How quickly should an accuser be believed?


Back to the Post's first report:
We're glad to see that Leigh Corfman went on the Today show this morning to describe her alleged encounters with Roy Moore in 1979, when she was 14.

Corfman seemed extremely sensible and sane. As a general matter, it's much better to be able to see a person who is making a claim against somebody else, although a person's demeanor isn't an infallible guide to the truth.

We're glad that Corfman did this. That said, let's ponder an important question: how quickly should someone be believed if she makes an accusation?

In the past few years, the gods have sent dramatic examples of a basic fact—sometimes, people make highly dramatic accusations which are flatly false.

That said:

No matter how many times this happens, many people seem inclined to believe the next accuser, and to do so instantly, full freaking stop. This phenomenon played out two Fridays ago, when the Washington Post published its initial report about Corfman's accusation.

Should Corfman's report have been believed with no further questions asked? Should other people have been assailed, that very day, for withholding instant belief?

Corfman seemed very sane today. That said, some accusers aren't. First at Duke, than at UVa, we've had dramatic examples of this basic fact. With apologies, how could anyone know, on that first day, that Corfman might not turn out to be the next such accuser?

We're inclined to think that Corfman isn't the next such accuser. But how was someone supposed to know that on the very first day, especially when she hadn't told her story in a forum where other people could evaluate her demeanor?

We can imagine two possible answers. We'll look at them tomorrow.

PEEPING TOMS WITHOUT END, AMEN: The Times' Ross Douthat visits old friends!


Part 1—A whole lot of skimming and leafing:
According to his column in yesterday's New York Times, Ross Douthat spent some time this past week catching up with old friends. But first, a bit of background information:

A tax bill may be passing through Congress. Ranking military figures are describing their concern about the possibility that Donald J. Trump could employ this nation's nuclear weapons in an impulsive way.

Charges swirl as an important Senate election draws near in Alabama. Vladimir Putin may own the sitting American president. Climate change is on its way to devouring the earth.

It's not like nothing is occuring in the world right now! But here's the way the New York Times' earnest young quasi-conservative decided to spend his time last week:
DOUTHAT (11/19/17): I spent this week reading about the lost world of the 1990s. I skimmed the Starr Report. I leafed through books by George Stephanopoulos and Joe Klein and Michael Isikoff. I dug into Troopergate and Whitewater and other first-term scandals. I reacquainted myself with Gennifer Flowers and Webb Hubbell, James Riady and Marc Rich.
For ourselves, we often have a hard time following Douthat's trains of thought. The earnest young fellow managed to emerge from four years at Harvard (class of 2002) with his moralistic Catholic values intact.

We're not saying there's anything "wrong" with those values, or that a person shouldn't hold them. We're just saying that, in Douthat's hands, these values often lead to chains of reasoning which we find hard to follow.

(According to the leading authority on his life, "As an adolescent, Douthat converted to Pentecostalism and then, with the rest of his family, to Catholicism." That's all fine with us, but these peregrinations seem to have led to abstruse chains of moral reasoning which often seem murky to us. Before matriculating at Harvard, he prepped at Hamden Hall.)

In fairness, there was nothing about yesterday's column which was hard to follow. Like everyone else in the upper-end pundit corps, Douthat spent his time last week catching up with old friends—with old friends from "the lost world of the 1990s," even from years before that.

Inevitably, the first name he mentioned was Gennifer Flowers! Truly, these people are mad.

Might we offer a discourse on method? Based on the paragraph we've posted, it sounds like Douthat performed a lot of "skimming" and "leafing" as he caught up with these old friends last week.

Soon, he was presenting the type of journalistic judgment such skimming and leafing will typically produce. We highlight one laughable statement:
DOUTHAT: The sexual misconduct was the heart of things, but everything connected to Clinton's priapism was bad...

Something like Troopergate, for instance, in which Arkansas state troopers claimed to have served as Clinton's panderers and been offered jobs to buy their silence, is often recalled as just a right-wing hit job. But if you read The Los Angeles Times's reporting on the allegations (which included phone records confirming the troopers' account of a mistress Clinton was seeing during his presidential transition) and Stephanopoulos's portrayal of Clinton's behavior in the White House when the story broke, the story seems like it was probably mostly true.

After his week of skimming and leafing, does our anti-priapist actually know if those troopers' various stories were true?

We've highlighted only one statement from that passage, the statement we think is most salient. According to Douthat, his perfervid week of skimming and leafing allowed him to make this assessment:

"The story seems like it was probably mostly true."

How's that for journalistic precision? In a hard-hitting, nine-word statement, three different qualifiers appear—three qualifiers, some thirty years after the (alleged) fact.

In fact, there were an array of conflicting claims from an array of troopers. Even as he ignores this fact, does Douthat claim that the troopers' "story" was true?

Well actually no, he doesn't! He is only able to say that the story seems to be true. Except he doesn't say that either!

Actually, he says the story seems to be mostly true—except he hasn't even reached that shaky assessment. According to Douthat, it actually seems like the story is probably mostly true. That means it may be mostly false! Indeed, does this worried young fellow actually know that "the story" is true at all?

The story seems like it was probably mostly true! Who on earth would spend a week constructing such claims—constructing such claims about events which no longer matter, assuming they ever did?

Citizens, don't even ask! That nine-word sentence is the fruit of Douthat's week of leafing and skimming—his week of leafing and skimming concerning events which are alleged to have happened starting in 1988, to cite the particular matter to which he refers in that passage.

We refer to Douthat's worried claim that Bill Clinton, when governor of Arkansas, had "a mistress" with whom he was still in contact in late 1992, in the weeks after being elected president. It seems to trouble this earnest young boy to think that such a thing could have happened. That said, we note the way he still prefers to lard this story with the air of mystery which has always excited the prurient and the deviant among us.

We say that for a reason. If Douthat had dropped his skimming and leafing—if instead he'd read a dozen pages of a well-known, relatively recent book—he could have considered an authoritative-sounding report about that particular matter. We refer to Carl Bernstein's 2007 book, A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton, which describes the alleged relationship in question 1) with the air of prurience stripped away, and 2) in appropriate detail, including the name of the woman in question.

We'll skim that part of Bernstein's book tomorrow. For today, we'll think about what Douthat has done, along with virtually everyone else in the clan of peeping Toms into which he has gained admittance.

Uh-oh! The alleged affair to which Douthat refers was an alleged affair between two consenting adults. Also, between two people of the same age.

No teenagers were involved. There was no issue of consent. And the woman said to be involved wasn't a public employee.

In short, all the worrisome factors which let these people rummage through underwear drawers are absent in this alleged matter. But here is Douthat, worrying hard about an alleged extramarital affair—an affair which Bernstein describes as a serious love affair.

Long ago and far away, this is the sort of thing the peeping Toms tried to use to get Bill Clinton eliminated. Five years before, in 1987, the peeping Toms had eliminated Gary Hart on this very same basis.

At that time, the peepers had literally hid in the bushes to catch Hart in the deeply unseemly act! They then began calling around to the college roommates of other candidates, asking if worrisome people like Candidate Gore had ever smoked marijuana when they were teenagers.

(Today, they pretend to worry about teenagers. Back then, they tried to exploit them!)

In the passage we've posted above, Douthat is worrying about an alleged consensual love affair which is said to have started in 1988. Thirty years later, he leafed and skimmed the Los Angeles Times, thrilled again, as all prurients are, by the deeply troubling conduct.

He spent a week doing this, thirty years later! What kinds of people engage in these tasks, are so steeped in prurience? We're sorry to tell you that these same people are sometimes so intellectually bankrupt that, thirty years later, they produce assessments like this:

"The story seems like it was probably mostly true."

Go ahead—laugh out loud! It's a hedge against tearing your hair, once you start accepting the truth about the beings to whom you're inseparably tied.

("Fastened to a dying animal!" We quote what Yeats once thoughtfully said about a related problem.)

The story seems like it was probably mostly true! Where the fark do these people come from? In what sense and to what extent are they actually "people" at all?

Tomorrow: Sailing toward the Byzantium of Dowd, Goldberg and Hayes

"Believe the accusers" began long ago!


"Fascinating conversation," CNN's Lemon says:
In English-speaking North America, the sacred nostrum, "Believe the accusers," got its start long ago.

It got its start in Salem Village. In those days, the watchword wasn't, "Believe the women." It was, "Believe the girls."

For whatever reason, the girls went on a bit of rampage; the village chose to believe them. Midway through the moral panic, the Reverend Hale flipped on the wisdom of this belief after his wife, the former Sarah Noyes, daughter of the Reverend Noyes, was herself accused by the girls.

Whatever! By the time the village finally decided to stop believing the girls, twenty-five people were dead. The leading authority on the event totes the carnage like this:

"The trials resulted in the executions of twenty people, fourteen of them women, and all but one by hanging. Five others (including two infant children) died in prison."

Which of the twenty didn't get hanged? That was 81-year-old Giles Corey, who received "an archaic form of which stones were piled on his chest until he could no longer breathe."

(Medicare didn't exist. Neither did Corey, by the time he got through being accused.)

"You say you want a revolution?" That's what the Beatles said in 1968, when Chairman Mao, and some over here, were trying "to change the world." With regard to revolutions of saints, this following point should be made:

There's no circumstance in which it makes sense to believe some whole class of accusers, full stop.

There's no circumstance in which that makes sense. Let's try to remember how that unwise practice will sometimes turn out:

In the 1980s, "believe the accusers" became "believe the children" in the various preschool alleged child abuse cases. Quite a few people went to prison as the children, who were like four years old, told investigators, among other things, that their teachers had sometimes been spotted flying on brooms as they arrived at school.

How dumb did people have to be to "believe the children," full stop, in those lunatic preschool cases? They had to be extremely dumb, but we humans were up to the challenge.

That said, dumb and dumber can lead to dead and deader when saints stage revolutions. In the current moment, cable news is involved in this timeless stew.

Below, we'll show you a bit of "cable news" from this past Thursday night. As you may already know, absolutely nothing gets dumber than the brain-dead Salem Village of our contemporary, painfully corporate, ratings-based cable news.

In Thursday's chunk of cable news, an "excitable boy" kept saying, again and again, that Bill Clinton is a rapist. This Tuesday, Michelle Goldberg said much the same thing, saying in part that "We should err on the side of believing women."

Is that a helpful bromide? For ourselves, we'd be inclined to suggest erring on the side of not erring! Erring on the side of avoiding judgments we aren't in position to make.

(For Joe Conason's assessment of the claim in question, you can just click here. You'll note that Conason seems to err on the side of saying he can't really know what happened, the same judgment he attributes to the highly impartial Kenneth Starr.)

As we liberals proceed with our latest "revolution of the saints," the question of Bill Clinton's accusers has been raised anew. In point of fact, some of his accusers were extremely shaky, and didn't compel belief.

This was true even though all the accusers were women. Right through the disastrous fall of last year, the mainstream press corps, especially the New York Times, refused to discuss this rather obvious fact. In this manner, they chose to "believe the accusers" in an unstated way.

Believe the accusers, full stop? It's what the professors said at Duke. After that, Rolling Stone took the same unwise approach at UVa.

Last Friday, Jamelle Bouie also took that approach, within a day of the Washington Post's first report about Roy Moore. As in a certain village of olde, he began assailing the "if true" crowd, who were choosing to wait a few moments before they formed their judgment.

This instinct never seems to die, though some of the accused do. Repeat after us, then memorize:

There is no circumstance in which it makes sense to believe some whole class of accusers!

There is no such circumstance! There will always be an accuser or three who 1) is simply making something up, or 2) is seeking some sort of reward, or 3) is perhaps in need of "professional help." including the help a person can get, at least in theory, from a professional journalist.

"Fascinating conversation," Don Lemon says in the excerpt presented below.

Fascinating conversation! Good lord, dear readers. Good lord!

This is your cable news press corps on drugs: Do you believe Roy Moore's accusers? Do you believe Bill Clinton's?

Do you believe Al Franken's accuser? She was less than a million percent convincing to us, though she hasn't sought Franken's head in her "Receipt-of-apology tour," and though we think Franken's been asking for this with his Ahab-like pursuit of the big liar Jeff Sessions.

(To our eye, Franken, along with several others, has mainly been trying to hang a witch. To our eye, he hasn't mainly been trying to develop information.)

So you'll know, John Phillips is a colleague of Leeann Tweeden's at KABC in Los Angeles. As you'll see, he had a bit of a one-track mind on "cable news" last Thursday night. Lauren Duca, four years out of Fordham, is a columnist at Teen Vogue.

Below, you see some "cable news" from last Thursday night. We haven't found videotape, so we can't fact-check the transcription.

That said, we watched this "discussion" in real time. This transcription very much captures the pitiful gist of the gruesome exchange:
PHILLIPS (11/16/17): What Bill Clinton did wasn't OK. I mean, Bill Clinton is a rapist.

LEMON: And John, would you include the president in there, as well?

PHILLIPS: I think that he certainly uses language like he is on a loading dock. Absolutely. Nonstop all the time.

OBEIDALLAH: He bragged about sexual assault.


DUCA: Specific accusations, he doesn't just talk like he is on a loading dock.

PHILLIPS: We had a rapist in the White House for two terms and had a woman who ran interference for a rapist.


DUCA: More than a dozen specific details at how, John—

OBEIDALLAH: Let's talk about who is in the White House today. Donald Trump is not giving us the moral leadership we need. The country is moving forward.

The time of Mad Men was a different period of time. We have moved forward from that. Now we are about to move forward again. We are at another cultural norm movement. We don't have a president to show leadership on this issue.

PHILLIPS: Do you think Bill Clinton is a rapist?


DUCA: That doesn't matter.

OBEIDALLAH: That's the truth right now.

PHILLIPS: Do you think he is a rapist?

OBEIDALLAH: Let people who can have moral leadership have a discussion on this issue.

PHILLIPS: Do you think he is a rapist, though?

LEMON: Hold on, hold on. I know this is an uncomfortable conversation, but this is what we are here to do, to talk about the way people are talking. And this has been definitely political.

People have brought up Bill Clinton. And he asked you a specific question. What do you say?

DUCA: Yes. Bill Clinton is absolutely guilty of sexual misconduct. I don't understand that—


LEMON: Again, again, that has not been proven in a court of law. But that's what people believe. Go on, you can go.

DUCA: He is absolutely been guilty of the same—of having the same level of accusations of sexual misconduct that we are seeing with these figures. But Bill Clinton "what aboutism" is not relevant rhetoric to what is going on with the president.

LEMON: So, John, what is—

DUCA: So, John, are you going to admit that Donald Trump is a sexual harasser?

PHILLIPS: Yes. I mean the, based on that Access Hollywood tape, that was totally out of line. That is language that shouldn't be used under any circumstances.

I'm not going to defend him just because he is a Republican. We as a society, those of us in politics, those of us in media, we have to put our foot down with this sort of thing.


SETMAYER: You voted for him!

PHILLIPS: Well, did you vote for Hillary Clinton?

SETMAYER: No, I did not. I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton or Trump. I actually maintained my integrity.

PHILLIPS: We had the option for voting for a woman who ran interference for a rapist or a guy who uses really nasty language.


LEMON: Hang on! Hold on! Let me get that language specific for CNN. An accused rapist, and the current president an accused sexual harasser.

SETMAYER: Bragged about being a sexual harasser. I mean I just want us to be—I just want the conversation to be intellectually honest, because that is the problem I have with this. This is clearly a bipartisan issue, right?


SETMAYER: I mean it happened on both sides. And my issue with this conversation is that there are people who are making moral judgments against Roy Moore, right?

They are saying, "Oh well, Roy Moore"—we are not supposed to believe his accusers and we are not supposed to believe Donald Trump's accusers, but we are supposed to believe Bill Clinton's accusers. It can't be both ways. It shouldn't be partisan.


LEMON: Thank you all. Fascinating conversation...
As some in the elect can see, the lunacy was general. But Joyce's thoughts on the dead aside, welcome to Salem Village!

Lemon thought that he'd just hosted a "fascinating conversation!" According to Lemon, he and his panelists had been there "to talk about the way people are talking." Setmayer, who's typically very sharp, just wanted the conversation to be intellectually honest!


Does Phillips actually know whether Clinton "is a rapist?" We're going to say he doesn't. Nor did he mention other presidents accused of rape, including such recent figures as Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Trump.

(He did acknowledge, several times, that Trump has used bad language. This is the type of mental giant presented first by KABC, then by CNN!)

A great deal remains to be said on this topic, and on such related topics as 1) how you ever know what's true and 2) when you should maybe accept the fact that you can't really know what's true in some particular instance.

(There are no ultimate answers. Moses wasn't given a tablet resolving such thorny points.)

Judged by any traditional norm, that conversation was madness. But crap like that is the wholly familiar, straight outta crazy, modern-day "cable news" norm.

"Fascinating conservation," Lemon enthused. And readers, let's understand:

As this lunacy continues, a certain under-discussed tax bill may be slip-sliding through Congress!

The Crazy has never been so robust!


These are the days of The Crazy:
"These are the days of miracle and wonder."

Long ago and far away, we believe Paul Simon said that.

By contrast, these are the days of The Crazy. Has our discourse ever been as crazy as it is right now?

Last Friday morning, the Washington Post presented this report. In the report, a woman claimed that Roy Moore had molested her when she was 14 years old.

That was a very serious charge. Across the journalistic landscape, it touched off The Crazy.

The Crazy has been voluminous ever since. We couldn't come close to getting to all The Crazy this week.

A continental nation can't long endure if everyone's going to be this crazy. We'll leave you with this point:

On the whole, our upper-end press corps has been venal, self-serving and largely crazy for a very long time now.

On balance, Crazy is what they do best. Crazy, plus working from script. No nuance allowed!

These are the days of Putin's great triumphs! Not to mention all the scuffling in search of the children's next jobs.

Next week: Believe the accusers!

PERISHING FROM THE EARTH: Revolution of the saints!


Part 5—You may be a Puritan if...:
We hate to start with the Maddow Show again, but you pretty much have to go where the statements are most instructive.

On Wednesday night, the host of that cable news show interviewed Beth Reinhard. She's one of the trio of Washington Post reporters who broke the Roy Moore story last week, whatever that story is taken to be.

Last Friday morning, Reinhard and two colleagues reported that Moore had been accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, an attack which was said to have occurred in 1979.

They also reported that Moore had dated two young women at that same time. They were 17 and 19 years old. According to the Post, both mothers were cheering ol' Roy on, dreaming of possible marriage.

(That may represent a cultural difference. Are we enlightened impressive progressives prepared to tolerate that?)

From that day to this, the saints have been trying to define what Moore is accused of. In this morning's New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer muddles the matter in a way many others have done:

"Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, has been accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls."

So says Steinhauer, in today's Times, perhaps at the direction of editors. But is that what Moore has been accused of? Does he stand "accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls?"

Hopelessly muddled scribe, please! In our lexicon, Moore has been charged with two counts of criminal sexual assault, one of which involved overt acts of physical violence. The saints seem to think it's equally bad that he once dated a 19-year-old, kissing her two separate times with her mother cheering him on.

Moore kissed someone 19 years old when he was 32! We wouldn't recommend that as a general matter, but do Steinhauer and her editors think that was "sexual misconduct?" At any rate, the saints can't quite seem to distinguish a violent sexual assault from a pair of consensual kisses. This led to that peculiar exchange on Wednesday's Maddow Show.

Beth Reinhard is one of the scribes who brought us that report at the Post. Last Wednesday was the first time we got to hear her in person.

As Maddow ended her telephone interview with Reinhard, she asked a rather odd question, with a bit of high drama thrown in. For our money, Reinhard, in her statement, may have marked herself as one of the saints. For ourselves, we're inclined to trust her judgment less because of what she said.

In a new report in the Post, Reinhard had reported that Moore had dated two other teenage women or girls. He'd kissed one in an undesired manner. As she ended her interview, Maddow asked a peculiar question:
MADDOW (11/15/17): Have you discovered any evidence that Roy Moore ever dated someone age-appropriate? That he ever dated somebody his own age? I mean, the discrepancy between the age of these teenage girls and the fact that he was 30 and older does seem remarkable. It's the source of all this controversy. He's defended it himself by saying he denies dating girls who were below the legal age of consent.

That—if that denial is accurate, that may leave open the possibility he was still a 30-something man pursuing girls in tenth grade. Did you find any evidence of him dating women his own age?

REINHARD: Uh—we haven't.


MADDOW: Beth Reinhard, part of this remarkable team has broken this story over. Thank you for joining us on very short notice tonight, Beth. Appreciate it.
Several parts of Maddow's question struck us as odd. For starters, she said "the source of all this controversy" lies in the fact that Moore, who was over 30, was dating "teenage girls."

Really? That's the source of the controversy? We would have thought the controversy stemmed from the fact that Moore has been accused of criminally assaulting two young women, one 14 and the other 16, in one case in an overtly violent manner.

We would have thought the "controversy" had possibly stemmed from that! But when the saints begin to rampage, they'll often be unable to imagine such distinctions.

All offenses, real and imagined, will now seem equal in their eyes. That will include a pair of kisses with a 19-year-old "girl" whose mother is praying that Moore might want to marry her daughter, perhaps in line with regional cultural norms of the type we brilliant progressives deride, except in the widely-praised 1979 film Manhattan.

When the saints begin to rampage, all judgment leaves the room. But as a second part of that question, Maddow, who has long been a saint, seemed to say that a date can only be "age appropriate" if the man in question is dating a woman who is "his own age."

Can that possibly be what she meant? Plainly, that's what her words implied. Could she possibly mean that?

At any rate, how about it? Did the Washington Post find any evidence that Moore had ever "dated women his own age?" We thought it was strange when Reinhard said no, though she can't be blamed for the oddness of the question.

What made that question seem strange? In December 1984, Moore, who was then 37, met Kayla Kisor, a 23-year-old mother who was separated from her husband. You can read all about it in the Washington Post.

Moore and Kisor began to date. One year later, they got married. They're still married today.

At the time they started dating, he was 37, she was 23. Were their dates "age appropriate," puritanically speaking?

Maddow seemed to say they weren't. Reinhard offered no resistance, no clarification, no nuance.

Were those dates "age appropriate?" If not, do we understand how many dates, and how many marriages, will have to be denounced? Do we understand how many happily married people will have to be frog-marched off to the camps? How much re-education will have to be performed?

Were those dates age appropriate? Did Maddow, a long-time saint, really mean to say that they weren't?

We don't know, but just for the record, when Rachel Maddow met Susan Mikula, she was 26 years old; Mikula was 41. Should we organize an intervention to rescue Rachel from Susan's home? These are the kinds of questions which may arise when saints stage a moral revolution, setting their minds at ease.

When Roy Moore began dating his wife, were those dates "age appropriate?" We regard that question as strange, but the saints will say those dates were wrong.

We know that's what the saints will say because of William Saletan.

We met Saletan briefly once, long ago. By any normal standard, he is thoroughly sane. But when the saints go rampaging in, very strange judgments may start to appear. This past Tuesday, in a laborious effort to show that Moore was lying about various matters, Saletan offered this bizarre assessment at Slate:
SALETAN (11/14/17): “I’ve been married to my wife, Kayla, for nearly 33 years.” Moore presents this as proof of his character. But do the math. Thirty-three years ago, when they met, Moore was 38, and his wife-to-be was 24. That’s a difference of 14 years, roughly the same age gap his accusers describe. Kayla Moore’s bio also mentions that she had “previously been named Miss Alabama US Teen 2nd Runner up.” Moore didn’t just date pretty women who were 14 years his junior. He married one.
How weird in that final remark? After doing the math, Saletan seems to suggest that a man shouldn't marry someone 14 years younger—and certainly not if the woman in question is pretty! So what should he say about Maddow's life with the person she loves? Maddow was fifteen years younger than the person she met!

Why have we described Maddow and Saletan, and possibly Reinhard, as saints? Let's consider a famous book which may speak to these very strange times.

In 1965, at the age of 30, Michael Walzer published The Revolution of the Saints: A Study in the Origins of Radical Politics.

Walzer went on to a long career, which continues today, as a "public intellectual" of the left. The Revolution of the Saints became a well-known book. According to the Harvard University Press, it's "a study, both historical and sociological, of the radical political response of the Puritans to disorder."

For the record, we're mainly talking about Puritans in England, not here in North America. (Where their response to disorder produced, among other things, those famous Salem witch trials, when we Americans famously decided, for the first time, that we should always "believe the girls.")

Walzer was talking about the Puritans in the 16th and 17th centuries, as the feudal system was breaking down, producing confusion, uncertainty and disorder—and attendant anxiety. At the Moral Imagination site, Ron Sanders pens a capsule of that era, which perhaps and possibly seems to reflect our own times:
SANDERS: [Walzer] argues that Calvinism’s appeal (the dominant theological perspective of the Puritans) was that it confirmed and explained, in theological terms, “perceptions men already had of the dangers of the world and the self " and that it presented a remedy to the anxiety created by the shifting tide of culture through the rigid discipline of “sainthood.” The important theological themes that characterized Calvin’s ideology were, (1) “the permanent, inescapable estrangement of man from God,” (2) “a cure for anxiety not in reconciliation but in obedience,” (3) a “holy commonwealth” and (4) the necessity of “wholehearted participation” on the part of his followers.

The state (holy commonwealth), for Calvin, had dual roles. Its negative role was to repress sin in individuals. Walzer states that, “Calvin accepted politics in any form it took, so long as it fulfilled its general purpose and established an order of repression.”
Does Sanders get Walzer right? We can't tell you that. But at various times in history, anxieties and upheavals have led to puritanical revolutions which feature extremely crazy judgments producing large amounts of dumbness, disorder and death.

At times of upheaval and disorder, people may escape anxiety "through the rigid discipline of sainthood." In China, they frog-marched the intelligentsia off to the camps during the Cultural Revolution. In this country, they hung the witches until sanity prevailed; later, they found a Commie under every bed, then locked up the McMartin Preschool teachers.

Today, they can't tell the difference between kissing a 19-year-old woman (two times!) and conducting a violent sexual assault. It's all just unthinkably evil, wrong, inappropriate, bad!

The last eight days have produced the craziest revolutionary conduct we've seen in a great long time. For example, even after Duke and UVa, the saints insist we have to believe accusers instantly, every single time.

Can humans actually get this stupid? Answer: Yes, we can!

By Friday morning of last week, the saints were already attacking the "if true" crowd—the people who said we ought to maybe wait a few hours before we make our final judgment about that Post report.

In theory, Duke and UVa had shown the world that some accusers who come along are just completely crazy! But even after Duke and UVa, even after the moral stampede in the preschool cases, our rampaging modern-day saints were trashing the "if then" crowd, who wouldn't deliver instant judgments.

How crazy do the saints become when they start to rampage? Historically, the saints are often fairly young, and they can get very crazy.

If we might borrow from Brother Foxworthy, you might be a Puritan if you can't tell the difference between a violent sexual assault and two kisses, over three months, delivered to a 19-year-old woman (not a girl) whose mother hopes you're on your way to marriage.

Also this:

You may be a Puritan if your own age difference is 15 years, and you're willing to hang the witch because his age difference is a much-too-large 14 years! Plus, have you heard the Bentley sex tape, where someone actually dared to say he loved his lover's body?

"The fear that somewhere, someone is happy?" How crazy do you have to be to keep on playing that tape?

Lincoln has come to us this week to warn us about what's happening. A continental nation can't long endure, he has masterfully said, if fifteen years up north is fine, but fourteen in Bama is not.

If living with a 17-year-old is high art when it's cinematically performed in Manhattan, but kissing a 19-year-old is a crime when it's done Down There.

That said, the saints are on the march. Last night, we saw an utterly crazy discussion on Don Lemon's CNN show. This morning, the initial Morning Joe segment was fraudulent all the way down.

That said, our press elites have been stunningly fraudulent lost souls for a long time now. They know how to pursue their careers by repeating their scripts. They seem to know little else.

The end of the feudal system was, of course, a great advance for humanity. But massive change creates anxiety. In a search for blessed relief, the saints came rampaging in.

We also live at a time of great change today. For example, the rapid acceptance of love like Rachel's with Susan represents a phenomenal social advance. Opportunities and norms have rapidly changed in many other realms.

These are the days or miracle and wonder, just like Paul Simon said. But rapid change can also produce conflict, confusion, disorder.

Down through the many death-dealing years, we humans have sometimes fled the anxiety of rapid change through the adoption of sainthood regimes. It's been happening in the past week all over cable TV, among the ranks of bogus souls who have fought their way onto such programs.

The various children of all ages are living in times of remarkable change. Again and again and again and again, they seem to be amazingly stupid, unpleasant, tribal, self-serving and scared.

Next week: Believe the accusers! (of Clinton)

Once again, a basic question!


Erin Burnett works a blur:
We often ask the analysts a basic question. It goes exactly like this:

Are the stars of cable news capable of making accurate statements?

We popped the question again last night as we watched Erin Burnett.

Burnett was speaking to a Bama official. Fearlessly, she was pushing him hard. This created a bit of an irony:
BURNETT (11/15/17): Do you think the truth matters here?

MERRILL: Oh, the truth matters greatly. I think the truth matters in all cases. Whenever an allegation has been made, it should be proven true or proven false and that helps people decide who they need to support and why.

BURNETT: So when it comes to—

I mean, we're talking about Beverly Nelson here. When it comes to the other four accusers, all four of whom were detailed in the Washington Post's expansive report, they spoke to more than 30 people who verified their accounts. More than 30 people!
According to Burnett, those "more than thirty people who said they knew Roy Moore" verified the accounts of the original four "accusers."

Full stop.

The Washington Post made no such statement in its report. It's amazingly easy simply to read what the Post actually said. Almost surely, Burnett's fuzzy paraphrase is at least misleading, in a stampede-friendly way.

We've seen bigger misstatements too, but Burnett is paid millions of dollars per year. What can possibly make it so hard to avoid inaccurate or misleading statements, especially when you're snarking at one of The Others about the glorious need for the truth?

What is truth? Pilate thoughtfully asked. After they get out of makeup and hair, so should our big cable stars!

BREAKING: Your Daily Howler keeps getting results!


The fruit of 19 years:
If at first you don't succeed, persist for 19 years!

That's what Mother always said. This morning, we learned why.

In this morning's New York Times, Peter Baker reports on the way the children are pretending or attempting to rethink the past. We plan to discuss their efforts next week.

Meanwhile, Baker wrote what's shown below. And it only took 19 years:
BAKER (11/16/17): Mr. Clinton’s behavior, proved or otherwise, has long been an uncomfortable subject for Democrats. Many chose to defend him for his White House trysts with Ms. Lewinsky because, despite the power differential between a president and a former intern, she was a willing partner. To this day, Ms. Lewinsky rejects the idea that she was a victim because of the affair; “any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath” when the political system took over, as she wrote in 2014.
After all these years, it has finally happened. Lewinsky was a former intern during those thrilling years!

For full fairness to Baker, see below. Meanwhile, we should make an important point:

Did some humans "defend" Bill Clinton for those "trysts?" Or did they perhaps distinguish those "trysts" from, let's say, violent acts of sexual assault?

In the world where the children play, such distinctions are hard to come by. Such distinctions are even more important when evaluating the (improbable) claims made by Gennifer Flowers, a favorite of pundits and press.

Much more on this topic next week. The children are at it again!

Full fairness: Baker has described the Lewinsky of those years as a "former intern" on two prior occasions, once in 2014, once in 2012. Neil Lewis even did so once, way back in 2004.

In a scan of the Washington Post, we found one such unambiguous reference. It appeared in 2008—in a letter to the editor!

A journalist could always go ahead and call her a "federal employee," of course. But dearest readers, use your heads! That would reduce the fun!

(Technically, Lewinsky was still an intern during tryst the first, but she'd already accepted a federal job. She had like a week to go before that employment started. During the vast bulk of this famous affair, into which the whole world stuck its long nose, she was a 22- to 24-year-old federal employee. She was an intern for roughly a week; she was never 21.)

PERISHING FROM THE EARTH: Huge star makes craziest statement yet!


Part 4—Future anthropologists speak:
The richness of the current stampede has transformed this award-winning site.

At its start, it was devoted to critiques of the upper-end press. This new stampede has been so rich that we've been forced to make an admission:

We're now involved in pure anthropology—anthropology of the future. An anthropology which seeks to define who "we, the people" really are.

Are we really "the rational animal," as we've long insisted? The richness of the current stampede turns that claim into a joke for the gods.

Then too, there is the evidence of our recent night visits.

These visits have come to us from 500 years in the future, courtesy of a previously undiscovered wormhole in our landline "telly-phone." (We're channeling Elvis' 1956 impression of Jackie Wilson's Las Vegas impression of him, an impression Wilson performed as lead singer for Billy Ward and the Dominoes. We strongly recommend it. "Man, he sung that song!...He got a big hand on it too, boy.")

The visits have involved a group of "future anthropologists." Their story, in a nutshell:

After "Mr. Trump's Ten-Minute War of Distraction" (2018, in response to the Mueller indictments), human life, as previously known, perished from the earth. On the brighter side, the radiation blasts strangely invested a few survivors with certain time travel mental techniques, which were retained and refined in the centuries which followed.

With human life perished from the earth, survivors used these channeling skills to explore the reasons for Mr. Trump's War. As we moderns look back with embarrassment at Isaac Newton's belief in witchcraft and his attempts to turn lead into gold, they looked back at their "human" ancestors, wondering how the "perishment war" could have come to pass.

In their searches, they stumbled upon this site and its author, who they describe, in the future, as "the Herodotus of the anthropologists." It's a reference to the famous Greek whose historiography was all wrong, but who at least had started to have a bit of the right idea.

"What made you suspect that your fellow humans weren't actually human?" these travelers have respectfully asked in their nightly visits.

We've mentioned the magazine racks at the big book stores with their highly improbable number of magazine titles. Who could possibly be buying those putative magazines, we've long thoughtfully asked. Surely, we've long thought, those improbable specialist publications must be some joke of the gods.

That was one of our earliest clues, dating at least to the 1990s. This week, we've also mentioned what a certain cable news star said on Monday night.

That afternoon, Beverly Young Nelson had described a violent sexual attack on her person—a 1979 attack she attributed to Roy Moore. She was describing a criminal act, as Leigh Corfman had done before her.

Nelson's statement began to establish a pattern of sexual assault by Moore. But how odd! That night, an apparently human cable news star made history's strangest known comment.

The cable star began by citing last Friday's original Washington Post report. In that report, Corfman had described a statutory sexual assault.

Two other women said that Moore had dated them when they were 17 and 19 years old. A fourth woman said Moore had asked her for a date when she was 16.

That made four women in all. On Monday, Nelson became the second woman to describe a criminal sexual assault.

This brought the total number of women to five. It led the star to make human history's weirdest known statement, at least so far:
MADDOW (11/13/17): Remember that all five women who have made these allegations against Roy Moore have described remarkably similar types of behavior. They've all given their names. None of these women apparently knew each other in any other context. They say they have not coordinated their efforts.

The initial Washington Post story not only named all four women accusers, they also corroborated these women's allegations with 30 other interviews.
You'll note that the star was stretching the facts—indeed, was misstating the Post's actual claim—about those "30 other interviews."

By now, though, plays like that were culturally required. When we spoke to our night visitors, we only cited this thoroughly ludicrous, plainly non-human assessment:

"All five women who have made these allegations against Roy Moore have described remarkably similar types of behavior."

Say what? All five women have described remarkably similar types of behavior? Sheepishly, we told our visitors that statements like these triggered the insight they were hailing, from the future, as one of history's greatest.

All five women have described remarkably similar types of behavior? Could an actual human being, as described by sacred Aristotle, possibly make such a statement?

Consider two of the women's accounts:

Nelson said she was taken behind a dark building in a car which was then parked where it couldn't be seen. Subterfuge was involved in this action. She'd been told by Moore that he would simply be driving her home, on a cold night, from the restaurant where she worked.

Instead, Moore drove his car behind the restaurant and parked it where it couldn't be seen. According to Nelson, she was then physically groped by Moore, with Moore also attempting make her perform oral sex. In the course of this criminal assault, she was subjected to physical violence of the type a person might experience in a simple street mugging. This left significant bruising.

That's what Nelson said. She was describing a criminal sexual assault with attendant criminal physical violence.

That's what Nelson said, in an act we regard as a public service, assuming her statement is accurate. Below, you see what one of the other women said. We'll edit out extraneous material perhaps inserted by the Post to help its readers stampede:
MCCRUMMEN, REINHARD AND CRITES (11/10/17): “My mom was really, really strict and my curfew was 10:30 but she would let me stay out later with Roy,” says Deason, who is now 57 and lives in North Carolina. “She just felt like I would be safe with him. . . . She thought he was good husband material.”

Deason says that they dated off and on for several months and that he took her to his house at least two times. She says their physical relationship did not go further than kissing and hugging.

“He liked Eddie Rabbitt and I liked Freddie Mercury,” Deason says, referring to the country singer and the British rocker.
What's what Deason said. Is that story "remarkably similar" to the story Nelson told? Asking our question a different way, could an actual human, as described by sacred Aristotle, possibly think that those two stories are "remarkably similar?"

Could an actual human think such a thing? Adding to our puzzlement, here's the "remarkably similar" story told by one of the other women cited in the Post:
MCCRUMMEN, REINHARD AND CRITES: Gibson says that they dated for two to three months, and that he took her to his house, read her poetry and played his guitar. She says he kissed her once in his bedroom and once by the pool at a local country club.
Say what? According to Gibson, she dated ol' Roy for two or three months, during which time he kissed her twice! According to Gibson, when Moore first asked her for a date, her mother said that, if Moore had asked her out, “I’d say you were the luckiest girl in the world.”

Gibson was 17; ol' Roy was 34. We moderns may not approve of such age differences, and, without any question, our modern judgments about such things are superior to those of anyone else at any time in the history of the world.

That last point goes without saying. That said, ol' Roy dated her for two or three months, with everyone's knowledge and approval, and he kissed her twice!

Instead, he read her poems and strummed his guitar. Granted, these sound like horrible dates. But on what planet does that story seem to be "remarkably similar" to the story of violent sexual assault Nelson told this week?

Putting it another way, on what planet could a human think those stories were "remarkably similar?"

Ol' Roy kissed her twice! Trust us—in an earlier, more homophobic Alabama politics, these stories would have been used, in oppo research, to drive a whispering point like this: "Ol' Roy don't much seem to like gur-ls!"

Let's hope we're past such days! That said, in what world could these stories possibly seem "remarkably similar?"

Our night visitors have answered that question all week. They say such stories can seem similar in a world where sacred Aristotle was just tremendously wrong.

For the record, our visitors insist that the cable star actually is fully human. She isn't a cyborg, our visitors say. She wasn't hatched on a distant planet. She wasn't quite built in a lab.

Our visitors tell us that we've been wrong when we've launched such speculations about other puzzling journalists down through the many long years. They've all been "human, all too human," our visitors hotly insist.

It's just that Wittgenstein was right, they obscurely say, and Aristotle, though sacred, was crazily wrong.

Crackpots like this cable star shrink in horror from the age difference in these last two stories. In a burst of crackpot runaway Puritanism, they can see no other element to the stories which have appeared this past week.

As such, these runaway crackpots reveal themselves as human, much less than human. One teenager got kissed twice; one was violently assaulted. Locked inside their runaway world, these life forms can't see the difference.

To their empty, malfunctioning hearts, those stories seem the same!

In last night's visit, the future anthropologists ruefully assailed the cultural xenophobia of folk like cable star. "It led us straight toward Mr. Trump's War," the rag-covered cave dwellers said.

Still and all, on the brighter side, they retain a sense of humor.

Was it crazy when ol' Roy Moore, age 32, dated late teens in '79? They reminded us of the film Manhattan, which appeared that very same year, in which the Woody Allen character—said to be 42 in the script—was living with his high school girl friend, who was 17.

Her parents were never mentioned. It was the 70s, people!

Up in Gotham, elite Yankee journalists loved the adorable film. But when ol' Roy went crazy and kissed a teenager two separate times that same year, he was just so horrifically wrong that his two kisses were indistinguishable from a violent act of assault.

"Face it," our saddened night visitors said. That cable star is visibly crazy, pretty much out of her mind. She did so many things, they said, to bring on Mr. Trump's War.

The heat was off all over our campus last night. Where they live, it's colder.

Tomorrow: Crackpot runaway Puritanism, with so many additional points to cover! Also, back to Mr. Lincoln's concern about "perish[ing] from the earth!"

Culturally speaking: Culturally speaking, Priscilla Beaulieu was 14 when she began dating Elvis. Elvis was already 24—indeed, well past 24 and a half.

When Beaulieu turned 17, her parents, stationed in Germany, let her fly to the States for a two-week visit with Elvis. They married after an eight-year courtship, still different in age by ten years.

Culturally speaking, was any of this a good idea? On balance, possibly not, but neither are the kinds of stampedes conducted by our legion of non-humans, whose craziness we can't see.

"Remarkably similar!" As Nelson fights for her life in that car, we'd call that inhumanly wrong.

Scarborough's former misstatement grows!


He drags Kasie Hunt down with him:
After a richly-deserved four-day weekend, Joe and Mika returned to Morning Joe yesterday morning. In their opening segment, they mugged and clowned with one of the performance hooks Joe liberated from Imus.

It's just as Imus-and-them used to entertain us! Mika pretends to be trying to read the news. Joe just keeps talking to the boys, usually about something trivial.

Mika pretends to be annoyed. It's a silly hook stolen straight outta Imus.

(Back in the day, Imus would disregard Charles when Charles was trying to read the news. This showed us that Imus was a rebel. When Scarborough liberated the bit, he added a pleasing gender hook, since it's Mika who can't bring the boys to heel. Mika swallows the abuse, then heads off to write her books about female empowerment.)

(Years ago, when the show began, Joe would insult her much more.)

For this kind of bullshit, Joe and Mika are paid millions of dollars per year. For our money, Mika may be the most unqualified person we've ever seen in any major role in any American industry. But then again, who really cares? It's just the American discourse!

This morning, Joe provided a good example of the way our big stars toy with the facts. Truly, you can't believe a thing you hear, especially while watching cable.

He started the show by praising Jeff Sessions for pooh-poohing the idea of naming a special prosecutor to chase down Hillary Clinton. But then, he switched over to the current stampede in which everyone is trying to show that Session has been a big liar.

We find this stampede unconvincing and highly underwhelming. We're embarrassed by the way major Democrats are pursuing it. That said, Joe got especially hinky today, misstating some basic facts to make the preferred story play.

The tediousness of this whole discussion would be hard to describe. It you want to let some brain cells die, you can watch the segment here.

Eventually, Joe began saying how crazy it was to think that Sessions didn't remember that one non-meeting meeting he attended, the one at which 28-year-old George Papadopoulos suggested he could help set up a meeting between Donald J. Trump and the uncle of his very good friend, Vladimir Putin's niece.

Sessions claims he didn't remember this meeting, and especially those remarks, until his memory was jogged by recent news reports. That may be true, and it may be false. Given who Papadopoulos seems to have been, we don't find it hugely hard to believe. (Nor do we find it important.)

That said, a stampede is on! As of today, all the children are looking for ways to insist that Sessions has been lying lying lying. Joe decided to stampede like this, with several howling misstatements:
SCARBOROUGH (11/15/17): But Kasie, I was debating somebody about this yesterday. They were saying "Oh, he [Papadopoulos] was just such—he was a low-ranking official."

Well, at the time that request was made, Donald Trump was saying he was one of his two top foreign policy advisers. which goes back to the fact that this was such a mom-and-pop operation, without the mom, that everybody knew everybody there.

There was no campaign infrastructure at this point. And Donald Trump told the Washington Post, "Carter Page and George Papadopoulos were my two foreign policy advisers."
That's the very first thing we saw today. America wakes to this sh*t!

Meanwhile, we're sorry, but no. Donald J. Trump didn't say any such thing to the Washington Post, or to anyone else.

As everyone with the Internet knows, that simply isn't what he said at the famous editorial board meeting where he gave Papadopoulos' name to the waiting world. And what he did say, on that one occasion, may have been a silly charade—an attempt to pretend he had foreign policy advisers, when he actually didn't.

What did Donald Trump actually say on that one occasion? As everyone with the Internet knows, this is what he actually said—and yes, he had to ask Corey Lewandowski for a printed list of his august "advisers," whose names and qualifications he proceeded to read:
RYAN (3/21/16): Mr. Trump, welcome to the Washington Post. Thank you for making time to meet with our editorial board...

We heard you might be announcing your foreign policy advisory team soon. If there's anything you can share on that?

TRUMP: We are going to be doing that, in fact, very soon. I'd say during the week we'll be announcing some names. We always will.

RYAN: Any names you can start off with this morning with us?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I hadn’t thought of doing it, but if you want I can give you some of the names. I wouldn't mind.
Corey, do you have that list? I can be a little more accurate with that?


OK, you ready?

Walid Phares, who you probably know, PhD, adviser to the House of Representatives caucus, and counter-terrorism expert.

Carter Page, Ph.D.

George Papadopoulos, he's an oil and energy consultant, excellent guy.

The honorable Joe Schmitz, inspector general at the Department of Defense.

Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg.

And I have quite a few more. But that’s a group of some of the people that we are dealing with. We have many other people in different aspects of what we do, but that's a pretty representative group.
As you can see, Trump gave five names to the Post editorial board, not just the two Joe preferred. He didn't say, on that occasion or anywhere else, that Page and Papadopoulos were his "two foreign policy advisers."

He didn't say that to the Post in the now-famous meeting Scarborough was reinventing. He didn't say it to anyone else.

He wasn't parading around "saying he [Papadopoulos] was one of his two top foreign policy advisers." Endeavoring to advance a script about Sessions being a liar, Scarborough made that bullshit up!

Eight days ago, we criticized Scarborough and David Ignatius for making other misstatements about this editorial board meetng. At that time, Scarborough merely said that Page and Papadopoulos were the first two names on Trump's list that day.

Even that remark was false. Eight days later, with the guild stampeding, Scarborough amended his earlier misstatement, making it substantially worse. In this way, he convinced the world that Sessions is constantly lying.

Here's the most horrific part. After making this morning's misstatements, Scarborough threw to fresh-faced Kasie Hunt. Instead of correcting his mistake, she added some groaners of her own.

This was awful on Hunt's part. As always, Mika chimed in:
HUNT (continuing directly): Well, and they keep dismissing him [Papadopoulos] too as a young foreign policy volunteer? I mean, he was thirty years old. How old was Jared Kushner during the campaign? 35, 36? I mean—

MIKA: And he was going to solve peace in the Middle East!

HUNT: And still is! So I think—there are some real questions about that in my mind.
Deeply, horribly sad.

Quite reasonably, Kushner has long been ridiculed as being too young and inexperienced at age 35. That said, he was and is Trump's son-in-law. This explains the absurdity of his plainly absurd portfolio.

In fact, Papadopoulos was 28, not the newly imagined 30, when his name was read to the Washington Post that day. (Also, when that later "meeting" was held, with Sessions attending.) Weirdly, Hunt embellished his age today, thus enhancing his claim to gravitas and grandeur.

In fact, Papdopoulos was clownishly young and inexperienced to qualify as a serious "foreign policy adviser." Everybody began saying that on the day Trump read his name to the board. We don't find it hard to believe that Sessions paid exactly zero attention to anything he said.

Scarborough's misstatements get bigger by the week, and how he's dragging Hunt down with him. She embellished Papadopoulos' age, then advanced a silly argument, undercutting the idea that Sessions wouldn't have taken him seriously.

How depressing should it be to see Hunt heading down that road? She's youngish (32), and personable, and perfectly capable. That said, does anyone enter the maws of "cable news" without soon handing over her soul?

You can't believe a thing you hear, certainly not on cable. This morning, in the 6 AM hour, manifest script-driven bullshit was even coming from Hunt!

Love in the afternoon: The "Ryan" whose name you see in that transcript is Frederick J. Ryan Jr., the Washington Post's little-known publisher.

With Putin's niece now out of the picture, rumors swirl that Papadopoulos, who turns 30 this very month, has, in a clever networking move, begun dating Ryan's daughter.

PERISHING FROM THE EARTH: Lawrence moves from one to five!


Part 3—Reports from the children's hour:
When the children start to stampede, they engage in certain familiar, time-honored behaviors.

They disappear unhelpful facts. They're strongly inclined to embellish all the others.

Presently, we will see how Lawrence may perhaps have engaged in a bit of embellishment at the start of Monday night's "cable news" show. First, though, a brief note on the number and nature of the sources the Washington Post cited.

We refer to the Washington Post's original report about Roy Moore—the report in which Leigh Corfman said that she'd been assaulted by Moore when she was just 14.

The children have taken turns saying how great the Post's research was. In one particular, they've stood in line to embellish, distort and misstate this statement by the Post's team of reporters:

"This account is based on interviews with more than 30 people who said they knew Moore between 1977 and 1982, when he served as an assistant district attorney for Etowah County in northern Alabama, where he grew up."

Let's reread what the Post's reporters actually said. The reporters said that they had interviewed "more than 30 people who said they knew Moore between 1977 and 1982."

In that statement, the reporters didn't characterize what those "more than 30 people" had told them. More specifically, they didn't say, or even imply, that the more than thirty people had all described misconduct by Moore.

If you actually read the Post report, it seems fairly clear that most of these "more than 30 people" didn't describe misconduct by Moore, depending on what you choose to count as misconduct. Example:

Did anyone connected to that girls' softball team describe misconduct by Moore? If they did, why didn't the Post report what those people said?

Not since Plato, in his famous Seventh Letter, described the rise of "The Thirty" in Athens has a group of (more than) thirty people been discussed in such detail. But because the children were on a stampede, they quickly began overstating the role of this "more than thirty" in the Post's report.

This began in jumbled incoherence on Thursday, November 9, soon after the Post report appeared on line. Wolf Blitzer threw to Nia-Malika Henderson, who is transcribed as shown below:
BLITZER (11/9/17): Because there's been like 30 people the Washington Post interviewed, including these women who are now adults, who were girls at the time. You've read the article.

HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, you look at the Washington Post story, right?, on Roy Moore—30 people they talk to, corroborating statements, at the time, from the young woman who was in that lead, phenomenal reporters, three reporters on that byline, one of whom is Alice Crites, who's been attached to almost all of the Pulitzer Prize-winning stories that the Post has done over the last ten or 15 years. So yes, I mean, I think there is this standard and a lot of this stuff. I mean, you have Republicans essentially saying "Oh, we don't know if you'll even be believed." I think the question is what is the standard of believability? And it feels like journalists—many of whom are women who are doing some of this reporting at the New York Times, at the Washington Post, there is I think a pretty good standard.
For our money, Henderson's normally very bright. But that incoherent, press-backing statement represents the early excitement which obtains when a stampede is starting.

In a murky rush of words, Henderson linked the thirty people to corroboration. By Friday morning, Chris Cuomo was referring to "thirty surrounding sources in terms of corroboration for their reporting."

Eventually, in his excitement, he had to be dragged down from behind by his CNN cohost, Alysin Camerota. Incoherent snap judgment looks a great deal like this:
STELTER (11/10/17): These rumors have existed in Alabama political circles for years. The Washington Post stumbled upon it, didn't seek it out. And eventually was able to convince these reluctant sources to speak on the record.

CUOMO: Thirty of them, by the way. Thirty sources were cited in their reporting.

STELTER: Right. Four women, and then corroboration of these women's accounts, and then other sources on top of that.

CUOMO: That's why the "if true" thing bothers me because—

STELTER: How much more do you need?

CUOMO: Right. An allegation is a suggestion without proof. That's what that word means in the law. Their word, their accusation is proof, right? I mean, that—it's being ignored.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, it's not proof, right? I mean—

CUOMO: Sure. If a woman comes forward and said this happened.

CAMEROTA: This is evidence.

CUOMO: Yes. Someone coming forward with testimony is evidence. You could have other evidence.

Camerota, who's very sharp, was recently stolen by CNN. Normally, Cuomo is quite sharp too. CNN's morning show is a hundred times smarter than Morning Joe, to which it loses in the ratings.

But on this occasion, Cuomo and Brian Stelter were joining a stampede. Weirdly, Cuomo said that if a woman says something happened, that's proof! It fell to poor Camerota to drag him down from behind.

Meanwhile, Cuomo and Stelter made it sound like the thirty sources had all "corroborated" the charge, or charges, against Moore—a suggestion which is thoroughly murky and, it would seem, untrue. The Post reporters had never said that, but the boys had begun to stampede.

"How much more do you need?" Stelter excitedly asked. Exactly what Rolling Stone said!

Cuomo is normally much, much sharper than this. Camerota brought him back to his senses concerning the concepts of "evidence" and "proof."

That said, the stampede had clearly begun. In CNN's 11 AM hour, Kate Bolduan, grumpy anchor of At This Hour, raced down the Cuomo road:
BOLDUAN (11/10/17): What more is there to learn? That's the question a lot are asking today. I'm hearing from Republicans as well, what more is there to learn? If it's four people on the record, the then-14-year-old says—is on the record talking about what amounts to sexual abuse, back then, and 30 people corroborated their stories? And these—and this then-14-year-old, not that it should matter, says she's voted Republican in the last three elections and voted Republican for Donald Trump. What more is there to learn?
Did thirty people actually "corroborate their stories?" That isn't what the Post had said, and it almost surely isn't accurate. But so what? A stampede was on!

"What more is there to learn?" Bolduan excitedly said. Exactly what the professors said about the Duke lacrosse case!

In fairness, the children simply can't help themselves at such times as this. We think of Chekhov's description of Gurov, in the beautiful story Nabokov said was possibly greatest of all:
Long and indeed bitter experience had taught him that every new affair, which at first relieved the monotony of life so pleasantly and and appeared to be such a charming and light adventure...invariably developed into an extremely complicated problem and finally the whole situation became rather cumbersome. But at every new meeting with an attractive woman he forgot all about this experience, he wanted to enjoy life so badly and it all seemed so simple and amusing.
Anthropologically speaking, the children seem to "want to enjoy life so badly," or so the experts now tell us. The only way they can accomplish this end is by rushing off in their tribal group stampedes, embellishing and disappearing facts as they go.

All through these early days of excitement, pundits cited the thirty sources as proof of the claims against Moore. If you actually read the Post report, it's clear that most of those thirty people didn't "corroborate" what Corfman had said, nor had the Post attempted to say how many of The Thirty corroborated the claim that Moore had dated young women when he was 32, if that was the crime we were now pursuing.

No matter; a stampede was on! Finally, on Meet the Press, Elise Jordan achieved apotheosis.

There was competition that day. On ABC's This Week, host Martha Raddatz was making this baldly inaccurate statement, in which, to add a bit of amusement, the thirty people had somehow become thirty women:
RADDATZ (11/12/17): Let me say again, there are four women who were named and 30 women who have corroborated it.
She went ahead and said it again! By now, thirty women had "corroborated it," whatever "it" might be taken to be!

Raddatz was saying that, and quite a bit more, on ABC. She was joined by Matthew Dowd in a prescribed rush to judgment.

Raddatz was talking a whole lot of smack. On Meet the Press, Jordan may have topped her:
JORDAN (11/12/17): It was so uncomfortable for Senator Toomey to try to defend these charges of pedophilia against Roy Moore. And he was forced to say the allegations were 40 years old—

TODD: In fairness, molestation doesn't—it isn't pedophilia. Molestation is— We looked up this legal definition to be careful. But it's "molestation—"

JORDAN: Molestation!

TODD: —when it's teens. When it's preteen, it's "pedophilia." We're having to debate this—versus pedophilia.

JORDAN: But when you're having to debate molestation, when you're having to defend someone who is accused of it, and who there are corroborated [sic] eyewitnesses backing up the case? It's a tough position to be in.
Heroically, Jordan didn't report a number! But now, viewers were being told that there were "eyewitnesses" who were backing up the charge of molestation, a charge only Corfman had brought.

The Post had cited exactly zero "eyewitnesses" to this alleged assault. Todd, who was being so careful with his definitions, let Jordan's thrilling misstatement slide. Maybe Camerota should host a Sunday morning program!

We're just giving you a tiny sample of the ways the children ran with the Post's statement about the "more than thirty people who said they knew Moore" during the years in question. Those people had quickly evolved into "corroborating" sources, even into "thirty women," on their way to becoming "eyewitnesses" to a criminal act. But this is the way the children react when a stampede begins.

(In this same way, the children embellished an endless series of statements by Candidate Gore on their way to electing Candidate Bush as punishment to that vile man, Bill Clinton. Along the way, they even slipped "invented" inside quotation marks—the one word Gore had never said in his one utterly pointless remark about the Internet! People are dead all over the world because of that prior stampede. The children can cause enormous harm when they stampede in this manner.)

In this case, we'll guess that the children have been stampeding after a guilty party, but they're on a stampede nonetheless. That said, it's always amusing to watch the children's hours. This brings us back to what Lawrence said at the start on Monday night's program.

Yesterday, when we left our story, two of Lawrence's guests had made peculiar remarks on Friday evening's program. Each set of remarks was weirdly inaccurate, a situation Lawrence made little attempt to address.

In October 2000, this same fellow went on the smelly old McLaughlin Group show and reissued an 11-month-old howler about what a big liar Candidate Gore was. That howler maintained the two-year stampede which led to vast death in Iraq.

Last Friday night, it was Lawrence's guests who were making the weird misstatements. Lawrence had been rewarded for prior misconduct by getting his own cable show.

This brings us up to Monday night, when Lawrence went back on the air, prepared to make a peculiar remark of his own. Earlier in the day, Beverly Young Nelson had alleged a brutal sexual attack on her person, an attack she said had been staged by Moore in 1977.

We think Nelson performed a great service that day. In response, Lawrence started with a statement which struck us as slightly peculiar:
O'DONNELL (11/13/17): And now, there are five—five accusers of Roy Moore. A fifth accuser of Roy Moore emerged this afternoon. And this time, the woman appeared before cameras and told her own story in her own words about what she says Roy Moore did to her when she was 16 years old.
Was Nelson the fifth accuser of Moore, or was she the second accuser? Needless to say, it would all depend on what you thought Moore was being accused of.

For ourselves, we'd regard Nelson as the second accuser. She was the second person accusing Moore of committing a sexual assault, an extremely serious crime. The three other women Lawrence was counting had accused Moore of such heinous acts as buying them a glass of wine when they were 18 or 19 (the "accuser" in question wasn't sure), when 19 was the legal drinking age in the wilds of Etowah County.

Below, you see two "accusations." Should they be conjoined?
Accusation 1: Roy Moore committed a brutal sexual attack against my person.

Accusation 2: Roy Moore bought me a glass of wine when I was maybe 19.
How similar are those accusations? To us, those accusations seem immensely different.

Indeed, what kind of person would conflate or conjoin these types of "accusation?" Can you see where our tolerance for press corps stampedes can take us, in our desire to enjoy life?

To us, those accusations seem extremely different. For ourselves, we'd be hard-pressed to describe Accusation 2 as an "accusation" at all.

But when the children stage a stampede, five is better than two. Five is a bigger number than two. It makes the story better, just as all those plays on the "more than thirty people who said they knew Roy Moore" did.

Our press corps has staged many stampedes since 1992. One of those stampedes sent George W. Bush to the White House. To this day, all the children agree that it simply can't be discussed.

Another one of the press corps' stampedes continues with the GOP's focus on the scary uranium deal. To this day, none of the children will discuss the disgraceful role of the New York Times in creating that mess. Another stampede has been extended this week as Michelle Goldberg writes an unintelligent column in which she heroically reaches a judgment which, truth to tell, she isn't positioned to reach.

This site began as press critique way back in 98. By now, this site has become anthropology. The conduct of the children in question is so comically strange that it leads a sensible person to realize that it involves the deepest questions about our very species.

The current stampede is a highly instructive stampede. In the next two days, we'll continue to ask these basic questions:

Are we looking at five accusers, or are we looking at two? If we're looking at five accusers, what exactly is the children's target being accused of?

This takes us to the two different tribes who have emerged from this stampede. On the one hand, we have the tribe which initially said "if true." They were opposed by the tribe of angry avengers who "can't tell the difference."

We'll also examine the crazy puritanical wave which tends to emerge, within our malfunctioning species, when matters like these are in play. For our money, William Saletan, who isn't crazy, went all in on this puritanism in a crazy piece which appeared at Slate just yesterday.

Are there five accusers, or are there two? Also, very importantly, how long should a journalist wait before reaching a judgment about a serious claim?

Spoiler alert! When the children stampede, they don't wait long. The Dimmesdales rush in behind them.

Tomorrow: The "if true" crowd is swiftly denounced in a time-honored "rush to judgment"

Beverly Young Nelson performs a great service!


Deplorables, Chekhov and you:
For our money, Beverly Young Nelson performed a great service yesterday with her discussion of Roy Moore.

No presentation compels another person's belief, but a person would need a substantial motive to believe that Nelson was inventing her account of the sexual assault against her person conducted so long ago. Especially since this presentation was delivered on camera, it constitutes a strong "seconding" of Leigh Corfman's original claim against Moore.

We'll be discussing these matters more tomorrow. For today, we invite you to consider this point:

Nelson said that she and her husband both voted for Donald J. Trump. According to one unfortunate but now-famous assessment, this means the chances are even that Young is one of the "deplorables" whose terrible traits were so exhaustively listed on that unfortunate day.

Is Nelson a deplorable? How about her husband? We'll suggest that you watch her presentation again, this time asking yourself if you're listening to one of the inhuman figures described in that famous assessment.

Why did Nelson vote for Trump? We'd love to see such questions asked and answered on our own flawless tribe's various "cable news" programs.

There are 63 million people who voted for Candidate Trump. In theory, it could be instructive to see them explain why they did.

Instead, we tend to invent tribal novels about Those People, filling them with the ugly motives we prefer to imagine. Go ahead! Watch Nelson's presentation again and ask yourself if she is one of the "deplorables" we all heard described that day.

Why did people vote for Trump? We've often said that there are surely a wide range of explanations and reasons. Our liberal tribe widely prefers to think much uglier thoughts.

Once again, with this in mind, we'll recommend Chekhov's brilliant story, The Lady with the Lapdog. We'll do so for the reasons described below. Beyond that, we'll invite you to ponder Louis C. K., one of our tribally good decent people, as we do so.

(Important permission slip: Professor West lavishly praises Chekhov's brilliance, so it's tribally appropriate for you to read him. Also, Nabokov "considers it one of the greatest short stories ever written," according to the leading authority on the beautiful story. Nabokov wrote Lolita, so his views, like those of West, are tribally acceptable. You're licensed to read the tale!)

What makes Chekhov's story so morally brilliant? Chekhov's main character is Gurov, a deeply unhappily married man and a long-time "womanizer."

From the deep unhappiness of his marriage, he has long pursued insincere affairs with younger women—people he privately dismisses as "the lesser breed."

In short, Gurov is a terribly unattractive figure. Then, one day, it happens:
The appearance on the front of a new arrival—a lady with a lapdog—became the topic of general conversation.
That's the story's opening sentence. We're using the translation of Professor Magarshack, who we think gets it just about right.

The young lady who arrives at the shore is also unhappily married. She and Gurov conduct an affair, then return to their winter homes, which are so far apart in Russia that even Omar Sharif couldn't conceivably walk the distance in the winter snows.

Gurov believes that he has conducted another meaningless, loveless affair, but his feelings begin to tell him something different. Eventually, he somewhat recklessly seeks out the lady, Anna Sergeyevna. In their renewed experience, he makes a surprising discovery:
It was only now, when his hair was beginning to turn gray, that he had fallen in love properly, in good earnest—for the first time in his life.
The miracle of the story is this—Chekhov is able to show the deep humanity of a deeply unattractive figure, perhaps of a genuine deplorable. We'll even reveal this:
Anna Sergeyevna and he loved each other like people very close and akin, like husband and wife, like tender friends; it seemed to them that fate itself had meant them for one another, and they could not understand why he had a wife and she a husband; and it was as though they were a pair of birds of passage, caught and forced to live in different cages. They forgave each other for what they were ashamed of in their past, they forgave everything in the present, and felt that this love of theirs had changed them both.
In the case of Gurov, we see the appearance of the full humanity which was somehow present in a deeply cynical figure. That said, Russian mores provide no way for the pair to escape their loveless marriages. As the story ends, they are wracking their brains, trying to decide what to do.

But along the way, in a very few pages, Chekhov has worked a miracle of moral exposition. We think of this story when we think of the ludicrous, horrific conduct recently attributed to people like Harvey Weinstein and Louis C. K., whose moral greatness our liberal critics knew they must never undermine or dispute.

Why would anyone want to behave in the manner attributed to Weinstein and C.K.? We compliment Angelina Chapin for presenting a humane discussion of that important question in this recent report at Slate. We're not big on punishment here. We hope they move beyond this.

Louie and Harvey were two of Ours. So were the many colleagues and critics who covered for their disordered behavior down through all those long and horrifically ludicrous, deeply unfortunate years.

By way of contrast, Nelson was one of the deplorables, as was Corfman, another Trump voter, before her. Our suggestion:

Watch Nelson's presentation again. See if you have possibly gained a new, less inhumane view.

Also, treat yourself; read Chekhov's beautiful tale. Magarshack's translation is found in the Penguin Classics edition. Professor West and Nabokov have said it's OK to go there.

PERISHING FROM THE EARTH: A peculiar thing happened last evening on Lawrence!


Part 2—Also, last Friday night:
A peculiar thing happened last Friday night as Lawrence O'Donnell conducted his "cable news" program.

That very morning, the original report about Roy Moore's alleged assault on Leigh Corfman had appeared in the Washington Post.
It had appeared on line the previous day. Lawrence had assembled a panel to discuss the Post report.

That afternoon, Moore had been interviewed on Sean Hannity's radio program. As shown below, he flatly denied ever having known Corfman.

As Lawrence started the segment in question, he played a piece of audiotape from the interview, then introduced his guests. At this point, The Crazy hadn't started:
MOORE (11/10/17): I don't know Miss Corfman from anybody. I never talked to her, never had any contact with her. Allegations of sexual misconduct with her are completely false. I believe they're politically motivated. I believe they're brought only to stop a very successful campaign, and that's what they're doing.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now, David Frum, a senior editor for The Atlantic, and Jennifer Rubin, conservative opinion writer at the Washington Post.

Also with us, Barbara McQuade,
former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and professor of law at the University of Michigan. She's also an NBC News and MSNBC legal contributor.
Lawrence began his segment with that chunk of the audiotape. Then he introduced his guests. You can watch the whole segment here.

Plainly, Lawrence had assembled an all-star panel. On the other hand, the children were deeply entrenched by this time in one of their famous stampedes.

Result? When Lawrence turned first to Professor McQuade, something peculiar happened. We'll highlight the peculiar things the professor oddly said:
O'DONNELL (continuing directly): And Professor McQuade, I want to go to you first, just on your courtroom experience and evaluating the credibility of witnesses.

And jurors are told that they should use many elements in evaluating witnesses, including their bearing, what they're picking up from them in their testimony. We couldn't see Roy Moore's face today. That would have helped a lot, it would have helped the jury.

But based on what you heard today, and with reference to some of the inconsistencies that I just highlighted, what was your assessment of that as testimony?

MCQUADE: Yes, and jurors are told they're supposed to just use their common sense in assessing witness credibility.

What I heard him say is he doesn't recall whether he ever dated an underage girl at the age of 14. You know, you "don't recall." Maybe you don't recall what you had for dinner three weeks ago on Tuesday. That seems legitimate.

But you "don't recall" whether you committed statutory rape or, I guess, sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old? That's not a kind of thing you don't, not, you know, you don't recall. It would be an unequivocal "no" if it's something that you've never done. To say "I don`t recall" means "I might have."
Say what? Lawrence was relying on McQuade's vast experience and her unparalleled skill. But when he did, he received a peculiar reply.

Let's be fair to Professor McQuade. In complete fairness, was on an important stampede this day, along with the rest of the children.

McQuade was on a major stampede. But when she reported "what I heard him say," she certainly wasn't reporting what Moore had said in the excerpt of the interview Lawrence had just played.

What she said was highly pleasing, but it certainly wasn't what Moore had said in that interview excerpt:

Rather plainly, Moore didn't say, in that excerpt, that "he doesn't recall whether he ever dated an underage girl at the age of 14." He certainly didn't say that he didn't recall "whether he committed statutory rape or, I guess, sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old."

The gentleman hadn't said that. Professor McQuade made thrilling remarks. But rather plainly, she wasn't describing what Moore had said in that chunk of the interview.

Indeed, and just as a matter of fact, she was describing remarks Moore hadn't made at all that day. In fairness, this is the kind of thing which routinely occurs when the children, some of whom are law school professors, stage one of their patented cable stampedes, thereby thrilling the customers and driving up corporate profits.

If we plan to deal in the truth today, Moore hadn't made those remarks at all—and Lawrence, of course, understood this. Result? He proceeded to correct the professor, without ever telling the customers that she was being corrected:
O'DONNELL (continuing directly): Well, he is saying that he—he is absolutely denying everything that happened with the 14-year-old. And of course, that's the one where if it was in the statute of limitations, the legal jeopardy would be very severe.

He is saying that—he is saying he doesn't recall if he dated the other girls. But in the earlier part of his testimony, he seems to be saying he did date the other girls because, you know, you should listen to them. They say that we didn't have sex.
"Well," Lawrence thoughtfully said. From there, he proceeded to correct the professor's wild misstatements (while making a minor error himself), without directly telling the customers that he was doing that.

(It's a standard cable move, one that was perfected by Professor Hartmann when she corrected Rachel, without seeming to correct Rachel, after Rachel erred, then almost seemed to maybe possibly tell a rather ginormous fib, about the nature and the extent of the gender wage gap. On cable, you're allowed to correct a guest, even perhaps to correct a host. You may even feel you have to do that. You just can't seem to be doing that. Any conduct which looks that way is of course disallowed.)

There! Lawrence had restored a bit of order to an otherwise uncertain world. Soon, though, he turned to Frum, inventor of the "axis of evil" phrase, and the chaos started again.

Frum is normally very sensible—and he's even Canadian! He's long been forgiven for his role in pushing the war in Iraq, which no one actually cared about in the first place. (He semi-explained his mistake in 2013, at the start of this CNN piece.)

Normally, Frum is sensible, perfectly sane. But even mild-mannered Canadian pundits were on a stampede this day:
O'DONNELL: David, I can't recommend to people enough how much they should re-read that article, if they have to, in the Washington Post.

FRUM: You know, Judge Moore could have said, "I never met Leigh Corfman in my life." Or he could have said, "I met her in the courtroom. I talked to her there, yes. I was never alone with her in my life."

That's not what he said. He said, "It didn't happen that way," and then he said, "I never committed sexual misconduct with her."

Well, sexual misconduct, that's an opinion. You know, different people may have different views about what constitutes misconduct. Even there, there isn't a denial. And of course, Leigh Corfman's story is enormously credible.
Ironically, Lawrence started by saying that people should read the Post report, presumably to get clear on the facts. He then threw to Frum, who followed Professor McQuade in grossly misrepresenting what the stampede's target had said.

"Judge Moore could have said, 'I never met Leigh Corfman in my life?' " We hate to be the killjoys here, but that's exactly what Moore had said! Indeed, he had said it quite plainly on the audiotape which started this ludicrous segment.

This time, Lawrence didn't bother correcting his guest's peculiar misstatements. Instead, he seized on a later point Frum made, declaring that it proved that Moore had staged the attack.

This was a very strange segment. But so it has gone, for several decades, when the children stage their stampedes.

(In 1999 and 2000, one such twenty-month stampede sent George W. Bush, and Frum, to the White House, with disastrous results. Late in that campaign, in October 2000, Lawrence played a remarkable role in that twenty-month stampede, in which the children acted out their animus against Clinton, Gore and Clinton. People are dead all over the world because people like Lawrence did what they did, though it's abundantly clear by now that no one ever actually cared.)

By now, we'll guess it's highly likely that Moore was perhaps misstating the facts when he declared that he had never met Corfman. We base that on yesterday's presentation by Beverly Young Nelson, the "deplorable" who described a sexual assault conducted by Moore in 1977.

In matters like these, the second testimony will often be more dispositive than the first, at least for those who aren't stampeding. But we aren't here to evaluate Moore. We're here to evaluate Lawrence himself, along with the rest of the children.

What in the world explains the strange things said on Friday night's program? First the professor, then the Canadian, grossly misstated what Moore had said—what he said on the audiotape Lawrence had just finished playing!

The first time, Lawrence staged a disguised correction. The second time, he simply launched an attack. As this puzzling behavior occurred, 1.751 million customers were being subjected to the latest peculiar nonsense.

That said, the bullshit was general in recent days as the children staged their latest stampede. The very essence of our society, indeed of our species, is called into question by people like these, and Lincoln keeps asking his question:

If the children plan to behave this way, might government of the people perish from the earth? At least in its current form in our large continental nation?

Can our nation survive if the children plan to behave this way? We're not sure, but last night, Lawrence started his program with the latest highly peculiar statement, the latest strong dose of The Crazy.

We'll start tomorrow with that strange statement. From there, we'll discuss the logic of the "can't tell the difference" brigade, as they assail the vile misconduct of the "if true" crowd.

Tomorrow: The editors at the Washington Post can't seem to tell the difference