Believe The Victims (of the SPLC)

The open letter from SAVE, Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, was not only well argued and fully footnoted, but signed by a great many lawyers, academics and advocates. Almost 140 of them. And as its title said, it argued strenuously against the “trauma-informed” approach to sex offenses under both Title IX and in the legal system.

It’s a good letter, and cites to some important thought, statistics and arguments. The short version is that “believe the victim” reverses the presumption of innocence and rationalizes away due process for the accused. No regular reader of SJ is unfamiliar with these views. That almost 140 people signed their names to the letter, particularly the profs for whom questioning the ideology of victimhood could be career-ending, is significant. They thought this worthy of taking a huge risk on a hot bonfire.

So what’s the reaction? The first is the unsurprising fallback that relies on a grasp of statistics colored by belief.

Caroline Heldman, associate professor of politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles and author of the forthcoming book “The New Campus Anti-Rape Movement,” agreed: “The facts are that, despite statistics finding that victims are telling the truth more than 90 percent of the time, rapists are rarely held accountable, on college campuses or elsewhere. When only 3 percent of rapists will ever see a day in jail, and only 2 percent of campus rapists are expelled, the system is heavily stacked in favor of predators. The idea that survivors somehow have an advantage in campus or law enforcement proceedings is patently absurd, given these statistics.”

These statistical claims are either completely true, if one views them through the prism of ideology and rationalization, or completely false, if one prefers the rigors of math, facts and logic. This, too, should come as nothing new.

But there is another reason to reject the SAVE letter.

“It doesn’t surprise me that a right-wing, misogynistic hate group — classified as that by the Southern Poverty Law Center — would engage on the issues of sexual violence,” said Carol E. Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project. “They most likely are doing this to engage more white men in their right-wing movement. What shocks me is that law professors and other lawyers would align themselves with a group that has been classified like this.

And, indeed, the SPLC has “classified” SAVE as a “misogynistic hate group.”

There’s room for reasonable people to disagree on how to improve the adjudication of rape allegations in both civil and criminal proceedings, but aligning themselves with a group like that is very troubling.”

Are the signatories to the letter unreasonable people? Can they be otherwise if they’ve aligned themselves with a hate group? Then again, by relying on the SPLC’s designation, Tracy is absolved of any responsibility to address the substance of the letter. There is surely no reason for the executive director of the Women’s Law Project to roll in the mud with a hate group, “most likely” doing this to engage their right-wing white men.

This isn’t just the classic ad hominem logical fallacy, but one that has served to capture much of the media as a quick and dirty way to dismiss the tyranny of facts. That the SPLC says so is the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for social justice, and they say SAVE is misogynstic because it’s not feminist. And therein lies the rub.

Selling the “reasonable people can disagree” mantra is necessary to create the appearance of not being extreme and inflexible, but the signatories to this letter were reasonable people. The scholars and experts cited in the letter were reasonable people. The arguments were reasonable. The facts were accurate. This was as reasonable as it gets.

Yet it was dismissed by the woke because the SPLC classified SAVE as a hate group, and it did so because SAVE is dedicated to due process.

Is due process and the presumption of innocence a weapon of oppression wielded by right-wing white men? This has become the ideological riposte, vilifying fundamental tenets of our jurisprudence, as these constitutional rights can’t be overcome otherwise. They stand in the way of achieving the goal of believing the victim right or wrong, true or false.

To scrutinize accusations is to inflict trauma on the traumatized. This is an unacceptable outcome. That some innocent males must be sacrificed to achieve the goal, on the other hand, is acceptable. The concern that this might dissuade people from approving of a shift to the presumption of guilt is to minimize the harm by falsifying the statistics. Repeat the lie enough and people will believe. And people do believe. Statistics are hard.

But it’s hard to maintain the narrative of distorted statistics, of rationalization, of excuses for everything such that there can be no outcome other than believe the victim, as if anyone could be reasonable and yet disagree, when so many credible people sign on to a letter that makes such rational and factually grounded arguments, the coup de grâce is that the SPLC says they’re a hate group.

The SPLC flagged SAVE for misogyny in 2012, saying the group is part of an online “manosphere … dedicated to savaging feminists in particular and women, very typically American women, in general.”

While this may be hard to accept, or believe, the fact remains that even those people who are “white men,” or identify as “right wing,” are entitled to their views, like everyone else. The SPLC designation is meaningless, a progressive group’s attack on values they don’t share which they’ve chosen to call “hate groups,” largely because the SPLC hates them.

But the SAVE letter isn’t a “dog whistle” to right-wing white men, although they may be part of the group of people who agree with its contents. It’s the product of facts and logic, untainted by fantastical beliefs. It appeals to anyone who, despite the outcome they might prefer, refuses to ignore reason and eschew principles. These things don’t disappear because the SPLC calls them a hate group.

Neither due process nor presumption of innocence are misogynistic, right-wing or hateful. That this needs to be said, or is in dispute, explains why reasonable people cannot disagree to those for whom reasonableness is left to logical fallacies based on SPLC designations.

21 thoughts on “Believe The Victims (of the SPLC)

  1. Rendall

    “That some innocent males must be sacrificed to achieve the goal, on the other hand, is acceptable.”

    There aren’t many of those, anyway.

    1. SHG Post author

      There aren’t any of those, if one takes a more expansive view of oppression. Even if they didn’t do whatever they’re accused of doing, they did something to deserve punishment because they’re toxic.

  2. REvers

    That’s one hell of a letter. I’m not sure it’s possible to explain the issues any better than that.

  3. Jim Tyre

    not only well argued and fully footnoted

    53 footnotes in 6+ pages is an assault, SHG, an assault! The only reason for so many in so few is to render the reader incapable of spotting the fallacies that surely must be there. Often you point to Brown v. Board of Education, because it took only 16 pages. But I’m not sure you’ve ever said that it had only 14 footnotes.

      1. cthulhu

        I thought that the SPLC just had a blanket category for shitlords, with the description, “You know who you are.” Saves them a lot of work.

  4. Nemo

    Statistics are indeed hard. Multiplying expulsions for “rape” times 50 is easy. That’s a lot of rapists running around on our campuses, and there must be a lot of “victims” out there, too.

    Except that if the 2% number is accurate, it means that the current Title IX tribunal system is somehow 98% ineffective, despite the tribunals being biased to “convict”. And yet, somehow, somehow, the legal system convicts more. How’s that even possible?

    The obvious answer, of course, is that the statistics presented don’t work when applied to the real world. That’s the thing; in theory, theory and practice are identical. In practice, they are not. This is one reason why facts are so repulsive to “theorists”*.

    *Not the same thing as scientific theories, of course. Those are normally junked when facts disprove them. But then, what qualifies as a theory in science has passed through more rigor than most socially popular conclusions. Awkward.

  5. Dan

    I’ve often wondered this, but haven’t found the answer–what on earth does the SPLC have to do with the South, poverty, or the law? Its name appears to be three lies for the price of one.

    1. SHG Post author

      It has to do with its origins. When started by Morris Dees as a civil rights organization, it was a great civil rights organization. Then mission creep set in and the need to perpetuate funding overtook its purpose.

      1. Vincent Morrone

        So you’re saying a civil rights organization is now fundamentally opposed to due process rights and labels anyone who believes in them as a hate group?

  6. Matthew Wideman

    The country must be safer from Nazi’s and KKK members because the SPLC has to spend it’s time classifying reddit pages as dens of anti-feminism.

    True story, I wrote a paper on the SPLC in college. I was super in love with their progressive ideas and monitoring hate groups. A very astute girl in my class said, “Why would you want to work for a group who self appoints themselves as the speech police…. Who appointed them? Seems anti-american”. Never been the same since.

    1. SHG Post author

      The problem is two-fold. It’s not just that the SPLC has anointed itself the official keeper of the hate list, but that the media then accepts their designations as gospel.

  7. Garrett Cynthia

    The content to which SPLC refers has long since been removed from the SAVE website, and the individual who posted it long gone. Nevertheless those looking for dirt still dig it up.

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