the phrase blaming the victim refers to situations in which the victims of crime or injustice are unfairly held responsible for their own predicament. i’ve heard the phrase used critically with respect to daniel patrick moynihan’s (1965) report on the negro family, but also in a more literal sense regarding rape myths that blame the targets of sexual assault.

the not-so-strange case of mr. gabriel schwartz, drugged and robbed at the republican national convention, seems to offer an ideal-typical case of an unsympathetic victim. from david hanners’ pioneer press account:

He met her in the bar of the swank hotel and invited her to his room. Once there, the woman fixed the drinks and told him to get undressed. And that, the delegate to the Republican National Convention told police, was the last thing he remembered. When he awoke, the woman was gone, as was more than $120,000 in money, jewelry and other belongings. … The haul included a $30,000 watch, a $20,000 ring, a necklace valued at $5,000, earrings priced at $4,000 and a Prada belt valued at $1,000, police said. Schwartz is a single attorney and a fixture in Colorado Republican politics. …

In an interview filmed the afternoon of Sept. 3 and posted on the Web site, Schwartz was candid about how he envisioned change under a McCain presidency. “Less taxes and more war,” he said, smiling. He said the U.S. should “bomb the hell” out of Iran because the country threatens Israel.

Asked by the interviewer how America would pay for a military confrontation with Iran, he said the U.S. should take the country’s resources. “We should plant a flag. Take the oil, take the money,” he said. “We deserve reimbursement.” … He said an attack on Iran was needed to protect Israel, and he offered how it could be accomplished through “strategical airstrikes.” “Hopefully, just bomb the hell out of them from the sky. No troops,” he said.

yeesh — he’s not just talking strategical airstrikes, but strategical nukular airstrikes. even if we grant that mr. schwartz was joking and/or inebriated when he made those comments, they don’t make him a very sympathetic victim, do they? moreover, young mr. schwartz further offends our sensibilities with his staggeringly annoying personal injury law commercials — and a blazer that only elroy “crazylegs” hirsch could pull off.

nevertheless, this loud man in loud clothing remains the victim of a serious crime. and, if you scratch the surface of crime reports, you’ll see that many victims are far more foolish, annoying, and/or repugnant than mr. schwartz. that’s why there’s a real danger in drawing lines between worthy and unworthy victims: if this victim’s account is accurate, somebody is robbing and drugging peoople at a hotel a few blocks from my department.

so, while some may snigger that mr. schwartz “got what was coming to him,” i get a real cold chill whenever i hear a criminologist, a cop, or a correctional officer express such sentiments. to an even greater extent than mr. schwartz’s fashion choices and political statements, blaming the victim is ugly business.