What we are meant to do

Brendan O’Neill announces that we must never believe accusations of sexual assault unless and until they’re established in court.

Why does everyone believe Kevin Spacey’s accuser rather than Kevin Spacey himself? In a civilised society, it would be the other way round. In a civilised society we would doubt the accuser and maintain the innocence of the accused.

Is that so? Why? How? According to whom? Who is “we”?

In short, it’s not that simple, is it. What about Harvey Weinstein for instance? It turns out that all Hollywood knew about Harvey Weinstein, and a lot of women told similar stories about their experiences with Harvey Weinstein, so why in a civilized society would we be maintaining Weinstein’s innocence while calling his victims liars? What’s civilized about that?

There’s nothing civilized about it, but it’s nicer for the bros, and Brendan O’Neill is a bro.

How do we know Spacey did this thing? Because one person said he did. If we had any kind of attachment to the ideals of reason and justice, the building blocks of civilisation, this wouldn’t be enough. It would be so far from being enough.

Is that right? Is it that simple?

Of course it’s not. It depends. Justice isn’t all one way – it isn’t all for Spacey and none for the one person who said. Often one person saying is all there is, and often that means the powerful get away with doing harm to the less powerful. That’s not exactly justice.

Spacey says he doesn’t remember the assault. ‘I honestly do not remember the encounter’, he said in a statement, before going on to say that if it did happen, then he’s sorry. (Who’s advising these people? Do not apologise for something you do not remember doing.) Spacey, in his own lame way, is calling into question the veracity of Rapp’s accusation. And you know what? We should all be doing that. For three reasons.

No we should not all be doing that. It’s fair to say that one person saying is just one person saying; that’s not the same as calling into question the person’s accusation.

O’Neill says we should because 1. it was 30 years ago, 2. it’s part of #metoo. And 3 –

And thirdly because this is what we are meant to do. We are meant to believe in the innocence of everyone accused of a crime or misdemeanour, until such a time as a jury of their peers has been convinced beyond reasonable doubt that this is ‘what he did’.

Meant? Meant by whom? According to what rule? What a fatuous claim for such a showy libertarian to make. It’s also complete bullshit. The state is forbidden to assume guilt before it’s demonstrated, but that doesn’t mean every human on earth is required to “to believe in the innocence of everyone accused of a crime” until a jury [or a judge, he neglects to say] determines.

O’Neill’s sloppiness is reliably annoying.

Updating to add: I missed the last three paragraphs because I thought an ad break was the end of the piece.

‘I believe’ has become the ultimate virtue-signal. But it is utterly lacking in virtue to say this. Sixty-two years ago a woman called Carolyn Bryant Donham accused a young man of sexual harassment. He grabbed her by the wrist and said ‘How about it baby?’, she said. He wolf-whistled at her, she claimed. Everyone in her local community believed her, uncritically, and instantly. ‘I believe.’ They went after her harasser, tied him to the back of a truck, and then beat him to death in a barn. His name was Emmet Till. He was a victim of uncritical belief in people who make accusations of sexual harassment. Crying ‘I believe’ in response to every accusation of a sexual crime isn’t progressive; it’s a species of savagery.

Evil piece of shit.

Yes, we know accusations of rape were a pretext for lynching. That’s why I said “it’s not that simple” and “it depends” rather than “we have to believe all accusations no matter what.” But Harvey Weinstein was and is in no way comparable to Emmett Till, and Kevin Spacey’s accuser is not comparable to the white population of Money, Mississippi in 1955. I’m a good deal more agnostic about Spacey than I am about Weinstein, because as O’Neill says there is only one accuser – but that does not mean I’m required to “maintain his innocence.”

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