Moral Panics Undermine Justice

#MeToo has become the Pizzagate of the left. Pizzagate and MeToo are moral panics, witch-hunts perpetrated by hysterical internet mobs, blind to reason and evidence.

Their immediate ancestor is the Satanic Ritual Abuse panic of the 1980s, in which people with base motives – ambitious lawyers, unscrupulous tv celebrities, and rabid ideologues – touted flimsy, or often made-up evidence, and the unreliable claims of gullible children. Careers and lives were ruined, in some of the worst miscarriages of justice in modern history.

The Rolling Stone story, “A Rape on Campus” is the most notorious excrescence of another moral panic: so-called “rape culture”.

Soon after Rolling Stone published a sensational — and, as it turned out, entirely false — account of a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity, Richard Bradley, the editor of Worth magazine, suspected that something was amiss.

Basic journalistic rules, such as seeking comment from the alleged perpetrators, had not been observed, he noted on his blog. Details of the assault, one of which seemed ripped from “Silence of the Lambs,” were lurid past the point of plausibility.

But what most stirred Bradley’s doubt was how perfectly the story played “into existing biases” … Since the account of the rape “felt” true, it was easy to assume it was.

The same is true of #MeToo. Especially one of its most prominent victims, director Woody Allen, and his

alleged molestation, in 1992, of his then-7-year-old adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow … She repeated her charges against Allen in a tearful interview last month on CBS, and her efforts seem to have had their intended effect: From Mira Sorvino to Natalie Portman, A-list actors are expressing bitter regrets for having worked with Allen. The director is officially radioactive.

The problem for Farrow’s story is that

An in-depth, contemporaneous and independent investigation into the allegations … noted that there were “important inconsistencies in Dylan’s statements,” and that “her descriptions of the details surrounding the alleged events were unusual and were inconsistent.” It concluded categorically: “It is our expert opinion that Dylan was not sexually abused by Mr. Allen.”

This isn’t good enough, of course, for the Inquisitorial lynch-mob of #MeToo. They want to believe that it’s true, so it must be true. Evidence and legal principles be damned.

But it’s precisely because Dylan’s account plays to our existing biases that we need to treat it with added skepticism. Most parents know that young children are imaginative and suggestible and innocently prone to making things up … Nor have we learned anything else about Allen in the intervening years that might add to suspicions of guilt. He married Soon-Yi and has been with her ever since. Nobody else has come forward in 25 years with a fresh accusation of assault against him.

So, what about other prominent #MeToo accused, including the one who touched off the whole conflagration: Harvey Weinstein? The difference is that, in those cases, the serious accusations have come, not from children, but adults, and are widely corroborated. Still, even those have yet to be tested in court.

In the climate of a moral panic, reason and evidence, not to say fundamental principles of justice, are thrown to the wind. The mob wants blood, and, one way or another, they will have it.

Eventually, the truth will out, but in the meantime, innocent people will pay a price which can never be redeemed.

– New York Times

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