I have to preface all this by saying that I personally identify with the much-maligned "progressive thought". I do believe in social justice in general, and I do believe that specific issues, such as discrimination against females, non-whites, non-heterosexuals and other minorities is very real and a problem that we have to deal with. At the same time - and precisely because of that! - I have to speak out; because it is my side and my cause, and I am responsible for the evil that people who share (or claim to share) it with me perpetrate in its name. I'm well aware that there are even more numerous equivalents on the other side of the fence, but they are well-documented and well-accepted among those whose opinion matters to me, and so I am not going to touch on that.
Now to the matter at hand. When I started digging into the recent slew of high-profile social justice activism cases, one thing stood out. It's not so much the quickness to act that is the problem in and of itself, as it is the readiness to do so based on conformance to stereotypes that the person has. Remember the Virginia university rape case? Pretty much every feminist and progressive outlet has published a scathing attack on the purported rapist - spending very little time on the fact that the only evidence to date is the testimony of the self-identified victim, but instead focusing on how this horrible event, which is obviously true (because, well, frat boys gonna rape, duh - "everybody knows", "common sense" ...), is a testament to how horrible things are in general.
And then, when it turned out that not only there isn't anything else, but even said testimony has gaping consistency holes and outright falsehoods - did anyone apologize? Well, the website that broke the original story had the decency to, but I was surprised at the number of other places that doubled down on their take instead by basically claiming that it's all just lies (Jezebel is basically still doing that), or that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the victim should be believed by default - even if there are inconsistencies in her story.
What really raised my hairs, though, was when they acknowledged that the story is false, but nevertheless demanded that the accused should be treated as guilty based on nothing but accusation alone as a generic rule, and that the self-identified victim should give extreme benefit of the doubt, and cannot even be questioned (because that is traumatic etc). Because, you see, actual rapes happen, and therefore if you don't support harsh measures, you support actual rapists - even if you are complaining about an actual false rape accusation. In other words, it's better for one innocent to suffer than for ten guilty persons escape.
I wish this was something that could be ambiguously interpreted or misunderstood by me, but no: the title of the piece that summed up that argument is literally No matter what Jackie said, we should generally believe rape claims". And it contains gems such as, "We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist. Even if Jackie fabricated her account, U-Va. should have taken her word for it during the period while they endeavored to prove or disprove the accusation". Go ahead, read it in its entirety, it's well worth it.
That particular article just left me speechless, for obvious reasons - I am a liberal, among other things, and this was anything but. But then I started digging into it, and have found out that this sort of stuff is not actually new, it's just that it's the first time it was broadcast so prominently to the general audience, and subscribed by so many. Yet if you start digging into the subculture - go visit the blogs where adherents cluster and discuss things in an environment where they do not see the need to moderate or veil their opinion - you quickly find that such attitude is so prominent there as to be practically mainstream, and not just towards rape. There is a general notion that things such as due process, presumption of innocence, reliability of testimony, and even freedom of speech, are not universally good, but should only be used insofar as they help the struggle of the oppressed class (in the cultural reinterpretation of it - women, people of color, LGBTQ and other minorities) against their oppressors (white male patriarchy etc) - and, they claim, in practice more often than not used for the benefit of oppressors. This actually goes all the way back to second-wave feminism (Dworkin, MacKinnon etc) and its anti-pornography crusade - MacKinnon notably criticized the First Amendment (which was used to shoot down the anti-porn laws that she helped write) as detrimental to equality, because under it "some people get a lot more speech than others". Just have a look at the annotation for the book from which I have taken this citation!
Some further derive from it that all these things are the creations of oppressors for the sole purpose of oppression, and therefore nothing good comes out of them - and the appropriate way of dealing with matters is adopting a strict identity-based outlook. A rape accusation, for example, has to be treated as all the necessary evidence to pronounce guilt and render judgment, because it comes from the oppressed (a woman) towards the oppressor (a man). Even if that particular case may eventually be proven wrong, this approach still shifts the balance of power in the way that is overall desirable, and a falsely accused rapist is just a privileged male who is brought down the notch, something that he could use in any case. So there's no reason to even ponder that possibility as something relevant.
At this point I realized that this strongly reminds me of something, something that I have read before. And then I realized: it's a recurring The Gulag Archipelago! Just a few quotes to refresh your memory:
"The reason that fine points of jurisprudence are unnecessary that there is no need to clarify whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty: the concept of guilt is an old bourgeois concept which has now been uprooted. And so we heard from Comrade Krylenko that a tribunal was not that kind of court! On another occasion we would hear from him that a tribunal was not a court at all: "A tribunal is an organ of the class struggle of the workers directed against their enemies" and must act "from the point of view of the interests of the revolution ... having in mind the most desirable results for the masses of workers and peasants. " People are not people, but "carriers of specific ideas." ''No matter what the individual qualities [of the defendant], only one method of evaluating him is to be applied: evaluation from the point of view of class expediency." In other words, you can exist only if it's expedient for the working class. And if "this expediency should require that the avenging sword should fall on the head of the defendants, then no ... verbal arguments can help." (Such as arguments by lawyers, etc.) "In our revolutionary court we are guided not by articles of the law and not by the degree of extenuating circumstances; in the tribunal we must proceed on the basis of considerations of expediency." ... And it must also be kept in mind that it was not what he had done that constituted the defendant's burden, but what he might do if he were not shot now. "We protect ourselves not only against the past but also against the future."
"(Lazar Kogan, one of the bosses of the White Sea Canal construction, would, in fact, soon say: "I believe that you personally were not guilty of anything. But, as an educated person, you have to understand that social prophylaxis was being widely applied!"
"Should we wrap it all up and simply say that they arrested the innocent? But we omitted saying that the very concept of guilt had been repealed by the proletarian revolution and, at the beginning of the thirties, was defined as rightist opportunism. So we can't even discuss these out-of-date concepts, guilt and innocence."
"The theoretical view of the suspect's guilt was, incidentally, elastic from the very beginning. In his instructions on the
use of Red Terror, the Chekist M. I. Latsis wrote: "In the interrogation not seek evidence and proof that the person accused acted in word or deed against Soviet power. The first questions should be: What is his class, what is his origin, what is his education and upbringing? ... These are the questions which must determine the fate of the accused."
"He then proceeded to a further step, which jurists of the last two thousand years had not been willing to take: that the truth established by interrogation and trial could not be absolute, but only, so to speak, relative. Therefore, when we sign a sentence ordering someone to be shot we can never be absolutely certain, but only approximately, in view of certain hypotheses, and in a certain sense, that we are punishing a guilty person. Thence arose the most practical conclusion: that it was useless to seek absolute evidence--for evidence is always relative-or unchallengeable witnesses-for they can say different things at different times. The proofs of guilt were relative, approximate, and the interrogator could find them, even when there was no evidence and no witness, without leaving his office, "basing his conclusions not only on his own intellect but also on his Party sensitivity, his moral forces" ... "and on his character"
"And in 1950, one of the leading colonels of the MGB, Foma Zheleznov, said to his prisoners: "We are not going to sweat to prove the prisoner's guilt to him. Let him prove to that he did not have hostile intent."
"(Please forgive us, reader. We have once more gone astray with this rightist opportunism-this concept of '"guilt," and of the guilty or innocent. It has, after all, been explained to us that the heart of the matter is not personal guilt. but social danger. One can imprison an innocent person if he is socially hostile. And one can release a guilty man if he is socially friendly. But lacking legal training, we can be forgiven, for the 1926 Code, according to which, my good fellow, we lived for twenty-five years and more, was itself criticized for an "impermissible bourgeois approach," for an "insufficiently class-conscious approach," and for some kind of "bourgeois weighing of punishments in relation to the
gravity of what had been committed."
"Krylenko formulated even more frankly and precisely the tasks of the Soviet courts in his speeches before those
tribunals, when the court was "at one and the same time both the creator of the law and a political weapon. ... Don't tell me our criminal courts ought to act exclusively on the basis of existing written norms. We live in the process of Revolution. .. A tribunal is not the kind of court in fine points of jurisprudence and clever stratagems are to be
restored .... We are creating a new law and new ethical norms. .. No matter how much is said here about the
eternal law of truth, justice, etc., we know . . . how dearly these cost us"
I can only hope that people who have revived this ideology under the banner of social justice and progressivism do not end up hijacking it altogether. I don't think we're there yet, and I do think that there are far more of us who are very uncomfortable with this thing. But the problem is, we're not the loud ones. And if we keep it that way, we will lose.