Paul Kengor: Believe women? Believe truth.
Like many movements, the “Believe Women” movement started with a commendable goal — to take women seriously when they charge that they’ve been sexually harassed. In the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh situation, however, and the uncorroborated charges made by Christine Blasey Ford, the movement risks being politicized and ideologized.
What began as a drive to respect women’s claims increasingly insists that all charges leveled at all times against all men must be believed. And if you don’t believe it has gone that far, then you weren’t listening to the protesters during the Kavanaugh fracas, and you probably haven’t spent time on a college campus.
A case in point is USC professor James Moore, who dared to send an email stating that, as a matter of plain fact, “accusers sometimes lie.” He warned students: “If the day comes you are accused of some crime or tort of which you are not guilty, and you find your peers automatically believing your accuser, I expect you will find yourself a stronger proponent of due process than you are now.”
Moore replied to a “Believe All Survivors” email sent by campus activists. In response, a protest rally was organized under the name, “Time’s Up for James Moore,” demanding he be fired for a statement deemed “extremely inappropriate, hurtful and insensitive.” An ideological mob unfurled a giant banner, WE BELIEVE ALL SURVIVORS.
Note that Moore didn’t say that accusers always lie, or even a majority of the time, but “sometimes” lie. And bear in mind that this professor’s job is to help train students not only for the real world but for the legal profession.
And yet, there was the judgment rendered by the mob against Moore, who stood guilty of extreme inappropriateness.
Are liberals sure they want to go down this road? Not only could this standard get their brothers and sons and fathers and even husbands in trouble someday, potentially for a crime they didn’t commit, but this will force liberals to revise some favorite historical morality tales, from the Scottsboro boys — nine black boys falsely accused of rape by two white women, and sentenced to execution by all-white jurors and judges — to the tragic case of Emmett Till.
Till was a 14-year-old African-American accused of whistling at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, in a Mississippi grocery store in August 1955. Bryant began with that accusation and then ratcheted it up, telling her husband and his brother that the boy made “advances” toward her. The men hunted down and brutally murdered Till. His mother insisted on an open-casket funeral-viewing of the mutilated corpse to show the world what these monsters did to her little boy.
Till’s murderers were acquitted by an all-white jury.
Many years later, Bryant admitted she lied about Till making advances. “That part’s not true,” she said in a 2007 interview. “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.”
Look, I’m fully supportive of an awareness campaign that helps women’s claims of sexual assault. Everyone is. But the “Believe Women” movement will undermine that very cause if it becomes a political tool for liberals and the pro-choice lobby.
Here’s a proposal: How about if our top priority in every case is to get at the truth? Let’s Believe Truth.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His column appears twice a month.