Reason Roundup

Trump Says Rape Accuser E. Jean Carroll Isn't His Type

Plus: Migrant children removed from detention centers, wine comes before the Supreme Court, a sci-fi writer imagines a world without Section 230, and more


If there were a manual of how not to handle sexual assault allegations, President Donald Trump's responses to E. Jean Carroll could be a case study. Carroll, an author and popular syndicated advice columnist, recently accused Trump of raping her in a department-store dressing room in the mid-'90s. In a Monday interview with The Hill, Trump stressed that, first and foremost, Caroll wasn't his "type."

Here's Trump's full quote:

I'll say it with great respect: Number one, she's not my type. Number two, it never happened. It never happened, OK?

To the president, telling us that the alleged assault didn't actually happen is apparently not as important as letting us know that he doesn't like Carroll's looks. It's a pattern we see again and again with Trump—more pronounced with women, but applicable to men, too. Appearance and status are very often the first thing he attacks about critics; substantive responses are secondary if they come at all. The playground bully playbook.

It also belies a fundamental misunderstanding about sexual assaults.

The old adage that rape is about power, not lust may be too simplistic—but so too is the idea that rape simply comes down to uncontrollable attraction.

Trump implies that there's some attractiveness threshold or physical "type" or standard a woman must meet to be worthy of raping. Besides not being quite the slam-dunk defense he thinks it is (no, no, see, my type of rape victim…), it goes against everything we can readily observe about sexual assault. In reality, rape victims come in all shapes, sizes, and types; and many rapists make decisions based on opportunity, perceived vulnerability, and all sorts of criteria unrelated to normative desirability.

Carroll has been taking a lot of guff from folks for saying on CNN that people often think rape is "sexy." Republicans have been trying to frame this as Carroll herself endorsing the idea that rape is "sexy," and that this is evidence of Carroll being crazy and unreliable.

I make no judgment about the overarching allegations. But I do think this is an almost willfully uncharitable reading of Carroll's remarks. Many people—including the president of the United States/the man she's accusing—do indeed act like rape comes down to a victim's lust-worthiness and an assailant's uncontrollable need to act on that.

Prior to speaking to The Hill on Monday, Trump told reporters over the weekend that he had "no idea" who Carroll was.


Science fiction writer Cory Doctorow has another excellent piece about regulating speech online. As part of The New York Times' "Op-Eds From the Future" series (the conceit is that these are pieces we might read in "10, 20 or even 100 years"), Doctorow imagines a world without Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—i.e., the world both Republicans and Democrats are currently pushing for—and the protection it provides for companies to permit free speech online. From Doctorow's piece:

The platforms and personal websites are fine if you want to talk about sports, relate your kids' latest escapades or shop. But if you want to write something about how the platforms and government legislation can't tell the difference between sex trafficking and sex, nudity and pornography, terrorism investigations and terrorism itself or copyright infringement and parody, you're out of luck. Any one of those keywords will give the filters an incurable case of machine anxiety — but all of them together? Forget it.

If you're thinking, "Well, all that stuff belongs in the newspaper," then you've fallen into a trap: Democracies aren't strengthened when a professional class gets to tell us what our opinions are allowed to be.

And the worst part is, the new regulations haven't ended harassment, extremism or disinformation. Hardly a day goes by without some post full of outright Naziism, flat-eartherism and climate trutherism going viral. There are whole armies of Nazis and conspiracy theorists who do nothing but test the filters, day and night, using custom software to find the adversarial examples that slip past the filters' machine-learning classifiers.

It didn't have to be this way.

Read the rest here.


SCOTUS considers wine. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision this week in Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Zackary Blair et al, a case Wine Spectator magazine calls "the biggest case concerning alcohol in 14 years."

The case "deals with the constitutionality of Tennessee's residency requirement for alcohol retailers, but some are hoping for—or dreading—a broad ruling with larger consequences for how Americans buy wine," the magazine notes. More details about the arguments and what's at stake here


Some progress on migrant-child detention centers follows an AP investigation: 

Meanwhile, some Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials may be getting fed up with Trump's extreme politicization of their work and lack of attention to practical details. After Trump tweeted last week about massive ICE raids to come in 10 major cities, the New Yorker's Jonathan Blitzer spoke to one officer:

"Almost nobody was looking forward to this operation," the officer said. "It was a boondoggle, a nightmare." Even on the eve of the operation, many of the most important details remained unresolved. "This was a family op. So where are we going to put the families? There's no room to detain them, so are we going to put them in hotels?" the officer said. On Friday, an answer came down from ice leadership: the families would be placed in hotels while ice figured out what to do with them. That, in turn, raised other questions. "So the families are in hotels, but who's going to watch them?" the officer continued. "What happens if the person we arrest has a U.S.-citizen child? What do we do with the children? Do we need to get booster seats for the vans? Should we get the kids toys to play with?" Trump's tweet broadcasting the operation had also created a safety issue for the officers involved. "No police agency goes out and says, 'Tomorrow, between four and eight, we're going to be in these neighborhoods,'" the officer said.

More here.


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