Bearing False Witness in Rape

One good thing about the UVA rape story -- and it may be the only good thing about it -- is that it spotlights the disagreement between those who believe that rape accusers' claims must be examined under the cold light of objective reason and evidence, and those who say rape accusers should be automatically believed.

I'm in that first group. That last group is represented by lawyer Zerlina Maxwell in a Washington Post piece originally titled "No matter what Jackie said, we should automatically believe rape claims" (the "automatically" has since been changed to "generally"). Maxwell's approach is not an isolated instance, either; it is all-too-common in its trashing of rights in the cause of feminism/leftism, and in its disregard of men as generally unworthy of our sympathies as compared to women:

The accused [male] would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might defriend him on Facebook. In the case of Bill Cosby, we might have to stop watching his shows, consuming his books or buying tickets to his traveling stand-up routine. But false accusations are exceedingly rare, and errors can be undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly.

The cost of disbelieving women, on the other hand, is far steeper. It signals that that women don’t matter and that they are disposable — not only to frat boys and Bill Cosby, but to us. And they face a special set of problems in having their say.

I wonder if Maxwell would hold the same opinion about the innocuous nature of false accusations if a man were to accuse a woman of rape (such things have happened), or if a woman accused another woman of rape, or -- well, you get the idea. Which victim class would triumph, the class "women" or "alleged rape victims"?

It may be that Maxwell and those who agree with her have never read Kafka. If they had, they would know that false accusations are exceedingly pernicious and destructive. Or perhaps they are unfamiliar with the importance given them by the Ten Commandments, which warn us against them (in either commandment number eight or nine, depending on your religious affiliation): Thou shalt not bear false witness. Proverbs goes even further:

There are six things that the LORD strongly dislikes, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

The ancients knew that a reputation is a pearl of great price. They also knew that people lie: men and women both, and that false accusations damage both sexes equally and terribly. False accusations can jail an innocent person, but short of that they can still dog a person for life, and can be almost impossible to repair after they have done their poisonous work. As Ray Donovan, Labor secretary under President Reagan,  famously asked after being acquitted of corruption charges, "Which office do I go to, to get my reputation back?" There is no such place, not on this earth.