Righteous Slaughter -- Katz Chapter 1
In this chapter, Katz offers an explanation for some types of murder (in another he
discusses senseless killings). In many murders, particularly those between persons who
know each other, people kill defending what they believe to be the "good;" thus
justifying the crime in their own minds (at least at the moment they are committing it).
In some cases, the public and juries have agreed with the defendant's claim that the
killing was justified. Francine Hughes (Burning Bed case) couldn't very well argue
self-defense, but did have a jury uphold her temporary insanity plea. She was then shortly
released without receiving treatment. In the movie she is pictured as killing to protect
her children from further harm, and as the only way to free herself from an otherwise
unchangeable situation. Every time she moved away, he followed her. Another example is a
husband who murders his adulterous wile or their wife's lover, particularly when the
husband catches them in the act. He often receives sympathy from a jury. The husband is
killing to defend the sacred institution of marriage from an outside attack.
Killings may also be justified in the eyes of the murderer if property rights have been violated, i.e. breaking into one's home, blocking a driveway with a car.
Overall these types of murders tend to emerge quickly, are fiercely impassioned, and are conducted with an indifference to the legal consequences. They are therefore immune to the Classical model's insistence that swift, certain, and severe punishment will act as a general deterrence. The person usually makes no attempt to escape and is quickly apprehended.
Why do such murders occur? Katz offers the following explanation:
1. The would-be murdered must come to understand the situation as one in which the victim is attacking what he regards as an eternal human truth. The situation requires a last stand in defense of a value that is associated with the individual's basic worth as a human being. The person feels they can not simply walk away from the situation without suffering a tremendous loss of face.
Katz tries to explain why the overwhelming majority of such murders occur at home or at a recreational activity (i.e., drinking at a bar). You can walk away from conflicts at work, because after 9 to 5 you are free to leave. The home is a much more difficult scene to relieve oneself from. Also, there is a much greater emotional investment in hearth and home. Recreational facilities are places people often come to as a last resort escape from other spheres of life. If one can not escape serious personal challenges there, where can one turn?
2. The particular emotion the killer is feeling (humiliation) must be transformed into rage. It is on this point that Katz's theory is most problematic? He does not assert simplistically that people are impelled by their emotions. He, in fact, states that persons who become enraged must create their own emotions first, and then allow themselves to be seduced by their emotions in order to act out violently.
0n this point Katz is in agreement with the direction being taken in the newly emerging subdiscipline of the sociology of emotions. This field is much more interested in studying verbal "accounts" rather than internal emotional states. Neither humiliation nor rage would be universal responses to the situations that righteous killers have found themselves. In both humiliation and rage the individual experiences himself as an object compelled by forces beyond his control. "I got carried away," or "I wasn't myself," are frequently heard statements to express the compulsion. However, humiliation only becomes rage when a person senses that the way to resolve the problem of humiliation is to turn on the source of the humiliation. The goal may not be so much to kill, but to obliterate or annihilate the source of the frustration. In fact, sometimes, if the person dies too quickly the sense of vengeance is not satiated. (i.e. TV soap operas have to revive characters like Roger Thorpe so they be killed again.)
See also: Anatomy of Disgust
KATZ Chapter 2- "SNEAKY THRILLS"
When one looks at the entire history of criminological theory, there have been few attempts to explain female criminality. However, the models that have been developed frequently are crime specific. The highest number of property crimes committed by women are shoplifting offenses. Women do not steal cars or commit home break-ins. Female shoplifters fall into 2 subcategories:
1) Boosters-- professional shoplifters likely to use booster boxes, or other shoplifting tools of the trade. They steal for the money, frequently "fencing"the items quickly.
2) Snitches-- amateurs or occasional shoplifters. They will steal on impulse or if the opportunity presents itself. The reasons they steal are obscure. There is little proof for kleptomania, a neurotic compulsion to steal.
Turning to Katz's explanation of shoplifting, he seems to best fit the category of occasional shoplifters who steal on a dare or for excitement. College students who described their shoplifting experiences produced his accounts. However, it is possible that all shoplifters experience the kind of emotional "thrills" Katz describes.
There are 3 phases to the shoplifting experience described by Katz:
1) Generating the experience of being seduced to shoplift
2) Reconquering ones fears in an effort to produce normal appearances
3) The euphoric thrill of accomplishment
1) While many potential shoplifters go into the store with the idea they will take something, they often do not know what they will end up stealing. They assume that something will catch their eye and pull them toward it. Department stores are modern-day cornucopias overflowing with the goods of our mass-produced economy. Objects in the store have an almost mystical attraction; the right object must almost beg to be stolen. The motivation for deviance is perceived to be shared by shoplifter and object. Of course, this is much like the way many people approach shopping trips to the mall. Bruce Johnson argues in Kids, Drugs, and Crime that shoplifting is merely shopping without money, and would agree with Katz's first stage explanation. Another aspect of the seduction process is contemplating how easy it would be to steal the item. "It would be so easy."
The shoplifter is therefore put in the odd position of having to feign that they are shopping while engaged in stealing. All kinds of questions and doubts enter their mind about whether real shoppers would act the way they are. (i.e. returning to the item several times before deciding to buy it; looking up to see if there are any cameras peering on them, etc). Shoplifters must feign shopping if they hope to arouse no suspicions. By not looking around to see if they are being followed, or up to search for cameras, etc, the shoplifter doesn't know if they have been spotted by store security forces. Will they make it out of the store safely?
3) Once safely out of the store, the euphoria of having succeeded in fooling the clerks
and detectives emerges. The person has proven to himself or herself that they have the
ability to overcome their stagefright and successfully pulled off a deviant act while
pretending to be "normal". What has in the end been stolen may be of less
importance than the psychological boost the accomplishment brings. Often the object is
discarded or given away. Such shoplifters do not develop a deviant identity, and will stop
if arrested or caught by store
On the other hand, career shoplifters
(boosters) consider being caught the price one must pay. Penalties for shoplifting, even
for multiple offenses, are slight.