The fight to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh turned into bloody political theater after research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford accused him of holding her down and forcefully groping her at a high school party in the 1980s. Since then, other women have come forward to accuse the judge of past misconduct.
I won't speculate here about what did or did not happen. But while information is still coming out, we can be responsible in the way that we react to the situation. Here are some of the most nakedly partisan, disingenuous, or completely useless reactions to the confirmation process:
Fox News contributor Kevin Jackson chose to stand with Kavanaugh by issuing a fiery rebuke to feminism and Kavanaugh's accusers. This took the form of an impassioned Twitter rant:
I disagree. Feminists are their own worst enemies, and enemy of women.
Also, they want men to NEVER be believed. I'm not succumbing.
— Kevin Jackson (@KevinJacksonTBS) September 27, 2018
Fox has reportedly fired Jackson following the rant.
It doesn't help anyone to accuse women of lying about sexual assault without explaining why you doubt them, and claiming that women who accuse men of sexual assault are just "skanks" contributes to an environment where victims decide not to report violence out of fear of retaliation.
'Believe the victims'
Automatically believing women doesn't make any more sense than automatically refusing to believe them. As Reason's Robby Soave has observed, Ford's accusations have only refueled the mantra "believe the victims." Mistakes happen; false accusations happen. If you weigh the evidence and conclude that neither has happened in this case, that's fine. If you just leap to assuming they didn't happen, that's a problem. False accusations have stained the history of the American justice system, particularly in the case of white extrajudicial violence against black men. An untold number of black men have been convicted or even lynched after being falsely accused of sexual assault and misconduct.
Needless to say, my point isn't that Kavanaugh is the victim of a modern-day lynching. It's that it makes as little sense to assume someone must be guilty as to assume they must be innocent. Belief should never be automatic.
'Tell me what boy hasn't done this in high school'
On a CNN panel, a Republican woman said, "We're talking about a 15-year-old girl, which I respect. I'm a woman, I respect. But we're talking about a 17-year-old boy, in high school, testosterone running high. Tell me what boy hasn't done this in high school. Please, I would like to know."
This woman—and the others who have made arguments like that over the last couple of weeks—seem to be arguing that every high school boy has gotten drunk, pushed a teen girl into a bedroom, and forcefully groped her while keeping his hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming. It's one thing to doubt that this happened; it's another to say that even if it happened it wasn't a big deal.
A man can't be a predator if he is supported by women
Kavanaugh was joined by his wife, former presidential aide Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, for a Fox News interview this week. There, she spoke to the character of the man she married.
The Kavanaughs are not the first to use this stand-by-your-man strategy. While several congratulated Kavanaugh's wife for her outspoken support, others believed she was being used as a prop, especially in moments when her husband appeared to cut her off.
She made a point to say that "this is not at all characteristic. It's really hard to believe. He's decent. He's kind. He's good. I know his heart. This is not consistent with Brett." And as his spouse, she's certainly in a position have insight into his character. But a wife's absolution of her husband's alleged crimes isn't exactly the final word. If it were, the same logic applies would apply to someone like Hillary Clinton, who also helped shield her husband from his accusers.
These defenses of Kavanaugh and Ford do not do justice to either. And they do more harm than good to sexual assault victims and the wrongly accused alike. At the end of the day, only actual evidence will either convict Kavanaugh or clear him.