How quickly should an accuser be believed?

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2017

Back to the Post's first report:
We're glad to see that Leigh Corfman went on the Today show this morning to describe her alleged encounters with Roy Moore in 1979, when she was 14.

Corfman seemed extremely sensible and sane. As a general matter, it's much better to be able to see a person who is making a claim against somebody else, although a person's demeanor isn't an infallible guide to the truth.

We're glad that Corfman did this. That said, let's ponder an important question: how quickly should someone be believed if she makes an accusation?

In the past few years, the gods have sent dramatic examples of a basic fact—sometimes, people make highly dramatic accusations which are flatly false.

That said:

No matter how many times this happens, many people seem inclined to believe the next accuser, and to do so instantly, full freaking stop. This phenomenon played out two Fridays ago, when the Washington Post published its initial report about Corfman's accusation.

Should Corfman's report have been believed with no further questions asked? Should other people have been assailed, that very day, for withholding instant belief?

Corfman seemed very sane today. That said, some accusers aren't. First at Duke, than at UVa, we've had dramatic examples of this basic fact. With apologies, how could anyone know, on that first day, that Corfman might not turn out to be the next such accuser?

We're inclined to think that Corfman isn't the next such accuser. But how was someone supposed to know that on the very first day, especially when she hadn't told her story in a forum where other people could evaluate her demeanor?

We can imagine two possible answers. We'll look at them tomorrow.

PEEPING TOMS WITHOUT END, AMEN: The Times' Ross Douthat visits old friends!

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2017

Part 1—A whole lot of skimming and leafing:
According to his column in yesterday's New York Times, Ross Douthat spent some time this past week catching up with old friends. But first, a bit of background information:

A tax bill may be passing through Congress. Ranking military figures are describing their concern about the possibility that Donald J. Trump could employ this nation's nuclear weapons in an impulsive way.

Charges swirl as an important Senate election draws near in Alabama. Vladimir Putin may own the sitting American president. Climate change is on its way to devouring the earth.

It's not like nothing is occuring in the world right now! But here's the way the New York Times' earnest young quasi-conservative decided to spend his time last week:
DOUTHAT (11/19/17): I spent this week reading about the lost world of the 1990s. I skimmed the Starr Report. I leafed through books by George Stephanopoulos and Joe Klein and Michael Isikoff. I dug into Troopergate and Whitewater and other first-term scandals. I reacquainted myself with Gennifer Flowers and Webb Hubbell, James Riady and Marc Rich.
For ourselves, we often have a hard time following Douthat's trains of thought. The earnest young fellow managed to emerge from four years at Harvard (class of 2002) with his moralistic Catholic values intact.

We're not saying there's anything "wrong" with those values, or that a person shouldn't hold them. We're just saying that, in Douthat's hands, these values often lead to chains of reasoning which we find hard to follow.

(According to the leading authority on his life, "As an adolescent, Douthat converted to Pentecostalism and then, with the rest of his family, to Catholicism." That's all fine with us, but these peregrinations seem to have led to abstruse chains of moral reasoning which often seem murky to us. Before matriculating at Harvard, he prepped at Hamden Hall.)

In fairness, there was nothing about yesterday's column which was hard to follow. Like everyone else in the upper-end pundit corps, Douthat spent his time last week catching up with old friends—with old friends from "the lost world of the 1990s," even from years before that.

Inevitably, the first name he mentioned was Gennifer Flowers! Truly, these people are mad.

Might we offer a discourse on method? Based on the paragraph we've posted, it sounds like Douthat performed a lot of "skimming" and "leafing" as he caught up with these old friends last week.

Soon, he was presenting the type of journalistic judgment such skimming and leafing will typically produce. We highlight one laughable statement:
DOUTHAT: The sexual misconduct was the heart of things, but everything connected to Clinton's priapism was bad...

Something like Troopergate, for instance, in which Arkansas state troopers claimed to have served as Clinton's panderers and been offered jobs to buy their silence, is often recalled as just a right-wing hit job. But if you read The Los Angeles Times's reporting on the allegations (which included phone records confirming the troopers' account of a mistress Clinton was seeing during his presidential transition) and Stephanopoulos's portrayal of Clinton's behavior in the White House when the story broke, the story seems like it was probably mostly true.
Question:

After his week of skimming and leafing, does our anti-priapist actually know if those troopers' various stories were true?

We've highlighted only one statement from that passage, the statement we think is most salient. According to Douthat, his perfervid week of skimming and leafing allowed him to make this assessment:

"The story seems like it was probably mostly true."

How's that for journalistic precision? In a hard-hitting, nine-word statement, three different qualifiers appear—three qualifiers, some thirty years after the (alleged) fact.

In fact, there were an array of conflicting claims from an array of troopers. Even as he ignores this fact, does Douthat claim that the troopers' "story" was true?

Well actually no, he doesn't! He is only able to say that the story seems to be true. Except he doesn't say that either!

Actually, he says the story seems to be mostly true—except he hasn't even reached that shaky assessment. According to Douthat, it actually seems like the story is probably mostly true. That means it may be mostly false! Indeed, does this worried young fellow actually know that "the story" is true at all?

The story seems like it was probably mostly true! Who on earth would spend a week constructing such claims—constructing such claims about events which no longer matter, assuming they ever did?

Citizens, don't even ask! That nine-word sentence is the fruit of Douthat's week of leafing and skimming—his week of leafing and skimming concerning events which are alleged to have happened starting in 1988, to cite the particular matter to which he refers in that passage.

We refer to Douthat's worried claim that Bill Clinton, when governor of Arkansas, had "a mistress" with whom he was still in contact in late 1992, in the weeks after being elected president. It seems to trouble this earnest young boy to think that such a thing could have happened. That said, we note the way he still prefers to lard this story with the air of mystery which has always excited the prurient and the deviant among us.

We say that for a reason. If Douthat had dropped his skimming and leafing—if instead he'd read a dozen pages of a well-known, relatively recent book—he could have considered an authoritative-sounding report about that particular matter. We refer to Carl Bernstein's 2007 book, A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton, which describes the alleged relationship in question 1) with the air of prurience stripped away, and 2) in appropriate detail, including the name of the woman in question.

We'll skim that part of Bernstein's book tomorrow. For today, we'll think about what Douthat has done, along with virtually everyone else in the clan of peeping Toms into which he has gained admittance.

Uh-oh! The alleged affair to which Douthat refers was an alleged affair between two consenting adults. Also, between two people of the same age.

No teenagers were involved. There was no issue of consent. And the woman said to be involved wasn't a public employee.

In short, all the worrisome factors which let these people rummage through underwear drawers are absent in this alleged matter. But here is Douthat, worrying hard about an alleged extramarital affair—an affair which Bernstein describes as a serious love affair.

Long ago and far away, this is the sort of thing the peeping Toms tried to use to get Bill Clinton eliminated. Five years before, in 1987, the peeping Toms had eliminated Gary Hart on this very same basis.

At that time, the peepers had literally hid in the bushes to catch Hart in the deeply unseemly act! They then began calling around to the college roommates of other candidates, asking if worrisome people like Candidate Gore had ever smoked marijuana when they were teenagers.

(Today, they pretend to worry about teenagers. Back then, they tried to exploit them!)

In the passage we've posted above, Douthat is worrying about an alleged consensual love affair which is said to have started in 1988. Thirty years later, he leafed and skimmed the Los Angeles Times, thrilled again, as all prurients are, by the deeply troubling conduct.

He spent a week doing this, thirty years later! What kinds of people engage in these tasks, are so steeped in prurience? We're sorry to tell you that these same people are sometimes so intellectually bankrupt that, thirty years later, they produce assessments like this:

"The story seems like it was probably mostly true."

Go ahead—laugh out loud! It's a hedge against tearing your hair, once you start accepting the truth about the beings to whom you're inseparably tied.

("Fastened to a dying animal!" We quote what Yeats once thoughtfully said about a related problem.)

The story seems like it was probably mostly true! Where the fark do these people come from? In what sense and to what extent are they actually "people" at all?

Tomorrow: Sailing toward the Byzantium of Dowd, Goldberg and Hayes

"Believe the accusers" began long ago!

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2017

"Fascinating conversation," CNN's Lemon says:
In English-speaking North America, the sacred nostrum, "Believe the accusers," got its start long ago.

It got its start in Salem Village. In those days, the watchword wasn't, "Believe the women." It was, "Believe the girls."

For whatever reason, the girls went on a bit of rampage; the village chose to believe them. Midway through the moral panic, the Reverend Hale flipped on the wisdom of this belief after his wife, the former Sarah Noyes, daughter of the Reverend Noyes, was herself accused by the girls.

Whatever! By the time the village finally decided to stop believing the girls, twenty-five people were dead. The leading authority on the event totes the carnage like this:

"The trials resulted in the executions of twenty people, fourteen of them women, and all but one by hanging. Five others (including two infant children) died in prison."

Which of the twenty didn't get hanged? That was 81-year-old Giles Corey, who received "an archaic form of punishment...in which stones were piled on his chest until he could no longer breathe."

(Medicare didn't exist. Neither did Corey, by the time he got through being accused.)

"You say you want a revolution?" That's what the Beatles said in 1968, when Chairman Mao, and some over here, were trying "to change the world." With regard to revolutions of saints, this following point should be made:

There's no circumstance in which it makes sense to believe some whole class of accusers, full stop.

There's no circumstance in which that makes sense. Let's try to remember how that unwise practice will sometimes turn out:

In the 1980s, "believe the accusers" became "believe the children" in the various preschool alleged child abuse cases. Quite a few people went to prison as the children, who were like four years old, told investigators, among other things, that their teachers had sometimes been spotted flying on brooms as they arrived at school.

How dumb did people have to be to "believe the children," full stop, in those lunatic preschool cases? They had to be extremely dumb, but we humans were up to the challenge.

That said, dumb and dumber can lead to dead and deader when saints stage revolutions. In the current moment, cable news is involved in this timeless stew.

Below, we'll show you a bit of "cable news" from this past Thursday night. As you may already know, absolutely nothing gets dumber than the brain-dead Salem Village of our contemporary, painfully corporate, ratings-based cable news.

In Thursday's chunk of cable news, an "excitable boy" kept saying, again and again, that Bill Clinton is a rapist. This Tuesday, Michelle Goldberg said much the same thing, saying in part that "We should err on the side of believing women."

Is that a helpful bromide? For ourselves, we'd be inclined to suggest erring on the side of not erring! Erring on the side of avoiding judgments we aren't in position to make.

(For Joe Conason's assessment of the claim in question, you can just click here. You'll note that Conason seems to err on the side of saying he can't really know what happened, the same judgment he attributes to the highly impartial Kenneth Starr.)

As we liberals proceed with our latest "revolution of the saints," the question of Bill Clinton's accusers has been raised anew. In point of fact, some of his accusers were extremely shaky, and didn't compel belief.

This was true even though all the accusers were women. Right through the disastrous fall of last year, the mainstream press corps, especially the New York Times, refused to discuss this rather obvious fact. In this manner, they chose to "believe the accusers" in an unstated way.

Believe the accusers, full stop? It's what the professors said at Duke. After that, Rolling Stone took the same unwise approach at UVa.

Last Friday, Jamelle Bouie also took that approach, within a day of the Washington Post's first report about Roy Moore. As in a certain village of olde, he began assailing the "if true" crowd, who were choosing to wait a few moments before they formed their judgment.

This instinct never seems to die, though some of the accused do. Repeat after us, then memorize:

There is no circumstance in which it makes sense to believe some whole class of accusers!

There is no such circumstance! There will always be an accuser or three who 1) is simply making something up, or 2) is seeking some sort of reward, or 3) is perhaps in need of "professional help." including the help a person can get, at least in theory, from a professional journalist.

"Fascinating conversation," Don Lemon says in the excerpt presented below.

Fascinating conversation! Good lord, dear readers. Good lord!

This is your cable news press corps on drugs: Do you believe Roy Moore's accusers? Do you believe Bill Clinton's?

Do you believe Al Franken's accuser? She was less than a million percent convincing to us, though she hasn't sought Franken's head in her "Receipt-of-apology tour," and though we think Franken's been asking for this with his Ahab-like pursuit of the big liar Jeff Sessions.

(To our eye, Franken, along with several others, has mainly been trying to hang a witch. To our eye, he hasn't mainly been trying to develop information.)

So you'll know, John Phillips is a colleague of Leeann Tweeden's at KABC in Los Angeles. As you'll see, he had a bit of a one-track mind on "cable news" last Thursday night. Lauren Duca, four years out of Fordham, is a columnist at Teen Vogue.

Below, you see some "cable news" from last Thursday night. We haven't found videotape, so we can't fact-check the transcription.

That said, we watched this "discussion" in real time. This transcription very much captures the pitiful gist of the gruesome exchange:
PHILLIPS (11/16/17): What Bill Clinton did wasn't OK. I mean, Bill Clinton is a rapist.

LEMON: And John, would you include the president in there, as well?

PHILLIPS: I think that he certainly uses language like he is on a loading dock. Absolutely. Nonstop all the time.

OBEIDALLAH: He bragged about sexual assault.

(CROSSTALK)

DUCA: Specific accusations, he doesn't just talk like he is on a loading dock.

PHILLIPS: We had a rapist in the White House for two terms and had a woman who ran interference for a rapist.

(CROSSTALK)

DUCA: More than a dozen specific details at how, John—

OBEIDALLAH: Let's talk about who is in the White House today. Donald Trump is not giving us the moral leadership we need. The country is moving forward.

The time of Mad Men was a different period of time. We have moved forward from that. Now we are about to move forward again. We are at another cultural norm movement. We don't have a president to show leadership on this issue.

PHILLIPS: Do you think Bill Clinton is a rapist?

(CROSSTALK)

DUCA: That doesn't matter.

OBEIDALLAH: That's the truth right now.

PHILLIPS: Do you think he is a rapist?

OBEIDALLAH: Let people who can have moral leadership have a discussion on this issue.

PHILLIPS: Do you think he is a rapist, though?

LEMON: Hold on, hold on. I know this is an uncomfortable conversation, but this is what we are here to do, to talk about the way people are talking. And this has been definitely political.

People have brought up Bill Clinton. And he asked you a specific question. What do you say?

DUCA: Yes. Bill Clinton is absolutely guilty of sexual misconduct. I don't understand that—

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Again, again, that has not been proven in a court of law. But that's what people believe. Go on, you can go.

DUCA: He is absolutely been guilty of the same—of having the same level of accusations of sexual misconduct that we are seeing with these figures. But Bill Clinton "what aboutism" is not relevant rhetoric to what is going on with the president.

LEMON: So, John, what is—

DUCA: So, John, are you going to admit that Donald Trump is a sexual harasser?

PHILLIPS: Yes. I mean the, based on that Access Hollywood tape, that was totally out of line. That is language that shouldn't be used under any circumstances.

I'm not going to defend him just because he is a Republican. We as a society, those of us in politics, those of us in media, we have to put our foot down with this sort of thing.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: You voted for him!

PHILLIPS: Well, did you vote for Hillary Clinton?

SETMAYER: No, I did not. I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton or Trump. I actually maintained my integrity.

PHILLIPS: We had the option for voting for a woman who ran interference for a rapist or a guy who uses really nasty language.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Hang on! Hold on! Let me get that language specific for CNN. An accused rapist, and the current president an accused sexual harasser.

SETMAYER: Bragged about being a sexual harasser. I mean I just want us to be—I just want the conversation to be intellectually honest, because that is the problem I have with this. This is clearly a bipartisan issue, right?

LEMON: Yes.

SETMAYER: I mean it happened on both sides. And my issue with this conversation is that there are people who are making moral judgments against Roy Moore, right?

They are saying, "Oh well, Roy Moore"—we are not supposed to believe his accusers and we are not supposed to believe Donald Trump's accusers, but we are supposed to believe Bill Clinton's accusers. It can't be both ways. It shouldn't be partisan.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Thank you all. Fascinating conversation...
As some in the elect can see, the lunacy was general. But Joyce's thoughts on the dead aside, welcome to Salem Village!

Lemon thought that he'd just hosted a "fascinating conversation!" According to Lemon, he and his panelists had been there "to talk about the way people are talking." Setmayer, who's typically very sharp, just wanted the conversation to be intellectually honest!

Question:

Does Phillips actually know whether Clinton "is a rapist?" We're going to say he doesn't. Nor did he mention other presidents accused of rape, including such recent figures as Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Trump.

(He did acknowledge, several times, that Trump has used bad language. This is the type of mental giant presented first by KABC, then by CNN!)

A great deal remains to be said on this topic, and on such related topics as 1) how you ever know what's true and 2) when you should maybe accept the fact that you can't really know what's true in some particular instance.

(There are no ultimate answers. Moses wasn't given a tablet resolving such thorny points.)

Judged by any traditional norm, that conversation was madness. But crap like that is the wholly familiar, straight outta crazy, modern-day "cable news" norm.

"Fascinating conservation," Lemon enthused. And readers, let's understand:

As this lunacy continues, a certain under-discussed tax bill may be slip-sliding through Congress!

The Crazy has never been so robust!

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2017

These are the days of The Crazy:
"These are the days of miracle and wonder."

Long ago and far away, we believe Paul Simon said that.

By contrast, these are the days of The Crazy. Has our discourse ever been as crazy as it is right now?

Last Friday morning, the Washington Post presented this report. In the report, a woman claimed that Roy Moore had molested her when she was 14 years old.

That was a very serious charge. Across the journalistic landscape, it touched off The Crazy.

The Crazy has been voluminous ever since. We couldn't come close to getting to all The Crazy this week.

A continental nation can't long endure if everyone's going to be this crazy. We'll leave you with this point:

On the whole, our upper-end press corps has been venal, self-serving and largely crazy for a very long time now.

On balance, Crazy is what they do best. Crazy, plus working from script. No nuance allowed!

These are the days of Putin's great triumphs! Not to mention all the scuffling in search of the children's next jobs.

Next week: Believe the accusers!

PERISHING FROM THE EARTH: Revolution of the saints!

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2017

Part 5—You may be a Puritan if...:
We hate to start with the Maddow Show again, but you pretty much have to go where the statements are most instructive.

On Wednesday night, the host of that cable news show interviewed Beth Reinhard. She's one of the trio of Washington Post reporters who broke the Roy Moore story last week, whatever that story is taken to be.

Last Friday morning, Reinhard and two colleagues reported that Moore had been accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, an attack which was said to have occurred in 1979.

They also reported that Moore had dated two young women at that same time. They were 17 and 19 years old. According to the Post, both mothers were cheering ol' Roy on, dreaming of possible marriage.

(That may represent a cultural difference. Are we enlightened impressive progressives prepared to tolerate that?)

From that day to this, the saints have been trying to define what Moore is accused of. In this morning's New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer muddles the matter in a way many others have done:

"Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, has been accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls."

So says Steinhauer, in today's Times, perhaps at the direction of editors. But is that what Moore has been accused of? Does he stand "accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls?"

Hopelessly muddled scribe, please! In our lexicon, Moore has been charged with two counts of criminal sexual assault, one of which involved overt acts of physical violence. The saints seem to think it's equally bad that he once dated a 19-year-old, kissing her two separate times with her mother cheering him on.

Moore kissed someone 19 years old when he was 32! We wouldn't recommend that as a general matter, but do Steinhauer and her editors think that was "sexual misconduct?" At any rate, the saints can't quite seem to distinguish a violent sexual assault from a pair of consensual kisses. This led to that peculiar exchange on Wednesday's Maddow Show.

Beth Reinhard is one of the scribes who brought us that report at the Post. Last Wednesday was the first time we got to hear her in person.

As Maddow ended her telephone interview with Reinhard, she asked a rather odd question, with a bit of high drama thrown in. For our money, Reinhard, in her statement, may have marked herself as one of the saints. For ourselves, we're inclined to trust her judgment less because of what she said.

In a new report in the Post, Reinhard had reported that Moore had dated two other teenage women or girls. He'd kissed one in an undesired manner. As she ended her interview, Maddow asked a peculiar question:
MADDOW (11/15/17): Have you discovered any evidence that Roy Moore ever dated someone age-appropriate? That he ever dated somebody his own age? I mean, the discrepancy between the age of these teenage girls and the fact that he was 30 and older does seem remarkable. It's the source of all this controversy. He's defended it himself by saying he denies dating girls who were below the legal age of consent.

That—if that denial is accurate, that may leave open the possibility he was still a 30-something man pursuing girls in tenth grade. Did you find any evidence of him dating women his own age?

REINHARD: Uh—we haven't.

[SLIGHTLY UNUSUAL PAUSE]

MADDOW: Beth Reinhard, part of this remarkable team has broken this story over. Thank you for joining us on very short notice tonight, Beth. Appreciate it.
Several parts of Maddow's question struck us as odd. For starters, she said "the source of all this controversy" lies in the fact that Moore, who was over 30, was dating "teenage girls."

Really? That's the source of the controversy? We would have thought the controversy stemmed from the fact that Moore has been accused of criminally assaulting two young women, one 14 and the other 16, in one case in an overtly violent manner.

We would have thought the "controversy" had possibly stemmed from that! But when the saints begin to rampage, they'll often be unable to imagine such distinctions.

All offenses, real and imagined, will now seem equal in their eyes. That will include a pair of kisses with a 19-year-old "girl" whose mother is praying that Moore might want to marry her daughter, perhaps in line with regional cultural norms of the type we brilliant progressives deride, except in the widely-praised 1979 film Manhattan.

When the saints begin to rampage, all judgment leaves the room. But as a second part of that question, Maddow, who has long been a saint, seemed to say that a date can only be "age appropriate" if the man in question is dating a woman who is "his own age."

Can that possibly be what she meant? Plainly, that's what her words implied. Could she possibly mean that?

At any rate, how about it? Did the Washington Post find any evidence that Moore had ever "dated women his own age?" We thought it was strange when Reinhard said no, though she can't be blamed for the oddness of the question.

What made that question seem strange? In December 1984, Moore, who was then 37, met Kayla Kisor, a 23-year-old mother who was separated from her husband. You can read all about it in the Washington Post.

Moore and Kisor began to date. One year later, they got married. They're still married today.

At the time they started dating, he was 37, she was 23. Were their dates "age appropriate," puritanically speaking?

Maddow seemed to say they weren't. Reinhard offered no resistance, no clarification, no nuance.

Were those dates "age appropriate?" If not, do we understand how many dates, and how many marriages, will have to be denounced? Do we understand how many happily married people will have to be frog-marched off to the camps? How much re-education will have to be performed?

Were those dates age appropriate? Did Maddow, a long-time saint, really mean to say that they weren't?

We don't know, but just for the record, when Rachel Maddow met Susan Mikula, she was 26 years old; Mikula was 41. Should we organize an intervention to rescue Rachel from Susan's home? These are the kinds of questions which may arise when saints stage a moral revolution, setting their minds at ease.

When Roy Moore began dating his wife, were those dates "age appropriate?" We regard that question as strange, but the saints will say those dates were wrong.

We know that's what the saints will say because of William Saletan.

We met Saletan briefly once, long ago. By any normal standard, he is thoroughly sane. But when the saints go rampaging in, very strange judgments may start to appear. This past Tuesday, in a laborious effort to show that Moore was lying about various matters, Saletan offered this bizarre assessment at Slate:
SALETAN (11/14/17): “I’ve been married to my wife, Kayla, for nearly 33 years.” Moore presents this as proof of his character. But do the math. Thirty-three years ago, when they met, Moore was 38, and his wife-to-be was 24. That’s a difference of 14 years, roughly the same age gap his accusers describe. Kayla Moore’s bio also mentions that she had “previously been named Miss Alabama US Teen 2nd Runner up.” Moore didn’t just date pretty women who were 14 years his junior. He married one.
How weird in that final remark? After doing the math, Saletan seems to suggest that a man shouldn't marry someone 14 years younger—and certainly not if the woman in question is pretty! So what should he say about Maddow's life with the person she loves? Maddow was fifteen years younger than the person she met!

Why have we described Maddow and Saletan, and possibly Reinhard, as saints? Let's consider a famous book which may speak to these very strange times.

In 1965, at the age of 30, Michael Walzer published The Revolution of the Saints: A Study in the Origins of Radical Politics.

Walzer went on to a long career, which continues today, as a "public intellectual" of the left. The Revolution of the Saints became a well-known book. According to the Harvard University Press, it's "a study, both historical and sociological, of the radical political response of the Puritans to disorder."

For the record, we're mainly talking about Puritans in England, not here in North America. (Where their response to disorder produced, among other things, those famous Salem witch trials, when we Americans famously decided, for the first time, that we should always "believe the girls.")

Walzer was talking about the Puritans in the 16th and 17th centuries, as the feudal system was breaking down, producing confusion, uncertainty and disorder—and attendant anxiety. At the Moral Imagination site, Ron Sanders pens a capsule of that era, which perhaps and possibly seems to reflect our own times:
SANDERS: [Walzer] argues that Calvinism’s appeal (the dominant theological perspective of the Puritans) was that it confirmed and explained, in theological terms, “perceptions men already had of the dangers of the world and the self " and that it presented a remedy to the anxiety created by the shifting tide of culture through the rigid discipline of “sainthood.” The important theological themes that characterized Calvin’s ideology were, (1) “the permanent, inescapable estrangement of man from God,” (2) “a cure for anxiety not in reconciliation but in obedience,” (3) a “holy commonwealth” and (4) the necessity of “wholehearted participation” on the part of his followers.

The state (holy commonwealth), for Calvin, had dual roles. Its negative role was to repress sin in individuals. Walzer states that, “Calvin accepted politics in any form it took, so long as it fulfilled its general purpose and established an order of repression.”
Does Sanders get Walzer right? We can't tell you that. But at various times in history, anxieties and upheavals have led to puritanical revolutions which feature extremely crazy judgments producing large amounts of dumbness, disorder and death.

At times of upheaval and disorder, people may escape anxiety "through the rigid discipline of sainthood." In China, they frog-marched the intelligentsia off to the camps during the Cultural Revolution. In this country, they hung the witches until sanity prevailed; later, they found a Commie under every bed, then locked up the McMartin Preschool teachers.

Today, they can't tell the difference between kissing a 19-year-old woman (two times!) and conducting a violent sexual assault. It's all just unthinkably evil, wrong, inappropriate, bad!

The last eight days have produced the craziest revolutionary conduct we've seen in a great long time. For example, even after Duke and UVa, the saints insist we have to believe accusers instantly, every single time.

Can humans actually get this stupid? Answer: Yes, we can!

By Friday morning of last week, the saints were already attacking the "if true" crowd—the people who said we ought to maybe wait a few hours before we make our final judgment about that Post report.

In theory, Duke and UVa had shown the world that some accusers who come along are just completely crazy! But even after Duke and UVa, even after the moral stampede in the preschool cases, our rampaging modern-day saints were trashing the "if then" crowd, who wouldn't deliver instant judgments.

How crazy do the saints become when they start to rampage? Historically, the saints are often fairly young, and they can get very crazy.

If we might borrow from Brother Foxworthy, you might be a Puritan if you can't tell the difference between a violent sexual assault and two kisses, over three months, delivered to a 19-year-old woman (not a girl) whose mother hopes you're on your way to marriage.

Also this:

You may be a Puritan if your own age difference is 15 years, and you're willing to hang the witch because his age difference is a much-too-large 14 years! Plus, have you heard the Bentley sex tape, where someone actually dared to say he loved his lover's body?

"The fear that somewhere, someone is happy?" How crazy do you have to be to keep on playing that tape?

Lincoln has come to us this week to warn us about what's happening. A continental nation can't long endure, he has masterfully said, if fifteen years up north is fine, but fourteen in Bama is not.

If living with a 17-year-old is high art when it's cinematically performed in Manhattan, but kissing a 19-year-old is a crime when it's done Down There.

That said, the saints are on the march. Last night, we saw an utterly crazy discussion on Don Lemon's CNN show. This morning, the initial Morning Joe segment was fraudulent all the way down.

That said, our press elites have been stunningly fraudulent lost souls for a long time now. They know how to pursue their careers by repeating their scripts. They seem to know little else.

The end of the feudal system was, of course, a great advance for humanity. But massive change creates anxiety. In a search for blessed relief, the saints came rampaging in.

We also live at a time of great change today. For example, the rapid acceptance of love like Rachel's with Susan represents a phenomenal social advance. Opportunities and norms have rapidly changed in many other realms.

These are the days or miracle and wonder, just like Paul Simon said. But rapid change can also produce conflict, confusion, disorder.

Down through the many death-dealing years, we humans have sometimes fled the anxiety of rapid change through the adoption of sainthood regimes. It's been happening in the past week all over cable TV, among the ranks of bogus souls who have fought their way onto such programs.

The various children of all ages are living in times of remarkable change. Again and again and again and again, they seem to be amazingly stupid, unpleasant, tribal, self-serving and scared.

Next week: Believe the accusers! (of Clinton)