Reader: Reference is made to Robert Price's Sept. 19 column, "It’s not easy to admit you’re a victim of sexual assault.” While the main theme of the piece is easy to identify, consistent with the headline — and well argued by Price, as usual in his works — there is an underlying theme that, in the Brett Kavanaugh/Christine Blasey Ford situation, the accuser must be believed.
Price quotes a sexual assault victim (expert?): "It’s highly unusual when people make false allegations about an assault.”
That doesn’t mean a false report never happens. There are further indications that make the truthfulness of this accusation questionable: the denial expressed by Kavanaugh, and the timing of the accusation, which smacks of a politically motivated effort to delay Senate confirmation of the nominee. The meme accuses Blasey of possible alcohol abuse, vindictiveness, an activist, liberal point of view, and a "dark side." These may be part of a meme, but are they false? Are they contributory?
The accusation reveals an assault at a party in a bedroom where a second male was present. There is no story that Blasey was forced into the bedroom with two men. What was she doing there? Why can’t she place the timing of this event? And, most important of all, in the same edition of The Californian, an article about the Kavanaugh situation informs us the other male in the room “doesn’t remember any such thing.”
— Richard W. Burritt
Price: You're right, Richard. False reports do indeed occur. Accusers with political agendas do indeed lie. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a decades-old sexual assault, could indeed be making up this story.
But are the accusations in this particular meme false? Yes, substantially. The meme claims that Blasey "is a professor with a 2.4 rating" whose students warn "don't get on her bad side" because she is "very dark" and will "go after you if she gets upset." Except, oops, those student comments, pulled from RateMyProfessors.com, referred to Christine A. Ford, a professor of human services at Cal State Fullerton, not Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser, who teaches at Palo Alto University. Grabien, a little-known news website, seems to have made the initial error, which was then picked up by several right-wing media outlets, including by Laura Ingraham of Fox News and the Drudge Report.
The meme says Blasey's "parents had a foreclosure case ruled against them by Brett's mother, who was the judge in the case" in 1996. Except, oops, the Blaseys settled with their lender. The bank asked Judge Martha Kavanaugh to dismiss the case. She did. The Blaseys kept the house. There's no record they appeared in her courtroom.
The meme claims Blasey is a "liberal activist" who in a 2016 Facebook post wrote that “Scalia types must be banned from law.” No such phrase appears in a search of any public Facebook posts in 2016. It might have been scrubbed, but the Twitter account where the claim originated has been deleted and no actual evidence of the post has emerged. Blasey is a registered Democrat, as has been reported, and she did attend a California Women’s March in 2017, but a photo allegedly taken of her holding a "Not My President" sign is from a 2016 march in New York, and it's not Blasey.
The meme also mentions that "she can't remember the house, location, how she got there, (or) who had the party ..." where the alleged incident took place.
Suspicious, yes? Not to Patti Davis, the daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, who says she was sexually assaulted 40 years ago. In an op-ed in The Washington Post published Friday, she wrote: "It’s important to understand how memory works in a traumatic event. (Blasey) has been criticized for the things she doesn’t remember, like the address where she says the assault happened, or the time of year, or whose house it was. But her memory of the attack itself is vivid and detailed. His hand over her mouth, another young man piling on, her fear that maybe she’d die there, unable to breathe.
"That’s what happens: Your memory snaps photos of the details that will haunt you forever, that will change your life and live under your skin. It blacks out other parts of the story that really don’t matter much. (Blasey) wants the FBI to investigate so that some of the details she doesn’t remember can be established. It’s a brave request."
As for the sexual assault victim I quoted as saying, "It’s highly unusual when people make false allegations about an assault”: He is in fact an "expert," to use your word. Louis Gill is the executive director of the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, and he hears stories like this regularly — literally several times a week.
But he doesn't typically deal with assault accusations with ramifications like this. The stakes in a he-said, she-said case haven't been this high since Anita Hill stepped forward to talk about then-nominee Clarence Thomas.
Could Blasey be making up this entire thing? Yes, of course. But basing one's doubts on the accusations put forward in that meme I wrote about earlier this week would be a mistake. Maybe there's other, better evidence of a setup, but it's not in that document.
The fact that people like Laura Ingraham and Matt Drudge ran with some of those false reports, uncritically, should concern consumers of news. I can't imagine The Washington Post or Associated Press printing those accusations without either researching them independently or identifying them as unsubstantiated.
Reader: I liked your column about sexual assault and the Kavanaugh hearings but there was one word you used, two times, that I'm not familiar with. Please tell me what it means: It's spelled "m-e-m-e."
— Joyce Martinson
Price: A meme (pronounced "meem") is a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied and spread via social media or email, and it often travels fast. I'm not sure the image I was referring to — it was basically a digital flyer — can accurately be described as a meme because there is nothing especially humorous about it, but, like most memes, it contains a static message that has been forwarded and shared many thousands of times.
You're not the first person to ask this question, Joyce.
The term was coined in 1976, but memes have been around for decades, maybe centuries. Remember the graffito "Kilroy was here," which showed up all over the place during and after World War II? That might be considered a pre-internet meme. A harmless one, unlike the inaccurate, borderline libelous one I wrote about.
Reader: The New York Times should not have published that anonymous op-ed so critical of President Trump. A person has to stand with their work, not hide from it, or it loses credibility. A person who puts out a letter with no name is a vindictive person and that makes their words mean nothing.
It is interesting how everyone chooses to ignore all the illegal stuff that went on in the White House and in the government before President Trump, and now those on the left are having a field day writing a scandal sheet.
Is President Trump paranoid? No. He is wise enough to understand that the so-called leaks come from those who want to hurt him and that the leaks should stop. That is not paranoid.
— Irene Edmonds
Price: The leaks may indeed be coming from those who want to hurt Trump, but they are probably people the president himself hired — not bureaucratic holdovers from the Obama administration, as some have alleged. Those people don't get the kind of Oval Office access that the author of that op-ed apparently has.
But should The Times have published that anonymous article? You make a reasonable case for the "no" side.