Friday, October 05, 2018


When people have a rational argument available to them but don't use it, I try to step back and see if I can guess what is really happening.  In the entire Kavanaugh debate, the Democrats/liberals had a single strong argument. Statistically, not only in history but up to the present day, if a woman says "He did this," and the man says "I did not," he is more likely to be lying. Whether he is twice as likely or a hundred times as likely is a difficult debate with few hard data points, but I think we are all clear that false denials are more common than false accusations.  After all, some of those denials end up as convictions based on hard evidence.

There is a second argument which flows from that which I think is weaker, not fully persuasive, but at least not crazy. Therefore, because this is a perception and not a criminal case, the accused cannot expect marginal or ambiguous cases to go his way. In the absence of other evidence, fair-minded people can decide "Nine times out of ten the man is lying in these cases." It may not be entirely fair, but it compensates some for the statistical disadvantage. There is a key phrase "in the absence of other evidence" in that. Even then I don't like it, as I believe it sets a dangerous precedent which allows unscrupulous people to use accusation as a tool. But I can at least see it.

Sometimes protestors or critics, or Senators running for president, or editorialists would get sorta kinda close to these arguments, as if they were hovering in the background assumed. But mostly they all went to different places, that women had never been believed and this was going to test whether any woman would ever get justice again; that men should not have any part of the evaluation; that Dr. Ford was somehow courageous; that Kavanaugh might be something far worse on the basis of no evidence, that this was all proceeding hastily, that Susan Collins is a rape apologist.  In short, to insane arguments. Hypocrisy is an easy argument in Washington. One of your guys did something similar last year or last decade and you didn't care so much then, didja? But this was at a new level, an insane level.  These were hypocrisies separated by no time at all.  The Ellison assaults were not something from 2015, they were current.  There was an old Joe Biden quote that FBI investigations weren't as valuable as people thought. Democrats singing a different tune last week is just politics as usual.  Republicans have done the same. But then the Democrats switched back again, just a week later. Comey tweeted out that the FBI was going to nail Kavanaugh because his little lies would explode out, and Senator Blumenthal tried to elegantly predict the same, in Latin. This week

What then, does this mean? They had a good argument, and passed it by in favor of bad arguments. When smart people get stupid it means something. I don't like to guess at other people's motives too much.  The difference between seeing another point-of view and projecting is easy in cold definition, but not so clear cut in practice.  If I imagine being in his head and thinking what the action would mean if I were doing it, is that insight or projection?

I have a little theory, but I am going to play with this in my head while doing some physical labor tomorrow, which often brings new perspectives.


Christopher B said...

"Believe all women/survivors/accusations" was the only good argument they had. I think everyone except the most rabid would concede that Ford's description of the incident was plausible (some of the other stuff - fear of flying, second front door, beach friends - not so much) but arguing that a tie goes to the runner requires a closer question. If any of the named people, or any one from that era in that suburb, had testified to seeing Ford and Kavanaugh at a party it would have made the '9 times out of 10 men are lying' argument much stronger. From what I'm reading Team Ford recognized how devastating Leland Keyser's statement was, and tried to get her to modify it. Kavanaugh denied the entire incident took place, a much more comprehensive denial than is typical when a man and a woman offer a disputed account of events. His argument could have been defeated by showing nothing more than he had the opportunity to be alone with Ford.

Regarding the flips - I think the Dems have done this for so long now they believe their own bs. I date it back to a reaction to Mondale's wipe out after he proclaimed he was being honest about raising taxes. Clinton got away with the wink and nod stuff, and when he brazened out the lie that he and Monica didn't engage in sexual activity the pattern was set. Dem voters literally expect lies such as Obama claiming to not support gay marriage, and then rainbowing the White House after Obergefell. Like George said, if you believe it when you say it then it isn't a lie, even if you said exactly the opposite thing five minutes ago.

David Foster said...

The ratio that exists between true accusations and false accusations is dynamic: it changes depending on the incentives existing at any given time. If you were a white woman in Mississippi in 1930, the consequences for falsely accusing a black sharecropper were not likely to be very severe. If you were a white woman in Hollywood in 2010, the consequences of falsely accusing a producer were likely to be very negative...indeed, quite possibly negative even if the acquisition were true.

It seems pretty clear that the climate in many American universities today has made false accusations much more likely.

Sam L. said...

"When smart people get stupid it means something." Could be lying, could be not-thinking-ahead. I'd consider the nta approach first.

Texan99 said...

Knowing that a class of person traditionally has been disbelieved makes me slow down and get cautious. It makes me question whether I'm giving the witness a fair shake, and listen more closely. It makes me do thought experiments like making the accused and accuser trade places in my head. I examine corroborating or refuting evidence more closely.

It will never, I hope, make me adopt a rule that a class of person must automatically be believed no matter what the circumstances. I hope it wouldn't even influence to tip in one direction in a toss-up. In a toss-up, the accused wins, that's all. If there's not enough evidence, there's not enough evidence, I don't care who's sitting in the witness box.

In the present case, I might have evaluated things differently if Ford had claimed this all happened without any witnesses at all, and if Kavanaugh had been unable to provide any evidence of his whereabouts. I still might have decided it was a toss-up, meaning "not guilty," but in any case that's not the situation I faced.

In Clarence Thomas's case, I didn't quite believe either him or Anita Hill. I couldn't make out what had happened. It was a toss-up, and I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Anita Hill didn't delay as long as Ford, but she did delay long enough to inject enough ambiguity to make the case impossible. Too bad for her, but that's how it is. If you want more or less automatic credibility in a swearing match with no witnesses, you have at least to make your accusation immediately and start acting like someone who is getting out of what turned out to be a dangerous situation. You can't just stomach it, move on, then get mad later, no matter how understandable that may be psychologically for other reasons.