The Kavanaugh Litmus Test

The Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh was always going to be contentious, given the current political atmosphere. Nevertheless, this has turned out to be one of those rare cases that breed a perfect storm of allegations and dearth of evidence. But there is only one correct way of looking at this debacle. At least, that is, for all of us who have the same amount and quality of imperfect information. While there is certainly justification for compassion on the part of those who are personally close to the alleged victims, there is no reason to believe those victims’ claims, unless you are privy to information most of the world isn’t. (This is almost guaranteed to be the case, but only for a small, select group of people.)

Anyone in the media shouting their empathy at the world cannot be not included in this group. Whether the allegations turn out to be true or false, the approach of blindly believing victims is not legally or even morally justifiable.

If you share the same imperfect information as the rest of us, then the only correct response should be worry and wait. Worry that humanity can be so cruel and basely animalistic that neither the possibility of violent sexual assault nor of slanderous accusations can be immediately dismissed. Wait to see what evidence appears before choosing what to believe. Your beliefs about the matter are every bit as worthless now as they were before the name Brett Kavanaugh was tied to a SCOTUS nomination.

There are only three exceptions to this: anyone conducting an earnest investigation into the matter, including Ronan Farrow and the legal prosecutors; anyone with a close personal connection to the alleged victims (this doesn’t include opportunist busybodies); any potential aggressor involved, who fits the description laid out by either Christine Blasey Ford or the other accusers. If you wish to have any hope of redemption, you should absolutely come forward and relate your part in the story. If you fail to meet any of these criteria, stop parading your beliefs.

The most immediately culpable and immoral actors are evident:

  1. Dianne Feinstein. If the accusations are true, then she is a feckless manipulator who sat on this information for months for her party’s political gain, but at tremendous cost to the accuser.
  2. The White House. Unless they are aware of evidence that dismisses the accusations, they have no moral or legal business defending Kavanaugh.
  3. The media. This instance shows that there has never been a golden age of trustworthy reporting. The only thing that has changed is that the democratization of knowledge brought about by the internet has made concealment more difficult. There have been so many blatant examples of irresponsible reporting (see here, here, here, here and here) that no wonder Trump supporters enjoy gifs of the president slamming fake news into the ground.

This dirty politicking only gets in the way of justice, and increases the likelihood that we might have a potential rapist in charge of determining what is just in the highest court in the land, or the likelihood that an innocent man’s life will have been ruined by evil lies. In the meantime, we laypeople have been given a perfect litmus test for reporters and op-ed writers. If they are pretending to be empathetic—despite the fact that they don’t have so much as a pinky in this race—then they’re unreliable and untrustworthy. If they’re telling you what side you should take or what you should believe, then they’re either misguided or opportunistic professional liars.

On the bright side, there are reliable people out there—and this type of situation can reveal exactly where they are not to be found.

Update

Since the New York Times cast doubt on the allegations made by Deborah Ramirez, right-wing sources jumped on the chance to demote them, but the New Yorker subsequently provided a rebuttal by reporting on the fact that Mrs. Ramirez has attempted to take further action, and Republicans in the Senate have ignored her. The political and media circus has completely enveloped events at this point, and the court of public opinion has little more than party bias to work with. When Amanda Prestigiacomo characterizes an accusation of rape as “highly dubious, nonspecific, anonymous,” it should be clear that one of these descriptions is not as incontrovertible as the others (her boss has offered a much more sober critique). Tugs of war such as these reinforce the need for cross-referencing and alternative news sources.

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4 comments

  1. Good article — well-balanced perspective. It regrettably seems that as a nation we are more eager to jump on one bandwagon or the other (with certainty!) than to take a step back and sift through the evidence before reaching a conclusion — or, if the evidence is lacking, to be intellectually honest enough to say that we cannot reach any conclusion at all. Your observation (if I am reading correctly) is correct: none of us on the sidelines (short of omniscience) have any business drawing any conclusions on Kavanuagh’s innocence nor Ford’s credibility. Yet, that is not the tack for these modern times of ideology above evidence. I am afraid that we are dangling precariously over the edge of lost reason — is there anything that can pull us back from the brink?

    FWIW, given that the FBI investigation ended without finding any corroborating evidence, I would have been satisfied to see any Democrat senator (especially Coons, who did a brief bipartisan tour with Flake) come out and say, “We have no reason to doubt Judge Kavanaugh’s innocence due to a lack of corroborating evidence; however, we will still vote ‘no’ based purely on ideological differences” (a foregone conclusion anyway). To me that would have been much more honest.

  2. “The White House. Unless they are aware of evidence that dismisses the accusations, they have no moral or legal business defending Kavanaugh.”

    I tend to disagree with this. The WH was pretty good about the whole thing (surprisingly) as far as the messaging of “let’s wait and see. Let the process carry through, It’s up to the Senate, etc.”

    The WH was strongly supportive of the concept of presumptive innocence of the accused which seems pretty reasonable to me. And then when it became apparent that Dr. Ford’s story was not sustainable due to the lack of detail, changing time frames, ambiguity of dates, place and time, and lack of corroboration the WH did come out more strongly. Not to mention the other uncorroborated, even less convincing accusations that made it obvious that this was nothing more than a hope and pray attempt to throw as much excrement against the wall and hope some of it sticks. At that point it was obvious to the intellectually honest among us that this was, indeed, a sham propagated by the Democrat Party.

    There were many good reasons to not confirm Kavanaugh. I was not crazy about him. But anything brought forth by this event was not one of them.

    In my opinion, the behavior of the Democratic Party was a national travesty. I suspect that many others feel the same way based on the most recent polling.

  3. I’m not sure what the intended takeaway from ‘reliable people’ was, but I was happy to have read the phrase ‘alcohol fueled drinking. ‘

    1. All I mean by it is people who don’t allow their passion or other extraneous influences to obscure the facts. I think Ronan is interested in being as thorough as possible but realizes that Dr. Ford’s case is exceedingly difficult to corroborate, if true.

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