You know that situation you sometimes find yourself in, where you find yourself stuck between two people who are yelling and screaming at each other about something, and all you can do is just sit there trying to go to your happy place in your mind, but the people in your happy place are yelling at each other? You want to say something out loud about what they’re fighting about, but you know that if you do, they’ll turn their rage on you, so you just wait for them to tire themselves out?
Yeah, that was me with the whole Tara Reade fight and the whole issue of “Believe Women,” “#MeToo,” and the underlying politics at play that no one really wanted to talk about it. Well, now that we’ve reached the part where the actual allegations against Joe Biden have become a nonstory and we begin the process of navel-gazing about the meta issues behind it, it’s my time to shine.
Let me just say that if you thought the allegations of sexual assault from Tara Reade weren’t going to be politicized and end up damaging the movement to out sexual predators, you, my friend, are an absolute moron. This whole thing was an inevitability. It’s one thing to out creeps in the entertainment industry, because if we’re being honest, our society absolutely love reveling in the darkness that is the lives of the rich, famous, and powerful. We devoured the Louis C.K. and Harvey Weinstein drama like Roman elites having a bacchanalian orgy. People built careers off of it. We began canceling anybody and everybody with an even questionable past, and we loved it. Yet, inevitably, the calls of “Believe Women” were going to run afoul of what exactly has happened with the allegations Reade has leveled against Joe Biden.
“Believe Women” was always a shit slogan. Not everyone is believable or trustworthy. While yes, it is true that the number of false allegations falls somewhere around 5 percent, eventually someone was going to make a politically motivated allegation that was shaky at best. Yes, Tara Reade’s allegation is politically motivated. I’m sorry, I know we’re not supposed to say that because it cheapens the idea that we should “believe all women,” and that allegations of sexual assault and rape should always be taken seriously, but let’s log off Twitter for a second and be real.
I’m not saying Reade is lying, but the fact that the people who initially reported and pushed the story failed to do the due diligence of a thorough investigation and are known to be very opposed to Joe Biden’s candidacy doesn’t help at all. The reason that major news outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others don’t immediately rush to print accusations of such an explosive nature is that they are of an explosive nature and they deserve due diligence on the part of the reporter and the publishing organization. If they were to have run this story with the speed that other outlets did, it could open them up to major lawsuits should the story fall apart. That’s why the articles that took down Weinstein, Cosby, and others were months in the making even without people making efforts to block them. This rush by people, whose motivations are questionable, immediately tainted the Reade allegations from the beginning.
As Reade’s story has changed and her background has been investigated since it first came out, of course it has helped polarize the people who are invested in it. It is kind of disgusting that in order to talk about this we have to put into play the personal politics and character of the people who are drawing lines in the sand on the issue, but we are, because we have to. We have to because when it comes to this issue, it is not only incredibly easy to wield it as a cudgel against our political opponents, but it is inevitable. In our current political climate, it is not only about our values as a society, but about our political actors. Journalists and pundits are increasingly no longer, if they were ever, neutral actors in our political discourse. Until recently, news outlets were largely invested in remaining neutral because of the size of the available market. In the digital age, when one can curate a news feed that confirms all your prior views, and there is a desperate fight for revenue as the number of niche outlets grows, journalists are increasingly invested less in telling the truth than in a narrative to support their consumers and push their own agendas with far less objectivity.
So yes, when some “Bernie Bro” journalist comes at Biden with allegations of sexual assault, people who are predisposed to oppose anything they say will not take them seriously. In the mirror image of that, “Bernie Bros” are more likely to declare hypocrisy and say “the establishment” is trying to fight off their intrepid efforts to speak truth to power. Objectivity is lost, and when it comes to trying to determine the truth of something that allegedly happened almost 30 years ago with no witnesses or physical evidence, objectivity is probably the most crucial factor.
Of course, when all of this broke, immediately people who were less inclined to favor mainstream Democrats began calling for Joe Biden to withdraw from the presidential race. “These allegations are credible and therefore he must withdraw,” they would say. This is probably the dumbest, most insane stance to take. As more and more information from journalists who have dug into the story comes out, the issue of credibility has come into play. Yes, credibility is a factor. I know it’s offensive to even entertain the idea of questioning the character of an accuser, but when the only thing we have to go on to determine guilt is character and the believability of the story, it is absolutely necessary.
If we establish the standard that all it takes is an allegation to destroy a person’s career, especially in a political campaign with so much riding on it, then we are handing a weapon to unscrupulous actors who do not give one damn about victims. If you believe for one second that just because someone wants Medicare for All and a $15 minimum wage they are above lying, cheating, and abusing people to get it, I honestly have to laugh. Yes, this is a pointed attack on leftists, but one cannot deny that there is often an insufferable sense of moral purity that comes from many in this political segment, just as there is an undeniable air of condescension that comes from many mainstream liberals. Additionally, you do understand that people on the conservative spectrum gave up caring about issues of sexual assault, rape, and personal integrity the minute they put on one of those stupid red MAGA hats. It’s only the liberals and left who are still holding themselves to this standard, and don’t think for one second that bad-faith actors on either side wouldn’t use it to destroy their opponents and themselves for a chance to post gloating hashtags.
Now more than ever, politically charged allegations involving sexual misconduct need to be treated with caution and scrutiny without a rush to punish or exonerate along your own ideological lines.
Is Tara Reade lying? I’m not going to say whether she is or isn’t, since I’m just a lowly peasant in the political discourse. OK, maybe a more prominent peasant than others, but I am going to say that this this is all just a giant clusterfuck. This whole scandal has clearly fallen along politically ideological lines, and whether or not one trusts the accuser based upon their story and background with its changes and issues one can just as easily explain away as either the trauma of a victim or that of a manipulating and motivated liar. One can even dismiss the journalists and outlets covering it no matter what evidence or testimony they bring forth based upon your own predrawn conclusions. Yet this is what was inevitable. With our political polarization it was inescapable that “Believe Women” was going to become a weapon and that it was going to do grievous harm to the idea of getting justice for victims no matter what. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if Reade or Biden is a liar, the damage is done, and we have entered the new normal where all it takes is someone with a platform and something to gain from it to destroy the hard work and pain of others all for a drop of clout.
Amanda Kerri is an Oklahoma-based writer and comedian, a regular contributor to The Advocate, and a former board member for Oklahoma City Pride. Follow her on Twitter @Amanda_Kerri.