MONDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2017
Part 1—The culture of accusation: Long ago and far away, Kathleen Willey was quickly believed.
You might even say that she inspired a stampede—a stampede of heartfelt belief. The stampede was staged by the nation's upper-end pundits—more specifically, by love-starved male pundits among them.
Over the course of the next several years, this stampede was followed by rigid applications of the various codes of silence which surround so much of the modern press corps' work. In these ways, the Willey case helps us ponder the modern culture of accusation, especially as it may be applied to the first accuser in.
Willey inspired the stampede to which we refer on Sunday, March 15, 1998. On that evening, she appeared on 60 Minutes and became a formal Bill Clinton accuser.
A string of pundits swore their belief. Let's establish a quick bit of background:
When Willey appeared on 60 Minutes, the nation's year of impeachment was roughly two months along. It had been two months since the claim had surfaced that Clinton had had some sort of affair with Monica Lewinsky, who was widely described in the press as a "21-year-old intern."
The Lewinsky stampede was in full bloom when Willey did 60 Minutes. On that program, Willey claimed that Clinton had groped her, right in the Oval Office, in November 1993, a bit more than five years earlier.
Because the larger stampede was on, pundits knew how to react. Upper-end pundits rushed to swear that they believed every word Willey said. This was especially true among our lovesick boy pundits.
They'd never set eyes on Willey before. Absent further examination, they had no apparent way to judge her general credibility or the accuracy of the story she told.
It wasn't clear how pundits could know that their new darling was telling the truth. But by this time, a basic premise seemed to obtain within our culture of accusation. That basic premise was this:
At least where Clinton is involved, you must believe the accusers!
You must believe the accusers! On this basis, lovesick male pundits stood in line to affirm every word Willey said. Tomorrow, we'll go back and review their embarrassing declarations.
Why do we say that these instant professions of belief seem somewhat embarrassing now? Easy! Over the next three years, Willey's basic credibility was undermined again and again.
Let us count some of the ways:
October 1998: By the fall of 1998, Willey's account of what happened with Clinton had been challenged in sworn testimony by Linda Tripp, her White House co-worker.
What did the press corps do when that sworn testimony was made public? What do you think the press corps did? The press corps covered it up!
May 1999: In May 1999, Willey made a crazy, provably false accusation against a Washington journalist—an accusation which was quickly shown to be false. The crazy accusation was aggressively bruited by the unconscionable Chris Matthews on his gruesome, Jack Welch-funded TV program, Hardball.
(No one loved Willey like Chris did.)
Willey's accusation was quickly shown to be false. In the meantime, a Hardball viewer had gone to the journalist's home with a gun. Mercifully, he was arrested before he could kill anyone.
Matthews had to go on the air several times to hem and haw about what he had done. How did the press corps handle this astonishing conduct?
How do you think they handled it? The press corps covered it up!
March 2002: In March 2002, Kenneth Starr’s successor as independent counsel released his final report on the endless Clinton probes. Robert Ray’s report included a special appendix about Willey.
In it, Ray noted that Willey “had given substantially different accounts in two sworn statements and had lied to the FBI about her relationship with a former boyfriend” (we quote a report in Newsday). In Nina Totenberg’s words, Ray “concluded that it was impossible to convict based on Willey’s words [because] she’d lied so many times, including to the prosecutors.”
According to the Ray report, it seemed that Ray had even considered prosecuting Willey for perjury, given the lies she told to his investigators. How did the press corps handle this array of new information about Willey?
Dearest darlings, use your heads! With a few extremely tiny exceptions, the press corps refused to report it!
Kathleen Willey went on to enjoy career as a crackpot, right-wing radio talk show host. There she was at the second Trump/Clinton debate last fall, presented as a truth-telling guest of Candidate Donald J. Trump.
To this day, very few people have ever heard about the various ways her credibility has been undermined, only some of which we have mentioned here.
How accurate was Willey's accusation against Bill Clinton? We can't quite tell you that.! But due to the press corps' prevailing culture, Willey's claims were instantly believed. Later evidence undermining her claims was, by law, disappeared.
This is the "journalistic" culture of our devolving nation. Tomorrow, we'll go back and review the instant judgments which were reached by an array of lovesick boys when Willey first appeared.
With apologies, we'll also start to float a question. Here it is:
When Leign Corfman's accusation against Roy Moore first appeared in the Washington Post, did it make sense for fiery liberals to stampede off and instantly say they believed her?
We know of no reason to doubt Corfman's claims. For that reason, we'll offer apologies for raising this obvious question.
But on the day Corfman's claim first appeared, there was no second accuser charging Moore with sexual assault. Leigh Corfman was first accuser in. Should our new generation of silly children have stampeded off to say that they believed her accusation?
Once again, we'll apologize for asking that question. But when Kathleen Willey was gifted with universal belief, a gunman showed up at a journalist's house, furious about a later false accusation.
Should the children have remembered that when they stampeded a few week ago? Dearest darlings, use your heads! Few of the children had ever heard this history. Their elders had kept it from them!
We covered all these matters in real time. Later, we covered them all again. But any such effort is totally pointless. Within our modern "press corps" culture, information plays almost no role.
At this award-winning site, it's all anthropology now! The sheer stupidity of press corps behavior has taken us to a whole new place.
Once you disregard our own millennia of self-praise, what kinds of creatures are we "humans" really? What tiny skills do we really possess? With what are we left after that?
We'll be exploring these questions all week, along with several others.
Tomorrow: Embarrassing statements of lovesick belief from the nation's silliest boys
How will voters react to accusations that cannot be proved and cannot be disproved? There seems to be a consensus that the voters will not be swayed by these accusations. So, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton get a pass. Al Franken and Roy Moore get a pass. Clarence Thomas and John Conyers get a pass.ReplyDelete
Al Franken is not getting a pass. His voter approval ratings are way down.Delete
Bill Clinton didn't get a pass. He is still the butt of jokes on late night TV, despite having done nothing beyond what 40% of married men do.
Clarence Thomas certainly got a pass. We can all thank Joe Biden for that. Conyers is being investigated.
Trump gets a pass on everything. I hope Mueller does a thorough job and pins him to the wall like a fly.
Why would you propose that all these people are getting a pass when their various situations are being handled in widely different ways?
They got a pass in the sense that their alleged behavior didn't cost them their jobs.Delete
Don't forget David Vitter.Delete
You say that the allegations against Bill Clinton "cannot be proved and cannot be disproved." What is your standard for disproof? Since you have read Somerby's blog for years, you must be aware of the serious problems with believing the accusations made by Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Wiley, Paula Jones, and Jaunita Broaddrick that Somerby and other writes like Joe Conason and Gene Lyons have pointed out (i.e. making serious inconsistent statements while under oath, using their stories to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, making wild accusations against the Clintons [including alleged murders], being generally untruthful in other matters, etc). At what point do you not believe them, rather than throw up your hands and claim agnosticism? Are the "Clinton rules" at work again?
Clarence Thomas didn't get to "keep his job". He was promoted to the highest court in the land, for a lifetime.Delete
Trump didn't get to "keep his job". He was elected by the deplorable racist segment of our country to the highest office in the land, after hearing the abomination in his own words talk about peeping at naked teenagers and committing sexual assault. You own him.
hardindr -- Several Clinton allegations have strong evidence. He admitted to one instance of adultery with Gennifer Flowers. He implicitly admitted to having committed adultery. Oral sex in the Oval Office with Monica is established. He agreed to a punishment for perjury. He agreed to pay damages to Paula Jones.Delete
mm -- you're right. Trump, Thomas, and Moore didn't get to keep their jobs. Trump and Thomas got the jobs they wanted. Moore is favored to do the same.
In one important way, Clinton was worse than Trump. Clinton committed improprieties while he was President.
Clinton did not admit to one instance of adultery with Gennifer Flowers. Jones's attorneys presented a very broad definition of sexual activity that included hugging and similar innocuous actions. Clinton admitted to one instance of that broadly defined sexual activity without specifying what it was. He did not admit to adultery.Delete
With Lewsinsky, he admitted to oral sex (on him, not her), which he also said he did not consider intercourse or having sex and did not consider adultery.
Why do you keep insisting the the money he paid to end the Jones case (which Jones had lost but was appealing) was "damages" or any kind of admission of guilt? mm has explained this to you repeatedly and it is a matter of record.
Clinton did not commit "improprieties" while President. He engaged in personal, private behavior with a consenting adult that was neither witnessed nor public. I would imagine he used the bathroom many times while President, another private biological function. I'll bet he farted in the Oval office. He, like Richard Nixon, probably used expletives in the oval office, which many of us would consider both human behavior and an impropriety. What Clinton did in private is no one else's business. The man did go on living as a human being while he was President. That means he did all those things that people do, including the indelicate ones. He had actual full=blown nasty sex with his wife too, WHILE HE WAS PRESIDENT!!!! The horror.
David, President Clinton didn't admit to adultery. But the real issue here is that there is a big difference between acts of adultery, which I think half the adult married population are guilty of, and the perverted acts and criminal sexual assaults the abomination you voted admitted to in his own words.Delete
"improprieties ..." BWAHAHAHA!Delete
Just keep fuckin' that chicken, jackass.
What enamors you so much about the tangerine-tinged travesty that sends you into such ridiculous contortions of equivocation that you come off sounding like a fucking troll? Seriously, what motivates you so much? Do you admire his techniques? Do you live through him vicariously because deep down you wish you had the chutzpah to grab arbitrary women in their private areas? Where does the Clinton hate come from? Did Arkansas beat your college in tennis once? Did a pantsuit-wearing fifth grade teacher give you a D? Do the 7 million Hillary voters in your state make you feel outnumbered and disenfranchised? If Trump shot someone on 5th Avenue would YOU still vote for him? What if he forcibly raped a disabled nun on the White House lawn and then punched her teeth out with cameras rolling? I think you and 51% of Alabama still would support his immoral ass.
“The voters will not be swayed by these accusations.” Every last one of them? What reductionist bullshit. David himself isn’t swayed so everybody else will remain firmly entrenched. While I agree with Bob that generally speaking the populace is not teeming with rational animals, some people actual see through the bullshit and, as opposed to Donald and David, can admit when they make a UUUUUUGE mistake. Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania each by less than 1%. Many republican reps won by razor-thin margins, such as Weeping Darrell Issa. This worm will turn, my friend. The only question is whether apologists like you and the world’s biggest cowards McConnell and Ryan will keep him in place long enough to do irreparable damage.
Here’s a quarter. Renew your annual pass to Milo Yiannopoulos’ seminar series.
There is no equivalency between Moore and Clinton, nor in their accusers.ReplyDelete
Somerby pretends it is impossible to evaluate evidence and motives in these situations. He is wrong about that.
There must be a way for women (and children) who have been assaulted to make claims against prominent men without it being considered a partisan put-up job. That is what the courts are for, what investigations are for. WE should be considering the results of those investigations, not the amount of noise in the press.
"There must be a way for women (and children) who have been assaulted to make claims against prominent men without it being considered a partisan put-up job."Delete
One way of distinguishing the real from the put-up job is to see a put-up job in action:
If put to the task, I'm sure Somerby can somehow find enough wiggle room - think Rosemary Woods and the 15-minute gap in the Watergate tapes - in the antics of O'Keefe/Veritas described in this article to conclude that there is insufficient evidence of intent to deceive/lie.
"Once you disregard our own millennia of self-praise, what kinds of creatures are we "humans" really?"ReplyDelete
Worthless. Not worth the bother, really. Fuck Lincoln. And MLK. Hopefully that global warming turns out not to be a hoax so that it will put a merciful end to our pathetic species. God mocks us.
"What tiny skills do we really possess?"
None whatsoever. Including our humble blogger, I guess.
"With what are we left after that?"
Despair, Bob. Abject chasms of despair. Trump is your president. Why fight him? Why fight the Republicans? Why not crawl in a hole and weep? Why not provide endless examples of human failure?What a worthless endeavor, and, like all human endeavors, doomed to failure.
It appears that we are only “scented meat”, doomed to an existence of judging others.ReplyDelete
"We covered all these matters in real time. Later, we covered them all again. But any such effort is totally pointless" says Bob after covering them yet one more time.ReplyDelete
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