Believe Me, Don’t Think About It
A recent New York Times article details an alleged rape from some 18 years ago and incidents of sexual harassment since experienced by the author over her career covering professional baseball in Texas. It follows a now-familiar template structure: something terrible years past, long beyond any statute of limitations; no physical evidence, and there never were any witnesses; the writer kept this to herself all this time (variant: once told her close friends and no one else) but now wants to “help bring about systemic change” by blowing up a media event.
The writer never explains how her article will contribute to systemic change, or what that change is besides perhaps “less sex crimes,” something pretty much everyone already agrees on. She demands you “believe her” in lieu of proof of both the incident and evidence of the connection to something systemic (did we use this term in this way before 2021?) and condemns you if you don’t.
Since these stories follow a template, there are some boilerplate things I need to attend to. I’m aware this is a politically taboo subject we’re not allowed to talk critically about. I am in no way condoning rape or victim shaming. I’ve been the victim of (non-sexual) violent crime. I know what it is like to feel unsafe. As a victim I want vengeance, mean and raw. But as a citizen, I have higher goals. That’s the difference between what I am writing here and the genre of victim stories which infuse progressive media. More of your woke friends will praise you for knee-jerk reactions than thoughtful consideration.
The Times author follows the progressive victim template, dropping enough hints as to her assailant that an inside baseball audience can likely make a good guess, but chooses not to name him, just as she chose not to report any of this to law enforcement or his team years before.
She wants change, she wants justice, but she wants it 2021-style, imploring the reader to “believe” her, scolding those who don’t believe her, and wanting to deny her alleged rapist any chance to defend himself. She wants no chance someone will file a defamation suit. She won’t name him because that would trigger an accounting and she only wants her side printed. She is supported by the new-found righteousness of 2021 (or 20th century Deep South or 17th century Salem for that matter) that her word is enough to condemn. Like an assailant, no fair fight.
Is the goal of progressive “belief” theology to manipulate emotion and shut down fairness and critical thought? If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is the playbook from Jim Crow America repurposed as a progressive weapon.
(Bonus Belief Rule: We will not acknowledge the fundamental right to due process was confirmed in the case of the Scottsboro boys—young black men almost hung solely because people wanted to believe white women.)
Try a thought experiment. I implore you to believe my boss of 20 years ago stole money out of my wallet. I choose not to name her and thus disallow her the chance to explain or defend herself. No “he said/she said” if there is no she named. But I’ll drop enough hints that my old office mates know who I’m talking about now that she is in a senior position, and I’ll cite generic examples of not believing victims as my justification. If you don’t buy this, you’re a misogynist, racist, victim shamer, and no further discussion allowed. The response to denying victim rights in the past is to deny rights to the accused today.
Back following the template, the author explains why she did not report her alleged rape. “I choose not to name him because it would only open me up to the possibility of having dirt thrown on my reputation,” she writes. “I knew that if I told anyone what happened that it would ruin my career. I was 22 with no track record, and at that time most people in baseball would have rallied to protect the athlete.”
(Bonus Belief Rule: We will not talk further about the sordid role “believe women” played in racism, where a white woman’s accusation was enough to condemn an innocent black man. That’s how Emmett Till died in 1955 in Mississippi. Belief has a longer history than the New York Times sportswriter wants to acknowledge.)
The author wraps herself in “believe me” to avoid the much harder path an actual rule-based society demands; that accusations are insufficient, all people have rights, including the right to due process and a fair hearing in court, on campus or in the human resources office. She goes on to cite her view of the unfairness of due process as justification for bypassing the process for what one imagines she thinks is street justice journalism-style. She demands everything based on “believe me” and mocks those who would “believe him.”
(Bonus Belief Rule: We will never again talk about Tara Reade, who accused Joe Biden of sexual assault. We will refer to any accusations against Biden in a jocular fashion, Old “Touchy Feely” Joe, can’t help himself, same way we giggle when grandpa passes gas at the dinner table. If you are Joe Biden, the Times will playfully refer to you groping women as “tactile politics.” When Reade filed a police report two decades after Biden allegedly assaulted her, the Times helpfully reminded its readers “filing a false police report may be punishable by a fine and imprisonment.”)
Let’s go back to our thought experiment and my old boss, the one I claim stole money out of my wallet years ago. Would you shake your head in sad agreement that I was justified in not revealing anything, calling the cops, or going to HR because in a self-serving way I wanted to further my own career more than justice and avoid the problems of her defending herself against my accusation? That I buried the crime to get ahead, indeed did get ahead, and now 20 years later want it both ways: victimhood points in the New York Times, perhaps a book deal or a Netflix series, and a chance to smear without consequences someone I just don’t like, but to still benefit from the career success I enjoyed for shutting up?
What if I told you my boss went on to steal money from other subordinates’ wallets; that I wasn’t the first or only victim? Would you agree I really had no choice and made a righteous decision to let her slide so I could get ahead? Or that by benefiting from my decision to remain silent I may have harmed others who fell victim over the years, but I’m still your hero in 2021? See how your emotions change when you’re convinced the victim is less deserving? I implore you to believe me in my self-serving confession after explaining to you my self-serving silence.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because this playbook has been run against non-progressive men again and again these last few years. Accusations, made by the right kind of victim, are as useful as verdicts to those wanting to believe the president is a spy, violated arcane election funding laws, or out and out is simply a criminal rapist. The technique reached its nadir with a picture perfect accuser (a woman reanimated out of a horcrux from Hillary herself) demanding to be believed, no matter that exculpatory evidence overwhelmed her testimony, desperately weaponized to try to keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court.
And if any of that sounds familiar, it’s because in 2021, “belief” in something you already want to agree with has replaced critical thinking. Emotionally gripping events are presented in ways that are more or less true but incompletely rendered—black people really have been enslaved in America since 1619, kids do learn more about Gettysburg than Tulsa—and then they are offered as causation for a modern problem.
So it was because of Dutch explorers owned slaves in 1619 in what would not even become America for another 150 years that Chicago cops today shoot black perps. The link isn’t proven, and likely does not even exist, but believe it. Counter arguments, from Twitter-class nutholes to considered academic thinking, are dismissed with memes and insults. And you can always count on the New York Times to help out. Progressives and their propagandists are clear in their goal: believe, don’t think.
Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.