Culture

Brett Kavanaugh and the Therapy Mob

Protesters wearing black veils leave the Hart Senate Office Building on the fourth day of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 7, 2018. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)
Too many of his detractors mistake the man for their abstract mental mock-up of a “privileged” preppy white male.

This week, a former classmate of Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of committing sexual assault in high school, blew up the Internet with a long, emotional Facebook post. The Kavanaugh saga, she wrote, touches a “very personal nerve.”

This must be true, because she then went on for an entire opening paragraph about how Mark Judge, whom Ford has named as a witness to the assault — and who flatly denies that anything happened — once stood her up for prom, getting “bombed” before dinner. Woah! What a cad! Men are horrible, am I right? But wait a minute: What on earth does this have to do with Brett Kavanaugh and the very serious accusations at hand? Nobody knows! Anyway, let’s move on: “The incident did happen,” she wrote, confident and assured.

Well. That’s a very big deal. (It’s also a little weird, considering that Ford says she told no one about the incident until 2012, but whatever. As we’ll see, details are becoming increasingly irrelevant in this case.) The Facebook post is now deleted; so is the corresponding and equally definitive Tweet, which declared that “Kavanaugh should stop lying, own up to it, and apologize.”

Life, however, comes at you fast: “That it happened or not, I have no idea,” the classmate told NPR within a day. “I can’t say that it did or didn’t.” Wait. What? Here’s more: “In my [Facebook] post, I was empowered and I was sure it probably did” happen, she continued. “I had no idea that I would now have to go to the specifics and defend it before 50 cable channels and have my face spread all over MSNBC news and Twitter.”

Oh. Well, never mind. It’s a good thing we’re dealing with an abstract mental mock-up of a “privileged” preppy white man who represents all of our pent-up resentments and issues, rather than with a serious, potentially career-destroying accusation against a real human being with a family and a job and a soul!

“I was empowered”: It’s interesting phrasing, is it not? What does it mean? I’d be willing to bet it means “swept up in the therapy mob.” At this point, we still don’t really know what, if anything, happened between Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. The accusations are certainly serious, and should be treated accordingly — but strangely, to many, finding the facts just doesn’t seem to matter anymore. For a certain segment of the population, this story isn’t about truth or justice. It’s about a bizarre national therapy session. In the end, it’s all about them.

Witness this strange back-and-forth between Samantha Guerry, a classmate of Ford’s, and CNN’S Jim Acosta — who, to his credit, valiantly keeps attempting to steer the topic back to Brett Kavanaugh:

Acosta: Was this the first time you heard anything like that with respect to Judge Kavanaugh?

Guerry: Absolutely. It’s not the first time I had heard anything like that, in terms of the community of women that I know, and not regarding him, but —

Acosta: Those sorts of things went on.

Guerry: You know, one of the things that’s been surprising to me as I have got involved in this in the last couple of days is how many women in my class have come forward to me in these last few days and said I had similar experiences in high school. And this hits me very deeply and I —

Acosta: Not with Brett Kavanaugh, but with other boys?

Guerry: Not with Brett Kavanaugh but with other boys in our community.

There he is again: That mysterious abstract mental mock-up of the dastardly prep-school boy! He may not be Brett Kavanaugh, folks, and he may have nothing to do with this particular case, but he’s sure easy to accuse. Now please excuse me while I go and set my computer on fire.

“We all feel that if we were in her shoes,” Guerry continues, referring to Ford, that “we would want to be taken seriously as well.” Here she’s right, and I agree. But here’s the thing: Ford is being taken seriously — so seriously that she’s been presented with a number of options to testify, ranging from private to public to having Senate representatives fly out to California to meet her. Her lawyer informed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that Ford “would be prepared to testify next week” on “terms that are fair and which ensure her safety.” Stay tuned.

Ford certainly deserves to be heard, as pretty much everyone in the Senate has already said. Oddly, the therapy mob hasn’t been so keen on the idea: Testifying, we have been told, will only “re-victimize” Ford. Testifying will “bully” her. Testifying — and here is my favorite line of all — will “silence” her. (It is here that I regret having only one computer to set on fire.) While we wait, expect more lines of commentary like this one, just published in the Washington Post: “In the ’80s, boys’ prep schools like Kavanaugh’s could be bastions of misogyny.” Okay.

This week, Caitlin Flanagan wrote a piece in The Atlantic detailing her own sexual assault in high school. It’s a searing and personal story; it’s an experience, as Flanagan writes, that has led her — along with “the psychologist’s notes” — to believe Ford’s allegations. It was well written, powerful, widely praised, and had absolutely no relevance to the case of Brett Kavanaugh. This fact becomes particularly unfortunate when you see The Atlantic’s chosen subhead to the piece: “When I was in high school, I faced my own Brett Kavanaugh.”

There it is, in one short line: Because of the sins of others supposedly like him, Kavanaugh is already guilty, even though we don’t yet know the facts. This is madness. It is wrong. By all means, let’s take Dr. Ford seriously. At this point, the people pretending to do so have been anything but.

Editor’s note: Since it was posted earlier today, this article has been revised to reflect the news that Christine Blasey Ford has told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she “would be prepared to testify” before it next week if it met certain conditions.

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