Would a child lie? Are you really a pedophile apologist? These are things that would be said, and not pleasantly, to anyone who questioned the guilt of Virginia McMartin. But she was vilified, even though it was later recognized that she was completely innocent and the crimes of which she was accused never happened.
Cathy Young braved the mob as it stormed Woody Allen’s gate.
The 82-year-old actor and filmmaker has long been haunted by allegations that he molested his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, more than a quarter-century ago, when she was just seven years old. In 2014, Farrow wrote an open letter with the accusation, and yet the controversy quickly settled down, leaving Allen largely unscathed.
But now it’s 2018, and we live in a different world.
At the time, Dylan Farrow’s allegations were determined to be unfounded, which failed to convince many but was sufficient to end the inquiry.
Obviously, none of this proves Allen is innocent. But it does leave plenty of room for doubt.
Today, there is no doubt. Indeed, there is no need for inquiry any more. No need for charges, evidence or proof. Dylan Farrow said so, and what sort of sick pervert apologist would dispute her?
On the pro-Allen side, there’s a report by a team from the Yale-New Haven Hospital Child Sex Abuse Clinic, brought in by the Connecticut State Police, which determined that Dylan had not been sexually abused and suggested there may have been coaching by Farrow. The New York State Department of Social Services also found no credible evidence of molestation.
Since the account of the rape “felt” true, it was easy to assume it was. Since the alleged victim had supposedly suffered grievous harm, it was awkward to challenge her version of events. Since important people took the story on faith and sought to press it into the service of an undeniably noble cause, the story’s moral truth overwhelmed its factual one.
But that case, like McMartin, disappears from view, the myths that never happen we’re told. Woody is real. Woody is guilty. Burn Woody. Granted, Woody’s leaving Mia for her adopted daughter was beyond creepy for many of us, but that cuts both ways, to Mia Farrow’s desire to retaliate and hurt Woody by manipulating her daughter Dylan as well as Woody’s interests in young women. Which is it? Who knows. I don’t. Nor do you, no matter how much you want to believe you do.
It goes without saying that child molestation is a uniquely evil crime that merits the stiffest penalties. But accusing someone of being a molester without abundant evidence is also odious, particularly in an era in which social-media whispers can become the ruin of careers and even of lives.
In other times, Stephens’ pointing this out would be bold. Today, it’s damn near suicidal. Already, the unduly passionate are questioning why he hasn’t been fired by the Times for daring to question their certain beliefs. They may acknowledge, in a moment of weakness, that there are distinctions to be made on the degree of horribleness between the people assumed guilty and the people questioning the mob’s verdict, the punishment ranges from death for the least culpable to death plus cancer for the most.
Given the available facts, it is impossible to know with any reasonable certainty whether or not Allen molested Dylan Farrow. She may be telling the truth; he may be telling the truth. It’s also quite possible that neither of them is lying and that Dylan strongly believes she was molested, even though she was not.
Here’s why I am strongly inclined to believe that Allen did not molest Dylan.
As explained before, facts are objective. Truth is subjective. Arguing about another person’s “truth” is a futile endeavor, as believers are going to believe no matter what doubts are created by the facts. But that still assumes too much.
We have a system, imperfect as it is, for determining a person’s guilt. It’s there for the people we love, we despise, we don’t even know. Guilt isn’t established by editorials or social media, by the strength of beliefs, the extent of snark or the depth of passionate fury of the zealots.
Who would be crazy enough to stand up for the rights of Virginia McMartin when everyone at the time knew she was guilty? Even after it was revealed that UVA’s Jackie was a liar, zealots argued that she should still be believed, because we had transcended facts to a deeper truth.
And now Cathy Young and Bret Stephens have done the unthinkable and challenged the mob’s certainty that Woody Allen molested Dylan Farrow. Off with their heads, not for doing anything to anyone, but for questioning.
The disease is metastasizing, spreading from the unconvicted to those who refuse to prove their virtue by validating the mob’s certainty. Neither goes so lawyerish as to remind their readers that in America, we are presumed innocent until convicted. If that means anything, it’s that we are innocent, there being no purgatory of “everybody knows he’s guilty, but he beat the rap, so he’s really guilty but unconvicted.”
Woody Allen has not been convicted of anything, not that his detractors care. But burning Woody at the stake isn’t sufficient. Even those who would presume to challenge the mob mentality must be burned alongside him. Surely that will silence anyone who might consider questioning the guilt of Virginia McMartin or the fraternity boys who raped Jackie. And Woody Allen. And others.