Sunday, June 12, 2011

Accusations [Anthony McCarthy]

I'm not going to speculate as to why it has apparently become the default assumption on some liberal blogs that some accusations are not to be questioned but that is a position that is so wrong, so impractical and so, plainly, nuts it can't be allowed to stand unchallenged. There is nothing about any accusation that puts it or the details it contains beyond the bounds of questioning. If you don't want your accusation to be questioned, don't accuse someone because they have every right to question it.

I am going to point out that even for those who objected to what I said yesterday, it's not the default assumption depending on who is making the accusation and who is being accused and what they're being accused of. The objections made in yesterdays comments carried loads of accusations.

I'm going to present three instances, one which comes pretty close to home, of specific cases of false accusations and will mention one of the most outrageous examples of mass injustice in recent decades, for which I have no intention to apologize so don't bother asking for that.

There is the infamous Charles Stuart case in Boston. In October, 1989, emergency took a call from Stuart who said that he and Carol DiMati (Stuart), his pregnant wife, had been assaulted and robbed in their car, shot by an unknown "black man". His wife died in the hospital, the child who was taken prematurely suffered seizures and died within days. Charles Stewart was treated in the hospital and the Boston Police immediately started looking for the unknown black man, breaking down doors and, it was rumored, some heads in the frenzied search for a particularly brutal murderer as the grieving widower recovered in the hospital.

The Boston Police soon fixed on Willie Bennett who Stuart would later identify as the killer in a stand up line. The police figured they had done their job. Raymond Flynn, the mayor of Boston, Mike Barnicle, the prominent columnist and most of the movers in Boston and the region all said they'd gotten the man who had viciously killed a young, pregnant woman and the child she was carrying, in one of the most publicized cases in memory.

Only, as some will remember, Stuart's brother, who had helped him cover up the crime, soon cracked and what really happened came out. Charles Stuart, who was upset that he was going to become a father and that he would suffer a decrease in standard of living when his wife stopped working, had shot his pregnant wife to collect the insurance and then inflicted a wound on himself in order to place the blame on a stereotypical scary black man. Charles Stuart, knowing he would be arrested jumped off of the Tobin Bridge and died.

A similar thing happened a few years later in the Susan Smith case, in which a young mother claimed that "a black man" had carjacked her car with her children in it, setting off another manhunt for the man who abducted two white children. As you might remember about a week later she confessed that she had drowned her children in the car so she could take up with a man who didn't want them. I don't know the details of what the manhunt consisted of but it's not hard to imagine rights may have been violated and an innocent man could have eventually been arrested.

I would bring up the rash of false charges of ritual child abuse from the 1980s and 90s that put many, innocent women and men in prison and which destroyed their lives before they were exonerated. But I'm sure that would be objected to by a number of possible political cliques. It's a long, outrageous episode of mass delusion and legal opportunism based in outrageous, outlandish accusations that were clearly not questioned sufficiently to find the truth. That truth came well after the false charges produced many victims, many of them who never recovered their lives after those were mad. But that would take far, far longer than I've got to present in this post.

And there is the recent case in the town next to mine, in Maine, in which an unidentified young boy's body was discovered. The accusations there weren't specific and they weren't made by authorities, they were far more informal and potentially far more dangerous. The police didn't release the cause of death for a number of days and rumors were rife. A number of those rumors speculated that the boy had been the victim of a pedophile, who I guarantee you was almost always identified or assumed to have been an unspecified "gay man". Which is one of the reasons many of us living here would have been somewhat on edge until the case was solved. You will remember that eventually the boy's mother, who is clearly mentally ill, was arrested for the killing of her son.

And that's the problem with an accusation against a person identified with a group, black men, gay men, etc. An accusation against an unspecified member of the group is an accusation against more than one person who could match that description.

When did it become politically impermissible to ask questions about an accusation? How do any of the people who think that any accusation is beyond question expect to find out who ISN'T guilty as accused under that rule?

A personal note: I'm tired of people complaining that my posts violate some kind of unwritten prohibition, putting ideas and questions I choose to raise off limits.

I'm especially tired of complaints asserting that those ideas and questions violate some kind of unwritten rule for writing on a feminist blog. I have never agreed to limit my thinking to fit any kind of index of prohibited ideas, I've never been asked to. I would like any feminist bloggers or writers to point out what list of ideas they've agreed to not bring up in their writing. Show me the list of prohibited topics and ideas.

There is no rule anyone can make or make up on the spot that is going to keep me from saying what I think should be said. If you can point out a factual or logical problem with what I say, feel free. If you can point out any inconsistencies or hypocrisies in what I write, please, correct me. If you have any rational, grown-up objection to anything I write about, that's within the bounds of criticism that anyone who writes something for public display opens himself up for, the kind of correction any rational person should welcome. But I'm not going to limit anything I write on the basis of political or intellectual fashion or to conform to someone's idea of what's allowable to be thought or said except my own.