Ethics Quote Of The Week: Emily Yoffe

“Even as we must treat accusers with seriousness and dignity, we must hear out the accused fairly and respectfully, and recognize the potential lifetime consequences that such an allegation can bring. If believing the woman is the beginning and the end of a search for the truth, then we have left the realm of justice for religion.”

—-Emily Yoffe in her essay titled, “The Problem With #BelieveSurvivors”


…in a Senate floor speech the day before the hearing, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York announced that it was unnecessary for her to hear Kavanaugh’s testimony. Gillibrand declared, “I believe Dr. Blasey Ford.” Many Democrats, in keeping with #BelieveSurvivors, are taking their certainty about Ford’s account and extrapolating it to all accounts of all accusers. This tendency has campus echoes, too: The Obama administration’s well-intended activism on campus sexual assault resulted in reforms that went too far and failed to protect the rights of the accused.

The impulse to arrive at a predetermined conclusion is familiar to Samantha Harris, a vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Harris says that under Title IX, students who report that they are victims of sexual misconduct must be provided with staffers who advocate on their behalf. These staffers should “hear them out, believe them, and help them navigate the process,” she said, but added, “When the instruction to ‘believe them’ extends to the people who are actually adjudicating guilt or innocence, fundamental fairness is compromised.” Harris says that many Title IX proceedings have this serious flaw. As a result, in recent years, many accused students have filed lawsuits claiming that they were subjected to grossly unjust proceedings; these suits have met with increasingly favorable results in the courts…

…The legitimacy and credibility of our institutions are rapidly eroding. It is a difficult and brave thing for victims of sexual violence to step forward and exercise their rights to seek justice. When they do, we should make sure our system honors justice’s most basic principles.

All true, but here is my question: How did we arrive at a place where any of what Joffe writes needed to be said at all?

18 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Emily Yoffe

  1. To answer Jack’s question, “How’d we get here?” Bill Maher? From his show last night:

    ‘This is how you run a train on Democracy, ladies and gentlemen,’ Maher said.

    ‘This guy is a liar and was a huge drunk,’ Maher opined. ‘And the FBI report was a sham. They interviewed all of nine people. Trump said, ‘Can I get these guys [to investigate] my crimes?”

    To answer Bill Maher’s question: “If you’ve committed a federal offense, all it takes is for the FBI to be apprised of it.”

      • How can you still ask how any of this is relevant to a SCOTUS confirmation without your head exploding several times a day?

        I abandoned trying to figure that out during the regular “please predict how you will rule on future cases” phase.

      • Actually, the drunk claim leads to the black out claim that leads to he doesn’t remember his attack on Ford because he was incoherently drunk. So he’s a rapist. Easy peasy. And the people who drank with him (which makes them credible?) are all experts on what he remembers when he’s drunk and whether or not he passes out from being drunk rather than just goes to bed at the end of a night of drinking. When he was eighteen. That’s why it’s germane to him being on the supreme court. Capice?

        • Except that, even if that version of events is true (Ford is testifying accurately; BK is testifying truthfully, but inaccurately because excessive drinking affected his memory that night), such an unprosecuted offense by a juvenile has exactly no bearing on whether a 53 year old man of his education and experience, including more than a decade as a Circuit Court Judge, is fit to serve on the Supreme Court.

          • Absolutely, Jut, but you obviously didn’t get the talking points memo from the DNC and Chucks Schumer. Come one, buddy. Get with the program.

  2. If I had to posit an answer to the question “how did we get here” I would begin by saying that we got here through intellectual laziness facilitated by mass media that feeds our insatiable need for affiliation.

    We merely have to focus on ensuring our affiliation status with one side that gives us our arguments in pithy sound bite forms. Our educators tell us what to think but not how to think for that ensures their long term employment prospects without them having to develop new schools of thought. Again, intellectual laziness.

    We no longer have to develop our own sense of worth (esteem) because we can demand others to bestow it upon us.

    The quest for self actualization is passe’. Our goal is to be the biggest influencer. We keep score through followers we have, how many likes we get and how many shares we can accumulate. The score reflects affinity but not improvement.

    We no longer seek to be the best we can be we simply want to be liked the most. Why? Because no longer understand or seek things of real value.

  3. Jack this is brilliant and what I was trying to allude to in my last comment! She clearly states what I could only allude too.

  4. I haven’t commented here about the Kavanaugh train wreck for a variety of reasons, most of which can be summed up by lack of time and energy to dedicate to the matter. I still haven’t watched the testimony — I want to do so after a full night’s sleep, when I’m not overtired and can give it the attention it deserves.

    The fact that this is why I still haven’t watched it gives you some idea of my current overall state.

    So I’m just going to comment on one recurring point of your analysis I have to comment on and disagree strongly about. Simply put, you’re missing something important (unless you remarked on it in a post I didn’t see/read).

    Whenever Dr. Blasey’s professional qualifications (and I should note that she goes by her maiden name professionally, hence me leaving out “Ford” when talking about her professional persona) have come up, you’ve dismissed them as irrelevant to her credibility. I strongly disagree.

    Oh, sure, her professional success is irrelevant, at least for this, but you forget what her job is. She’s a research psychologist. She teaches psychometrics and psychological research methods. Her work “specializes in designing statistical models for research projects in order to make sure they come to accurate conclusions,” as quoted by Wikipedia (generally-unreliable, I know, but probably accurate in this case). She’s served as the director of biostatistics for a research firm.

    All of this means that the evaluation of evidence is literally her job, and one she has what look like pretty damned impressive professional and academic qualifications in. It is literally her job to know how unreliable retrospective accounts and past memories can be. It is literally her job to know, and teach how unreliable polygraphs are as lie detectors and what they actually measure. It is literally her job to know how false memories can mess things up.

    And yet she stood before Congress and swore that she was absolutely confident in her own memories of an incident thirty years ago. She took a polygraph test to “prove” that she wasn’t lying. She… well, you get the idea.

    And so, yes, her profession and professional career are relevant to the ethical analysis here. Whenever I finally get around to watching her testimony, I’m going to make damned sure to keep them in mind — and pay very close attention to what that bit of context says about her behavior.

      • Assuming you’ve watched it — which isn’t much of an assumption, given that you’ve commented on it — you should be able to tell as much as I would. Just keep in mind that her job means that she should know enough about such things to qualify as an expert witness on them in court…

  5. “…the guy was a huge drunk.” says Bill Maher.

    What about redemption and rehabilitation? I am certain that most of you can name at least one person in your orbit of friends who might have battled with alcohol at some point and who had finally been able to win the battle (or at least holding it at bay) and move on to have a very useful and productive life. I know I can name a few. But we hear the howls and protests over teen drinking, and even college drinking, and the claims that someone who partied hard in high school and/or college has forfeited their opportunity to move to a pinnacle of their profession. Really?

    How does the above fit with all the billions of dollars our society spends on various programs of rehabilitation? From entertainers, even politicians, going to “rehab” as retribution for some perceived wrong to actual criminals going to prison to be exposed to some form of rehabilitation, the idea is that someone who has done wrong can be converted to a productive, acceptable member of society. Granted that no one is suggesting that Lindsey Lohan or Parris Hilton be acceptable as a Supreme Court justice, but those periodic trips to rehab seem to buy them some relief from the condemnation some send their way.

    But for some reason, a fellow who “likes beer” and admits to possibly drinking more of it than he should have at times in his past, appears to get it together and graduate from an Ivy League school, enter and complete a top-tier law school, clerk for a Supreme Court Justice, and become an Appellate Court Justice himself should be denied a seat on the Supreme Court because he drank beer 30-odd years earlier in high school and college. And the people making this insane argument don’t see that his conflicts with their idea that second, third, even fourth chances are needed to get people back on track. I find it almost humorous.

    • Exactly. No evidence was produced that Kavanaugh has abused alcohol since he graduated from college, and you know if there was any, we would have heard about it. That’s a standard question on an FBI background check.

  6. How did we arrive at a place where any of what Joffe writes needed to be said at all?

    We had progressives running the country for 8 years, with predictable results.

    The memory hole of the common person is about 5 years. (YMMV) Given that, it is easy for two presidential terms to move the Overton window to this point.

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