The climate of sexual assault accusations is heating up, spreading out from Hollywood to sweep the nation. Almost as worrisome as the accusations themselves, are the ways that people accept, or reject them. While many of the accusations seem to be true, and some even admitted to, almost certainly some are false – how are we to respond when, absent a confession of guilt, we cannot know whether they are true or not? How are we who know none of the parties involved, to respond to them, without any substantial evidence to support either the charges, or the denials? How about when the accusations involve leaders in the community, whose decisions may have far reaching affects upon our lives, and as in the case of the former Alabama Supreme Court Justice, and current candidate for senator, Roy E. Moore, upon the entire nation?
At this point, the only thing we can know, is that we do not know enough; and yet, whether as voters or interested political spectators, we know that we do need to make some sort of judgment upon them. That’s a very unsettling position to be in.
It seems to me, that about all we can do is choose to respond to the charges responsibly, or irresponsibly. That begins with the understanding that even if we carefully examine the little we do know, and come to a very reasonable, responsible, conclusion about the accusations, we could easily see the next ‘Breaking News!‘ report prove us to be entirely wrong.
That’s a given, and it should be front and center in our minds.
We are not, and cannot be, omniscient. But we can be responsible in our thinking, and to be Response-Able in matters such as this, is to accept that what we must tentatively conclude, without all the facts being known, is less important than how we come to that conclusion. We can’t be sure that our conclusions will be correct, but we can be sure that we’ve done our best in forming them, and if I properly go about coming to the wrong conclusion, I’ll be much more able to accept my error, than if I irresponsibly happen upon the ‘right’ conclusion, with zero basis for doing so. First and foremost, we should not pretend to know, what we do not and cannot know, about the accused, or the accuser, no matter what our personal feelings towards any of the parties might be. Judge what we can, and no further.
Given all of that, it’s probably best to begin with the charges themselves – from both sides. For instance:
- If the charges are true, they are disgusting abuses of trust and power, and violations of the law. Obviously such a person who would engage in such things, is not someone I’d want as a Judge, or in political office.
- If the charges are not true, they too are disgusting abuses of trust and power, and are themselves violations of the law. Obviously such persons should not be able to influence who will hold judicial or political office.
As heinous as the charges are against Moore, if they are untrue, and made to falsely change the minds of millions of voters, that too is a heinous act, an intimate assault upon the body politic. But with nothing to go on but the charges being made, who made them, who they were made against, and who is presenting them to us, for anyone to make definitive statements upon what they cannot know to be true – pro or con – strikes me as the height of irresponsibility. And for the smugger than thou, who seek cover for their thinly formed personal conclusions, in the fact that we as individuals, are not bound by the rules of the law:
“…Now, I’ve had far too many people shouting, ‘Guilty until proven innocent!’ at me over my comments on this issue, as if they’re too dumb to know that the second half of that phrase is ‘in a court of law.’ Not to blow your mind here, but I’m actually not a court of law, and I’m allowed to believe whatever I want ‘ and personally, I believe that Roy Moore was a predator with a penchant for teenage girls….”
We are not ourselves courts of law, and are not bound to the rules a court is, that’s true enough, as far as it goes, but the fact is that it doesn’t go very far at all. Do we really bear no responsibility to evaluate the charges being bandied about? What the seriousness of the charges do require me to do, is to make what judgments that I reasonably can – and to acknowledge what I reasonably cannot – without blathering on about either the charges, or my personal beliefs about them, or how you ‘just knew!’ them to be true or false.
I’m a father of a teenage daughter, I’ve some pretty strong feelings about the nature of the charges that’ve been made, but what kind of opinion can be formed upon no better basis, than your own feelings about the charges themselves? The judicial rules of evidence and judgment of our laws, are founded upon the realization that we don’t know what really happened in a case, and that our judgments can be wrong, which is why courts have rules to follow in presenting and evaluating evidence and testimony – does the fact that we are not courts, mean that we shouldn’t hold our opinions to similar standards?
There are several options open to us here, and hopefully you will hold yourself to some standard, as you decided whether you will:
- Accept that ‘the seriousness of the charges’ are such that we should assume that he is guilty until we have reasons to believe that he is innocent.
- Assume that multiple accusers of a similar age who’re making vaguely similar charges, qualifies as sufficient reason to presume his guilt.
- Consider whether the charges are supported by the accused’s personal record, habits and behavior?
- Consider whether the accusers personal record, habits and behavior, supports the credibility of the charges being made?
- We can presume his guilt, or innocence, based upon the politics of:
a- his political party and your feelings towards that.
b- of those making the charges.
c- of those promoting the charges.
So let’s take a stab at weighing those options.
Regarding #1, simply because of the fact that I am not myself a court of law or bound to its rules, does not excuse me to presume that the charges are true, without having anything more to go on than the seriousness of the charges themselves. That is the height of intellectual irresponsibility. You’re not thinking, you’re gossiping.
#2, the sheer number of charges made do not lend credibility to the charges themselves. What with my being in my 50’s, I very clearly recall the Day-care sex-abuse hysteria charges of the 1980’s, when charges of sexual child abuse at day care centers, spread like wildfire across the nation, charges which were ultimately proven by and large to be false, but charges which nevertheless destroyed the lives and livelihood of numerous people. There is a striking similarity between the national mood now, and the Day Care hysteria back then, and we should not ignore that such moods and their attendant hype, are ripe for abuse. Especially so, as the charges that have been made by the accusers in this case, are not the same charges – the other two accusers, while their age was inappropriate for his alleged attentions, they did not charge him with ‘taking liberties‘ with them.
As for #3, do the charges fit with the accused’s character and history? If the charges were made against someone with the personal history of a Harvey Weinstein, or a Bill Clinton, they’d gain credibility on account of their own history, as such behavior of abuse and disregard for the person of another, are habits that stick with lech’s, pedophiles, or serial abusers, who tend to be repeat offenders, and increasingly bold ones at that. Does Moore have a record of taking advantage of, and abusing, younger women? At this point in time, I’m unaware of it. His own life lived, to the best of our current knowledge, has to be given some weight against the credibility of the charges.
Similarly with #4, does the accusers personal record, habits and behavior, support the credibility of the charges being made? Supposedly, the primary accuser has a less than impressive personal history, divorced three times, filed bankruptcy three times, allegedly has history of making similar accusations against clergymen. That does not mean that the accusations are not true, but her personal history doesn’t lend credibility to them – and that is all that we have to go on at this point.
As for the political aspects of the charges, with #5a above, presuming the guilt or innocence of charges, based upon the politics of the person charged, is relevant only if the charges are relevant to their politics. For instance, if a Social Justice Warrior were charged with beating someone on the basis of their political beliefs ( i.e. “Punch a nazi!“), their own political beliefs would argue towards their guilt, rather than their innocence. But when the charges have no particular relevance to their politics one way or another – and sexual misconduct is very much a bi-partisan matter – then their, Moore’s politics, should not be swaying our conclusions, one way or another.
As for #5b, presuming the guilt or innocence of the charges, based upon the politics of the person making the charges, as with #3, is relevant only if the charges are relevant to their politics. And while matters of sexual misconduct are a bi-partisan matter, making charges of sexual misconduct in order to further a political agenda, is hardly unheard of. Anita Hill’s foul accusations against Clarence Thomas, come to mind. However, in this case, the primary accuser doesn’t seem to have an ideological ax to grind, and while one of the other accusers does have a history in Democrat politics, it doesn’t amount to much. For myself, I’d say that, in and of itself, on this point, the accusers politics it’s a wash with me, neither bolstering or undermining, the charges.
However, the matter doesn’t come through the wash free of stains. For instance, if the charges are true, why did the accusers, especially the main accuser, not come forward earlier? If not as a young teenager, then at least when Moore began to gain prominence, 10 years later, when she, as an adult, supposedly told her mother? If the charges were true, she should have come forward with them then, and every day, month, and year she delayed, IMHO, eats away at their credibility, especially given the fact that she has waited until, not just Moore’s Senatorial campaign, but for the very end of it, to come forward. The other accusers did not come forward on their own, they were found, and encouraged to make their charges public, by a reporter. For myself, that leads me to at least somewhat discount the credibility of the charges, on the basis of the charges alone.
As for #5c, presuming the guilt or innocence of the charges, based upon the politics of those promoting the charges, as with #4b, is relevant only if the presumed effect of making such charges are relevant to their politics. Interestingly enough, one of the authors of the Washington Post article, Ms. McCrummen, has a rather checkered history of running afoul of the law, as well as journalistically engaging in political witch hunts, as this article from 2011 indicates,
“…Although a careful read of the story shows that there is no substantiation for the allegations of racism, Ms. McCrummen, the Post, and MSNBC have held a non-stop witch hunt, accusing Mr. Perry of everything under the sun. So, let’s examine the author using the same journalistic standards practiced by the Washington Post.
Ms. McCrummen has a rather interesting criminal history herself, as public criminal records in multiple states stretching across 4 time zones have shown….”
Such histories do not lend to the creditability of either the charges, or of those promoting them.
And of course, Roy E. Moore’s candidacy can hardly be said to be of no consequence to the politics of our day, for the Washington Post (who opposes Moore), or for the Left, or even for the Right. Charges such as this, at this point in time in an election, is very much in line with what has often been excused as ‘justified resistance‘ by such people as those at The Washington Post…. not to mention the McCain/McConnel wing of the establishment GOP.
So to sum it up:
- I cannot responsibly credit these charges, at this point in time, on the basis of charges alone.
- I cannot credit, or discredit, the charges based upon the politics of the accused.
- There is little reason to question the charges being made, based upon the politics of the accusers – but there is reason to question the decades that have passed in their silence, and the timing involved in making them public now.
- The reputation of the accused, his extremely high target value in opposition research over the last decade or so, and the absence of similar charges over the forty years since the incident was alleged to have happened, weigh in Moores’ favor, and against the accusations.
- The nature and history of those who sought out these charges, and promoted them (Ms. McCrummen and the Washington Post at the top), do not lend credibility to the charges.
When I add all of this up, in the context of what we know at this point in time, it argues towards a presumption of innocence for Roy E. Moore, rather than presuming his guilt because of the ‘gravity of the charges‘ alone.
And of course, I could be wrong, and given reason to judge differently, I will.
I know very little about Roy E. Moore, and what I do know, I’ve had mixed opinions upon. I know even less about his accusers, but I’ve some knowledge of the politically utility of salacious charges, being promoted at the last minute (‘October Surprise!‘) by political foes, in the crucial final days of a political campaign, and until I know more, I’m not going to let the emotional nature and severity of the charges, be what most influences my judgment at this time.
I also know that those who eagerly accept charges against others, to show how ‘even minded’ they are, turn my stomach. As does those who morally preen themselves in a pretentious presumption of the guilt of others, while having no solid reasons for presuming it; and of course those of the GOP, such as the likes of John McCain and Mitt Romney, who routinely, eagerly, and willfully, throw in with any charges of moral condemnation, upon the likes of Moore, in order to ingratiate themselves with the media and the wider ‘moral community’, disgust me to no end.
The eagerness to attack those who are just too different from your own ideologically cock sure ‘truth‘, has been gaining in popularity on ‘the Right’ (especially as seen in the reflexively cultish statements of both the Uber-Trump’rs, and the NeverTrump’rs), to the point that the accusations, and the eagerness to accept them, and promote them, turns such accusations, into self incriminating accusations against themselves.
As such evidence of irresponsibility piles up, it does not bode well for this nation.