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Angus Johnston @studentactivism
, 29 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
Bret Stephens says that if you say "I believe Blasey" your statement is "empirically worthless and intellectually dishonest." Here, quickly, is why I believe he's wrong.
When you say that you believe Christine Blasey Ford, you're saying that her account, in the context of everything that surrounds it, has the ring of truth to you—that the available evidence is evidence you find compelling.
That evidence includes the specifics of her allegations against Kavenaugh, her testimony and that of others about when and how she told them, the circumstances in which she came forward, and her actions in recent weeks.
All of this is the kind of stuff we rely on every day in determining whether we find someone's account of something—someone we know, someone in the news, whoever—compelling. It's not distinctive to sexual assault.
Two people may look at the same evidence—in the Kavanaugh case or any other—and come to radically different conclusions. That's okay. That's expected. That's inevitable. But it doesn't imply that either is dishonest or stupid.
And two people may approach the same question (again, the Kavanaugh question or any other) and apply different standards of proof. That is again, okay, expected, inevitable. There's no consensus answer to how to assess claims like this.
I don't recall Bret Stephens ever insisting on a position of radical agnosticism for all contested accounts of private acts that have relevance to questions of public importance. So why should an allegation of sexual assault be fundamentally different?
Sexual assault and harassment aren't mysterious, otherworldly events. They're experiences that most people have been shaped by in one way or another. It's time the rest of us stopped treating them as alien and unknowable.
I believe Christine Blasey Ford. That's not a knee-jerk response. It's not a political response. It's not a matter of axiom or principle. It's my honest assessment of the evidence that has thus far been made available to me.
Is it possible that I'm wrong, and that Kavanaugh is completely innocent? It is. That's part of why I'm eager to see a process emerge by which the available evidence can be expanded and assessed.
But to reject the evidence of Christine Blasey Ford's testimony out of hand isn't empiricism, and it isn't skepticism. It's something very different.
(And yes, of course, Bret Stephens is a jackass. But this isn't just about him. I wish it were. His position on this question is right smack dab in the mainstream.)
Note to folks who just arrived through whatever hate-RT just happened: Read the thread again. It isn't "why you must join me in believing Christine Blasey Ford" and it's not "please convince me to change my mind." Not interested in debating you right now, sorry.
Update: Still not interested in debating, but since the thread is getting traction and the guff is piling up, a couple of quick things on why I believe the evidence supports Christine Blasey Ford.
First: Lots of people are claiming that one or more of Christine Blasey Ford's witnesses deny attending the party. That's false. What they say is that they don't remember such a party. If you're going to make claims about the facts of the dispute, get those facts right.
Second: Both Judge and Kavanaugh have denied Ford's account, but each is known to have been a heavy drinker in high school, and each apparently has incidents of blackout drinking in his past. That's not dispositive, but it's potentially significant.
Third: None of the accusations put forward as supposedly discrediting to Ford's account of Kavanaugh's attack are inconsistent with that account being truthful. Again, lack of proof of truthfulness is not proof of falsity.
Fourth: Ford was, the evidence indicates, highly disinclined to come forward publicly against Kavanaugh, and only ultimately did so after being outed by the media. That, like much of her story, seems inconsistent with claims of a politically motivated fabrication.
Again, not interested in debating, not interested in trying to change anyone's mind. But if you're going to make claims about what the facts of the Ford/Kavanaugh case are, you should take the time to get the known facts right.
Okay, just one more. Why do I find Christine Blasey Ford's account compelling, beyond what I've said above?
First: The incident Ford describes has a powerful (subjective) ring of verisimilitude for me—it's consistent with how one would describe an actual memory of sexual assault, and has a number of elements that would be strange to include in a fabricated account.
Second: A significant number of people have come forward to corroborate elements of Ford's account of the sexual assault and its effect on her life—again, not in a tidy, synthetic way, but in bits and pieces.
Third: Ford is bringing these allegations against Kavanaugh at great cost to herself, and with nothing on a personal level to gain. She and her family are suffering in exactly the ways she expected to suffer for her decision.
Fourth: Inconsistencies in secondary elements of such an account—Ford's therapist's notes, for instance—are common and predictable. They can be found in virtually any account of virtually any remembered event.
In short, there's nothing in Christine Blasey Ford's account itself that rings false to me, there's no significant external evidence that she's lying, and there is nothing in the record to suggest that this is a maliciously motivated claim.
That's why I believe Ford's account, and why I believe the weight of the evidence available at this time strongly points in the direction of her claims against Kavanaugh being truthful.
Oh, and one last thing. A bunch of people have said "Blasey Ford says she doesn't fly, but obviously she flew to Hawaii!" Come on. Don't be silly.
Imagine you were Ford. Imagine the prospect of someone recognizing you on this specific flight, and coming up to you and haranging you about your sexual assault. If you had an (otherwise manageable!) phobia about confined spaces, would you fly to DC? I wouldn't.
And just to wrap up, along the lines of what I just RTed from @jaclynf, one question I keep coming back to is "Why would Christine Blasey Ford tell this specific story, with all these specific details, if it weren't true?"
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