INTELLECTUAL INFRASTRUCTURE: What Friedersdorf said about Tara Reade!

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020

Top professors fail:
The background reporting on Tara Reade is beginning to sound quite familiar.

One week ago today, Politico's Natasha Korecki published a punishing report in which former associates of Reade described her in deeply unflattering terms.

Reade is a "liar," one such person said. Also, Reade was said to "have problems."

That same day, the PBS NewsHour published and broadcast lengthy reports casting doubt on some of the claims Reade has made concerning Joe Biden. Over at Vox, Laura McGann has largely cut Reade loose too.

We summarized and linked to these three reports on Monday of this very week. To recall our winged words, just click here.

Korecki's report was punishing, but go ahead—admit it! In the week since her report appeared, you've heard almost nothing about it.

You haven't seen it discussed on your favorite "cable news" channel. Jonathan Chait discussed it at New York magazine, but we haven't seen it discussed anywhere else.

How for a sad fact:

Within our own self-impressed tribe, such discussions aren't permitted. Our professors tell us not to conduct them. Instead, they conduct screwball discussions of their own, in which we're encouraged to keep believing claims we can't possibly know to be true.

In these ways, our self-impressed tribe contributes to the ongoing failure of our society's intellectual infrastructure, a breakdown which has been underway for three or four decades now. It's frequently horrible over at Fox (and in the deep red precincts beyond), but it's also quite bad Over Here.

One week ago, Korecki's report painted a picture of Reade as someone whose word you wouldn't be likely to trust. Late last night, the New York Times filed another such report.

According to the Times report, Antioch University has become the latest entity to challenge Reade's past claims. Reade's resume has always claimed a bachelor's degree from Antioch, but Antioch has now said that she holds no such degree:
LERER, RUTENBERG AND SAUL (5/23/20): Defense lawyers in California are reviewing criminal cases in which Tara Reade, the former Senate aide who has accused Joseph R. Biden Jr. of sexual assault, served as an expert witness on domestic violence, concerned that she misrepresented her educational credentials in court.

Then known as Alexandra McCabe, Ms. Reade testified as a government witness in Monterey County courts for nearly a decade, describing herself as an expert in the dynamics of domestic violence who had counseled hundreds of victims.

But lawyers who had faced off against her in court began raising questions about the legitimacy of her testimony, and the verdicts that followed, after news reports this week that Antioch University had disputed her claim of receiving a bachelor’s degree from its Seattle campus.

The public defender’s office in Monterey County has begun scrutinizing cases involving Ms. Reade
and compiling a list of clients who may have been affected by her testimony, according to Jeremy Dzubay, an assistant public defender in the office.
Antioch has denied Reade's claim that she holds a degree from the school. We offer three cheers for the New York Times for publishing this report.

That said:

In a somewhat myopic way, the Times report focuses on the way this revelation might affect verdicts from court cases in which Reade participated as an "expert witness." If she did misstate her credentials, some verdicts may be thrown out.

Somewhat comically, the Times report focuses on that. Meanwhile, how might this revelation affect the way people view Reade's remarkable claim against Joe Biden, a claim which might change world history?

Within our tribe, we may tend to be too polite to focus on questions like that!

Did Joe Biden assault Tara Reade in 1993? As before, we have no way to demonstrate that he did, and no way to show that he didn't. In cases of this type, it's very rare for evidence to emerge which proves or disproves an accuser's claim.

As everyone knows, "liars" can get assaulted too, as can people who "have problems." But the background reporting around Tara Reade has taken on a familiar look, whether the sachems of our tribe are prepared to discuss this fact or not.

They've never discussed the background reporting on Gennifer Flowers. Back in the day, they refused to report one embarrassing matter after another concerning the credibility of press corps' darling, Kathleen Willey.

It may well be that our tribal sachems will never discuss the background reporting on Tara Reade as well. They'll let the matter fade away, or we'll still be told that we should believe the claims such accusers make. Our professors, such as they are, are sometimes willing to jumble their logic to keep us on this tight path.

All the way back on May 16, the Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf discussed what sensible people should do when confronted with such accusations.

Friedersdorf isn't in thrall to either of our warring tribes; this makes him a valuable journalist. That said, we're going to grade him down a few points for his rumination on this matter, as we did on May 19, when he let himself imagine the possibility that President Trump isn't lying as much as we might be inclined to think and say.

In that more recent essay, Friedersdorf imagined an un-tribal possibility. In effect, he imagined the possibility that President Trump is cognitively impaired in such a way, and to such a degree, that he actually may not understand the various topics he constantly mangles when he tries or pretends to discuss them.

We don't know how to assess that possibility. We'd like to see medical specialists consider this thesis, but under the rules of our high-minded tribe, these discussions aren't permitted either. We aren't allowed to discuss Reade's apparent lying, and we aren't allowed to discuss the possibility that Trump is badly impaired.

With respect to the matter of Trump, we're going to grade Friedersdorf down several points for his failure to come to terms with the hidden issue:

Is it possible that Trump's weird behavior and weird ruminations are the result of psychological or cognitive impairment? We'd like to see this question raised with the use of such big boy terms.

In our view, Friedersdorf took a bit of a pass on that. For that reason, we'll give him an incomplete, even as we praise the way he stepped outside scripted denunciations.

So too with the question of Reade. We cheered Friedersdorf for articulating a basic fact—with most accusations of this type, there will never be an ultimate way to determine the truth of the matter.

In his discussion of Reade's accusation, Friedersdorf started as shown below. He was working outside tribal lines:
FRIEDERSDORF (5/16/20): Do you believe Tara Reade or Joe Biden? Did you believe Christine Blasey Ford or Brett Kavanaugh? My emphatic answer to both questions is the same: I pass. I punt. I vote present. And that dodge causes me no guilt, anxiety, or nagging discomfort. If these questions cause you distress, try it yourself: When pressured to pick a side in a public controversy without definitive evidence, just politely decline.

Agnosticism is bliss—though it can upset others.
Biden supporters warn that a failure to defend him could saddle the country with another four years of Donald Trump in the White House. Countervailing pressure from feminists and members of the #MeToo movement is as intense. As the headline of an article in The Nation put it, “I Believe Tara Reade. And You Should, Too.”

Its author, the feminist academic Kate Manne, argued that admitting the credibility of Reade’s claim is a “moral obligation,”
even though she went on to acknowledge, “If this were a court of law and we were jurors, then it would be appropriate to deem Biden innocent until he’d been proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” But if what happened in a given case hasn’t been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, why would anyone be morally obligated to believe either party’s claims?

“If the Me Too movement means anything, it is that victims must not be swept aside and ignored, impugned, erased, and silenced when their claims are difficult to countenance,” Manne argued. As far as that goes, she is correct. But declining to reach a conclusion about an allegation isn’t the same as sweeping it aside, erasing it, or ignoring, impugning, or silencing the accuser. One can listen, assess, and still conclude that one knows too little to judge.
That's the way Friedersdorf started. In a way which predates current battle lines, he stuck to the basic logic and understandings which our own tribe's sachems have long since abandoned.

He said we should be willing to recognize, even to say, that we don't know how to reach a verdict in cases of this type. And good lord! In just his first four paragraphs, he assailed the logic of Professor Manne on two basic matters.

Later, he assailed the tribal logic of Professor Hirshman, whose misshapen reasoning finally reached the New York Times' print editions on that same day, May 16.

Professors Hirshman and Manne are reigning sachems of our own floundering tribe. Their conduct helps define the ongoing failure of our nation's infrastructure.

That said, we're going to grade Friedersdporf down on this topic too. It seems to us that he ducked some basics concerning the Reade/Biden matter.

He failed to note a basic fact—we've had a series of high-profile cases in which we saw that, on some occasions, some women do make false accusations of this very type.

We saw that in the Duke lacrosse case. We saw that in the UVa matter. Most likely, we saw that with Julie Swetnick. Most likely, we saw that with Kathleen Willey.

Meanwhile, in the case of Gennifer flowers, the background reporting revealed a host of past claims which suggested that Flowers—she was alleging a consensual, 12-year love affair—probably wasn't the type of person you would rush to trust. Rather plainly, the background reporting on Tara Reade now resembles that background reporting.

These are very basic facts with respect to whole Reade matter. That said, our own tribe's high-ranking sachems keep ignoring these basic facts.

Our tribal pundits tend to ignore reports from the likes of Korecki. Her report suggests that Reade may not be a hugely credible person—but within our deeply fallible tribe, such things simply aren't said.

If you're a human, you belong to a species which was built to think and act tribally. Manne and Hirshman are tribal beings, recently up from the swamp.

Our failing nation's intellectual infrastructure is often amazingly poor. It's frequently horrible over at Fox, and it isn't real great Over Here.

50 comments:

  1. Dear Bob,
    Your zombie VIP Rapist Joe raped the Reade womyn with his finger.

    It happened many years ago, but your zombie VIP Rapist Joe was already a senator at the time.

    And now the Reade womyn, who wouldn't keep her mouth shut, is being destroyed by your liberal cult. And, sadly, you're helping.

    And that's all there is to it, dear Bob.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. " Joe raped the Reade womyn with his finger."

      Mao knows this because he likes to watch.

      Delete
    2. Mao, not being a native speaker, doesn't understand that the word "womyn" is plural not singular. Unless he is claiming that Biden raped Reade's entire family, his usage is wrong. That would be an unlikely event given that "Reade" is an assumed name.

      Delete
    3. Mao likes to imitate his hero, rush Limpdick.

      Delete
    4. Mao here, channeling the Goebbelsian style or communication - pretty much his whole schtick.

      Delete
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  2. Dear mao,
    Fuck off

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Our professors tell us not to conduct them."

    No professor is in the business of telling others what kind of discussion to hold or not hold.

    This kind of casual slander is an example of Somerby's attempts to undermine expertise by making professors appear to be foolish, pernicious incompetents.

    You have to ask why he does this. I thought at first that it was a personal problem that Somerby is working through regarding his own experiences at Harvard, but this routine fits too easily into Trump's campaign, where he routinely berates the press and never, ever listens to experts unless they are saying what he wants to hear.

    Somerby should be ashamed of himself, but I suspect that he is too well paid to think about the wrong he is doing with this garbage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How dare he! Making professors look foolish is your job, professor. TDH should stay in his lane.

      Delete
    2. Somerby has only made himself look foolish.

      Delete
  4. "They've never discussed the background reporting on Gennifer Flowers."

    How then does Somerby know about it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joe Conason, perhaps. Not one of the sachems.

      Delete
    2. So, Manne and Hirshman are supposed to be liberal sachems. Can Somerby get us a complete list, so we can see if all of our sachems agree with each other? Wait, never mind. He wouldn’t bother calling someone a sachem who disagreed with Manne or Hirshman.

      Delete
  5. "Did Joe Biden assault Tara Reade in 1993? As before, we have no way to demonstrate that he did, and no way to show that he didn't."

    But Somerby is going to keep telling everyone that Biden has been accused of rape because every repetition tarnishes Biden and helps Trump in the upcoming election.

    And this is a two-fer because Somerby gets to kick the feminists again. Ain't life grand?

    ReplyDelete
  6. "are the result of psychological or cognitive impairment?"

    I'll bet that Somerby cannot tell us the difference between "psychological impairment" and "cognitive impairment", but he has no trouble throwing those terms around.

    When it comes to physics or philosophy, Somerby is eager to complain that people read books without fully understanding what is being said. Here is an example of Somerby doing the same thing he criticizes in others, by repeating a pair of terms that he manifestly has no clue what is being suggested. Where is his famous critical thinking now?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You think it takes a rocket scientist to know the difference between psychological impairment and cognitive impairment, professor?

      Delete
    2. Yes, these are two very different things. And then he refers to psychiatric impairment, which is yet another problem. He doesn't have a clue what he is talking about when he discusses any of this.

      Delete
    3. Of course, they're different things. But you don't even have to be a professor of pseudoscience in a backwater college to know the difference. And even if TDH doesn't have a clue what he's talking about, you're in no position to hurl that accusatory stone.

      Delete
    4. Pretty lazy insults.

      Delete
    5. Oh, sorry. Would you like your money back?

      Delete
  7. sachem means chief or leader

    Somerby says: "Professors Hirshman and Manne are reigning sachems of our own floundering tribe."

    No, they are individuals speaking for themselves for others to consider. The only "leaders" in academia are administration, and they talk budgets not topics in any field of research or expertise.

    Somerby wants all professor to be held accountable for the words of a few (with whom he disagrees). It doesn't work that way. Further, professors are uniquely allowed to say controversial things as part of their work, because it is important that a wide range of ideas be considered. That is why professors who do research are given tenure that protects from fallout due to their statements that might evoke public disagreement, even outrage. There is no sense in which any professors speaks for anyone except himself or herself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only "leaders" in academia are administration

      Bwahahahaha! Good one professor. Quite the jokester.

      Oh, wait. Were you serious?

      Delete
    2. Academia doesn't have "leaders" or sachems. Only people who have made major or minor contributions in their fields of knowledge. Somerby has no idea who those people might be.

      Delete
    3. Academia doesn't have "leaders" or sachems.

      Maybe not in the backwater where you teach, professor. And maybe not in the field of pseudoscience in which you labor.

      Delete
    4. You have no idea where I teach, and I am certainly not going to tell you.

      Delete
    5. Oh, I know where you teach, professor. It’s a hop, skip, and not even a jump from your profile. But if you won’t post it, I certainly won’t.

      Delete
  8. Looking at whether Flowers told the truth or not can have no bearing on whether Reade is telling the truth or not. There is no connection between their accusations. Both men and women tell lies. It is a human universal. They also tell the truth. They are truthful more often than they lie or else the fabric of society would unravel and there would be no trust among people. Lack of trust is dysfunctional.

    Somerby should be discussing the motives behind the untruthful accusations and perhaps demonstrating a similar between the politically motivated, externally funded attacks on Clinton and those now being made against Biden. He might mention the recent revelation that the religious conversion and recanting by Jane Roe (Roe v Wade) was funded by conservatives and untruthful, politically motivated by the funders. It is helpful to point out how that funding took advantage of the financial poverty of the woman involved, as may have been the case for Flowers or Reade. He might have suggested that the men who fund such smear campaigns are committing a crime that is doubly wrong because it undermines the tendency toward belief that a woman who has been raped might depend upon when exercising her right to redress the wrong done to her.

    But Somerby isn't really interested in this topic. He has his own motives. Whatever those are, they result in attacks against women and furtherance of Trump's campaign. It doesn't matter whether that is Somerby's intention -- it is the result of what he writes here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But Somerby isn't really interested in this topic. He has his own motives.

      Now you're getting it, professor. TDH wants to write about what he wants to write about, not what you want him to write about.

      Whatever those are,....

      It's no secret. It's in the subheading of his top-of-the-page title.

      Delete
    2. If only that were true.

      Delete
    3. What? Couldn't find the subheading?

      Delete
  9. Joe Biden is a rapist, Me Too is fake, and you ain't black.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Saying something over and over doesn't make any of it true.

      Delete
  10. Whatever the "intellectual infrastructure" is, Somerby is no part of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh! That would leave a mark. If TDH ever read his comment section.

      Delete
    2. He does.
      He just responds to them under the moniker "David in Cal".

      Delete
    3. That would be so wonderful if it were true!

      Delete
  11. I'm frankly not sure why being tribal is a bad thing. Our social nature evolved in order to promote survival. Manifestly, it does that -- we are a highly successful species (so far).

    Anthropologists' original use of the word "tribes" referred to much smaller groups than Somerby's usage. People allied with other people they knew, not some abstract ideological identification, such as liberal or conservative or red versus blue. Family initially, then village, then tribe. People still function at that level, socializing with friends and family and not going to liberal social events or blue cookouts. We care about those close to us.

    Religion and philosophy have more recently encouraged us to help those beyond our immediate social circle. The broadening of affiliation is an intellectual concept, not a "tribal instinct". It is part of our culture. Culture is a human invention, not something inborn, something learned.

    So, when Somerby decries our tribal nature, it is as if he were chiding us for surviving, for recognizing that we are
    "stronger together". He seems to be telling us to stop being social creatures, stop caring for friends and family, stop being human. I don't see that happening any time soon.

    There is no anthropological sense in which red and blue define our "tribes." There is some political writing from the right (mostly) that defines tribalism as a bad thing and accuses people of doing it. But that is cultural. And Somerby, still pretending to be a liberal, borrows criticisms from conservatives and berates liberals with them, calling this anthropology (all the way down) as if using that label might endow a political criticism with validity. All he has done is confuse the issue and create his own idiosyncratic belief system, much as a paranoid schizophrenic or Alex Jones might do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anthropologists' original use of the word "tribes" referred to much smaller groups than Somerby's usage.

      Oh, do tell, professor. Do ya think they might have been talking about literal small kinship groups? Do ya think that maybe TDH isn’t?

      Never mind. I used the word think in those questions. That’s on me.

      So, when Somerby decries our tribal nature, it is as if he were chiding us for surviving…. He seems to be telling us to stop being social creatures, stop caring for friends and family, stop being human.

      Tell me, does it hurt to be that ignorant?

      No?

      Too bad.

      All he [TDH] has done is confuse the issue

      He’s evidently confused you, but that’s no hill for a climber.

      Delete
    2. Just calling someone "ignorant" isn't actually an argument, deadrat.

      Delete
    3. Please spare me your faux consternation. I rebut the professor's ignorant comments all the time. On occasion, line by line. Check out my effort on today's (5/23/20) entry.

      Delete
  12. Dear Bob, outta curiosity: do you and the future anthropologists living inside your head share the following sentiment, as conveyed by Katha Pollitt:

    "I would vote for Joe Biden if he boiled babies and ate them. He wasn’t my candidate, but taking back the White House is that important.”
    [...]
    “Whether or not you believe Tara Reade … you should vote for Joe Biden if he is the nominee. … We do not have the luxury of sitting out the election to feel morally pure or send a message about sexual assault and #BelieveWomen. That will not help women at all. Or anyone else.”
    "

    I suspect you do share this sentiment, don't you?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If VP Biden raped Mao in the middle of 5th Avenue in broad daylight I would still crawl over broken glass through a wall of fire to vote for him.

      Delete
    2. "I suspect you do share this sentiment, don't you?"

      We all do, and we vote.

      Delete
    3. Democrats have no standards. Everyone knows that.

      Delete
    4. Whatever gets you off, Dixie.

      Delete
  13. “It's frequently horrible over at Fox, and it isn't real great Over Here.”

    Somerby doesn’t like what Manne and Hirshman wrote. Fair enough.

    But then he sets “Fox”, a media organization, in opposition to “Over Here.” But in “Over Here”, he seems to include Manne and Hirshman, who are not journalists.

    He accuses “Over Here” of not discussing the Reade allegations, (indeed these discussions aren’t even “permitted” he claims), and yet he cites Bazelon, Korecki, PBS, Chait, the NYT, etc, as sources of numerous facts and discussions which call Reade’s allegations into question. And meanwhile, neither Manne nor Hirshman has ever appeared on MSNBC talking about Reade.

    And of course Somerby declares Manne and Hirshman to be “sachems” of our tribe. What kind of influence they may have over liberal thought is unclear. But it is clear that their views about Reade are not universally shared by the liberal tribe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OK, fair cop. TDH only occasionally does the required search for published views that might contradict his indictments. And he really needs to get that sachemeter. Maybe it was out of stock on Amazon.

      Delete
  14. “Within our own self-impressed tribe, such discussions aren't permitted. Our professors tell us not to conduct them.”

    “Professor” Hirshman retweeted a tweet from Katha Pollitt, which contained a link to her essay in The Nation “We Should Take Women’s Accusations Seriously. But Tara Reade’s Fall Short”, in which she examines the “background reporting:”

    https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/joe-biden-tara-reade-allegations/

    (Hirshman’s tweet: https://twitter.com/LindaHirshman1/status/1263120459727437824)

    Looks as though sachem Hirshman is willing to allow opposing viewpoints.

    Will Somerby ever get anything right?

    (Question: is Pollitt a sachem?)

    ReplyDelete