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By David Futrelle
Watching Christine Blasey Ford testify this morning — and following the ongoing conversations about it on Twitter — was rough.
I was struck again and again by the stark contrast between her real, raw, and utterly compelling testimony and the childish belligerence of the Republican senators who decided that the best way to “investigate” her allegations wasn’t to actually investigate them but rather to subject her to this grotesque ordeal — all while playing the victims themselves.
Meanwhile, Kavanaugh’s supporters online have been devoting their energy to picking at the small details of her account and trying — seriously — to use her fear of flying against her.
The most striking thing about the right-wing response to Ford has been the complete and utter lack of empathy of her critics. I’ve collected together some of the worst examples I’ve been able to find. (And big thanks to those who offered suggestions on this Twitter thread.)
One of the most gut-wrenching moments in Ford’s testimony came when she told the committee about how painful it had been for her during the alleged assualt when she heard Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge openly laughing at her.
This is how some of her critics responded.
The GOP’s prosecutorial stuntwoman Rachel Mitchel tried to use Ford’s fear of flying against her. Others, including the President’s Number One Son, picked up the “argument” and ran with it.
I’m no psychology professor but it does seem weird to me that someone could have a selective fear of flying.
Can’t do it to testify but for vacation, well it’s not a problem at all.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 27, 2018
I have difficulty buying that a person afraid of flying willingly gets on a plane to fly all over the globe for pleasure.
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) September 27, 2018
Really? Because people who suffer from fear of flying actually manage to get on planes all the time. It’s never easy for them, but it is often easier when they are going somewhere where they can recharge with friends and family — rather than when they are travelling out of necessity because of some stressful obligation
I don’t suffer from fear of flying per se, but I’m agoraphobic. As I noted on Twitter in response to Don Jr.’s post, my agorapobia restricts my life terribly; it’s bad enough that it’s hurt my career and fucked up friendships and relationships. But I can’t simply opt out of the outer world, nor do I want to, and so I force myself to get out. When I do, it’s generally for one of two reasons — because I have to get out (to see a doctor, to fulfill some work-related obligation, that sort of thing ) or because I want to spend time with people I care about. It’s always stressful, but at least in the latter case I’m getting out because I want to, not because I have to.
So, yes, people with phobias are often able to push through these phobias, at least temporarily, not only to do things they have to do but also to do things that are, yes, pleasurable to them. To attack Ford for doing this — for trying to live a normal life despite her fears — betrays a severe lack of empathy, to say the least.
Some right-winger media personalities went even lower, attacking sexual assault survivors and others who were emotionally affected by Ford’s testimony.
I'm laughing https://t.co/zv6EpjpFQp
— Kurt Schlichter (@KurtSchlichter) September 27, 2018
This lovely fellow attacked Ford for feeling drained after hours of testifying about an alleged sexual assault that left her fearing for her life.
"I'm a little slower, my mind is a little tired." —the woman whose decades-old allegations seek to ruin a federal judge with a hitherto unquestioned record of integrity #KavanaughHearings
— Michael Knowles (@michaeljknowles) September 27, 2018
Some of the most extravagantly unempathetic responses to Ford’s testimony came from the Republican senators presiding over this travesty. Probably the worst offender in this regard was South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham.
Watch @LindseyGrahamSC sink to an all new low as he claims Dr. Ford has not proven anything, he still supports Kavanaugh, he claims this is all Dem strategy and then he threatens Democrats: “If this is the new norm, you better watch out for your nominees.” #KavanaughHearings pic.twitter.com/grNze9MTcI
— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) September 27, 2018
Immediately after this little performance by Graham, he encountered a woman who told him she was a rape survivor. His response?
A woman just told @LindseyGrahamSC she was raped. He said, as he headed into an elevator, "I'm sorry. Tell the cops."
— Emma Dumain (@Emma_Dumain) September 27, 2018
This was confirmed by NBC’s Kasie Hunt, who was there, and who offered a slight correction to the quote.
The exact quote was “I’m so sorry…you needed to go to the cops.” https://t.co/mx9jsvsOwH
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) September 27, 2018
Yet another less-than-shining moment for Graham,
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who can’t even remember Julie Swetnick’s name, blames her for being gang raped by multiple men and ultimately laughs at her “crazy” allegation. pic.twitter.com/WMJN1uDsqO
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) September 27, 2018
But Graham really topped himself with this tantrum.
.@LindseyGrahamSC to Judge Brett Kavanaugh: "This is not a job interview. This is hell." https://t.co/DT8TFa80T1 pic.twitter.com/HZXGsgAEGy
— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 27, 2018
The most surreal moment in all of this? One prominent right-wing media personality actually did let a little bit of empathy into his tiny Grinchlike heart — and of all people it was Chris Wallace of Fox “News.” I know. Chris Fucking Wallace.
Fox News' CHRIS WALLACE says in wake of Kavanaugh allegations "two of my daughters have told me stories that I have never heard before about things that happened in high school & hadn't told their parents… I don't this we can disregard Ford and the seriousness of this." pic.twitter.com/5lKaTDo9Cy
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 27, 2018
Seriously, who would have thought that the one moment of humanity we’ve seen today on the right has come from Chris Wallace? We are definitely in the weirdest timeline.
UPDATE: I replaced one of the Lindsay Graham videos with another even more belligerent one.
I can tell you, from bitter personal experience, that actually it is entirely possible. Not the whole time, for sure. But at points during the act and for quite a long time after he was done.
You see, the whole point is that it’s about bullying and dehumanising people. Not just about getting some; about taking something away from someone else. Seriously, my abuser thought it was fucking hilarious that he had tricked me into performing a sex act on him. He told me I was stupid for doing it; I was 8 and he was either mid-teens or early 20s, and he had pretended he cared about me and that I was “special” and that this is what you do when people are special. Then he scared the shit out of me, because I had only the vaguest idea about sex and no conception at all of “orgasm” (when you don’t know what it is, it’s pretty scary to watch that happening to someone)
Then he just stood there and laughed. He acted like it was a practical joke he had played, and the joke was me thinking anyone could care about me.
Then he told me if I told anyone he’d do the same thing to my little sister, thus ensuring I did not say a single word to anyone until I was 33.
Anyway. Thank you r/thedonald, for ensuring I feel like shit for the rest of the day, but I just wanted to clarify that this is, indeed, possible.
@Violet I don’t know what to say but I’m so so sorry and I wish every manner of ill on that evil piece of shit.
Wishing you every manner of good, also.
@Violet: I’m so sorry you went through that. So many hugs if you want them!
And yes, I know from experience they can absolutely being laughing, especially if there’s more than one of them…
@opposable thumbs @yutolia
It ok; I’m 42 now – had plenty of therapy, it’s healed up and scarred over.
These days I mostly feel like: he did a thing; that thing was his decision, and any guilt or shame for it should remain solely with him; his behaviour does not define me in any way whatsoever, and I have made a great life for myself.
Except sometimes something like this – that tweet was just a little thing, but you never know what’ll catch you on the raw – it does just touch it off for a little while. But those times are now few and far between.
Recovery from that kind of trauma doesn’t seem possible when you are really hurting, but it is possible and I wish full recovery to everyone who has had similar experiences (especially right now to Christine Blasey Ford. I cannot imagine how I would feel if that guy popped up on television nominated as a supreme court judge. I think she is holding it together remarkably well)
My point was not to comment on whether or not any of those U.S. military actions were justified in the larger sense, only that we have a staggering habit of letting the government lie our way into them (and then never punishing the people responsible for the deception, of course). These situations are always complicated, but our self-image is always frighteningly simplistic.
Was our embargo of oil into Japan justified by their aggressive actions against our allies? It looks justified to me. But we can’t then just pretend the Pearl Harbor attack was completely out of the blue. And yet I think I was thirty before I ever heard about the embargo. It wasn’t mentioned in the Day of Infamy speech that I can recall. It wasn’t in any history textbook I read in school. Right from the start we were whitewashing our contribution and painting ourselves as the martyrs. Nuance be damned, we were attacked for no reason!
It’s this simplistic outlook that’s so dangerous. It’s how Reagan could say, “They hate us for our freedom” and not be laughed off the stage. I suppose it made a better quote than, “They hate us for our long history of exploiting them, now give me more money to kill them.”
<3 Violet. I think you have the right attitude towards what happened.
Our bodies heal like animals; our emotions heal like trees.
@Raven, Rabid Rabbit
The absolute best part of that, in my mind, is that you just know that those republican senatorial bobble-heads set up the seating behind Kavanaugh. You know they were thinking “We’ll put his mom (far left) and his wife (immediate left) right beside him – and we’ll pack the rest of the seats with women.” See? He couldn’t have done it, look at all these women around him, they wouldn’t be around him if he were an abuser.
Of course, they didn’t consider the fact that women are people and might have reactions to his tantrums. Nothing but useful window dressing. I know that die-hard Republican loyalists will say that those scowls and glares are because they’re offended at how badly he’s being treated, but I can’t imagine any other woman in the world doesn’t recognize those looks.
Sometimes justice shows up all on her own, once in awhile.
Thanks Scild 🙂
I like to think of it as the “bag of shit” principle.
People sometimes (metaphorically) give you a bag of their shit. They abuse you, they take their feelings out on you, they give you the admin job they didn’t want to do…it’s a broad metaphor haha
And when you politely take it from them because you don’t feel you have any choice, they say “ok! There you go! that’s your bag of shit now! You have to carry it around with you everywhere.”
The thing is…..it’s not your bag of shit. Even if you are carrying it. Even if you picked it up. It’s still their bag of shit, it belongs to them, and you can put it down and say “I refuse to carry this”. Or you can even just refuse to pick it up in the first place. Just leave it lying there like a giant smelly mess in the middle of the carpet which is not your responsibility to clean up.
And people like that will say “but you have to pick it up” NOPE IT’S YOURS “But someone has to pick it up! if you don’t carry it, who will?” NOT MY PROBLEM, IT’S YOURS “But I am telling you this is your fault, your thing, your bag of shit! I am ordering you, you have to carry it!” NOPE NOT PICKING IT UP IT CAN STAY THERE IT’S YOURS
I am not carrying his bag of shit for him any more. Not psychoanalysing, not wondering “why me”, not doing any emotional labour around it. Not any more. I’ve done all that.
He did something awful, and that’s on him. Not my problem.
@Violet, that’s a great way to look at it. Similar to my own sort of perspective, though it’s the opposite.
I see people as happiness-generators, or sources-of-goodness. We generate it from within and it sustains us and keeps us going through life. Some of us generate more than others, some of us need more than others, but we’re all sort of sources of goodness. Even these predatory vultures.
We only generate a limited amount-per-time, though, so sometimes when things get rough we need extra. The strategies we use to get more vary, and are sort of the major motivating factor behind most social interactions. Some people learn to borrow from friends who have extra – this is our run-of-the-mill interaction with friends. The interaction generates a bit extra, too, and everyone comes away feeling recharged when it works right.
Many people learn less-than-good strategies too, when we’re children. Some have learned to beg and plead for it – sympathy plays, guilt trips, etc. Pester or annoy or badger someone into giving some of that goodness willingly. Others learn that they can take it, through bullying, abuse, manipulation and violence.
These strategies satisfy a temporary need but, because they’re not a sustainable source, they have to keep employing them, over and over. Their ability to generate it within atrophies if they rely on these strategies too much.
Similar idea to yours! Yours is very good from a healing perspective, I’ll have to start thinking in that direction more. Much more helpful.
Since Ohlmann brought up a train wreck metaphor…
You stand next to a railroad bridge running over a deep gorge, watching a train approaching the bridge from across wide open plain.
It turns out to be a very long train – the back end is still not visible in the distance when the front end enters the bridge.
The bridge collapses, and the foremost carriages fall into the gorge. Crash. Crash. Crash. Crash.
For some reason, the remaining train does not slow down, but continues driving off the cliff at full speed. Crash. Crash. Crash. Crash. You keep watching, because it’s a train wreck.
The back end of the train is still not visible.
The wrecked carriages start piling up, slowly filling up a good length of the gorge. Eventually, the top of the junk heap levels to the remains of the bridge. Aside from “Crash. Crash. Crash. Crash.”, there’s smaller crashing sound on the background as carriages randomly tumble down the slopes of the heap.
The train continues running at full speed, with no end in sight.
When the gorge is full, the carriages start crashing on each other. They mostly push each other off the rails, often ending up lying on their side beside the rails, often sideways across the rails, sometimes on top of each other, usually quite badly wrecked. The resulting noise is like a continuous, undulating “crash” sound.
As the carriages pile up on and near to the rails, the wreck site keeps moving away from the bridge, though not nearly as fast as the train runs. And the train continues running. You keep watching, as the ongoing train wreck moves further away, slowly disappearing into the distance, the sound nearly fading away.
You keep watching.
@Violet: that’s very similar to how I feel! I’m glad that you’ve healed. I’m in the midst of doing the same myself.
so, Trump, undoubtedly after looking at polling, now says that he found Ford’s testimony to be “compelling” and that the Senate should do what it thinks is right.
A bit like telling a cat not to eat mice unless they are hungry- but maybe a crack in the wall
The “no-COMPASSION” gang.
Neurodivergent people with low cognitive empathy have been saying this for literally years. It’s bordering on willful ignorance at this point.
It helps if your intersectionality is actually intersectional.
I remember when moderates used to be human beings.
No more. Now I think they’re giant bats.
Agoraphobes of the world unite!
Separately. In our own homes. Let’s be reasonable here.
The “airplane” thing is just so… argh.
There are tons of things that I’m afraid of, and I STILL DO THEM. It just sucks horribly to do them. It’s only when my anxieties get the better of me that I get overwhelmed and can’t do something, and will grasp at nearly any straw to avoid the worst aspects of it.
This isn’t related directly to the topic at hand, but should be quite informative nonetheless.
It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the whole tomfoolery from Christina Hoff Sommers and the right-wing anti-feminist bullhorn about “due process” and attempting to stymie the Obama-era sexual assault protections had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with genuine principle but absolutely everything to do with protecting asscracks like Kavanaugh from being given the damn good asskicking he so sorely deserves.
The entire MRA nonsense promoted by Elam and his troupe of sexist a-holes has everything to do with defeating sexual assault protections, even if they help men.
As a male victim of rape, let me tell you that MRAs certifiably do not care about men like me and only seek to use me as a smokescreen to hide their real agenda, which I just mentioned in my last paragraph.
I first came to this conclusion when I spoke with a female friend of mine who works with Know Your IX, an organization that operates on campus to assist victims of all genders get justice for their rape. She told me that the Obama-era protections (which Trump, being the rapist scumbag that he is, just dismantled) were gender-neutral and helped a lot of men get justice.
Who worked tirelessly to defeat them? The National Coalition For Men, America’s biggest MRA organization. Interesting that male victims don’t matter to them once it comes time to shit on women.
Elam et co are just puppets for conservative dark money types who want to inject sexist discourse into the body politic. I’ve seen increasingly over the last decade MRA talking points becoming mainstream conservative discourse, all while genuine attempts are being made to prevent rape from becoming more common.
Whenever some MRA demands to know what feminism is doing about male rape victims or quote mines some TERF type downplaying male rape, ask them what they’ve done about it or what MRAs have done. Watch them crumble before your eyes.
While this is a good article, I’d like to keep in mind that there are people born without empathy who are actually good people because they have compassion, which is a separate thing from empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, while compassion is the ability to care about others. In this case, these men lack compassion.
If only I had the Infinity Gauntlet, what I would do (I doubt I can say more without breaking the rules)
They don’t get that someone can force themselves to do something that frightens them when it is necessary for the greater good, because the concept of courage is completely foreign to them.
Objection! Giant bats are adorable and do not deserve to be lumped in with those horrible people.
^^^^^ OMG! (as I believe the kids say) he’s so cute!!!!
Now I want to pet a bat; notwithstanding the health warning at the end. Realistically, it’d probably be the bat at risk.