Sex, Lies, and the War on Men
The rights of the accused are under vicious attack
June 19, 2013
A massive twit-storm washed over your humble columnist yesterday, set off by our Wall Street Journal op-ed defending an Obama nominee and the rights of criminal defendants. To recap briefly: Sen. Claire McCaskill has placed a “permanent hold” on the nomination of Gen. Susan Helms to be vice commander of the Air Force Space Command. McCaskill is punishing Helms for having granted clemency to an officer under her command, Capt. Matthew Herrera, who was convicted of aggravated sexual assault.
We reviewed the facts and concluded that Helms was correct in holding that the prosecution case was so weak as to make the conviction unjust. (Herrera did not escape punishment: He pleaded guilty to an “indecent act” and was involuntarily discharged from the service.)
Our argument infuriated feminists, yielding hundreds of tweets and perhaps a dozen posts on various leftist websites. Particularly noteworthy was a tweet from @Invisible_War, which promotes a documentary described as “a groundbreaking investigation into the epidemic of rape in the US military.” The tweet read: “Appalling: @WSJ’s @jamestaranto thinks we’re criminalizing male sexuality by prosecuting military rape.”
That is an utter falsehood. Our column discussed sexual assault but made no specific mention of rape, a distinct and more serious offense under military law. Herrera was not accused of rape. We sent a corrective tweet to @Invisible_War, but no correction has been forthcoming. Readers are left to draw their own inferences as to the film’s credibility.
Some of the comments were just abusive. At the website of Cosmopolitan magazine, Natasha Burton called us a “freaking jackass.” Victoria Lee tweeted: “why is it always guys who look like Taranto, the ones who know crap about women, … try 2talk abt women.” We contrasted that tweet with one from Jessica Valenti (who was not referring to us): “Calling a feminist ‘ugly’ is generally the first response of humdrum misogynists and the last resort of covert ones.”
Sauce for the goose, we suppose. (Though we now need a gender-specific phrase for an argumentum ad hominem against a man, the male equivalent of the argumentum ad feminam.) But then Lauren Rankin replied: “good god, man. that’s not a comment on your attractiveness; it’s a comment on your white, male privilege.” Rankin thinks she’s defending Lee by construing her comment as racist.
The feminist website Jezebel featured a piece by Katie Baker (last seen lashing out at Susan Patton) calling us “a prolific woman-hating troll,” “the worst” and, for good measure, “THE WORST.” We’ll give her “prolific.” Then she wrote: “I’m not interested in engaging with Taranto, because he’s a cockroach.” As we’ve noted before, describing one’s adversaries as vermin is a rhetorical trope of the genocidaire.
All this viciousness was in the service of denying that there is, as we wrote in yesterday’s article, a “war on men.” Well, imagine if a prominent feminist journalist wrote about the “war on women” and dozens of conservative male writers responded by subjecting her to similar verbal abuse. Would that not be prima facie evidence that she was on to something? If the answer is yes–and we’d say it is–then either the same is true in our case or the sexes aren’t equal. (Select one or both of the above.)
We can take the abuse. In fact, in this instance we delight in it, not only because we see the humor but because it proves us right.
But the underlying subject matter is far from funny. The objective of these ideologues is to destroy the lives of men. Some such men are serious criminals who deserve severe punishment. But others are victims of false accusations or overzealous prosecutors. Some were involved in ambiguous situations in which a fair trial cannot establish their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Herrera clearly fell into at least that last category.
Everyone accused of a crime, even the guilty, is entitled to the basic protections of due process, including the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, and the right to appeal a guilty verdict.
One way of responding to our op-ed would have been to concede that Taranto has a point about the Herrera case and McCaskill’s treatment of Helms, but to argue that sexual assault in the military is nevertheless a serious problem that requires new administrative or legal remedies.
We can imagine being persuaded to agree with such an argument. But we haven’t seen anybody make it. The tweets and articles quoted above are typical of the response from the feminist left. The few who’ve deigned to discuss the facts of the case at all–Slate’s Amanda Marcotte and TalkingPointsMemo’s Catherine Thompson among them–have distorted them beyond recognition, obscuring the questions about the credibility of Herrera’s accuser that led Helms to reject the court-martial verdict of guilty.
This appetite for punishment regardless of facts, this contempt for the rights of the accused, is worthy of a lynch mob. That is an inflammatory analogy, but we employ it advisedly. The victims of lynching were not infrequently men accused of sexual violations.