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The #MeToo campaign versus the presumption of innocence

Eric London, World Socialist Website

In the US, the Democratic Party and its celebrity and media allies, through the vehicle of its #MeToo campaign, are waging a battle against the presumption of innocence. By seeking to whip up hysterical moods surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct, they are trying to popularize the idea that those accused of sexual assault should be presumed guilty. This campaign is, in its essence, reactionary and should be opposed.

The proponents of this view have put forward four primary arguments:

  1. All accusers must be believed, and doubting any accuser is tantamount to “victim blaming” or “rape apology.” The actress Rose McGowan said in December 2017, “I would challenge the media to stop using the word ‘alleged.’ My beef is really with all the people who are complicit. It’s the first time in history women are being believed, even though we get slagged.”
  2. The impact of such crimes on victims is so devastating that basic protections for the accused are obstacles in the way of justice, not only for the particular accuser, but for women as a whole. Hawaii Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono recently said the presumption of innocence “is what makes it really difficult for victims and survivors of these traumatic events to come forward.”
  3. It is a mark of unfairness and gender bias that the accused have the right to cross-examine their accusers, which #MeToo proponents such as the International Socialist Organization call “put[ting] rape victims on trial.”
  4. The presumption of innocence is not a democratic principle but a mere legal technicality, and as such it applies only in a criminal prosecution. As New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said, there is “no presumption of innocence” in the case of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh because “it’s not a legal proceeding. It’s a fact finding proceeding.”

When considered in a historical context, the anti-democratic character of these arguments emerges. For centuries, proponents of the democratic right to the presumption of innocence have fought against powerful moods, based on appeals to emotion, mob justice and irrationalism, which view the presumption of innocence as an obstacle in the way of exacting immediate revenge against the alleged perpetrator. Proponents have always insisted that the principle is meaningless unless it applies universally, even to (and especially to) individuals who find themselves in the crosshairs of official public opinion.

The #MeToo campaign’s arguments against the presumption of innocence have reared their heads before, including at the ugliest moments in US history. They run counter to the centuries-long historical struggle for due process and the rights of the accused.

The origins of the presumption of innocence

The right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is among the foundational principles upon which many other significant legal protections depend. If the accused are presumed guilty, then the right to counsel, the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the right to remain silent would be substantially weakened.

According to the attorney François Quintard-Morénas, as early as the 4th century BC the Greek orator Demosthenes put forward the position that “one merely accused of murder cannot yet be called a murderer, for no man comes under that designation until he has been convicted and found guilty.” In 212 AD, the constitution of the Roman Emperor Antonin enshrined the legal maxim actori incumbit probatio, or, “he who wishes to bring an accusation must have the evidence.”

It was in the 13th and 14th centuries with the development of the jus commune, however, that the presumption of innocence first crystalized into a fundamental legal principle. The adoption of jus commune marked a revolution in legal forms, replacing the unwritten custom-based European law of the high Middle Ages with a more advanced, written common law system that combined a revitalized Roman legal framework based on procedure with Catholic canon. It was the French lawyer Johannes Monachus who first used the phrase item quilbet presumitur innocens nisi probetur nocens — “a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

As Catholic University law professor Kenneth Pennington notes, this principle “summarized the procedural rights that every human being should have no matter what the person’s status, religion, or citizenship.” It “protected defendants from being coerced to give testimony and to incriminate themselves. It granted them the absolute right to be summoned, to have their case heard in an open court, to have legal counsel, to have their sentence pronounced publicly, and to present evidence in their defense.”

Pennington explains that the presumption of innocence came under attack in the late medieval and early modern period. During the Inquisition, many European Jews were accused of sexually assaulting Christian women and were burnt or otherwise killed.

In one such case in 1398 or 1399, Papal Judge Johannes de Pogiali took the rare step of conducting an investigation into the facts underlying the accusations. Discovering that the particular accusations were false, de Pogiali concluded: “It was better to leave a crime unpunished than to condemn an innocent person.” Pennington adds, “Many will recognize in these words ‘Blackstone’s ratio:’ ‘the law holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape than one person suffer.’”

In the 15th through the 17th centuries, the right to the presumption of innocence was affirmed in papal letters requiring that Jews be granted the right to counsel and to know the names of their accusers.

The emergence of presumption of innocence coincides with the earliest development of bourgeois law. The presumption was advanced in opposition to the medieval torture chamber, where the accused person was simply tortured until he “confessed.” Under this regime of torture, the court proceeding consisted merely of the confessed sinner being brought before a tribunal to acknowledge his confession.

“Must we assume that witches are guilty?” asked German Jesuit professor Friedrich von Spee, an early opponent of torture, in his 1631 work Cautio Criminalis. “I assume that no one can be condemned unless his guilt is certain: an innocent person ought not be killed. Everyone is presumed innocent, who is not known to be guilty.”

In the 18th century, the revolutionary European and American bourgeoisies were determined to deliver a blow against centuries of feudal backwardness and arbitrary dynastic rule. Their chief ideologists, schooled in the ideas of the rational Enlightenment, recognized the presumption of guilt as a characteristic of tyranny that is wholly inconsistent with democracy and the rule of law.

The revolutionaries rejected the notion that rights could be granted or rescinded by the state at will. Rather, rights were vested in “the people” themselves, and the maintenance of the rule of law meant protecting them from the power of the government. In this sense, the American Declaration’s “right to revolution” is incompatible with the presumption of guilt. Strong, repressive states justify their existence based on suspicion of the population and the need for social control.

It was a rejection of this reactionary view that guided the revolutionaries and led John Adams to remark in relation to the presumption of innocence that “there was never a system of laws in the world in which this rule did not prevail.” Benjamin Franklin expanded Blackstone’s ratio by a factor of ten, declaring “it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer.”

Similarly, during the French Revolution, Quintard-Morénas explains that the third estate viewed the monarchy’s use of torture and its belief in the presumption of the guilt of its subjects as an indication of the regressive character of the Bourbon dynasty:

The relative indifference of the population to the plight of accused criminals, combined with the widely shared opinion among jurists that torture was not a punishment and that humanizing criminal procedure would encourage crime, contributed to maintain a practice that increasingly fell into disuse in France at the end of the seventeenth century.”

The representatives of the third estate who gathered at the Estates-Generals in 1789 “referred to the presumption of innocence to request a better treatment of suspects and their complete absolution in the event of insufficient evidence.” The presumption was enshrined in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and serves as the foundation for the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

A legal formality or essential democratic principle?

Particularly prominent today is the argument that the presumption of innocence is a legal technicality that applies only in a court of law and otherwise has no broader applicability. These arguments evidence an ignorance of history and the absence of democratic consciousness on the part of those who have been swept up in this campaign.

When hundreds of people were dismissed from government jobs or positions in Hollywood based on allegations they were spies for the Soviet Union because of sympathies for left-wing politics, they were provided no opportunity to challenge their persecutors.

As Robert Goldston noted in his book The American Nightmare: Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and the Politics of Hate, a victim of the McCarthyite witch-hunt was “presumed guilty until he could prove his innocence. He was not permitted to know who his accusers were or to face them… He was not even permitted to know what the specific charges were against him! He was simply to know that he was considered disloyal unless he could prove his loyalty.”

Supporters of the #MeToo campaign presumably have no objection to this regime, since after all, these were not criminal proceedings and the presumption of innocence does not apply.

In the US Supreme Court’s milestone 1895 decision Coffin v. United States, the convictions of two men were overturned because the judge failed to specifically instruct jurors about the presumption of innocence.

The US Supreme Court ruled that even though the judge had instructed the jury that the prosecution had to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, if the jury did not properly understand the fundamental importance of the presumption of innocence, the process would be fundamentally unfair and in violation of due process. The Supreme Court called the presumption of innocence “the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary.”

The Supreme Court explained that without an understanding of the presumption of innocence, no jury could fairly determine a defendant’s guilt beyond a “reasonable doubt” because the presumption of innocence is not merely a status but is rather evidence that tends to show the innocence of all accused of crimes. By failing to instruct the jury about the presumption of innocence, therefore, the lower court judge was withholding evidence of the defendants’ innocence from the jury. The Supreme Court wrote:

The evolution of the principle of the presumption of innocence, and its resultant, the doctrine of reasonable doubt, make more apparent the correctness of these views, and indicate the necessity of enforcing the one [the presumption of innocence] in order that the other [the requirement that guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt] may continue to exist. While Rome and the Mediaevalists taught that wherever doubt existed in a criminal case, acquittal must follow, the expounders of the common law, in their devotion to human liberty and individual rights, traced this doctrine of doubt to its true origin—the presumption of innocence—and rested it upon this enduring basis.

In an 1897 article in the Yale Law Journal, Professor James Bradley Thayer argued against the Coffin decision and wrote, “The presumption of innocence has been overdone in our hysterical American fashion of defending accused persons.”

According to Thayer, the presumption of innocence should not require special jury instruction because it makes conviction far too difficult. It was a mere legal technicality, he argued, and not evidence in favor of the accused. It “plays a very small part indeed” in American life and should provide no further legal or social protections for the accused.

By requiring that jurors be specifically instructed about the importance of the presumption of innocence, the Supreme Court, in an era where it could still articulate essential democratic conceptions, was explaining that the presumption of innocence must be broadly grasped in social consciousness if it is to retain any significance, even in a criminal legal setting. It is a bulwark against all forms of jury bias, including racial prejudice. Democratic rights are hollow if they are not understood by jurors and potential jurors. Every jury pool will be tainted if the presumption of innocence is not recognized in social consciousness.

As Quintard-Morénas writes:

[The presumption of innocence] challenges the very foundation of a social contract in which society, by prohibiting private vengeance and guaranteeing the right to be tried by an impartial jury, acknowledges that there is a time for innocence and a time for guilt. All too often suspects are treated as guilty by a society that owes them protection, even in light of the appalling nature of the alleged crime. But one cannot expect society to treat the presumption of innocence as an ‘article of faith’ outside the courtroom if those in charge of applying the law overlook the rationale for the maxim.

The US Supreme Court ultimately scaled back the presumption of innocence, including in a 1979 case titled Bell v. Wolfish, which allowed pre-trial detention of those accused but not convicted of crimes on the grounds that the presumption of innocence does not apply until the time of trial. This decision is responsible for drastically expanding the size of the population detained in local jails while awaiting trial. Justice Thurgood Marshall denounced the Wolfish majority opinion at the time, writing that “the Supreme Court decided the presumption didn’t exist at all.”

Source: Prisonpolicy.org

By hollowing out the presumption, #MeToo is paving the way for future frame-ups and convictions, in particular of the millions of poor and oppressed who are often caught up in the gears of the criminal system and become the victims of prejudices—racial and otherwise—of juries who do not understand the presumption of innocence.

The absence of the presumption of innocence and lynch law

The proponents of the #MeToo campaign attempt to present the position that all accusers must be unquestionably believed as a “left-wing” view. They characterize as “progressive” the idea that those who defend the accused are “rape apologists” and that requiring an accuser to subject herself to cross-examination is unfair and “places the victim on trial.” These are presented as basic principles of the struggle for women’s rights.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not the first time in American history that such arguments against the presumption have been made.

According to the Tuskegee Institute, 3,446 African-Americans were lynched from 1882 to 1968. The instigators and participants of lynch mobs acted under the belief that the legal system failed to believe accusers and slowed justice by providing unnecessary protections for the accused.

Frank McManus, lynched on accusation of rape in Minnesota, 1882

Sexual assault of white women was a common accusation levied against black men during this period. Because rape and sexual assault are among the most brutal and degrading crimes, accusations generated a degree of emotional fervor that made the facts underlying each accusation irrelevant for those involved. Appeals to due process were viewed as “tricks” by lawyers to give the guilty free rein to rape and defile white women.

In his 2017 book The Republic For Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896, Stanford Professor Richard White wrote of the fight by civil rights leader Ida B. Wells to expose the use of rape and sexual assault accusations as a mechanism for murdering black men.

White wrote:

[Wells] discovered that no matter what the original reason for mob violence, newspapers turned them into stories of the rape of a white woman by a black man. Wells showed that in some cases the rape accusations disguised consensual sex, and in most other cases the original reasons for the lynchings had nothing to do with rape at all. Accusations of rape were, she wrote, “an old racket.” Her attacks struck at the core of the mythic South: the purity of Southern womanhood and homes threatened by black men. Memphis papers attacked her “obscene intimations” and a mob destroyed her press and threatened to kill anyone who tried to resume publishing.

One of Wells’ chief opponents was the prominent feminist temperance movement leader Frances Willard, who supported racial segregation and claimed that lynch justice was a lamentable but necessary way to protect white women from “great dark-faced mobs.”

In 1894, Wells denounced Willard when the latter claimed that white women must be believed when making accusations of sexual assault or rape. White wrote:

Willard attacked [Wells] for slandering Southern white women by saying that not all accusations of rape were true. The WCTU [Woman’s Christian Temperance Union] resolution of 1894, although lamenting lynching, indicated that it could not be banished until “the unspeakable outrages which have so often provoked such lawlessness [i.e., sexual assault and rape allegations] shall be banished from the world, and childhood, maidenhood, and womanhood shall no more be the victims of atrocities worse than death.”

To Wells, the presumption of innocence was what stood between life and death for thousands of black men across the South. She dedicated her career and risked her life to defend this presumption against the hysteria of moralists who claimed that any black man against whom an accusation was levied must be guilty.

Ida B Wells

In an 1893 article titled “Lynch Law,” Wells wrote that 269 black men were murdered by mobs after being accused of rape between 1882 and 1891. She wrote, “This crime is only so punished when white women accuse black men, which accusation is never proven … Investigation as to guilt or innocence of the accused is never made.”

In 1900, Wells wrote an article titled, “Lynch Law in America,” which warned against condemning a man “upon the unsworn and uncorroborated charge of his accuser.” The article continued: “No matter that our laws presume every man innocent until he is proved guilty; no matter that it leaves a certain class of individuals completely at the mercy of another class … if a white woman declares herself insulted or assaulted, some life must pay the penalty, with all the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition and all the barbarism of the Middle Ages. The world looks on and says it is well.”

In 1892, Wells denounced those who claim accusers should be protected from testifying because of the trauma they have allegedly endured as victims of sexual assault. She attacked a Southern bishop who said those “who condemn lynching express no sympathy for the white woman in the case.” Referring to a lynching in Chestertown, Maryland, Wells wrote:

When that poor Afro-American was murdered, the whites excused their refusal of a trial on the ground that they wished to spare the white girl the mortification of having to testify in court.

This cry has had its effect. It has closed the heart, stifled the conscience, warped the judgment and hushed the voice of press and pulpit on the subject of lynch law throughout this “land of liberty.” Men who stand high in the esteem of the public for Christian character, for moral and physical courage, for devotion to the principles of equal and exact justice to all, and for great sagacity, stand as cowards who fear to open their mouths before this great outrage. They do not see that by their tacit encouragement, their silent acquiescence, the black shadow of lawlessness in the form of lynch law is spreading its wings over the whole country.

Wells demanded that accusers stand before their accused and answer difficult and perhaps embarrassing questions about their accusation. She rejected the idea that white women were too fragile or emotionally weak to explain themselves. She denounced those in the press who undercut the presumption of innocence and helped make it possible for mobs or juries to convict innocent men.

The decline of democratic consciousness and the war on terror

The fact that such arguments could find such a broad hearing today among the oligarchy and the affluent upper-middle-class testifies to the advanced state of decay of democratic consciousness. An important experience in setting the conditions for this degeneration is the ongoing “war on terror.”

The “war on terror” involved an attempt to whip up mass hysteria that could be used to undermine democratic rights, presenting the public with a great evil that was supposedly too extreme, too horrible, and too urgent to justify maintaining basic democratic principles.

Detainees in the war on terror

Pursuant to the “war on terror,” countless individuals were abducted, imprisoned, and tortured without ever having been convicted of a crime. Once they were designated as “unlawful enemy combatants,” they could be held indefinitely without trial. The presumption of innocence, of course, was unavailable to the victims of the Guantanamo Bay torture camp and the CIA’s network of black site prisons around the world.

This applies to individual terrorist suspects as well as entire societies. Alongside individuals like José Padilla and John Walker Lindh, the entire nation of Iraq was presumed guilty of involvement in the September 11 events as well as producing “weapons of mass destruction.” The war that was launched on this presumption of guilt resulted in the deaths of over one million people.

The outlook of the US government in prosecuting the war on terror was epitomized by George W. Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, who said he still supported the use of torture against suspected terrorists although 25 percent of torture victims were later proven innocent.

I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that in fact were innocent … I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective … I’d do it again in a minute.”

The timeline of events following September 11, 2001 shows how the government used widespread confusion and emotional sympathy for the victims of the attack to whip up blind nationalism and belief that those accused of terrorism did not deserve to benefit from constitutional protections.

On November 13, 2001, the Bush administration issued an executive order allowing “individuals … to be detained, and, when tried, to be tried for violations of the laws of war and other applicable laws by military tribunals,” instead of held pursuant to the Geneva Convention, which mandates the humane treatment of prisoners of war.

At the Guantanamo Bay prison as well as a network of black site prisons around the world, the US government engaged in the systematic torture and brutalization of “unlawful enemy combatants” whom it held without charge.

A new category of super criminal — “terrorist” — was promoted by the corporate media and the political establishment. A powerful campaign to generate jingoist and pro-war sentiments brought immense pressure to bear against anyone who defended the democratic rights of suspected terrorists. These rights were presented as burdensome obstacles to thwarting the “next 9/11.” All those who questioned the government were labeled as “anti-American” or subject to state surveillance under the PATRIOT Act.

The signing of the PATRIOT Act

In 2006, the Democrats and Republicans passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which held that enemy combatants who were not US citizens could not seek habeas corpus relief and had no right to challenge their detention. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that military commissions were acceptable and that detainees did not have to be tried in criminal court, but that detainees did have the right to file habeas corpus petitions.

Under the administration of Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, the attack on the presumption of innocence reached unprecedented levels. The government set up a secret “kill list” comprised of targets of drone strikes.

On September 30, 2011, the military-intelligence agencies assassinated a US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen without a warrant or trial, presuming him guilty based on briefings from an intelligence file. Two weeks later, the Obama administration murdered al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. The Obama administration also kept the Guantanamo Bay prison open, and the prison has detained a total of 779 people since January 2002, many of whom were innocent.

The anti-democratic impact of the ongoing war on terror has poisoned and degraded all aspects of official political, legal and cultural life. As Washington University law professor Leila Dadya Sadat said in a 2008 speech titled “A Presumption of Guilt: The Unlawful Enemy Combatant and the US War on Terror”:

This dehumanization of a whole category of human beings—the “suspected terrorist” or “unlawful enemy combatant” — has had pernicious effects upon the American legal system and severely harmed America’s international standing. These doctrines and the propaganda supporting them have led to the systematic use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment used on prisoners detained in the legal limbo known as Guantanamo Bay, Kandahar prison in Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, as well as the rendition of terror suspects to third countries and to “black sites” scattered around the world for detention, interrogation, mistreatment and sometimes death.

Although most (but not all) of the individuals subjected to this regime have been foreigners, the impact of this Executive Activism has been on the American legal regime and the American psyche, for it has been US investigators, US courts, and US lawyers, that carried out the government’s plan. Indeed, these policies have turned US legal principles upside down, resulting in a presumption of guilt applicable to anyone accused of acts of terrorism by the government.

The powerful anti-democratic tendencies unleashed by the government in the conduct of the war on terror have advanced the erosion of democratic consciousness and seeped into all aspects of domestic law.

Thousands of victims of police murder in the US do not receive the benefit of the presumption of innocence. They are presumed guilty as a result of living in “high-crime areas,” where the police shoot first and ask questions later. Instead, police on the beat, armed with the latest weaponry from the battlefields of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, serve as judge, jury and executioner and are hardly ever punished.

Tens of millions of undocumented immigrants, whose very presence in the US has been deemed “illegal” by the same laws aimed against “terrorists,” can be dragged out of their homes or off the job, separated from their loved ones, thrown into cages and forced to face physical and sexual abuse in detention centers for months or years on end.

Immigrants detained in US detention centers

Eight million people are either in prison, jail or on parole or probation. That arrestees who have not been convicted of a crime can be held in jail while they await trial is no longer even a matter for debate.

Who can claim the United States suffers from too much attention to the presumption of innocence?

Postmodernism, identity politics and the presumption of guilt

The abandonment of progressive attitudes toward due process and the presumption of innocence is most pronounced among affluent sections of the upper-middle-class. For this privileged layer, identity politics and postmodernist philosophy have become key theoretical vehicles for the attack on the presumption of innocence.

Proponents of this view have leapt to defend the accusers in several instances where the accusations were false. In the Tawana Brawley, Duke lacrosse and University of Virginia Rolling Stone cases, the media and supporters of identity politics assumed that the accused must be guilty because they were white men.

In a recent comment in support of the #MeToo campaign on their blog, the ex-radicals Alex Steiner and Frank Brenner sum up the reactionary marriage between identity politics and postmodernism. Brenner denounces the WSWS for “harping on due process in a thoroughly bourgeois legalistic manner” by defending the presumption of innocence for those accused of sexual misconduct.

Due process may be warranted, Brenner writes, but “a far greater legal concern is the way in which women who bring sexual assault accusations to court are subjected to character assassination in order to undermine the credibility of their accounts,” which, he says, allows “perpetrators” to “walk free.” (Emphasis added). He praises the #MeToo campaign as a “spontaneous upsurge of the masses” that challenges the fact that “we have a category of crime where a great many women (and some men) are being abused, often scarred for life, and yet few perpetrators are ever brought to justice.”

Employing the language of the police by referring to “perpetrators” who must be “brought to justice,” Brenner invents a “right” of the accuser to be believed without question and explains that this is of “far greater legal concern” than due process for the accused. He appeals to the emotional damage suffered by “a great many women” and claims that women should be spared the humiliation of raising their accusations in court, where women face “character assassination”—i.e. the Sixth Amendment right to cross-examine witnesses.

Brenner is making an argument for lynch mob justice. He is opposed to the fundamental conception that rights are intended to protect the population from state repression. Instead, he views the right of the accuser to be protected from uncomfortable questioning to be of “far greater legal concern” than the right to question whether the accuser is telling the truth.

Appeals to the “identity” of the alleged victim share much in common with the lynch mob instigators of the late 19th century, who claimed that no white woman would ever lie to a jury and that accusers should be protected from the embarrassment of giving testimony under oath. In this warped postmodernist view, the actual facts underlying the allegation are of no consequence.

In an earlier period of US history, progressive attitudes in defense of the right to the presumption of innocence found a wide cultural audience in beloved novels like Walter Van Tilberg Clark’s The Ox-Bow Incident and Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, as well as in popular songs like Abel Meeropol’s “Strange Fruit” and Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane,” and films like Twelve Angry Men and Inherit the Wind.

If the promoters of the #MeToo campaign had been present at the trial of Tom Robinson in Harper Lee’s novel, they would have denounced Atticus Finch as a “rape apologist.” They would consider the “right” of Mayella Ewell to be believed to be “of far greater importance” than the right of Robinson to be presumed innocent. Finch would have been attacked for “harping on due process” in his appeals to the jury. When Finch posed difficult questions to Mayella and accused her of lying, the attorney would have been slandered for having engaged in “character assassination.” Brenner would say that Finch was helping “perpetrators” escape being “brought to justice.”

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch cross-examines Mayella Ewell in the 1962 film version of To Kill a Mockingbird

The modern-day opponents of due process can claim all they want that they wish only to presume the guilt of the rich and powerful, not the oppressed. But the common law is based on precedent, and instigators of attacks on democratic rights do not have the luxury of deciding whose democratic rights will be violated and whose will not.

Whatever rules are established against the wealthy will be brought down upon the backs of the poor and defenseless with the ruthless force of the power of the state and public opinion.

In cases like the Scopes Monkey trial, the Sacco and Vanzetti frame-up, the Dreyfus Affair, the trial of Oscar Wilde, the Leo Franks case, the Leopold and Loeb trial and the frame-up of the Scottsboro Boys, the political left rejected calls for blood and vengeance and sought to expose the powerful interests fanning the flames of passion and prejudice.

Today, socialists reject the efforts of the proponents of the #MeToo campaign to undermine democratic consciousness and attack the presumption of innocence with all the old arguments of the extreme right.


58 Comments

  1. Personally, I have no problem ditching the principle of presumption of innocence for the entire Empire of Amerikastan. As far as I’m concerned, all Amerikastanis are guilty of the crimes of their nation unless they can prove that they have been consistently opposing those crimes no matter which of their so called political parties occupies the White House. I’ve watched far too many “anti war” and “anti imperialist” Amerikastanis under George W Bush overnight become pro war and pro imperialist under Barack Hussein Obama to give any Amerikastani the benefit of the doubt.

    About sexual assault allegations, there’s also the flip side. When, inevitably, many of the accusations turn out to be false and mala fide, and when some accusers (like Asia Argento) turn out to be sexual predators themselves, the backlash will be fierce and will burn all accusers, regardless of the truth or otherwise of their claims. Therefore it’s in the interests of the accusers to uphold the principle of presumption of innocence, or take the consequences.

  2. Gary Weglarz says

    A quite well reasoned article with an excellent historical perspective. Along with the non-legal public opinion verdicts encouraged by the type of identity-politics reasoning critiques in the article, I find it most ironic that the large numbers of women of color raped and/or sexually exploited in communities adjacent to some 900 U.S. military bases around the planet seem totally invisible to the Me-Too movement. The FBI doesn’t even keep track of the large numbers of Native American women who simply mysteriously disappear to rape, murder, trafficking, etc. How many women will die in Yemen this week? How many have been killed by U.S. bombs in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria in the last 15 years in illegal and immoral wars? The same people who support the concerns of white female movie stars and middle class white women in the U.S. when they make a rape accusation, seem to find “other” women, women of color, poor women, women in the nations we bomb and destroy somehow completely invisible.

    This utter hypocrisy strains all notions that the driving force in this non-judicial trying of rape cases in the media is actual concern for women and for their safety. It will more likely instead lead to the day when anyone with an opinion left of center can be simply “accused” of being a “terrorist,” and the accusation itself will be all that is necessary as a finding of guilt. Speaking as an American, I tend to see the support of so called “progressives” for identity politics in general, as offering we Americans a sort of “symbolic morality,” a kind of “fake morality” really, since as a nation our behavior in the world is simply totally and completely amoral. However, if one simply lends one’s consciousness to “believing” and “supporting” the movie star who says she was raped by the rich white director, one can “feel moral,” sleep a bit better at night, and somehow just not find the time to think about all the women our military and economic machines will grind into pulp while we’re dreaming about how righteous we are. Rape, like any other crime should be tried in a court of law, not in the court of public opinion and for corporate news ratings on TV.

  3. Robbobbobin says

    Gender issues and mob diversionary issues completely aside, i.e. quite separately from #MeToo, wartime hysteria, etc., British legislation, quite apart from case law, has been very slowly but steadily eroding the principle of the presumption of innocence for decades. Don’t know about other legislatures…

  4. bevin says

    This article is an excellent summary of the need to defend the last shreds of the presumption of innocence and the importance of insisting that those making charges against others must back up those charges with evidence open to examination and refutation.

    Kavanaugh was the exception proving the rule: none of the ‘charges’ of sexual assault leveled against him could possibly have led to his being convicted. But had he been poor, unconnected with the powerful and unable to secure legal representation capable of competing with the resources of the prosecution he would have been found guilty and punished, ending any chance he might have had of succeeding in a career. This is the everyday fate of poor people who fall into the maw of the US Court system.

    It happens every day. And it is why the prisons in the United States and those societies squatting in the shadows of its culture are bursting whilst serving as means of bleeding the taxpayers in the interest of private contractors.

    The sneering dismissal of the presumption of innocence by the likes of Schumer- a man who celebrates the daily killing of children by snipers in Gaza- is consonant with a popular culture in which by presuming the predatory and criminal nature of men we instantly dispose of humanity’s claims for justice and equality.

    A woman would have to very stupid to believe that a society in which claims of having been raped were instantly rewarded with the conviction of those named would , in all other matters, offer citizens justice. It is not as if there was not a history of systemic failure in the legal system’s dealings with the average person.

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  5. Just a foot note that might be included – that the official narrative of 9/11 is, itself, essentially a narrative of confessions extracted under torture.
    Key witnesses to the spurious Al Qaeda Plot like Abu Zubaydah are both acknowledged as wholly unconnected to 9/11 yet at the same time still presumed guilty and still incarcerated.
    https://digwithin.net/2013/02/10/forgetting-torture/

  6. writerroddis says

    Well this is a minefield. There were always dangers with #MeToo, in terms of dishonest allegations motivated venally or vindictively, and in terms of (neo)liberal hijacking of the kind we’ve seen more generally in respect of identity politics. For instance the idea that HRC, whose decisions inflicted death and misery on millions – disproportionately brown skinned and, because they always bear the brunt of warfare, female – was less racist and sexist than DRT. Such distortion follows as night on day the removal of class and empire from the equation.

    I recall having a drink with a woman friend when the Jimmy Savile scandal was hot news. Neither of us could stand the man but my friend said “we can expect a good few false accusations now”. She had a point: the irreconcilability here of social and individual justice . Who doubts that sexual offences on women, including rape, go underreported and under-convicted? But it’s not easy to see how conviction rates can rise without lowering evidential standards to bring consequent miscarriages of justice.

    Eric London is right abourt the character damning aspect of publicly naming suspects. But this has to be balanced against the fact guilty men who’d thought themselves immune have been convicted. Why? Because women (and men abused as boys) came forward. When many victims who do not know one another give specific and strikingly similar accounts on the same man, the threshold of reasonable doubt has been crossed. I’m not negating the devastating effects on innocent lives of mischievous accusations and their publication; simply pointing out that this is a far from simple matter. Yes, the presumption of innocence is a vital aspect of fairness – Ask Bashar! Ask Vlad! – but let’s not be simplistic here.

    Last point. There’s a big difference between the right of the defence to cross examine a rape victim, and the ‘right’ for such cross examination to be conducted by the accused rather than his counsel. Abuse of that right by guilty men, for further sexual or otherwise personal gratification, is a matter not of theoretical conjecture but of livid fact for women who report feeling “raped a second time” in the court room.

    Anyone interested in the issues raised here might see my blog post of July 2016Sex crime: can we ever get it right? Written in the wake of the Cliff Richard/BBC debacle, I’m far from satsified with the lame conclusions I draw – but this is too complex for one-sided treatment.

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    • I agree that it is a minefield.
      I recall Wendell Berry’s essay, ‘Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community’, that I recommend.
      Berry explains his tripartite understanding of human society with the personal world, the community and the public sphere. He makes the case that both state socialism and state-corporate capitalism have all but destroyed the community layer of our lives, leaving us with no intermediary between personal disputes and public bureacracies running roughshod over the lot of us.
      Matters of sex are by nature personal, and there we have the crux of the problem of trying to resolve sexual disputes through the workings of the public sphere. Communities (when they still existed) were not perfect in this regard, but they were better suited to holding the power of sex, death, birth and marriage, all of which have, in the absence of community, become minefields and threats or tools for manipulators who move in the impersonal public world of power.
      We need a restoration of communities to address the prevalence of rape.
      “Lovers must not, like usurers, live for themselves alone. They must finally turn from their gaze at one another back toward the community. If they had only themselves to consider, lovers would not need to marry, but they must think of others and of other things. They say their vows to the community as much as to one another, and the community gathers around them to hear and to wish them well, on their behalf and its own. It gathers around them because it understands how necessary, how joyful, and how fearful this joining is. These lovers, pledging themselves to one another “until death,” are giving themselves away, and they are joined by this as no law or contract could join them. Lovers, then, “die” into their union with one another as a soul “dies” into its union with God. And so here, at the very heart of community life, we find not something to sell as in the public market but this momentous giving. If the community cannot protect this giving, it can protect nothing…” Berry

    • Hmm. I did not like Jimmy Savile as a tv and radio personality either, but I never met him and know nothing about him beyond his public persona.

      There are a number of skeptics who have spent several years debunking the claims made by his so-called “victims”. I find their work to be compelling. it is readily available online.

      They have pointed out that the people who spoke out on that infamous tv programme had known each other beforehand and could have ensured that their stories were consistent.

      I don’t doubt that some of his accusers are very disturbed people. People in need of care and assistance. But this does not add plausibility to their stories. In fact, their mental distress might equally detract from the apparent plausibility of their stories.

      People who are suffering from delusions are often convinced about what they are saying and can therefore seem to be reasonable. But that does not mean that what they are saying is actually true. And it does not matter how sincere an accuser or how well meaning a supporter. Their “testimony” does not make the person they accuse guilty. Of anything.

      I repeat, I never much liked the late Mr Savile’s tv persona, but we can’t like everyone. There are plenty of tv personalities that I do not like. That does not make them guilty of any crime either.

      Do I think he is innocent? He is innocent until proven (proven) guilty in a court of law.

      • Often the “skeptics” are pedophiles in disguise john2o2o and their tortured logic doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Jimmy Savile was a monster and the scores of victims whose pain was finally, well documented even if the official enquiry was a whitewash https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/feb/26/scores-of-jimmy-saviles-victims-describe-abuse-at-stoke-mandeville even if he escaped judgment because of his timely demise, I believe their stories, even if you clearly do not, hmm.

        • writerroddis says

          I agree manfromatian. The clincher, surely, is the similarity of accounts, by victims of Savile, who had no way of colluding for the simple reason they did not know one another. This is precisely why there’s a moral dilemma over publicising arrests. They do such damage to the innocent, yet it’s because of the publicity that guilty men have been brought to justice.

          We can make a principled case for bending the stick either way here. That’s what Eric London does and he is entitled to do so in my book. But to deny that there are genuinely two sides to this question strikes me as obtuse.

    • okulo says

      There was an unfortunate and stupid choice of words a few years ago when (if I remember correctly) a senior British police officer said that all victims would be believed when he should have said ‘taken seriously’ or similar. A declaration that either side will be believed is a clear indication that a fair trial, hearing or other process of arbitration is impossible.

      I was the victim of an assault many years ago the perpetrator of which I knew and was never brought to justice. The incident has been raked up for various reasons over the past few years coinciding with the ‘victims will be believed’ police statement. Even as the victim and knowing that the person has got away with it, it makes me feel nauseous to imagine that pointing my finger at somebody would be enough to prove their guilt – not least that in the absence of any physical evidence, the doubt which would exist within the minds of those hearing my accusation would be unbearable.

      Parallels with To Kill A Mockingbird and southern lynching are beyond irony for a movement which has spun out of control.

  7. Runner77 says

    A very good article that makes an important and often overlooked point. The Grauniad is constantly complaining about the low conviction rate in rape trials; but while this would be a problem if we could be certain that those accused were always guilty, it completely overlooks the point that at least some of them may not be! What we should be concerned about is the proportion of the guilty who are convicted, not the proportion of the accused who are convicted . . .

  8. RL McRae says

    I am getting so sick and tired of supposedly rational left commentary playing right along with the power elite’s use of “presumption of innocence” regarding Brett Kavanaugh and this miscreant’s successful career goal of making it to the Supreme Court!

    First off, Kavanaugh is a job applicant! Not an accused suspect in a criminal trial! So, he deserves NO presumption of innocence, and a purely circumstantial case that indicates dozens..perhaps hundreds of women who’ve had a history of dealing with him in the past should be allowed to step forward and make their case. Kavanaugh’s acceptance or rejection should have been determined by the content of his character, NOT whether he can be proven guilty in court.

    If Kav could go to prison by losing the Senate vote on his approval, then maybe these rigid whackjob Trotskyites at WSWS might have a point, but he’s not and they don’t!

    The Democrat opposition in the US played right along with the Republican framing of the issue, and offered muted resistance…indicating that they were only willing to go so far, and were more afraid of being charged as “obstructionists” for refusing Kavanaugh, than allowing him to get on the Court! When it’s all said and done, they are all part of the same club and go to the same people for money.

    And, without even looking, I know in advance which side WSWS is going to weigh in on when they give an opinion on gender issues! There are a lot of issues where the Trots are totally out to lunch and have little or nothing to offer working class people–such as their support for international trade pacts and doctrinaire opposition to all nationalist movements, but on women’s issues…especially those referred to as “Rape Culture,” the WSWS is absolutely deplorable! I can’t think of one example of where their editoralists have not taken the side of the rapists or accused rapists against women!

    Even a case a couple of years back of a privileged college student- Brock Turner was caught having sex with a sleeping or unconscious female( that in itself makes it rape) in what became known as the notorious Stanford Rape Case in the media, they were sympathizing with the accused! Emoting that he might actually have to spend part of a six month jail sentence incarcerated, and strenuously opposed the recall campaign against the judge for handing out a lighter sentence(California has a 2 year minimum for less privileged) than normal for a rapist caught in the act. What was most galling was Patrick Martin calling the campaign against Judge Persky a rightwing attack. If you’re just going to switch the labels like that, everything you say on any issue is meaningless and pointless!

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    • Admin says

      You need to read the article again. Or indeed read it for the first time as it seems you posted a comment without doing so.

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    • So is a “job applicant” expected to deal with 36 year memories of abuse while being interviewed for a job? And how often do “job applicants” face a kangaroo court in which a grown man has to respond to criticisms and attacks of him as a teenage school boy?

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      • Ralph McRae says

        I reread it and read the same flaws that I saw the first time around: an overlong editorial that makes a selective deep dive through history and resurfaces without having a clue about why so many women would support a backlash (#metoo) regardless of how justifiable such a movement seems to you.
        After the men of power in Hollywood and numerous other centers of power like Harvey Weinstein, got away with committing the same sex offenses over and over again! In the case of prior miscreant- Bill Cosby, he had made out-of-court settlements in cases widely known, but for some reason it wasn’t until a standup comic- Hannibal Burris shone a light on the Cos in his act that Cosby’s long history of risky, drug-induced rapes became public knowledge!

        As for the Kav, I see comments here decrying going back 36 years, but this obsessive sociopath produces calendars from that same era to try to prove his innocence! The big, big problem for this nightmare is that his claims about his character are way over the top and have nothing to do with what any other character witness-friend or foe, can say about his youth.

        And when it comes to his use, including his own words in writing, he was dreaming of this kind of career and making it to the Supreme Court…and that’s why he had a meltdown and made a fool of himself when he before the Senate panel…showing that he did not have the “judicial temperament” that’s supposedly demanded for such a high office.

        But, my biggest let down here is that socialist organizations like WSWS and Offguardian it seems, make a kneejerk response to weigh in on one side of disputes between opposing bourgeois power centers.

        Objections like “what about Mike Tyson!” fail to mention the factor of race in the social hierarchy here. Tyson had some clout as a celebrity and possibly a millionaire..though he had no control over his own finances. I’ve seen the invoking of Emmett Till…if anyone wants to look at that historic case, it was one of the rare examples of where a woman’s (had to be a white woman) accusation had weight over a black youth, who would automatically be presumed guilty. If the white female store manager made a similar accusation against the mayor, police chief or similar man of power in the community, she would be SOL!

        In the case of #MeToo, the women of power and influence in Hollywood and MSM are focusing on their own troubles dealing with even more powerful men– like Weinstein who has had the power to determine which females coming in succeed or fail..just like movie moguls of old and their notorious “casting couches.” They took it for granted that they could always get away with it, and that even actresses who rose to positions of prominence would not step forward against them. But, as I can tell you about what happens in a workplace that goes from male to mixed gendered, the same patterns rise up and we went for years without any women coming forward to say what happened to them, even those who quit and left did not try to speak out or press charges against sex predators we had in our midst….the worst were at management-level but all that aside, a lot more has to be done to correct the imbalance in power in workplaces that are already unequal by power and income.

        But, I’m left asking: why is this self-proclaimed ‘radical left’ always on the side of men…even wealthy men of power, even in cases like the Stanford Rape Case I mentioned previously? What kind of classless society is envisioned here and at the WSWS? That’s what I find the most egregious about how these issues are being dealt with here.

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    • Makropulos says

      “Kavanaugh’s acceptance or rejection should have been determined by the content of his character, NOT whether he can be proven guilty in court.”

      Such character content being obviously available through telepathic means.

      And this (emphasis added):

      “….the WSWS is absolutely deplorable! I can’t think of one example of where their editoralists have not taken the side of the rapists OR ACCUSED rapists against women!”

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    • Jim Scott says

      The proposition that Kavanaugh was not facing a criminal trial but only a job interview may be strictly true but it does not escape the fairness test. If Kavanaugh had failed the interview grilling he would have then almost certainly been charged with sexual assault. This was not a job like an Uber driver it was a job interview that attracted the attention of half the world so any complaint true or untrue would be known about by more people than almost all criminal court charges so had massive implications for Kavenaugh.
      The real problem with this selection process is that politicians get to choose who gets the job. Of all the jobs in the world it is one that should not be a political decision and should be a process that overseen by a non partisan process that does not blur the boundaries of the separation of powers. The current process is ridiculous and unjust not only because of the immense pressure bought to hear on an applicant but because it is not fair to the people of America who should expect that the people who decide the meaning of laws are not political partisans.

    • Jen says

      Begging your pardon, R L McRae, but I understand Brett Kavanaugh did not apply for the vacancy on the US Supreme Court. He was selected by Donald Trump from a list of judges, presumably on the basis of his record as a judge over the past several years, and possibly on the basis of his belief in the notion of the “unitary executive”: the idea that the US Constitution gives the President of the United States the power to control the entire executive branch (presumably all State Departments and other agencies of the US government).

      https://truthout.org/articles/trump-card-brett-kavanaugh-and-the-unitary-executive-theory/
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitary_executive_theory

      Now wouldn’t the idea of being a de facto monarch appeal to Donald Trump?

      But if we go along with the job application parallel, then Kavanaugh should have been quizzed on his record as a judge, a lawyer and in particular as a legal adviser in the former POTUS George W Bush’s government, especially on the issue of the use of torture in questioning detainees to obtain information.

      On top of that, Kavanaugh could call on two or three referees for support, and to defend various decisions he made as a judge.

      But perhaps what should really be at issue is the selection process itself and why it should fixate the public so much. Might it be partly because whoever becomes a SCOTUS judge can have that job for life? Why should SCOTUS judges be able to choose their retirement dates when a POTUS can only hold the position up to a maximum of 8 years?

    • bevin says

      The problem here is that people have developed an uncritical and barbaric appetite for revenge and punishment.
      The idea that in order to have justice it is necessary to punish the ‘perpetrator’ leads inexorably to the conclusion that the victims of crimes have a right to insist on someone anyone, being punished. And that the punishment take a form calculated to inflict permanent damage on their bodies and psyches .
      There have never been as many people in jail as there are today. And very few of them are benefiting from their incarceration: in most cases it will ruin their lives, in some it will turn them into hardened and cynical misanthropes.
      We have learned nothing from the post 1970s era publicly organised vengeance and sadistic prison regimes. We knew before they were instituted as the other side of the neo-liberal coin, that no good would come from them, just as no good comes from capital punishment.
      Where we erred is in not realising how profoundly corrupting the languages of revenge and punishment would prove on the public as a whole. I recall the time when the masses, understanding the sort of society in which we live, were opposed to capital and corporal punishment and to punishment itself as an alternative to rehabilitation and reform.
      It is shocking that those leading the call for blood-for longer sentences and harsher prison regimes- often pose as part of the left. In fact they are at best intellectually idle and more likely to be cynical demagogues making a living out of lynch mobs.

  9. Peter C says

    What I really noticed about the Kavanaugh accusations and what quickly brought me to suspect a scam was that none of them could actually lead to a prosecution as there was simply no evidence, it was all basically hearsay, even Ms Ford’s testimony given it was based on ‘recovered’ memories, something widely shown to be highly fallible, and hypnosis generated at that which is actually worse. A person under hypnosis will certainly recall new details of real past events, however, if you ask that person while in trance what happened when so and so occurred, knowing that so and so did not in fact occur, they will not say they don’t remember, they may initially say nothing in answer but if you press them, they will tell you what happened, but it will be a subconscious invention.

    Much more importantly, it has been clearly shown in recent UK criminal trials that since the Blair administration the onus has been shifted to the accused to prove their innocence in sexual assault and rape cases often with the added burden of the prosecution ‘accidentally’ failing to disclose evidence that supports the defence. In these cases in the UK it is very much ‘it is better that ten innocent persons be condemned than one guilty person should escape.’ rather than, ‘the law holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape than one person suffer.’ And while this state of affairs is now well known, little if anything appears to have been done to rebalance the scales.

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  10. Frankly Speaking says

    We are witnessing an unholy alliance between fascists in power and / or the Deep State, together with the neo-Bolshevik mob. They may ultimatey be the same thing behind the scenes, or one group is using the other.

    We live in very dangerous times. Democracy and due legal process MUST be preserved against these mobsters.

  11. Dom Currie says

    What a messed up article. As the writer clearly knows, MeToo is just an indication of the number of women who have been sexually abused in the workplace. It seems strange to hear someone making ‘lynchmob’ references to those accused. How many of the accused in the MeToo movement have been murdered? How many women are murdered in England every year? I think the stat is about 2 a week by their partner or ex.
    Another quick stat… about 40% of women in France who complain about sexual assault in the workplace are fired without there being any investigation.
    Off Guardian has really gone off in the last few months. You seem to be encouraging extremist ‘alt’ opinions from climate change denial to good old fashioned misogyny.

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    • Frankly Speaking says

      Women must be defended and generally believed, but we cannot replace due legal process. #MeToo is a scurilous mob campaign where people are trialled by the media and if they are innocent they have ZERO chance of ever pealing back any false accusations.
      That’s got zero to do with women’s abuse in the UK, for which there need to be more shelters and social and free legal support. It’s disingenuous to conflate the two.

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      • Admin says

        Surely women have no more and no less right to be believed than men. Which is to say, no right whatsoever to have their word used as sufficient evidence to convict in a court of law.

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        • writerroddis says

          The 1992 trial of world heavyweight champ Mike Tyson highlights the problem here. Traits that made him a plausible rapist made him an equally plausible sting victim. As with most rape trials the issue was one of consent, so hard evidence barely featured. The prosecution told one story, the defence another, then the jury got to say which story it liked best. But Tyson, with thuggish past and record of savagery in the ring, was also a wealthy man. After the jury found, largely on the basis of her performance on the stand, that Desiree Washington had indeed been raped by Tyson, she sued him for millions. You see the problem …

    • Admin says

      Did you read the article? What do you consider to be misogynistic?

      The point of the site, and the comments section, is to promote discussion of opinions that are either neglected and fully censored in more mainstream news. So by all means discuss. If you want to refute the article, then refute away. But please don’t collapse into empty ad hom labels.

      OffGuardian’s regular editorial staff is majority female, for what it’s worth.

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      • Dom Currie says

        “OffGuardian’s regular editorial staff is majority female, for what it’s worth”
        I don’t know. How worthy do you think that statement is?
        If the female members of the editorial staff were challenged to collaborate on a similar piece, do you think it would be anything like this one? I hope not because this one is clearly written by a man. Its full of positive scholarly references to other men. I counted about sixteen. There’s about four references to women in the article… one was a woman who falsely alleged rape, one was a feminist who defended lynching and the other was a civil rights educator (Hooray!). The other Leila Nadya Sadat was incorrectly spelled.
        The author can barely bring himself to admit that the people he’s attacking are women. He compares them to supporters of McCarthyism, he implies they’re corrupt, he likens them to lynch mobs, he calls them campaigners, supporters…anything but calling them ‘Women’. Why?

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        • Catte says

          Dom, thanks for perfectly illustrating why modern pseudo-feminism and the entire Idpol navel gaze-in are the useful idiots of the PTB.

          You managed to read the article (supposing you did?) and absorb nothing of its message. Instead you counted – seriously? – the number of women referenced therein and whinged about how the person who wrote it had the wrong genitalia for the job and spelled a woman’s name wrong.

          Just as with the Kavanaugh hearing we get a real issue subsumed by hysterical self-indulgent vagina-waving.

          He’s not “attacking women”, he’s pointing out the dangers of anti-rational, bigoted thinking.

          As indeed are you, ironically enough.

          Yes, I’m a woman, and yes, I would be proud to have written this piece, because it’s intelligent and cogent and I’m also a concerned adult aware of the dangers involved in replacing the presumption of innocence with the patronising and idiotic presumption that women don’t lie.

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          • Dom Currie says

            Next time, can you provide me with a thesaurus of all the trendy political terms and acronyms?
            I’ve googled most of them but I’m struggling with PTB. Google says Pulmonary Tuberculosis?
            Seriously, the first sentence might as well have been written in Klingon.

            I think I get the concept of the ‘presumption of innocence’ but I’m not convinced that ‘MeToo’ is a very good example of this. It was my understanding that MeToo was really just a bunch of people saying “Hands up who’s been a victim of abuse?”. It’s Twitter. It’s not the legal system.
            Outside of the legal system, the term ‘innocent’ maybe completely at odds with reality. If someone walked up to you on the street and smashed you on the head with a baguette, would you claim the person was innocent until proven guilty?

            Of course, the irony is you’re a woman who wants to be known as a woman accusing me of engaging in identity politics, self-indulgent vagina-waving (I’m tempted to google that one too) and lots of other things. But are you presuming I’m innocent all along? If not, why not?

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            • milosevic says

              “Powers That Be”

              Identity Politics apparently causes serious brain damage, in that its victims are no longer intellectually capable of distinguishing between “accusations” and “proven fact”. It’s unfortunate that the career path of being judges for a mediaeval witch trial is no longer available for them, but if current trends continue, this industry may yet be resurrected. Its essential principles are already widely believed, such as the idea that protestations of innocence are themselves reliable evidence of guilt.

              Edited by admin

              • The upvote is for the exhortation to Dom to penetrate himself; it’s in the notifications I received (before it was “Edited by admin”.

                • Dom Currie says

                  Don’t worry I saw it before it was censored.
                  Funny how ‘swears’ are censored but climate change denial is fine because it would be censorship not to allow it.

                  On this thread alone you’ve got a defence of Jimmy Savile and claims that MeToo is a feminist conspiracy. But don’t swear!

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                  • Admin says

                    Swearing is fine, opinions of differing kinds, even stupid ones, are also fine, but empty ad hom isn’t

                    We provide a Venn diagram for the ethically dyslexic. Would you like a copy?

                    How insensitive and misogynistic that you, a #MeToo fan, would find it more acceptable to censor free thought than curb sexually aggressive personal abuse.

                    Many survivors of rape would find it triggering to be invited to fuck themselves. Look beyond the hashtag next time please.

                    • milosevic says

                      How many of the accused in the MeToo movement have been murdered?

                      Many survivors of rape would find it triggering to be invited to f*** themselves.

                      Many survivors of fake sex-assault frameups would find it triggering to be told that as long as they haven’t been actually been murdered, they have nothing to complain about.

                      But everybody knows that men are scum, especially white men, so obviously they can be presumed guilty of any crime that any identity-politics-privileged person cares to accuse them of. Questioning such accusations is quite impermissible, because we must always Believe Victims. Anyone who suggests that alleged victims may not always necessarily be real victims merely reveals themselves as an Evil Misogynist Oppressor, who is only trying to conceal their own crimes.

                      All these important legal principles were well-established 500 years ago, during the great European witch hunts, and then again during the Stalinist purges in Russia in the 1930s. Anybody who questions them now really needs to get with the program.

                    • Dom Currie says

                      Wow…
                      Leaving aside your wonderful Jim Davidson-esque joke about dyslexia, you have the gall to reference ‘ad hom’ before calling me a misogynist.

                      What kind of person pretends to care about ‘triggering’ in reference to abuse and then quotes the trigger for shock value? Shameful stuff.

                      If you genuinely think there’s anybody out there who can censor your ‘free thoughts’ then I’m going to suggest you’re either a little neurotic or dangerously paranoid.

                    • Admin says

                      Not sure who Jim Davidson is, but I imagine you’re intending to be offensive because for some reason that’s all you do.

                      Know when to stop Dom, ok. It’s simply inappropriate to take up our space with misguided attempts at wit and unimaginative abuse. Email us if you really need to express any more of this stuff. Other people don’t want to read it.

                      By all means continue posting but not on this thread, ok.

                    • milosevic says

                      unimaginative abuse

                      To be fair, the unimaginative abuse was mine.

                      I regard people who are unfamiliar with principles like “presumption of innocence” as a threat to my safety. They certainly shouldn’t be allowed to vote, or serve on juries, or hold any public office. They should, however, be given every opportunity to express their idiotic opinions, so everybody else can see how dangerous they are.

                  • The up vote was because I agreed with the sentiment, silly. The ‘censorship’ is neither here, nor there in the context of getting over yourself.

            • milosevic says

              I think I get the concept of the ‘presumption of innocence’

              Maybe an example will help to clarify this novel concept for you.

              I claim that you are a drug trafficker and a terrorist. I can’t remember where or when, but I know that I saw you smuggling heroin and novichok into the country from Russia. Don’t bother claiming that it must have been somebody else, because I’m 100% certain that it was you.

              If you can’t somehow refute my highly non-specific accusations, then the standard principle of Presumption of Guilt will apply, and you’ll have to spend the rest of your life locked up in prison, which will only be what you deserve.

              Don’t bother denying it — you’re only making it worse for yourself, and further traumatizing the victims, by suggesting that they aren’t being 100% truthful. After all, think of the children, you monster. Have you no shame at all???

          • Gary Weglarz says

            Thank you Catte. Many of us who find the assertion that the – “pope is infallible” – to be both implausible and even laughable, also find it impossible to accept the same principal of “infallibility” when it applies to other mere mortals. One can make a reasoned argument that even as those “infallible popes” of the past were burning heretics and witches they were proclaiming (themselves and all Catholics) to be the “victims” of said heretics and witches and their evil intents and evil deeds. Often the mere “allegation” that someone was a heretic or witch was “proof enough” to allow torture and death to be administered in the name of the “safety” of the church and the faithful.

            One can freely acknowledge that the West, and we in the U.S. in particular, are societies in which rape and sexual assault are all too common place, and any allegation of such should of course be fully criminally prosecuted – without, however, assuming that it is rational, or even sane to maintain that the “allegation” of rape or sexual assault is sufficient to replace “evidence” and a court “finding” of such. Thank you for your response to this issue.

            • milosevic says

              the West, and we in the U.S. in particular, are societies in which rape and sexual assault are all too common place, and any allegation of such should of course be fully criminally prosecuted

              I allege that you are a sexual assaulter. I’m not sure where, or when it happened, or even who the victim was, but I distinctly remember how the faeries and unicorns laughed as you committed your vile deeds, while a squadron of witches mounted on broomsticks flew combat air patrol, overhead.

              Please turn yourself in to the police for criminal prosecution, at your earliest convenience.

              I trust you will have no objections to this procedure, as you’ve indicated your approval in advance for all such allegations to be handled in this way, no matter how transparently absurd they may be.

              I will refrain from the vulgar insult which I directed at the previous idiot who held your views, but you may rest assured that you have my full and complete contempt. It’s unfortunate that you weren’t around for the Salem witch trials 400 years ago; they surely could have used high-quality legal minds like yours.

    • Makropulos says

      I have already been through this rubbish from comments on WSWS where we get pronouncements like this:

      “As the writer clearly knows, MeToo is just an indication of the number of women who have been sexually abused in the workplace.”

      The breathtaking presumption of this! “As the writer clearly knows”?! And as always, the matter-of-fact declaration of claims as truth.

      If you abandon the presumption of innocence then you abandon the whole legal framework of a trial. And when you abandon that then you are left with “the obvious” i.e. whatever the mainstream media choose to highlight.

    • “How many of the accused in the MeToo movement have been murdered?” It’s true that most of them have ‘only’ lost their reputations, their jobs, and their livelihood, on the basis of accusations which, even if true, in at least some cases did not warrant punishment at all. A few, however, have committed suicide after allegations made without any evidence, rather than face all that.

      Is MeToo “just an indication of the number of women who have been sexually abused in the workplace”? Or is it, at least partly, a way of attacking and destroying the lives of successful men in some misguided kind of feminist payback for perceived general sexism in the culture? The logic, sometimes made explicit goes: men, and not women, are successful due to the oppression of women; therefore successful men are responsible for the oppression of women; therefore the forcing out of men from prominent positions is justified.

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      • milosevic says

        there are some lucky vocations, like a plumber, a taxi driver, or a fireman, who aren’t threatened by toxic feminism. Men in those professions aren’t at risk. When they’re old, nobody’s going to accuse them of an assault that happened thirty years ago. However, some are at risk of developing complications: Oscar-winning directors and actors, journalists and star athletes, politicians and judges; public figures.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      Off Guardian has consistently been anthropogenic climate destabilisation denialist for a long time. That one example of moral and intellectual insanity undermines all its good work.

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      • Off Guardian has consistently been anthropogenic climate destabilisation denialist for a long time. That one example of moral and intellectual insanity undermines all its good work.

        Sheesh. Mulga Mumblebrain has consistently been overegging the pudding; that example of passionate hyperbole undermines all her good work on the environment 🙂

    • Hi Dom,
      I think you missed the point entirely. The Lynch mobs reference is most certainly relevant. The point here is about a constitutional tenant which was put in place as a result of what was occurring at the time of drafting our constitution. It is to protect us. All of us. The fact that it has been abused is not a valid premise for it’s abolishment. The lynching mentality will reoccur again if the fundamental value of innocent until proven guilty is not reevaluated, understood, and again respected. The world is a cold-blooded place. Those now seeking to dismantle the structure which gave them their freedoms might need to revisit the world of the 1700s and before. Our human history is an overall violation of human rights. It still is. White, black, male, female, ignorance knows no bounds. Our founding Fathers struggled and sacrificed to commit to writing a set of principles and values fundamental to us all. For us all. It is up to us to make these principals work, not demean the founders for our shortcomings in not having done so. Mob rule might come back to haunt us. It is close.
      ‘Me too’ is not what it seems. After these useful idiots are used, they will be thrown under the bus – without the presumption of innocence. I’m sure they believe in their cause, but can’t you see a bigger picture here? On that note, is a group chanting “No Trump – No wall – No USA at all” really aware of what they are saying? What do you think? I’m sure they were well paid. Somebody wrote that catchy rhyme for them. I wonder who. If my blood is boiling about this, I know there are a lot of deplorable s out there that feel the same way I do. This is about the heart of our values. This is serious. Does the left [who ever is writing their script] really want a revelation? It isn’t unthinkable at this point and It won’t be pretty.
      I am not at all political, in that I believe we have moved so far away from the founding principles that simply voting for another face which will then only represent the corporations next round of mass murders…. is an act of treason. I don’t vote. Out of respect. Period. As far as this Kavanaugh thing…..we should all know by now that the judicial system is a sewer. I would rather have a beer with Sadam Hussein than Bret Kavanaugh, but using what has risen from the valueless left as an attack on him is not productive.
      I simply weigh the world by what I believe will cause the least human suffering. Here, in my USA, all political parties seek war. This is what their corporate sponsors demand. Money has no conscience. In the town I live, many women shaved their heads and wore pussy hats the day Trump was elected. I received glares for just being male. Today a rally of girls in hot pants held banners saying honk if you believe in women’s rights. I honked, thinking about Juanita Broderick. The girls turned smiling and when they saw me, their smile turned to a scowl. Is this really the kind of environment we want to live? I feel so sorry for women now. All these hostilities are contrived like the color revelations were. This kind of thing will not end well. I feel sorry for all young people but have faith that they will eventually see through this charade. Basic principles like innocent until proven guilty are now embedded in our soul. They will not go down easily. Like Muammar Gaddafi, I believe in Thomas Jefferson. I really believe.
      I will have to say this for Trump, he is not a politician. He is odd, but grounded. He has not lost his original intent to curtail the blood bath. Both parties here oppose him in this. I don’t fully understand his methodology….Saudi arms sales etc. but I am patient. I am a true pessimist considering the potentially humiliating results of a little optimism. Deception runs so deep within the fabric of humanity that I find it hard to believe anything. Next to impossible. I watch the death toll in disgust and mostly doubt humanity can redeem itself.
      In my lifetime I have watched the systematic dismantling of what might have been a US republic. I find the fake democracy meme nauseating. I have watched our war on democracies be enforced with bombs and death squads all over the planet throughout my life time. I could tell you stories of personal experience which would exhaust the available space on this site. I am as objective as I can be right now. That is what this format is for. We all have an opinion. Mine is simple. The founding fathers warned us all from their own experience what to watch out for. They were very articulate. When I am told they owned slaves, I think about the current slave trade in Libya brought about by progressives. Where is their voice on this? Silence. This is such hypocrisy.
      Since 9/11 there has been a renewed, vigorous and continual onslaught on the constitution that has made me acutely aware of its true value. I don’t want to be disagreeable, but I believe this article is spot on. I also believe Off Guardian is fundamentally principled and I commend them for that. Just my opinion. Hope you enjoyed the chat.

  12. Good to see you again.
    I got a message last night and today, saying that the server couldn’t find this site…

  13. #MeToo is 100% FAKE until it targets Bill Clinton, which it won’t !

    Tells you all you need to know……………………….

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