Will you be Hillary’s next superpredator?

We know now that the theory of the superpredator is utter bullshit. In the 90s the idea was pushed by John DiIulio, a professor at Princeton who fear-mongered that by 2010, there would be “an estimated 270,000 more young predators on the streets.” This, of course, never happened. His predictive failure was nonetheless a coup for conservative tacticians, and after helping the Clintons establish themselves as “tough on crime,” he was rewarded as the first director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President George W. Bush.

bring them to heel

It should be obvious that the Clintons cynically used the myth of the superpredator to exploit issues of race and crime, extract money for/from the private prison lobby, and steer political discourse to the right.  It was a horribly destructive myth that claimed some children were “just born criminals.” It was used in combination with the “crack baby” myth to demonize the black community with the express intent of preemptively locking up kids. This was the subject of her now infamous campaign speech when she said that these children are superpredators, without conscience or empathy—who have to be “brought to heel.”

Here’s what UC Law professor Franklin Zimring said of the superpredator myth in 1996: “The ideological needs of the moment seem to be for a youth crime wave set in the future so that government can shadowbox against it by getting tough on juvenile crime in advance. It’s a “heads-I-win, tails-you-lose” situation for the crime wave alarmists. They were right if crime rates go up; their policies can also be said to succeed even if the crime wave never happens. There are more than a few parallels here with the domestic scare about communists in the late 1940s and early 1950s.goldwater If we find any communists hiding under our beds, the alarm was justified. If there are no communists under the bed, then the vigilance of citizens has saved the day.”

Hillary-Logo-467 You might say it was it was tactic that Barry Goldwater would approve of, only African American juveniles were the communists of the 90s.

On Wednesday Clinton was confronted at a fundraiser by an activist, Ashley Williams, who unfurled a banner and asked for an apology for the policy and for the superpredator language. Hillary was caught flat-footed and angrily brushed the woman away. It was all caught on video.

It took a day of the video and hashtag #WhichHillary trending on Twitter for Clinton to release a statement saying this was language she “wouldn’t use today.” Unfortunately, she wasn’t immediately able to articulate this position, and language shouldn’t be our primary concern. This discredited theory of crime created mass incarceration which decimated whole swaths of our country by race. I believe that deserves a more than, “I wouldn’t use that language today.” How about not adopting that policy, scapegoating that racial population, and carrying that water for the private prison lobby?

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 1.28.56 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 1.28.43 PMIf Clinton would use the myth of the superpredator to build power for the administation on crime in the 90s, what do you suppose will be the next myth and the next maligned social group under a new Clinton White House? Could the threat of ISIS be used against us? In what capacity? Against which social groups? Muslims? Immigrants? Using what technologies? 

Indeed, this moment would have gone down much differently had candidate Clinton used her position of privilege to respond with more compassion or care. But that didn’t happen. Instead, she had that young black woman escorted out while intoning that she would “get back to the the issues.”

This sent the message that the concerns of African Americans are not her issues, nor those of the people in the room. Moreover, it suggested that the people in the room were still in the superpredator mindset—and the candidate wasn’t going to deign to address her question. No how, no way. “Back to the issues.”

crowd at SC fundraiser









Brook Hines is a writer, photographer, activist and former alt-weekly publisher, as well as an award-winning advertising creative with more than 20 years’ experience crafting strategy for clients ranging from healthcare companies to museums. She’s Associate Producer for Progressive News Network (tune this Sunday at 7 pm or download the podcast anytime), and the Communications Chair for the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida. All opinions offered here are her own, delivered from the perspective of social theory, cultural criticism, and near constant stream of caffeine. Political and media analysis through a Progressive lens. Read all of Brook’s articles here. Check out brookhines.com


  1. This article is jejune misogynistic click bait.


    1. uh huh — go ahead and unpack that.


    2. I don’t think any of those words mean what you think they mean.


      1. Yes,they do.


    3. T.S. Meliot · · Reply

      This comment is shamanistic wizard-baiting tarantula chow. (Am I doing it right?) 🙂


      1. The calliope crashed to the ground.


  2. Fisher Fleming · · Reply

    Great piece. Part of what I’m seeing is that Clinton participated in a familiar pattern of political manufactured fear.

    “The super-predator theory was alway bullshit,” criminal justice researcher Franklin Zimring of the University of California, Berkeley, told BuzzFeed News. “It was political rhetoric cloaking a movement that wanted to lock more people up.”
    Even in 1996, when Clinton made her remarks, Zimring and other criminologists suggested that the idea of an ever-increasing homicide rate was based on a fallacy that somehow some kids were just born criminals, and that children under 13 were somehow included in this cohort of super-criminals. “They are worried about desperados in diapers,” he wrote that year in the Los Angeles Times.

    It’s a pattern I associate with conservatives.

    1. Find / create bogeyman, preferably an outsider / “other” suitable for framing.

    2. Whip up hysteria, utilizing false information and preying on the human foible of imagining monsters under the bed.

    3. Use this as a basis to increase police power, curtail personal freedom, and most importantly,


    5. When it begins to become obvious the threat never existed, declare victory, claiming the abusive, exploitive “cure” is what worked.

    6. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    What bothers me most is that it demonstrates that Clinton’s leadership “style” is to simply exploit whatever is available to gain and hold power. She does not swim upstream, but rather finds the current and jumps in.

    This is not leadership. It’s exploitation and power mongering. It’s exactly why things improve so slowly, and sometimes get worse. People who think this way and utilize these techniques are not trying to actually accomplish anything but negotiating power structures for their own benefit. If allies need money, a reason to send them money will present itself. If a vulnerable population can be demonized to generate the fear / repression / profit model noted above, they will be so demonized.

    It’s not uniquely Hillary Clinton. She is not especially awful. But she is not any different or any better, either.


    1. It’s like getting rich off of selling pterodactyl spray. All you have to do is convince enough people that there’s a pterodactyl problem and everyone will want pterodactyl spray…and it just so happens I’ve got some right here.


  3. It’s where we were in the 1990s. But doing a lot of the crap we (Democrats) did back then have helped create the current economic and racial injustices. We need to recognize that and start making the structural changes that will end these injustices.


  4. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters endorses Hillary Clinton.
    The American Federation of Teachers endorses Hillary Clinton.
    HRC represents many positive values. White people speaking sanctimoniously about people of color and HRC is simply patronizing. Do not need this condescending “defense.” Union support for Hillary Clinton.


  5. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters endorses Hillary Clinton.
    The American Federation of Teachers endorses Hillary Clinton.
    HRC represents many positive values. White people speaking sanctimoniously about people of color and HRC is simply patronizing. Do not need this condescending “defense.” Union support for Hillary Clinton.


  6. Five mothers who campaigned with Hillary Clinton is South Carolina:
    Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Lucia McBath, mother of teenager Jordan Davis, who was killed by a Florida man in 2012 after a confrontation over loud music;r; Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre, who was killed by a then-Milwaukee police officer in 2014; and Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, found hanged in a Texas jail cell in 2015.


  7. Wendy Sejour · · Reply

    One black mother who remembers the Clinton years vividly can say without a whiff of condescension or being patronizing is the the policies of the BOTH HRC and Bill have been a disaster for millions of black families. Michelle Alexander writes powerfully on this: http://www.thenation.com/article/hillary-clinton-does-not-deserve-black-peoples-votes/ and http://www.thenation.com/article/new-jim-crow/. The Clintons have always and will always see black people only as tools that can be used to gain power and nothing else. Yes, those five mothers have the right to support the candidate of their choice but to imply that five people embody the ENTIRE Black Lives Matter movement and that their support somehow absolves the Clintons of the any guilt from roles they played in the decimation of millions of black families is beyond ridiculous.

    As for the Unions, when the members actually vote and get to choose they have endorsed Bernie Sanders. In every instance that has been cited in these comments so far, the Executive Boards with direct and indirect ties to the HRC campaign (either by significant donations or the hiring of family members and spouses) took action without polling there general memberships.


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