Saturday, September 29, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh and the Right to Privacy

Perhaps I missed it, but I do not recall Andrew Sullivan apologizing to Sarah Palin for speculating that her Down syndrome son was not really her son. Since Sullivan offers a spirited and intelligent analysis of the brouhaha over Brett Kavanaugh, especially as concerns the separation between public and private behaviors, it would have been a good time for Sullivan to abjure his own past slanders.

Be that as it may, Sullivan throws some raw intelligence at the Kavanaugh proceedings. He notes, and it ought to be underscored, that those who oppose Kavanaugh have no interest in facts or in empirical evidence. They are living within their own ideological universe where any and all evidence proves their point. After all, if Kavanaugh is the Devil, no facts can disprove the assertion. One feels compelled to repeat that, in the absence of corroborating evidence, that is, in the absence of facts, Dr. Ford has merely explained what she believed happened. It’s a belief, not a fact. And it cannot be proved or disproved.

Sullivan writes:

If he [Kavanaugh] hadn’t hired and mentored many women, it would be proof he was a misogynist and rapist. But the fact that he did hire and mentor many of them was also proof he was a misogynist and a rapist, who only picked the pretty ones. If he hadn’t shown anger, he would have been obviously inhuman. When he did express rage … well, that was a disqualifying temperament for a judge. It didn’t help that the Democrats made no pretense of having an open mind, or that any glimpse at mainstream media — let alone media Twitter — revealed that it had already picked a side. This was, for the major papers, especially the New York Times, a righteous battle against another white straight male, and the smug, snarky virtue-signaling on Twitter was in overdrive. Even Kavanaugh’s choking-up was mocked — just another contemptible “bro-crier.”

Given the cultural warfare against toxic white males and their privileges, those who oppose Kavanaugh see him as the embodiment of everything that they hate. Among the ironies that Sullivan does not note, in this time of white male privilege, is that white males are consistently being outperformed in the academic world… by Asians. The rank stupidity of the politics of demonization needs to be continually exposed:

Then I remembered all those op-eds and essays that decided to judge one moment in one man’s teens as somehow deeply revealing about … white privilege, toxic masculinity, white supremacy, toxic homosociality, bro culture, alcoholism, patriarchy … you name it, Kavanaugh was suddenly its foul epitome. He was an instant symbol of all the groups of people the left now hates, by virtue of their race or gender or orientation. And maybe he is. But did any of that necessarily make him guilty of anything, except by association?

Of course, the mythology around toxic white males makes them guilty of everything that has ever gone wrong in the course of human civilization. You do not need to have done anything. You are guilty for belong to the class of white males. This presents a version of black liberation theology, the kind that was promulgated by Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his protege, Barack Obama.

The toxic white male privilege meme is designed to blame white males for the underperformance of non-whites. It is a massive effort at blame shifting. It diminishes all of the achievements by white males and lays a massive guilt trip on them. Because if you cannot accomplish what they have accomplished you should at least undermine their confidence and render them dysfunctional. The result is: the outsized success of Asians in America today.

Sullivan moves on to a salient point, one that has not often enough been emphasized. The scavenger hunt through Brett Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook, the attempt to find people who will say that he drank to excess at Yale or in high school resembles a totalitarian effort to break down the barrier between public and private, to use information about someone’s private life in order to demean, diminish, slander and defame him:

When public life means the ransacking of people’s private lives even when they were in high school, we are circling a deeply illiberal drain. A civilized society observes a distinction between public and private, and this distinction is integral to individual freedom. Such a distinction was anathema in old-school monarchies when the king could arbitrarily arrest, jail, or execute you at will, for private behavior or thoughts. These lines are also blurred in authoritarian regimes, where the power of the government knows few limits in monitoring a person’s home or private affairs or correspondence or tax returns or texts. These boundaries definitionally can’t exist in theocracies, where the state is interested as much in punishing and exposing sin, as in preventing crime. The Iranian and Saudi governments — like the early modern monarchies — seek not only to control your body, but also to look into your soul. They know that everyone has a dark side, and this dark side can be exposed in order to destroy people. All you need is an accusation.

In a crushing irony, Sullivan is suggesting that a right to privacy is enshrined in the constitution, not quite in the way that the abortion rights league would want. That document guarantees that your private life is your own private property and is no one else’s business. Of course, criminal activities are not covered, but the effort to prove Kavanaugh a criminal by the evidence of how much he drank in college or high school is, Sullivan believes, totalitarian overreach.

We note, because it deserves to be noted, again and again, that Christine Ford seems less to be accusing Kavanaugh of a crime-- if she had wanted to do that she should have contacted a Maryland prosecutor-- and more about defaming him. And, by extension, defaming all males, especially the accomplished white ones… the ones who did not earn what they have, but who were given it, through privilege.

We ought to mention that numerous friends and several girlfriends of Kavanaugh have stepped forward to defend his behavior. By the psychology of deviant sexual behavior, apparently a subject that has escaped Dr. Ford-- who is hardly a pillar of the profession, even if she knows what the hippocampus is -- a disposition toward sexual sadism is extremely unlikely to manifest itself one and only one time.

When people compared Kavanaugh to Bill Cosby they glossed over the obvious distinction: Bill Cosby was accused by dozens of women of drugging them and raping them. He was not just a one-off offender.

The Founders ... realized how precious privacy is, how it protects you not just from the government but from your neighbors and your peers. They carved out a private space that was sacrosanct and a public space which insisted on a strict presumption of innocence, until a speedy and fair trial. Whether you were a good husband or son or wife or daughter, whether you had a temper, or could be cruel, or had various sexual fantasies, whether you were a believer, or a sinner: this kind of thing was rendered off-limits in the public world. The family, the home, and the bedroom were, yes, safe places. If everything were fair game in public life, the logic ran, none of us would survive.

Sullivan sees the failure to respect privacy as a totalitarian tendency. One should get over the notion that today’s Democrats are liberal or progressive. They are radicals and they function like unhinged radicals… consumed by a will to destroy.

And it is the distinguishing mark of specifically totalitarian societies that this safety is eradicated altogether by design. There, the private is always emphatically public, everything is political, and ideology trumps love, family, friendship or any refuge from the glare of the party and its public. Spies are everywhere, monitoring the slightest of offenses. Friends betray you, as do lovers. Family members denounce their own mothers and fathers and siblings and sons and daughters. The cause, which is usually a permanently revolutionary one, always matters more than any individual’s possible innocence. You are, in fact, always guilty before being proven innocent. You always have to prove a negative. And no offense at any point in your life is ever forgotten or off the table.

Again, as many others have noted, the American legal system grants the accused the presumption of innocence… because you cannot prove a negative.

Sullivan continues to remark that, under normal circumstances, the media is entrusted with maintaining the barrier of public and private. Nowadays, most of the media is happy to accept Dr. Ford’s word as gospel truth and to trash Brett Kavanaugh, no matter what he says. It has given up on presenting the news fairly and accurately and has too often made itself into the Red Guards of the new cultural revolution:

I am noting a more general accusatory dynamic that surrounded Ford’s specific allegation. This is particularly dangerous when there are no editors or gatekeepers in the media to prevent any accusation about someone’s private life being aired, when economic incentives online favor outrageous charges, and when journalists have begun to see themselves as vanguards of a cultural revolution, rather than skeptics of everything.

As for the possible outcomes of the current culture war, Sullivan offers two. First, if Kavanaugh is confirmed, he will might well become an implacable enemy of everything that today’s liberals hold sacred. If he is not confirmed, Trump would likely nominate Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative Catholic who would be far more likely to vote against abortion rights. How will Democrats defame Barrett? Will they accuse her of being a Roman Catholic? Or will they argue that she attempted to rape a boy in high school?

So on the substance of the Court’s future, it seems to me that the Democrats have ensured this past week that if Kavanaugh is confirmed, they will have created an embittered foe in the Thomas mold. And if they end up with Barrett, they will have have someone on the Court more certain to strike down Roe than Kavanaugh.

When you are consumed with a will to destroy, it often boomerangs against you.


Dr. Irredeemable Dreg said...

Although I declined to watch the Senate Bitch Trials, having lived near Salem MA for a few years and gotten my fill of salacious accusations turned into Capitol crimes, I, too, was amused by Ford's psychogabble about hippocampi, sequelae, etc. It reminded me of a quote...

"I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something."
--- R Feynman

Nevertheless, I'm sure my hippocampus would be delighted to dredge up indelible memories complete with tragic sequelae on just about any woman worthy of smearing... for a GoFundMe campaign worth a half-mil or so. Takers?

Sam L. said...

You didn't miss it, Stu; Andy was the one who missed it. He was just TOO busy being concerned about Sarah's uterus.

I disagree that Dems are not Progressives. Progressive always reminds me of cancer, and that's often a killer.

Also, re: White Privilege, is not the NYT the Whitest and most privileged of White Privilege?

Ares Olympus said...
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