All or Nothing, It’s All About Believing

It was pointed out to me the other day, when I wrote about how the Big Lie relies upon the acceptance of a series of smaller foundational lies. The phrase, hashtag, mantra, slogan, whatever characterization you prefer, “Believe All Women” was “a strawman.” I sloughed it off, as it was neither factually true nor a difference with a distinction.

If this was the mountain upon which pseudo-feminists wished to die, that was their choice.

Filipovic is a lawyer, which suggests she would be modestly cautious about making assertions that can be completely disproven within seconds. But then, she’s also a “third-wave feminist,” so any rhetorical sophistry that appeals to her tribe is good enough to manufacture an excuse.

Her reference is to an op-ed inexplicably (but unsurprisingly) published by the New York Times.

In fact, “Believe All Women” does have an asterisk: *It’s never been feminist “boilerplate.” What we are witnessing is another instance of the right decrying what it imagines the American women’s movement to be.

Spend some mind-numbing hours tracking the origins of “Believe All Women” on social media sites and news databases — as I did — and you’ll discover how language, like a virus, can mutate overnight. All of a sudden, yesterday’s quotes suffer the insertion of some foreign DNA that makes them easy to weaponize. In this case, that foreign intrusion is a word: “all.”

No, the “right” didn’t insert the “all.” That’s not me saying so. The google and twitter machines say no. Robby Soave called this “gaslighting.”

No, “believe women” never meant, doesn’t mean, and makes utterly sense even if one took the post-hoc rationalization seriously, At Arc Digital, Oliver Taldi parses the phrase.

Similarly, author and activist Jill Filipovic tweets that “Feminists never said ‘believe all women’ — the right inserted the ‘all.’ Feminists said ‘believe women’: that is, start with the assumption that women are telling the truth instead of reflexively doubting them.” It’s not clear how the insertion of “all” is supposed to affect things. Does Filipovic think we should start with the assumption that all women are telling the truth, or only some? What does believing someone involve if not assuming that they are telling the truth? (Also, the claim that “feminists never said ‘believe all women’” is simply false on the face of it.)

It’s not hard to understand why now, with the hypocrisy demonstrated by adherents at dismissing accusations leveled at Joe Biden, the other tribe has seized upon the worst, most flagrant variation of this phrase, which appeared in various permutations at a time when no variation was subject to challenge or question.

“Believe All Women” carries a harder punch than “Believe Women,” and is easier for the rhetorically challenged to grasp than the more subtle variant. But it was a bludgeon created by the pseudo-feminists, who were happy enough with it when it was in their hands and are now desperately trying to disavow it when they’ve been disarmed and their adversaries use it against them.

But so what?

It really doesn’t matter, substantively, whether the slogan is “Believe Women,” “Believe All Women,” “Believe The Woman” or any other variant one might prefer. The word “All” is redundant. The more important word, that miraculously avoids scrutiny in this battle over hashtags, is the word “Believe.”

The same analysis applies to Faludi’s claim that “believing women is simply the rejoinder to the ancient practice of #DoubtWomen.” (To any New York Times editors reading this: “believing” is an action, not a statement, and therefore cannot be a “rejoinder”; and no “ancient practice” has an associated hashtag.) If all “believe” means is “don’t automatically doubt,” then the slogan would not fit situations in which the doubt remained after the presentation of a great deal of evidence.

If, as the moment’s excuse machine contends, believe is used merely to  remind men to take women seriously, or in contrast with “doubt,” then they could argue that the slogan was a lie all along and should have been #TakeWomenSeriously. Not catchy enough for the simpletons? It’s hard to come up with a cool phrase that works, but that’s not an excuse for creating a phrase that doesn’t say what you now claim it means.

But, of course, there is a far simpler reaction to these rhetorical gymnastics played out on uneven bars. The pseudo-feminists, as part of their thrust to avoid the difficulties of the legal system where proof of accusations would be required and weighed according to some meaningful standard, created an alternate path of public accusations on social media and publications where the mere accusation would be fully sufficient to “prove” their claim and neither the accused nor his “apologists” could challenge without violating the series of small lies that gave rise to the big lie, Believe.

There was a “credible accusation,” but no credible denial (until Liz Warren invented it exclusively for the use of Joe Biden). Anyone could accuse, but no one could question. That was exactly what the slogan was meant to achieve, whether in its “Believe All Women” or “Believe Women” permutations. If the latter makes you feel better, so be it. It changes nothing for those who refuse to think, but instead “Believe.”

8 thoughts on “All or Nothing, It’s All About Believing

  1. B. McLeod

    New York Times revisionist history aside, “believe all women” was the “feminist” encapsulation of the premise that burdens needed to be shifted and presumptions of Male guilt needed to be established for all he said/she said cases of alleged sexual misconduct. The supporting rationale was that absent such a reinvention of the applicable rules, claims were just too hard to prove, and culpable males were going unpunished.

    It was a stupid argument, and the Democratic Party didn’t have to adopt it as a precept for their Big Tent. But, they did adopt it. At the time, perhaps they assumed that the accused would always be their political adversaries, and that “believe all women” would never come for them. If so, the assumption was naive, and the illustration of that point is at hand. Now, sadly, there is nothing left to do but to attempt untenable refinements to get Joe Biden out of the trap they laid for him.

    Reply
    1. [email protected]

      Indeed. Even put in the best possible light (i.e. “only n% of accusations are false, so punishing the falsely-accused is a small price to pay for getting much closer to justice for the (100-n)% who are true victims”), this is a dramatic failure of level-k thinking. If the de-facto policy changes to automatically punishing the accused and rewarding the accuser, the fraction of false accusations is guaranteed to rise.

      Reply
      1. SHG Post author

        Rather than indulge whatever mythical crap is floating through your head while you’re pointlessly engaged in off-topic musing, try it with real numbers to avoid making any more stupid than necessary.

        True-ish: 35.3%
        Definitively False: 5.9%
        Inconclusive: 58.8%

        Reply
      2. David

        Imagine if you had just written, “believe women” rather than facts would increase the likelihood of false accusations without the addition of your pseudo-equation? But then, it would still have been too obvious to be worth saying.

        And yet, you felt compelled to say it. Brilliant.

        Reply
  2. Gregory Smith

    With the summer Olympics delayed until 2021, perhaps there is time to add rhetorical gymnastics to the competition? Team USA could definitley bring home the gold in this event.

    Reply
  3. Rojas

    Ironic the claim that the “right” inserted it.
    They literally took their playbook from the WKKK.
    Yesterday, ‘poison squads of whispering women’.
    Today ‘The Shitty Media Men list’.
    Pre hash tag era:
    Believe ‘100 Percent Pure American’ Women.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      It might (I dunno, but it’s possible) be that the right seized on it as the best slogan to make the point, but invented it is provably false.

      Reply

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