The impulse to eradicate sexual violence is a noble one, but sadly, the rhetoric employed by modern feminists in pursuit of that goal is a chilling echo of the lynch mobs gathered at the hanging trees of the old American South. Like the lynch mobs of old, modern feminism is animated by a disturbing hostility to the due process rights of the presumptively innocent. Anyone who would deny that hostility is a liar, a fool, or both. It is time to stop waging the war on sexual violence with the memes of the hangman.
No doubt feminists will recoil at this premise, just as they recoil when anyone dares to speak up for the rights of the presumptively innocent. Cue the spouting and sputtering of “rape apologist!” and “victim blaming!” — responses that have all the thought behind them of the tics associated with a severe case of Tourette syndrome. Compare the rhetoric of the hangman’s sympathizers with the over-the-top rhetoric of modern feminism, then tell me who’s the extremist, and who’s just telling it like it is.
The Lynch Mob:
The motivating impulse of the lynch mob was that rape was an offense so heinous, it demanded “instant and severe punishment” — vigilante justice — without waiting for due process. As one writer put it, lynchings “are extraordinary measures demanded by extraordinary occasions.”
Underlying the defense of lynchings was the assumption that rape accusers were “victims” just because they said so. The hangman and his sympathizers had no doubts about the guilt of the men and boys hanged–“their guilt was clear in every instance,” clucked one writer. Another explained: “. . . the utmost care is taken to identify the criminal and only when his identity is beyond question is the execution ordered.” And: “As the most careful precautions are taken against this result it is not a likely thing lest the wrong man is executed.”
But due process wasn’t just unnecessary to the fair administration of justice when rape was alleged, due process was a hindrance to the fair administration of justice. The criminal justice system was “incapable” of meting out the punishment that was needed, a punishment that spared the victims of “negro” atrocities the humiliation of testifying in courts.
The lynch mob was convinced its cause was righteous because it was convinced that “negro” males were prone to rape. This was from a New York Times editorial dated August 2, 1894: “It is a peculiar fact that the crime for which negroes have frequently been lynched . . . is a crime to which negroes are particularly prone.” And this is from the New York Times, September 16, 1897: “. . . [T]he negro . . . seems particularly given to this odious crime.” The “negro,” you see, had “an evil nature,” and a “colored” male was deemed at least three-and-a-half times more likely to rape than a white man. C. McCord, The American Negro as a Dependent, Defective and Delinquent at 220 (1914).
What was the lynch mob’s reaction to those who denounced lynchings? To malign them as “fanatics” and victim blamers, of course. The folks who called for due process never “say[ ] or do[ ] anything to discourage the crime which provoked” the lynchings in the first place, said one lynching sympathizer. Indeed, these “fanatics . . . have assailed the victims of the brute’s lust . . . .”
Does any of this sound familiar? In fact, all of it should sound familiar. The echoes of those shrill voices resonate in modern feminism.
The Modern Feminist:
Women don’t lie about rape: How many different ways do feminists tell us that every rape accusation must be believed? That false claims are essentially non-existent or so rare that they are unworthy of discussion? That accusers are “victims” and “survivors” merely by virtue of their accusations? That an acquittal in a rape trial must mean that justice wasn’t done? Among the most appalling sins of modern feminism is the insistence that an accuser in a given case must be believed because rape occurs in other, unrelated cases. “Reforms” in the rape milieu that chip away at the due process rights of the accused are typically justified by insisting that women don’t lie about rape. See, e.g., here. The assumption of guilt based on an accusation is something the grinning mob at the hanging tree would have understood.
An accusation is enough to warrant punishment: And since women don’t lie about rape, why on earth should we wait for an adjudication to exact punishment? Why wait for a hearing to expel a student on the basis of the accusation? Why wait for a trial before plastering the mug shots of the accused on television and talking about the alleged rape as if it certainly happened? Why bother trying to figure out if any members of the team are guilty before punishing all the members of the team? Why wait for a hearing before decreeing that “alleged perpetrators should automatically suffer life-upending punishments like expulsion from their residences upon accusation . . . .”? Why wait to know if an artist is guilty before talking about boycotting his films? Who needs due process when you know you are right, even though you couldn’t possibly know you are right?
The courts can’t give women justice: How many ways do modern feminists insist that women can’t get justice when it comes to rape? That jurors don’t properly judge cases due to their misconceptions about rape? That the standard of proof is too high in criminal cases, so “victims” need the kangaroo courts of college disciplinary proceedings, where it is much easier to obtain an adjudication of guilt, to get “justice”? Just as the lynch mob was intent on sparing the “victim” from testifying, the feminists, too, insist the accused should be spared from being cross-examined by the accused in college proceedings, and that in criminal proceedings, the “victim’s” burden should be lessened by flipping the burden of proof to force the accused to prove there was consent.
Feminists attack defenders of the presumptively innocent: Just as the lynch mob sympathizers attacked the “fanatics” who decried lynchings and branded them victim blamers, modern feminists malign those with the temerity to defend the due process rights of the presumptively innocent with labels such as “rape apologist” and “victim blamer.” A Harvard professor recently blamed her participation in a dust-up with this blogger as a reason why she was denied tenure. In our on-line debate, she studiously avoided the principal point of our defense of the wrongly accused while going out of her way to compare our Web site to “white supremacist websites . . ..” Such is the state of public discourse when it comes to this subject.
Rape is Normalized: To the lynch mob, rape was “normalized” for “negro” males. For the feminists in the modern age, rape is “normalized” for all males, white or black. Just as the “negro” male supposedly was prone to rape, modern feminists think that men, as a class, are prone to rape. Feminist Jessica Valenti believes that rape is normal for men, even decent men: “Rape is part of our culture; it’s normalized to the point where men who are otherwise decent guys will rape and not even think that it’s wrong. And that’s what terrifies me.”
The view that rape is culturally embedded in the DNA of masculinity is so loopy, divisive, and counter-productive that even RAINN, the nation’s leading anti-rape organization, has decried the “rape culture” meme and the “inclination to focus on particular . . . traits that are common in many millions of law-abiding Americans (e.g., ‘masculinity’), rather than on the subpopulation at fault: those who choose to commit rape.” Did the feminists’ react by following RAINN’s sensible cue? Nope. They denounced RAINN.
In his State of the Union Address of 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt condemned the hanging of blacks by vigilantes. He quoted a religious leader of the day: “As Bishop Galloway, of Mississippi, has finely said: ‘The mob which lynches a negro charged with rape will in a little while lynch a white man suspected of crime. Every Christian patriot in America needs to lift up his voice in loud and eternal protest against the mob spirit that is threatening the integrity of this Republic.'”
Sadly, more than 100 years later, Teddy Roosevelt was right. The “mob spirit” is alive and well, and it isn’t targeting just black men. It has wrapped itself in the mantle of political correctness and gussied itself up with PhD’s in Women’s Studies programs. But all of the noble intentions in the world to eradicate rape can’t whitewash an appalling hostility to the rights of the accused. To deny that is to learn nothing from the disgraceful era when the lynch mob flourished.