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roy moore 10-2017

Judge Roy Moore, False Accusations, and the Fog of Political War

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I have seen multiple posts by people claiming various versions of the following statement: “Roy Moore has been credibly accused of sexual assault by multiple women who have nothing to gain from accusing him. Their accounts have been corroborated.”

This is false on many levels. Anyone interested in living in a fair society needs to call the bluff of ANYONE who posts such statements, even if you like them. You can be professional and objective (not necessarily polite or civil) but you must rebuke people for engaging in this kind of clever deceit.

1. The word “credible” has to mean something

The charges against Roy Moore are not credible by any standard. The accusations have come through the filter of journalists, publicists, or lawyers, who exercised total control over the content of statements released to the public. These journalists are overseen by editors. So the accusations are well edited, but this actually makes them less credible, because the incoherent content of the accusations conflicts with the highly professionalized tone, leading us to suspect that the accusations we have heard are not transparent memories shared by a disinterested person (that would make them more credible)–but rather, doctored, coached, and rehearsed scripts colored by people who were from the beginning motivated by considerations related to their own professional standing as commentators, advocates, and lobbyists. Let’s take a look at the content of the “accusations.”

All but three of them involve no hint of wrongdoing at all; they present a portrait of Roy Moore as a single man in his thirties courting eligible young women and showing restraint and chivalry.

The content of these accounts conflicts drastically with the portrait of Roy Moore painted by his three actual “accusers”–namely, Corfman, Nelson, and Johnson. Hence, the accusations suggest aberrations, flukes, and out-of-character behavior even when we take into account the statements from women who shared their dating history with Moore in the context of a press cycle when their memories were going to be cited against him. To be “credible” a narrative has to have very few aberrations or it has to be documented with an objective source outside of one person’s subjective memories. The Corfman, Nelson, and Johnson charges fall below these thresholds for credibility.

Corfman presents Moore as someone who would behave in sexually bold ways against the wishes of a girl’s parents; this conflicts with the other accounts of Moore’s careful solicitation of young women’s parents’ approval.

Nelson presents Moore as someone who would remove a woman from a public place and take her somewhere isolated, then try to force her to perform oral sex on him; this conflicts with all the other accounts, which do not include any reference to his desire for oral sex, and which do not show accounts of reckless behavior endangering his own reputation (i.e., picking up a waitress people have seen him talking to, and taking her somewhere isolated where he might stand accused and not have a way to defend his innocence). While Corfman and Nelson both claim they remember predatory behavior on Moore’s part, they do not present a consistent pattern. In Corfman’s story the predator is conniving and premeditates elaborate schemes to isolate and exploit a victim, whereas in Nelson’s story the predator is impulsive, lacking in self-control, and grossly reckless, aggressing against a woman who works in a diner he frequents and then pushing her out of his car next to the diner, where she is supposedly expecting her boyfriend to appear.

Lastly, Johnson claims he grasped her buttocks in front of her mother; this conflicts with every other account of Roy Moore’s paying particular attention to the approval and respect of women’s mothers. The predator in Johnson’s account is also extremely different from the conniving villain in Corfman’s account and the impulsive reckless rake in Nelson’s account. In Johnson’s version the predator seems drawn to risk and tests boundaries dangerously, daring to grab a woman right in front of a mother and then playing it off as if he weren’t being lecherous.

The three troubling accusations are all based solely on the reported memory of one woman with no other eyewitnesses other than Roy Moore, who has denied their claims.

No physical evidence has been produced at all. This is a huge detraction from their credibility because we are stuck in the highly subjective world of a person’s thoughts, with forty years of intervening experience skewing memories with bias. We cannot count a yearbook because that simply implies that he signed a note to her at her workplace, something that would not be unusual if, as Nelson states, he saw her regularly at the place where she worked. In the Army we had everyone, from all ranks, sign our graduation photos. At jobs I have seen people sign baseballs, mementos, people’s casts, or Christmas cards. The unusual twist of an older man signing a high school student’s yearbook in December is entirely contingent on bizarre details in Nelson’s own explanation about this book. Why was the yearbook issued to her in winter when most such books come out in the summertime graduation season? Nelson herself claims she brought the yearbook, inexplicably, to her job at a diner. The strangeness of an older man signing the yearbook points to the strangeness of her bringing it to the place where she worked. If she brought it to her diner job to have people sign it with Christmas wishes then there is really nothing strange about a regular customer writing a Christmas wish in it. Nothing in the yearbook note corroborates or disproves any of Nelson’s claims about the physical assault; it is neutral as to the provability of the accusation. So there is, finally, not physical proof that Roy Moore assaulted Nelson.

Some have suggested that there is physical evidence in Corfman’s case, because records do indicate that her mother was at a court hearing in 1979, during a time when Roy Moore was employed in the district attorney’s office. But there seems to be no proof that links Moore to her, at least in what has come to the public. We have no indication that Moore had the occasion to interact with Corfman. Several details in Corfman’s story actually seem to be weakened by the documentary evidence that has surfaced: for example, it appears very unlikely her family had a long extension cord to make it possible for her take a phone call in her bedroom; she remembers a street corner being close to her home when it was not; and additionally, documents show that the court was tracking Corfman’s behavioral progress in 1979 and 1980 but there is no mention of her informing the court that a public servant tied to the court tried to molest her.

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