The out-of-nowhere sexual abuse claim concerning the Supreme Court nominee contains every alarming aspect of the #MeToo movement – and should make those on either side of the political divide shudder. Here’s why.
One caveat before we break it down: unlike many of the others weighing in, we do not pretend to know the truth of what happened (or did not) between Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. New facts may come to light and settle the case, but the damage described below happened before any of them were known.
No evidence necessary
There is no direct, or circumstantial evidence, or eyewitness statements proving that a drunk teenage Kavanaugh really pinned down Blasey Ford on the bed, and tried to rape her while covering her mouth with his hand, during a house party. In fact, other than this vivid scene, the accuser has failed to remember the dates or places or context of the events. Beyond that: as soon as the story broke, when the details were still just anonymous Beltway hearsay, for some that was enough to disqualify the nominee.
Now, if, out of the blue, I accuse a colleague of stealing my lunch sandwich, people will ask for evidence or an explanation. The burden of proof will be on me. No one will simply brand Alex from HR a thief or fire her on my word, and no one would want to work in an office where I would have such power over another human being. This is fundamental justice, developed over thousands of years in societies throughout the world. Even Elon Musk doesn’t get to accuse someone of being a “pedo” without consequence.
That such an obvious thing even needs to be said out loud is a testament to how far the accusations against Kavanaugh, and other #MeToo cases, stray from these principles – farcically so. Sexual assault is inherently murkier than lunchtime comestibles theft, yes, most victims have no reason to lie, but most would prefer to live in a society where a random person can’t destroy someone else’s life at will, even if that means that some rapists go unjailed.
Other examples: most #MeToo accusations aired on social media, the Inquisition, medieval witchcraft trials, neighbors’ denunciations in Stalin’s Russia.
No legal case
While reputation has always mattered, a person used to be able to clear his or her name with law. The #MeToo movement insists that even those who have been accused or convicted of no crimes can be just as guilty.
It doesn’t matter that there was no police report in the Kavanaugh case, no investigation, and that the FBI has repeatedly insisted that there is nothing to investigate, despite demands from Blasey Ford’s legal team.
Kavanaugh’s only recourse is to accuse her of slander, and hope that the ensuing process doesn’t bring out more unflattering claims, while knowing for sure that those who considered him guilty in the first place will likely not change their mind.
Other examples: Woody Allen was investigated for molesting his pre-teen daughter and no charges were filed, and was able to continue working freely for another 25 years. After his son, Ronan, became a leading #MeToo accuser, he is unable to release his already-finished film, and will receive no further funding for projects.
Accusations can be decades old
Previously, the strength of a case would grow weaker the ‘longer ago’ the alleged crime was. Evidence was impossible to collect, social mores changed, people grew and reformed. The statute of limitations is a legal reflection of that.
#MeToo has turned this on its head.
Charges from the distant past are harder to disprove, it is easier to paint the 1980s as a warzone of sexual abuse (just look at that Sixteen Candles ending – very “problematic”) while if you squint hard enough you can picture the white-bread square Kavanaugh as a marauding party-boy.
The result: any questionable, misinterpreted or altogether fictitious incident in your teenage years (Kavanaugh was 17 at the time of the alleged assault) will forever hang over you.
Other examples: Plenty, but equally interesting is the revisionist history even in cases where the truth was widely known at the time, such as Monica Lewinsky, an adult engaged in a consensual relationship, suddenly re-emerging as a #MeToo victim.
Timed to destroy
Yet, however, long the traumatic memories are kept private – and there is no doubt that is a genuine reaction of many victims – they seem often to emerge just at the right time.
There is of course, genuine concern about rapists taking up Supreme Court seats, but perhaps it wasn’t quite necessary for the Democrats to wait until less than a week until Kavanaugh’s appointment, considering the information has been in their possession since July. And then to pretend to be surprised when their motivations are being questioned.
While revenge is a dish best served cold, it is also not a good look for a justice movement to appear as if its participants are waiting for the targets to become important and successful before sticking the knife in.
Other examples: Often the best time to come out of hiding is when someone is on their way down. There is no risk to being the twentieth person to accuse producer Harvey Weinstein in 2018, even if doing that two decades earlier could have helped dozens of other women.
The mention that the accusers are motivated by money, hunger for publicity, career ambitions, personal grudges or political views is impermissible within the #MeToo conversation.
But even if Blasey Ford is a true victim, pretending she is some neutral vessel of justice is laughable: she is a long-time Democrat donor, who has signed petitions against Trump, and wrote on her Facebook that “’a basket of deplorables’ is far too generous a description” of his staff.
As is claiming that this is a purely criminal matter, not a calculated attempt by a political party to exploit a scandal for its own ends: #MeToo is a social movement weaponized for politics.
Other examples: Actress Asia Argento went out with Weinstein for several years after he allegedly raped her, then garnered sympathy and attention as she described their relationship as “re-victimization” since 2017, all while reportedly arranging a confidentiality payout with an underage man she had sex with.
Social media & activists decide
Unless you have backing from the electorate and your own party (Donald Trump has both, so he stays, Al Franken had one but not the other, so he had to go) in the absence of any due process, it will be social media that decides your fate.
Are these the people who should handle justice?
The efforts to railroad Dr. Blasey Ford and rush Brett Kavanaugh's nomination through as she faces death threats are reprehensible. This process was clearly not designed to get at the truth. Dr. Blasey Ford deserves better. #StopKavanaugh
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) September 19, 2018
I really take issue with the description of Kavanaugh as an “attempted rapist.” It wasn’t an attempted rape because he started and then decided to stop. It was an attempted rape because *she got away.*
Kavanaugh is a rapist.
— Monica Byrne (@monicabyrne13) September 19, 2018
Brett Kavanaugh is not a mediocre man. He's an extraordinarily talented agent of radical, right-wing forces. He will dismantle the modern regulatory state with frightening efficiency.
Also, he's probably an attempted rapist.
But he's not mediocre. He's a brilliant evildoer. https://t.co/iUtpzMH6vQ
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) September 18, 2018
It's also worth nothing that even men who openly treat women like shit for years are believed over their accusers. I mean, consider President Pussy Grabber.
It doesn't matter how men treat women – in a rape culture, they're always given the benefit of the doubt.
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) September 17, 2018
The Kavanaugh nomination is a good reminder that in the Republican Party, there are rapists and rape apologists. There is no one vehemently opposed to rape.
— The Hoarse Whisperer (@HoarseWisperer) September 17, 2018
Name can never be cleared
What is the first thing anyone can tell you about Clarence Thomas, the most senior justice on the US Supreme Court? Anita Hill, “larger than normal penis” boasts, pubic hair on a Coke can.
Whereas, as Thomas before him, Kavanaugh will likely be approved, he can never wash away the image of his lunging body from the public’s mind, nor will he ever be completely believed. The cost for Blasey Ford will likely be as high.
In the era of ersatz and ad hoc #MeToo justice both of their names forever linked together, and forever stained.