This past weekend, an old friend of mine (to whom I have not spoken for awhile) revealed on Facebook that she had been the victim of an attempted sexual assault when she was a teenager. She did so as a show of support for Christine Blasey Ford in her accusations against Brett Kavanaugh. This was news to me and to most people—she indicated that only one other person had been even somewhat aware of her experience.
I don’t believe Ford. I do believe my friend.
Naturally, I began to reflect on that difference. They’re both unprovable accusations of something that happened decades ago. Neither one gave sufficient detail for meaningful corroboration. Both remained basically silent about it for most of their lives until a moment of political significance. So why did I find myself believing one and not the other?
To be sure, there are relevant factual differences at play. For one thing, strictly speaking, my friend’s revelation wasn’t an accusation—she named no one, and her purpose was moral support for someone she sees as a kindred spirit. For another, Ford’s accusation comes with an obvious and powerful political motivation (even *if* she were telling the truth, her goal is entirely political—the removal of a Supreme Court nominee from consideration; otherwise she’d be going to the police instead of Congress.) In contrast, my friend’s revelation is much less so (again, merely moral support for a political figure.) It’s also relevant that Ford’s accusation fits the Democrats’ pattern of 11th-hour allegations of sexual misconduct for the sake of political manipulation that are forgotten the second the moment of election or appointment has passed. Remember the accusations against Donald Trump in October 2016 that we were supposed to think were so monumental? Have you ever heard a peep from any of those people since? And of course, even the small amount of specifics Ford offered have proven faulty upon investigation (e.g. every other eyewitness she named, including her friend, deny her story.)
I won’t labor this point anymore; if you read this blog, you’ve probably read all about this angle elsewhere already.
Besides, the entire reason I’m writing this is because if I’m honest, the factual differences aren’t the most important reason I believe one story and not the other. I can tell because my initial reaction was completely different. When I first heard about Ford’s allegations, my immediate response was to look at the facts and see whether or not they hold up to scrutiny. When I read my friend’s Facebook post, that thought never occurred to me. I just immediately believed her. In other words, I very naturally did exactly what feminists are always commanding men to do—a troubling thought for me, to say the least. So why did I do it? Why the completely different reaction?
It’s because one woman is my friend and the other is not.
Most lies rely on some element of truth in order to be convincing, and the false moral principle of “You must believe all women!” is no exception. While there is no such universal obligation, there are certain relationships and vocations that do bear a similar obligation. When you are, for example, someone’s counselor, confidante, or friend, you have a certain responsibility to be credulous. After all, you can’t really help someone to heal or provide emotional support or be trustworthy without first trusting. This isn’t an inviolable responsibility. You may disbelieve even a friend if enough contrary evidence starts stacking up in front of you, and that disbelief will affect they way you try to help them. But you don’t deliberately go double-checking or corroborating before you decide to believe someone you have those kinds of relationships with.
What the left is doing with the way they’re treating Kavanaugh’s accusers is preying on Americans’ inclinations to be friendly in order to avoid the consequences of the election they lost. They are trying to lay on senators, journalists, investigators, and voters the kinds of responsibilities toward Ford that belong to friends—to uncritically believe for the sake of helping them. That mix-up is perhaps the biggest problem with the circus currently going on in DC.
Like most Americans, I am not Christine Ford’s counselor, confidante, or friend. Neither do I have any desire to be. I have no responsibility to be someone for her to lean on or to help her feel better or deal with whatever trauma she’s experienced. Rather, I’m a citizen and a voter. My responsibility is to exercise my voice and my vote for the sake of selecting good government for this republic. In order to exercise that responsibility well, I must make my decisions on what to believe based on reason, evidence, and sound principles. The same is true for the senators who are weighing Kavanaugh as a candidate for Supreme Court Justice. When subjected to that kind of analysis, Ford’s accusations absolutely do not hold up.
Inasmuch as a person performs these other kinds of vocations they cannot really be a good friend to Christine Blasey Ford. That is one of the reasons responsible people in positions of authority recuse themselves from a decision that deeply involves someone with whom they have a personal relationship. They have two sets of responsibilities that are actually at odds with one another. After a generation of being incessantly told to follow our hearts, too many Americans have become unable to make these distinctions. They rely on what feels right and feels plausible to them instead of on the reason, evidence, and principles that provide our only real hope for responsible government.
The fact that a random American was able to derail a Supreme Court nomination with nothing but her feelings is a testament to just how poorly skilled Americans have become at self-government. And the most significant outcome of this situation may not be whether Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, but whether Americans and our representatives will take this opportunity to regain some political sanity—or decide to double-down on our plunge into the abyss.
So by all means, be a friend to your friends. Believe them. But don’t mistake being a good friend with making good policies. Doing so is a betrayal of those for whom you are responsible.