"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 punishment...in 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!


  1. Yeah, I knew this girl. She was a long, cool woman in a black romper. She was 15, but she coulda passed for 16 and a half. Legs that went on forever, ya know what I mean, bro? She likes to bring her Barbie doll on dates. All the MUCH older Hispanic dudes here in the City of Angels (where I definitely live) date girls like this. It ain't misconduct, it's normal, man. They'll serve her wine, cause, it ain't no big thang. The cops here (and down home in Roy Moore's Alabama, I feel sure) just smile and wink as they share a bottle, cause, you know, the cops are cool, man, not so "puritanical" as Rachel and that MSNBC crowd.

    1. To have a moral panic about "older men" dating "young girls" is ridiculous. That's the point.

      Ever watched Little House on the Prairie? How come no one went nuts back then when it was first on? She was the hero of the show!

      All this sanctimony and self-righteousness is nuts. And where does it come from now?

  2. "Believe the accusers" began long ago!"

    Actually, from a historical perspective, if they were women, the accusers were never believed, if they even dared to come forward.

    1. Yeah, Somerby's analogy is less than airtight. Charges of witchcraft made in the hermetically isolated hyper-Puritan community of Salem, Mass. in AD 1692 are similar to charges of sexual harassment/misconduct/etc brought by named accusers in a newspaper article being discussed by the media talking heads? Because sexual harassment/misconduct/assault etc are as real as witches, I guess.

    2. The issue is allegations of perversion and moral evil. Believe the accusers!

    3. "Actually, from a historical perspective, if they were women, the accusers were never believed, if they even dared to come forward."

      Ah, Salem Mass.

      Much of that panic was fomented by women.

  3. Maybe the Republicans will use the love ethic on Franken. Like they did on Hillary.

  4. Speaking only for myself here, of all recently manufactured hysterias, this particular one - unmasking rapists and pedophiles among the elites - is the least harmful. I wholly support it, and I demand more shocking revelations!

    1. I'm sure your demand will be satisfied.

    2. Right you are. I welcome such an investigation into Mr. Trump. I demand it as well!

    3. "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"

      I'm with Goldwater!

    4. "Speaking only for myself here, ...."

      You usually speak for others? Of course you do. That's how you make your living, after all.

    5. "...unmasking rapists and pedophiles among the elites."

      Question, meet your begger

      Ah, evidence, anyone? That's the point here.

  5. You don’t have to believe the girls — you can believe the evidence.

    In the 1980’s they didn’t know how to interview children, hence the McMartin fiasco. Rules of evidence were ridiculous in Salem Village. They aren’t now.

    1. Yes? If not "believing the girls," then beyond an innocent Merry-Christmas autograph in a yearbook, to what evidence do you refer?

      And... public awareness is not far advanced from the "satanic panic" of the 1980s [no apostrophe please, those were the '80s, not the 80's]; in 2000 Self-styled vigilantes attacked the home of a hospital pediatrician after apparently confusing her professional title with the word "pedophile"

      Currently, right now, pundits are using that last word in a context where no PRE-pubescent children have been under discussion as contacted, molested, or yearned after, despite for instance this from Wiktionary:

      "Many psychologists recommend against using the term pedophilia to denote sexual activities with children, because not all people with a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children (i.e., pedophilia) commit such acts, and child molesters often lack a strong sexual interest in prepubescent children. Furthermore, psychological texts define pedophilia as a primary or exclusive attraction towards specifically prepubescent children; primary or exclusive attraction towards pubescent children is known as hebephilia and towards post-pubescent adolescents ephebophilia. See Wikipedia for more information."

    2. Do you think that if you evade the wird pedophilia it makes molesting 14 year olds ok? Wrong.

    3. Do you think that if you (and the MSNBC crowd) keep using the word "pedophilia" that makes it so?

    4. "n the 1980’s they didn’t know how to interview children, hence the McMartin fiasco. Rules of evidence were ridiculous in Salem Village. They aren’t now."

      That wasn't what caused McMartin.

      It was media hysteria and terrific bad faith. Also media collusion with Ira Reiner's old DA's office.

      I'm curious too what kind of "interviews" have been done to the Moore women. None that I've seen.

      Anybody else btw curious about what's happened to Gloria Allred? Her client was Victim No. 1.

    5. Anonymous @ 11/18 10:57pm:

      Do you think that if you keep throwing out strawman, ad hominem, and non sequitur arguments, it will make your ghoulish cannibalism OK? Wrong. Devouring other people, whether freshly dead or dug up from graves, remains as wrong as ever, and your attempts at deflection are useless. No wonder you stay "Anonymous".

  6. Victim blaming is the Clinton way!

    Referring to a 12 year old who had been raped, Hillary Clinton argued in court that "I have been informed that the complainant is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing... I have also been informed that she has in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body. Also that she exhibits an unusual stubbornness and temper when she does not get her way." (1)

    Statistics show the overwhelming majority of rape accusations are true. False reporting rates can vary depending on the source from 2 to a little over 5 out of 100 accusations. (2)

    You want us to take inspiration from the Beatles? Let's ask Robert Crumb, a libertine from the 60's how thoroughly incomplete women's liberation has been even on the left. "We were all on LSD, so it took a few years for the smoke to dissipate and for women to realize what a raw deal they were getting with the ne’er-do-well hippie male. Men who acquired preeminence at the time were all frauds, fake gurus who were paying lip service to peace and love, charismatic cons who just wanted to fuck all their adoring disciples. Timothy Leary was like that. A big phony." (3)

    The Clintons are just a bunch of burnout grifters who know the right people. It's time to move on Bob. Let's have some progress.

    1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/10/11/the-facts-about-hillary-clinton-and-the-kathy-shelton-rape-case/
    2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-015-0666-2 + https://web.stanford.edu/group/maan/cgi-bin/?page_id=297
    3. http://observer.com/2015/10/robert-crumb-hates-you/

    1. Clinton "argued in court" that the complainant was unstable because Clinton had been appointed as attorney for the defendant. Clinton had reliable information that the complainant was indeed unstable and asked the court to arrange a psychiatric interview of the complainant. That was her job as the defendant's attorney. There are plenty of books that will explain how we conduct criminal trials in this country. I'm sure you can find someone who'll help you sound out the big words.

    2. "it's my job" is no excuse for morally repugnant behavior such as impugning the reputation of an innocent 12 year old rape victim. It shows how "crooked" she actually is!!

    3. Gunther and anon 11:22, you are both being vilely defamatory toward Clinton. Did you ever read the full story in an objective publication? By your logic, someone accused of a serious crime isn't entitled to a legal defense. Are we supposed to have trials like in the Stalinist USSR, or other dictatotships where the accused aren't allowed to mount a defense? Trump, with vile cynicism, used this as part of his attack during the campaign - completely below the belt. There are valid grounds to fault Clinton, debatable or not, but this ain't one of them.

    4. Deadrat, the point isn't that she defended a rapist, it's that her idea of an innocent sexual encounter involves a 12 year old manipulating an adult into sex.

    5. Mounting a legitimate defense doesn't include claiming seduction by a child.

    6. too bad libs are too busy railroading college frat boys and "hate speech" advocates to consider the potential backlash of stalinist trials. libs started this frenzy, let's see if they can finish it

    7. Let's note that Kathy Shelton's changing story (according to that same linked WaPo article) included the false accusation that she had been forced to take a psychiatric exam due to Hillary Clinton; as that exam never took place, this was an objectively false statement, there is no dispute about the percentage of “responsibility” or “guilt” for an event that actually never happened.

      Shelton’s original account on the gofundme site: “On May 10, 1975, in Springdale, Arkansas, two men lured me into their truck with the promise of a soda. I knew them and trusted them.”

      Now to conform with her interview on Hannity, it says: “On May 10, 1975, in Springdale Arkansas two men, one around age 40 and the other in his teens, yanked me off my bicycle as I was riding to church.”

      In the original version, the sex with the 15-year-old was solitary, and seemed unforced (“she was apparently infatuated” — though it was still statutory rape given her age of 12), then the older man came back and forcibly raped her; the later version makes it sound like abduction and forcible rape by both.

      In no case could legal consent have been given; she was a legal minor. But Kathy Shelton’s claims do seem to shift regarding some significant factual details.

      I can’t help but think of the murder trial concluding the film A High Wind in Jamaica (based on a novel originally titled The Innocent Voyage)....

    8. Apply the term “victim blaming” to the Salem Witch Trials, and tell me: who were the victims, and who the victimizers?

  7. There is not a moral panic about rape. There is a moral panic about too much democracy following a movement by women to hold sexual abusers accountable. Read Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. He argues, in theory, he is on board holding people accountable but it has to be done in the right way. The rabble can't simply decide on a whim whose career to tank and whose not. That's my job goddamnit.

    The intelligent people in the press are afraid of these women just like you are, because the story ultimately isn't in their control. Any woman can come forward and the public is educated enough now to give her the time of day.

    If you want to wax all philosophical about it, Noam Chomsky has written about crisis of democracy panics, and they're not pretty. They lead to the worst elitism, fascism, and totalitarianism the world has ever seen.

    1. Chomsky is a compassionate nerd and is so skinny that William F Buckley wanted to hit him in the face.

  8. At any rate, as the left continues it's disgraceful toss of Clinton under the bus, it's good Bob once useful self comes back, if only as a ghost. Vanity's Fair's revival of Monica Lewinsky, who still chirps out some irrelevancy from time to time, was a red flag no one caught. It was an obvious attempt to humiliate Hillary Clinton, and as with so many things, we held our tongues. "She never tried to cash in !" (?) many LIBERALS declared at the time, She's a victim of something or other. First giant step on the road to Trump, a disaster area from which we may never return.

    1. Agreed, it's really disgusting how some on the left have such little historical perspective and are so quick to throw one of the most competent and successful democratic presidents in my lifetime under the bus.

    2. Bill Clinton's escapades continue to pay dividends for Republicans including the soon to be elected Senator Roy Moore.

    3. That's all true, but you have to recognize there are some on the left that are really stupid and never give President Clinton the credit he deserves. Wildly successful 2-term Democratic presidents don't grow on trees you know.

    4. 12;31 PM,
      In the same way Democrats can use the Republicans Iraq War to justify carpet-bombing the American South.

    5. Oh, no, far too imprecise. Drone strikes!