their hands-on therapy will have cured this fellow of his culinary urges. I suspect they’re right.

Now, a lot of people seem to insist that by giving a cook a massage against his will, the vigilantes have become no better than he was. Me, I don’t think it’s really a problem, but I believe in this strange thing called “punishment”, which I guess makes me some sort of retrograde enabler of classist fuddy-duddyism, or somesuch. (I have a hard time keeping up with the current lingo, sorry.) I wonder how they’d feel if the people giving the massages were the same people who’d been cooked for against their will? Would that be more acceptable? Would that qualify as “justice”? Why should a serial cook escape the consequences of his actions just because his victims don’t want to have anything to do with him, even if it is to administer a baseball-bat massage?

Talking and holding workshops and going on and on about “kitchen culture” and other frankly retarded pseudo-psychological bullcrap indisuptably does not work at turning serial “cooks” into reformed and well-adjusted non-cooks. Harboring “cooks” in the community is of benefit to nobody except the “cooks” themselves. Kicking them out of the anarchist scene may benefit the anarchists, true. It might make you uncomfortable, or force you to grow the fuck up – excuse my language – and accept truths you don’t want to hear, but what I’m going to euphemistically call “remedial deep-tissue massage therapy” benefits the entire world.

“Cooks” are sick, and need help – help they don’t, generally speaking, want to receive. The State has, as I mentioned earlier, a pretty effective system for showing cooks the error of their ways. If you don’t want to involve The State, but want to keep things “within the community”, well, a couple of enlightened radicals with baseball bats is an alternative option that, IMO, shows a lot of promise.

It might not be a perfect solution, but it’s gotta be better than the status quo.

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General | on April 29th, 2010| 4 Comments »

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  1. On 4/29/2010 at 7:38 pm parse Said:

    They have pretty high hopes that their hands-on therapy will have cured this fellow of his culinary urges. I suspect they’re right.

    What is the basis of your suspicion that they therapy will be effective, or your earlier claim that State action in these cases generally results in a significant reduction in further cooking when applied to first-time cooks?

  2. On 4/29/2010 at 9:16 pm Nemo Said:

    Parse: Most long-term studies of, ah, “culinary-offender treatment programs” report recidivism rates for subjects of around 20-25%. (See here for an overview.) In other words, treatment programs run by the State – and the medical- and prison-industrial complexes, natch – are effective about 75-80% of the time, when dealing with both first-time and repeat cooks. Though the term “significant reduction” is yours – I used the words “a pretty good track record” and “pretty effective” – I think that kind of description is probably appropriate.

    As to why I suspect the, ahem, massage therapy may prove effective? A large dose of wishful thinking, tempered by some experience in dealing with related sorts of offenders, and seasoned – pardon the culinary reference – with a helping of cynicism. (I am willing to accept, reluctantly, that some isolated, one-time acts of cookery can stem from truly colossal lapses in judgment, perhaps pharmaceutically enhanced, and I’m not quite so naive as to believe that nobody has ever been falsely accused of nonconsensual cookery, which is why I write mainly of serial offenders, people whose are either sick and in need professional help the scene cannot provide, or who have their heads so far up their posterior orifices that no amount of talking is ever going to open their eyes to the reality that surrounds them.)

    I’m not convinced that hands-on therapy will prove effective in this instance, or in any given instance. But, like some commenter said, you can’t judge something from a single data point. Since the status quo is demonstrably failing to work, I say let’s try out the new method for a while and see how that works.

    After all, there’s the theoretical, purely preventative effects of repeat cooks being massaged versus being talked at by well-meaning busybodies, but that is another matter for another day, of course…

  3. On 5/2/2010 at 7:16 pm alice Said:

    hey, i’m pretty sure i agree with the main point that i think you’re trying to make – the legitimacy of survivors fighting back and taking justice into their own hands.

    but, the way you’ve written this is really dismissive and insulting towards survivors of rape and sexual violence.
    i really doubt that your use of confusing euphemisms was out of a genuine concern for anyone. instead, i think you were trying to make the idea of having sensitivity toward survivors look like a ridiculous joke.
    if someone doesn’t want to read an article discussing rape, they aren’t going to want to read an article that simply replaces the word ‘rape’ with ‘cooking’, or whatever. i think this is pretty obvious.
    if you are truly concerned that using the word “rape” will offend survivors or others, simply putting a disclaimer at the beginning of your article stating that you are going to be discussing rape, violence and other potentially triggering topics is effective. (which you admittedly did, but only after introducing your ridiculous euphemisms.)

    you said: “The Cliff Notes version is that men are pigs, and should feel eternal guilt for being, you know, men.” seriously? this is your understanding of what the term “rape culture” refers to? i think even a cursory amount of research into this particular topic, or into radical or anarcha-feminism in general, might help to make it clearer. to be sure, there are some analyses that are as simplistic as the one you’re presenting, but i don’t think that it’s honest to present that as a broadly-accepted definition of the term “rape culture”.
    here’s a wikipedia definition: “Rape culture is a term used within women’s studies and feminism, describing a culture in which rape and other sexual violence (usually against women) are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence.” (

    i am honestly baffled at who the intended audience for this blog post is. of course, i know nothing about you or your political views. if you are trying to express solidarity with the individuals who confronted a rapist in new york, then why not just lose the sarcasm and say so without demeaning other survivors of assault? if you’re really trying to provide an analysis of “rape culture” or discuss anarchist alternatives to the law enforcement system, i think you have a lot more research to do.
    i would honestly love to hear your response.

  4. On 5/2/2010 at 10:00 pm Nemo Said:

    Argh, where to begin? Other than your really weak attempt at guilt-tripping me over what you perceive as demeaning, insulting, and dismissive of rape victims, that is.

    Fundamental points to keep in mind: I’m not an anarchist. I don’t play one on teevee. While I am in sympathy with a certain number of anarchist/anti-authoritarian/anti-capitalist ideas, I am extremely dismissive of most of the social norms and institutions of those communities, as they exist and are implemented in the midwestern parts of the United States these days. (It’s nothing particularly personal against anarchists; I’m just allergic to lifestyle-ism.) That being said, I’ve had an academic interest in the movement since 1993, and have written a book on the subject, so I’m not, you know, some ignorant, evil librul, or whatever your preferred perjorative is.

    My intended audience? My several hundred regular readers, who I’m fairly confident are by now well aware and tolerant of my very occasional tendency to mock assorted well-deserving aspects of the One True Anarchist Lifestyle(TM).

    And, FYI, a part of the reason I used euphemisms in this post – and didn’t mention the name of the individual in question – is because I really didn’t want to spend the next six months arguing with people who have nothing better to do than troll through Google Blog Search looking for hot-button issues they’d like to start arguments about. (The other part, you guessed it, is to make fun of the hypersensitive types who use terms like “trigger words” non-sarcastically.)

    I should also add here that I am mostly a strong supporter of law enforcement in this country, and believe that the justice system, while admittedly imperfect, serves a vital and extremely valuable purpose.

    I also believe that the dogmatic anarchist lifestyle insistence of solving everything “in the community” without ever involving “the State” is patently unworkable unless and until the “community” can drop the bullshit about “authority” and figure out a way to justify and condone the administration of actual punishment or other substantitive deterrent. I think that there are some types of offenses – including sexual assault – which the anarchist scene as it now stands is fatally and absolutely incapable of dealing with internally, and should very much handle through the criminal justice system, lofty principles be damned. (Until someone manages to come up with a Plan D, talking at rapists, sending them to jail, or beating the snot out of them seem to be the only options, and one of those has been proven to be useless, or worse.)

    Now… I know what Wikipedia, and others, define “rape culture” as. I also know – as well as you do, I expect – that there has been a movement within the anarchist scene in the last two years or so to endlessly protest teh evils of “manarchism”, i.e. the dominance (real or perceived) of the “movement” by male-bodied persyns, in connection with an anarchist interpretation of rape culture.

    (By the way, in case you hadn’t caught on, when I use terms like “male-bodied persyns” and “heteronormative value systems” I’m not-terribly-subtly poking fun at the extremely vocal “diversity”-fetishizing minority who take this kind of cruft rather too seriously, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

    As well, I’m aware – as I’m sure you are, et cetera – that a lot of possibly well-meaning anarchist “workshops” on rape culture really do attempt to posit that rape in the anarchist scene would be entirely a thing of the past if white-skinned male-bodied persyns from “privileged” backgrounds simply stopped being white-skinned male-bodies persyns from somehow “privileged” backgrounds, an extremely simplistic view I tend to find mildly offensive. (I would even go a step further and say that the anarchist interpretation of rape culture might actually appear to excuse rape, by suggesting that working-class white male rapists either “just can’t help themselves” or are at least culturally predisposed thusly, which is patently bullshit.)

    Whether I agree with that (mis)interpretation or not, though, I quite firmly believe that it does nothing whatsoever to address serial rapists. I actually believe that this idealist emphasis on positive community-wide transformation blah blah blah does more harm than good, because while it may or may not actually impact potential future rapes, and rapists – the rapists-in-potentia, if you will – it disinclines people to do anything of substance about people who are already rapists, willingly and knowingly.

    And, to follow on from my point earlier, I believe that the continued refusal of anarchists to involve the government in (at least certain serious types of) criminal matters serves to do no less than enable and even harbour some quite honestly dangerous criminals.

    To put it simply: I am of the firm opinion that, within the context of the anarchist scene in a large part of the United States, that the prevalence of worshops/lectures/et cetera on manarchism and rape culture are nothing more than soft porn for misguided, overly-idealistic diversity fetishists, and give everyone involved a completely false sense of accomplishment vis-a-vis the undeniably real issue of rape and the jackasses who commit it.

    I do not believe that it is possible for anyone in this country from a working-class or higher white background to reach puberty without being fully and completely aware that no means no, only yes means yes, and that rape is an extremely bad thing. (I qualify that statement only to acknowledge the inarguable reality that educational and social services tend to fail minority communities quite frequently.) Booze and drugs can make people do stupid things, to be sure, but I think that while most people who commit rape under their influences are going to feel a great deal of guilt and remorse after the fact without being preventitively lectured on the subject three times a year, no amount of education is going to affect those who don’t, and who commit rape within the scene because they know there will be essentially zero consequences.

    Hopefully that clears up your confusion, and prevents the necessity of any other similarly long responses on my part…