8.5 minute read, scroll down for today’s (10/2/18) conservative response
This past week America has been politically torn in half by Christine Blasey Ford accusing Brett Kavanaugh, a Supreme Court nominee, of a sexual assault that occurred 36 years ago. An F.B.I. investigation of the sexual assault has begun, but I believe that it will be checked and halted by various political forces, and that nothing will come from it. The partisan divide in America has been made particularly clear to me through my Facebook newsfeed, which is about 50/50 conservative/democrat, and I’ve tried to engage in numerous dialogues with both conservatives and democrats. Here is the best one, that doesn’t devolve into conspiracy theories, hatred of the patriarchy, or personal attacks:
Something that I keep reading from conservatives regarding the Ford-Kavanaugh testimony is this: we need more evidence, Ford’s claims may not be true, so we shouldn’t acknowledge them to make our decision. For example, from a conservative article:
“That Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing is not a criminal trial is, of course, true. But this fact does nothing whatsoever to change the logic of how civilized, decent, truth-respecting people assess claims of wrongdoing, no matter how paltry or grievous.” -Donald J. Boudreaux
The fact that Kavanaugh is being interviewed for a lifetime seat on the highest court DOES change how people assess claims of wrongdoing. How? A baseless, evidence-less accusation of something heinous must be listened to. Why? Because it’s heinous and coming from someone reasonable, because it is someone coming forward about a sexual assault, putting her life and family through hell. Do conservative writers know what it takes to come forward about a sexual assault? What do they think her motivation is? Political? If they truly believe her motivation is political, then there’s nothing I can (or want) to say concerning that theory. But even assuming that Ford’s claim has ZERO evidence, the severity of her claim and the situation of the accused is ENOUGH to change how “truth-respecting” people assess claims of wrongdoing.
Every right-leaning response I’ve read on this issue seems unable (or unwilling) to hold those two ideas in the mind at the same time:
1) Kavanaugh is engaged in a job interview for a lifetime appointment as a judge of the highest court, so accusations of a heinous crime from a citizen MUST be listened to.
2) The act of coming forward about a sexual assault, despite a lack of evidence, means she should STILL be listened to.
Focusing incessantly on the idea “we need more evidence” belittles what it means to come forward about a sexual assault and ignores the special, highly-scrutinized nature of vying for a Supreme Court seat.
Jack, I will be the first to say that someone with an assault allegation needs to be heard, not ignored or belittled. That being said, saying “we need more evidence” is exactly what is needed when someone comes forward with an assault allegation, especially during a question about a supreme court seat! If you are willing to accept an accusation because of how sincere someone is then you are in the incredibly dangerous territory. You are willing to destroy a potentially innocent person on the word of someone because it was hard for them to come forward and a painful experience but fail to consider that they may be remembering incorrectly, have a false memory or recollection or, rarely, be lying, no matter how sincere they appear to be.
The Duke Lacrosse sexual assault allegation is ample proof of the problem of accepting an allegation without evidence – because that lady sounded super sincere and she lied about all of it (she admitted she made it up). But your logic requires that we should believe her, no questions asked – do you actually think, given her lie, that we were right to believe her just based on her accusation? Ultimately, the problem is, one cannot base their opinion on emotion or how hard something is to do, or how much grief it may cause. One also cannot base it on what position someone is going for, lifetime or otherwise. those standards are subjective, being different for each person or group. It is a dangerous way of thinking precisely because everybody can have their own story and those stories can be diametrically opposed, equally compelling, and yet, they cannot both be equally right.
One must have an outside standard against which everything is measured (this does not mean that the standard isn’t abused, but you have to have a standard). That is the point that is trying to be made. If you do not have a standard or that standard is a poor one (presumption of guilt for example) then you have lost your ability to objectively judge a situation. Using the logic of people who claim that we must believe people making accusations of assault simply because they made those accusations and that includes those without evidence, is the same logic that was used at the Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600’s (I’m not comparing sexual assaults nor sexual assault allegations to this historical situation, simply the logic of believing an accuser [no matter what the accusation is) and presuming guilt instead of innocence] – please do not misunderstand this). The difference is that men controlled the proceedings and not any women. The logic, however, is the same – the presumption of guilt, mob rule, hysteria, exaggerated grievances/concerns. It is just repackaged and given a more modern, emotional face to it so as to garner sympathy and support.
The logic (guilty until proven innocent because of the seriousness of the type of crime/allegation made) will ultimately lead to totalitarian state tactics, such as those that ISIS uses. It will lead to mob rule and fulfill the words of the high ranking Soviet leader, Lavrentiy Beria, who famously said – “show me the man and I will show you the crime!” His point being, name a person and I can convict him because guilt is presumed before innocence.
The point is, people may want to jump to conclusions based on emotion, they may have their opinion swayed by the severity of a charge, but at the end of the day they must take a step back and remember, you are innocent until proven guilty. They must remember that whatever their initial reaction, stepping back and reversing roles will bring a critical perspective and allow for seeing the logic and emotions from both sides. They must seek the truth, and to determine truth they must have evidence. Without which, an allegation is just that, an allegation, no matter how sincerely presented.
-Conservative (he desires to remain anonymous)
Hey J.-, two things to consider:
1) How are you and I both measuring the sincerity of the accusation? You write, “If you are willing to accept an accusation because of how sincere someone is then you are in the incredibly dangerous territory.” I personally, narrowly judge that Ford is sincere, despite a lack of evidence, for these reasons:
a) Ford discussed the assault and seemed to indirectly mention Kav with her therapist in 2012.
b) She wanted to remain anonymous.
c) She’s a professor at Palo Alto and a research assistant at Stanford.
d) She testified despite being terrified.
e) Her testimony seemed convincing to me/a reasonable human.
f) Everything I’ve read about Kav (heavy drinker, gambling debt, the Yale classmate’s full statement of Kav being aggressive and belligerent in college) and seen of his testimony (histrionics, anger) makes me think that he could have done this.
g) Coming forward about sexual assault is extremely difficult.*
Of course these reasons are extremely biased with logical fallacies (ad hominem, etc)., distorted by my limited experience, and would not hold up in a criminal court case (but this is not a criminal court case, this is a job interview, see reason 2). Do you not consider Ford to be sincere? Why not? I leave it to the senate to judge the sincerity of Ford. If you’re thinking, “But her sincerity doesn’t matter! It can’t be measured! There were no witnesses! It was a long time ago! Slippery slope!” Keep in mind that Kav is not going to be sent to prison based on someone’s evidence-less sincerity, he is going to experience really shitty publicity (a risk when you apply to the Supreme Court) and he may not get a job…(meanwhile don’t forget that Ford may, possibly, be telling the truth and have experienced years of trauma and suffering at Kav’s expense).
2) This is a job interview where there are other qualified candidates. You used the phrases “incredibly dangerous territory,” and “destroy a potentially innocent person.” But, again, we are talking about a job interview. I do consider that Ford may be remembering incorrectly….but this risk is justified by the fact that this is a job interview for the highest court. (And again please do not forget, she could be remembering correctly and could actually be the person who’s life had been destroyed.) Do you believe that Kav is being destroyed by this accusation, if it’s false? Are you subtly weighing his “public destruction” as more important and valid than Ford’s past destruction if she is telling the truth?
I don’t think your comparison to duke lacrosse is apt, because those players were not applying to become Supreme Court judges. And the allegation Ford makes is not to be accepted outright, but listened to and considered, amongst competing ideas and testimonies. In addition, a 2010 study by Violence Against Women found that only 2-10% of rape allegations are false, so I think it’s dangerous to focus on a case that is not representative of rape allegations.
You are right that when making decisions we must not be completely swayed by emotion or by grief laden stories that can be compelling, but false. But I disagree that an opinion cannot be influenced by the “position someone is going for” when this person is being accused. Why? If someone is going for a position that requires the person to be moral, just, and a leader of our country, then our opinions must be more sensitive to all kinds of accusations, even highly potentially false ones, opposed to someone applying for a job that doesn’t require them making decisions on what is justice for a nation.
*I want to end this comment with an emphasis on reason:
g) Coming forward to accuse someone of sexual assault, especially someone who is powerful, is extremely difficult. Do you not think so? Of course there’s a risk that she could be wrong. But aren’t you willing to take this risk if Ford is willing to put her life and family through such difficulties?
Again, I appreciate your response, and I hope you respond to this so I can clarify my thoughts, and better understand what many right-leaning people are thinking.*
Jack, there were several questions mentioned so I’ll try to respond in two ways. First, I’ll give some consideration to Ford’s case and the question of sincerity vs credibility.
Lastly, some brief comment on the specific questions at the end.
Before I get into any discussion though I did want to answer the question related to comment 1g, related to the difficulty of coming forward. In short, my answer is, yes, it is extremely difficult to come forward, especially when it is someone in power and you feel that you won’t be believed.
While I cannot personally relate to an assault allegation I have had a time, a number of years ago, where I’ve had to bring concerns to management at work about my boss. This was a very difficult thing to do because I could not be sure I would be listened and that even if I was, the concerns would be taken seriously. I’m not trying to minimize coming forward on sexual assault to simply a work based concern but show that I can, in a way, empathize with the emotions that are involved in bringing an accusation forward about wrongdoing.In regards to the initial question about sincerity, a few things need to be defined or clarified.
Sincerity, as listed in the dictionary is the quality of being honest (slightly paraphrasing). In other words, you convey that you believe what you are saying. This doesn’t demonstrate that what you’re saying is true though. People who still believe the earth is flat are genuinely sincere in their belief (they really do believe the earth is flat even though overwhelming evidence would indicate otherwise). On this point, given the testimony of Dr. Ford, I would agree that she was sincere (as best can be judged) in her belief regarding the situation and events that occurred.The reasons that you provide for her sincerity make sense. All of them (a-g) are valid reasons to accept that she was sincere in her testimony.
That brings us to the issue of credibility. Credible (the adjectival form) is defined as “offering reasonable grounds for being believed” (Online search – Merriam Webster – not linking because FB doesn’t handle multiple links well). Thus credibility (the noun form) would extend this definition to one being inspired to believe them based on their testimony, more specifically, the evidence offered to support their testimony. I would submit Dr. Ford’s testimony was not credible.
For the sake of balance, I would agree that her career and education level should be considered when assessing her credibility. However, I would suggest that several things weigh heavily against this and ultimately demonstrate that she should not be considered credible in what she is saying.
The best summary of the issues in Dr. Ford’s testimony is the material found Rachel Mitchell’s report (I highly recommend reading this report). It details the numerous inconsistencies and significant questions that arise from such a vague unprovable accusation. She shows in multiple instances where there is good reason to be suspect of her testimony, especially since she has offered no physical evidence to support her allegation and all of the witnesses named has rejected her allegation (while it may be semantics, stating under penalty of perjury that you do not recall the event and in one case do not even know the accused is essentially saying that it didn’t happen). The more people who don’t recall the events the less likely your statements are accurate (whether you believe them to be or not is irrelevant – memory is notoriously unreliable, which is why eyewitness testimony is such a weak standard of proof in civil and criminal cases).
While I will not rehash all of what Dr. Mitchell describes, a few of key things stand out that strongly suggest her testimony was not credible. Her details of the events are distinctly inconsistent, which lends to not believing her. The dating is especially problematic. For starters, she can’t pin down a year, month, day or time this occurred. That is highly suspect. Every single assault survivor I’ve ever heard remembers every single detail of the assault. One key question around this is that she says she suffered academically because of the trauma, but her last years in high school did not have any academic issues, this only occurred in college, several years after the alleged event (this problem could be solved if her first statement of the event occurring in her late teens is accurate – but then it couldn’t have been Kavanaugh cause he’d been in college at Yale).
Secondly, her memory of recent events was problematic. She stated several very strange things about the polygraph tests that were highly suspect. For example, she said she did not remember the exact day she took it. How can that be? This was only two months ago, and, given the public spotlight she was thrust into, it is very odd that you wouldn’t know these details – even if you looked them up the day before to make sure you knew your facts. Furthermore, her description of how the polygraph felt was abnormal. She described it as being a smothering experience on her whole body. What is odd about this is that Polygraph machines don’t have anything even remotely resembling a full body contraption. It’s normally just sensors on your fingers and a blood pressure type cuff on your arm, hardly a full body, smothering experience.
While I recognize the 2nd thing I highlighted is not the strongest of arguments, it was a rather unusual way to describe things and the limited memory was distinctly puzzling.There are some things about the way this came about that are highly suspicious. One to note is that the weekend before she went public, she scrubbed her social media accounts? Why? That indicates she may have had something to hide, or perhaps that she wanted to hide her political activism, given that there are things that she has said which might hurt her case.
Lastly, it is highly suspicious that she did not have her therapy notes released. If her accusation is true, then would she not want to vindicate herself in every way possible? The best way to do this is provide all of the evidence or information you have. Since you have already opened yourself up to public scrutiny, releasing everything is the most plausible explanation. Why weren’t they released? Given the distinctly inconsistent, ever-shifting testimony, it leaves one to wonder if there was something in them that she didn’t want to be revealed.
Ultimately though, given the reasons outlined in Mitchell’s report, I think it is safe to say that her testimony was sincere but not credible.
1. Is Ford Sincere? Yes – not credible however
(I’m working on a reply. Feel free to direct message me if you’d like to give your input on this discussion)