The campaign against Brett Kavanaugh can be summarized in one word. He is or was a bro. A bro is a highly masculine, at times loutish jock, very possibly a privately educated one. Rich white preppy entitled jocks are terrible. We all hate those. Who knows what they’re capable of? They might be capable of gang rape or waggling their junk in somebody’s face at a party. Really, you should believe anything you hear about a bro. To understand Brett Kavanaugh, first think about your own bad experiences with a bro you dated, or talk to someone who has dated a bro.
Matthew Hennessey of the Wall Street Journal flags this remarkable passage from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh, by New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly. “While Gorsuch was largely uncontroversial, Kavanaugh was a known ‘bro,’ a highly social animal whose proximity to powerful men had raised uncomfortable questions about his connection to their own controversial policies.”
A known “bro”! For “bro,” substitute “black” or “Latino” and you begin to see the problem. The word “bro” is a stereotype derived from invidious group assumptions. We shouldn’t do this. Is this really what decades of national soul-searching about cultural stereotypes have brought us to? Is the lesson we learned merely “turn your hateful stereotypes against a different target”? The woke clickbait mills would enthusiastically argue the latter, and their attitudes have filtered down to members of the mainstream media and the Democratic party who pay far too much attention to what people are angry about on Twitter.
Are you now, or have you ever been a bro? This is the underlying question behind all of that nonsensical chatter about Brett Kavanaugh’s teenaged yearbook jokes. Rarely has there been a more embarrassing spectacle than watching the Democratic members of the august Senate Judiciary Committee asking a Supreme Court nominee what he meant by references to “boofing” and “Devil’s Triangle” when he was a teen. It was all meant to establish a pattern: He was a bro.
If Kavanaugh was a bro — a guy who drank a lot of beer and was a member of the notorious bro fraternity DKE and once got in a dustup at Demery’s (a bro-beloved restaurant and bar on the Yale campus, as the many Yalies who have covered this story know) — we should put aside our normal skepticism about the dirt that gets thrown around when someone is nominated to a top job. We should ignore the possible partisan motives of the people making charges against him. We should no longer be skeptical, as we ordinarily would be, of people who are unwilling to go on the record with their story or to tell it under oath. We should no longer be skeptical about the veracity of a dimly remembered 35-year-old story involving drink. All of the random stuff that reporters hear and normally dismiss because it’s too weak to print should instead be treated as a smoking gun. We should be inclined to believe all of the dubious and unsubstantiated charges against a bro. “Obviously it is of a piece with a kind of behavior,” Pogrebin said, when explaining why she printed an unsubstantiated smear. It isn’t obvious at all. No charge against Kavanaugh was credible. Christine Blasey Ford’s was the most credible one and it is not believed by her own longtime friend.
Reporters and columnists, particularly women reporters and columnists, treated Kavanaugh as a suspect rather than as someone who enjoyed the presumption of innocence. “Bro” is a term that implies someone habitually treated others badly, so it’s okay to treat him badly. It means exculpatory evidence should be downplayed or even left out of a newspaper story.
I’d be very interested to know how many women writers think what Caitlin Flanagan said aloud: That Kavanaugh was guilty because she had had a bad experience with a guy who reminded her of Kavanaugh.