...should you believe the accuser? As you may have heard, Joe Biden has been accused of committing an act of sexual assault—presumably, of committing a crime—in a Senate office hallway in 1993.
As you may have noticed, accusations of sexual misconduct have become a standard part of our presidential campaigns. This started in the 1988 and 1992 campaigns with accusations of very bad consensual conduct by Democratic front-runners Gary Hart and Bill Clinton.
(Our interest in consensual conduct continued in 2016. Had Candidate Trump had sex, on one occasion, with Stormy Daniels ten years before? Inquiring minds badly wanted to know. This is who, and what, we are.)
Accusations of sexual misconduct have become a standard part of our White House campaigns. So has the astoundingly incompetent way such accusations are handled by members of our mainstream press corps and by our vast array of highly incompetent pundits.
So who the heck is Emily Bazelon? We thought you'd never ask!
Last Thursday, Bazelon offered the type of skeptical commentary which basically isn't allowed when such accusations are made. She did so in a podcast at Slate, where she spoke with two better-behaved male colleagues.
Bazelon spoke with John Dickerson, the former host of Face the Nation, and with David Plotz, the former editor of Slate.
Judged by prevailing rules of the game, the gentlemen behaved themselves during the meandering 28-minute discussion. Bazelon plainly didn't.
That said, who the heck is Bazelon? The leading authority tells us this:
Emily Bazelon is an American journalist. She is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, a senior research fellow at Yale Law School, and co-host of the Slate podcast Political Gabfest. She is a former senior editor of Slate.Bazelon graduated from Yale in 1993, from Yale Law School in 2000. Last Friday, in the sadly-named Slate Political Gabfest, she said the sorts of things to which, by the rules of the game, top pundits must never give voice.
Her work as a writer focuses on law, women, and family issues. She has written two national bestsellers published by Penguin Random House: Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy (2013) and Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration (2019)...
Bazelon did the types of things which simply mustn't be done. Even as her male companions kept lamenting liberal hypocrisy, she voiced some doubts, and raised some questions, about the current accuser.
Indeed, she even said this:
She said that, as a matter of basic fairness, the credibility of such accusers has to be explored. Dating back to Gennifer Flowers and then to Kathleen Willey, then moving on to Julie Swetnick and Stormy Daniels, this has long been the sort of thing which simply mustn't be done.
Bazelon isn't real sure about Reade. Early on, she said this:
BAZELON (4/30/20): You know, in some cases, we’ve had people who’ve seemed incredibly durable as witnesses in terms of their credibility coming forward. So I’m thinking of Anita Hill. I’m thinking of Christine Blasey Ford. And I don’t see Tara Reade in that category.For a truly sad "transcript," click here.
Now, I realize in saying that I’m basically showing my own bias against people who are alleged victims who also have a lot of, like, questionable actions in their past. I mean, reading about Reade’s activities with this horse rescue operation she was involved with, where the owner and employees are saying, like, "You stole stuff from us," and it just looks really like not credible.
And I guess my own basic bias is that, if you are going to bring a really long-ago serious allegation against a public official, and you can line up some pieces of corroboration but not real proof, your reliability is going to be on the line. And we should not err in the direction of deciding to let people destroy the careers of the men they accuse in those settings without some real sense that we are sure, because otherwise we are in a world in which the MeToo movement has turned into a place where we’re perilously close to letting people who, who lie, or who have problems, destroy other people. And like, that cannot be the end result here.
Are pundits allowed to say such things? Bazelon said she doesn't see Reade as someone with super credibility. She even seemed to suggest that Reade might be lying, or that she might "have problems."
It got even worse in that middle paragraph, where Bazelon referred to a matter her male colleagues never broached during the 28-minute discussion.
In that middle paragraph, Bazelon seemed to say that Reade might have "a lot of questionable actions in [her] past." She even seemed to cite an example, referring to Reade’s "activities with this horse rescue operation she was involved with."
Say what? Was Reade once accused of stealing from a horse rescue operation? That's what Bazelon seemed to say. Plotz quickly steered the discussion back to the horrors of liberal hypocrisy.
Make no mistake! Liberal hypocrisy concerning such matters has been a gruesome reality, but it isn't the principal question at hand. That said, Plotz and Dickerson seemed most concerned with showing the world that they themselves could never be accused of any such transgression.
(In pursuit of such absolution, they almost seemed to advocate a growing "liberal" consensus: Because we've been stupid in the past, we have to be stupid again.)
Bazelon wasn't done at this point. Speaking of the cultural "taboo about questioning [alleged] victims," she seemed to say that that such accusers are sometimes lying! She even seemed to say that some such examples exist, and that we all know about them!
BAZELON: I don’t know what to do about the taboo about questioning victims and their credibility in a situation like this, because in the end, that’s what it all comes down to. And I mean, I’m not a real lawyer, but as someone who went to law school and thinks about legal standards, like, I just don’t know how you get away from that. I mean, we have to have some kind of faith that people are telling the truth and that we haven’t created a situation in which, you know, the, quote, idea of "Believe women," which I have never ascribed to, is something that journalists or people determining consequences can, can run with."Sometimes people lie," Bazelon said, "and we have examples of that." She seemed to be saying that some people are known to have lied in cases like this! "We can't rule it out," she said.
Like if your friend comes to you, should you believe her? Sure. But like, the notion that that is going to carry us through all these tricky questions when people’s careers and reputations are at stake. Like, no! I’m sorry! Sometimes people lie, and we have examples of that. It has been very rare. It’s really important not to damage all credibility of sexual assault victims by saying that something occasionally happens. But you also can’t rule it out.
Later, Bazelon voiced skepticism about Reade once again, saying she "has red flags about reliability." She even went so far as to complain about one of the pundit corps' favorite games—the game of "having people presumed guilty when there's no way to prove yourself innocent."
Bazelon said she isn't a Biden fan. Despite this fact, she did the improbable. Speaking with major scribes at a major upper-end site, she stated some obvious facts:
She said that accusers of this type are sometimes lying. She stated the world's most obvious fact—we have recent, high-profile examples in which this was the case.
She was also willing to say that Reade may not be the most credible person on earth. In the past, it has been standard press corps practice to disappear embarrassing facts about high-profile sex accusers.
Dickerson and Plotz showed little interest in addressing these claims. Like others around the pundit corps, they adopted a more conventional stance.
Reade's accusation is being widely discussed. If you look closely, you will see that these rules almost always apply:
True or false and who cares: Almost surely, there will never be a way to demonstrate whether Reade's accusations is true. Pundits will routinely show an amazing inability to come to terms with this fact.Is Tara Reade telling the truth? Almost surely, there will never be a way to know—and our amazingly weak-minded pundit corps will never come to terms with that fact.
Past examples of false accusation: We've had recent examples of high-profile sex accusers who were making false accusations. Pundits will routinely disappear this obvious fact.
Believe the accusers: Pundits will swear that they don't believe that we should always believe the accuser. As they say this, they'll do what our pundits have done for thirty years—they'll gloss, finesse and disappear the facts which may cast doubts on this accuser's credibility. In this way, they'll steer you toward always believing accusers.
Everything but the matter at hand: Pundits will discuss hypocrisy until they're blue in the face. In this way, they'll adhere to the greatest maxim of their species and their guild—No Distraction Left Behind.
Anthropologically, this is what we humans are like—we self-impressed "rational animals."
Tomorrow: What was Bazelon talking about? Why isn't it being discussed?