We should all be afraid

Gregory Moffatt

The recent hearings for now Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh should have us all trembling in our boots.

What should frighten us has nothing to do with Ford, Kavanaugh, Trump, sexual assault or any of the other details that surrounded the circus of hateful rhetoric that this nominating process became.

Back in the 1990s I published an article with a colleague on the pitiful state of public discourse. How naive I was to think that what was happening then was as bad as it would get.

For the past two years the level of contempt and violent speech has degraded to an all-time low. Congressional leaders calling for their constituents to “get up in the face” of those they disagree with has resulted in exactly that behavior.

Leaders in the current administration have been badgered not only in the halls of Congress, but by texts, tweets, emails, and even at dinner with their families to the point they have had to leave.

And beyond that, since the beginning of his confirmation, Kavanaugh had to endure death threats to his wife, a writer for a late-night comic expressing pleasure that “at least we ruined his life,” and the apparent expectation of apology from anyone in the public eye who even hinted that Kavanaugh might be a good person.

Talk show hosts like Joy Behar carelessly stated, “He’s probably guilty,” even before any evidence was pursued. These are just a few of the antics of these past few weeks.

When one has no logical rhetoric, he or she resorts to name-calling and screaming. This is the behavior of a toddler.

Scan the news any day you want for accusations that someone is sexist, racist, Nazi, or misogynist, and you won’t have to look far to find them. It frightens me to think that we have grown to accept this kind of hate-filled discourse as normal.

And as we approach mid-term elections, I expect things only to get worse. It appears that we can no longer disagree on an issue, state our case, but still respect those who disagree with us.

German pastor Martin Niemoller penned these thought-provoking words circa World War II:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist.

“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.

“Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

If you think none of the current political acrimony has an effect on you, your children, or your loved ones because you aren’t a nominee to the Supreme Court, you are dead wrong.

By the time they come for you, when you are accused of something without evidence — when your life and reputation are forever tarnished by accusations — our culture will have accepted guilt by accusation and there won’t be anyone left to speak for you and it wouldn’t do any good even if someone tried to say a word on your behalf.

Principle, law, and evidence must drive us. Not our feelings, political leanings, or pet issues.

If you think my comments here are about Dr. Ford’s truthfulness, Kavanaugh’s guilt, Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, or partisan issues, you have totally missed the point.

And THAT, is the point. We have to look beyond the moment and consider the ramifications of what behaviors we will accept.

One’s political leanings might make it seem reasonable to consider it acceptable to ruin a man’s life and reputation based on an accusation with no evidence. But it leaves us to wonder if we’d feel the same if the accusation was against us, our sons or daughters, or others we know and love.

Lady justice is not blindfolded in order to aid those she likes or agrees with, but rather to dispassionately hear facts about those she may dislike or disagree with.

This is the principle on which we must set social policy and intrude on the lives of the citizenry — whether they be nominees to the highest court or everyday individual citizens.

A colleague reminded me that minorities, women, and many other historically oppressed groups have endured the “guilt by accusation” phenomenon for millennia. I could not disagree.

But we now know better and, if we allow affect to override principle, eventually we all will lose.

[Gregory K. Moffatt, Ph.D., is a college professor, published author, licensed counselor, certified professional counselor supervisor, newspaper columnist and public speaker. He holds an M.A. in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Georgia State University and has taught at the college level for over 30 years. His website is gregmoffatt.com.]


  1. Dr. Moffatt’s assertion that this hyper-partisan column is nonpartisan is disturbing in one of two ways: Either he is disingenuous about the one-sided presentation of false accusations he cites, or perhaps he is too naïve to recognize his lack of objectivity. I do not disagree with his basic assertion that a false accusation delivered maliciously can ruin the reputation of virtually anyone, and his citations of harmful false accusations are credible, just one-sided. Here are a few other completely baseless accusations meant to ruin a reputation that may balance out his argument:

    Canadian-born Ted Cruz has a double passport, and his father plotted to assassinate President Kennedy.

    Nancy Pelosi came out in favor of the MS-13 gang.

    CIA director, George Tenet, told the Bush Administration that the 9/11 attacks were coming in advance, but Bush did nothing.

    Bob Corker gave us the Iran deal.

    John Podesta refused to give the DNC Server to the FBI and CIA.

    President Obama wiretapped my telephones during the 2016 election.

    As governor, Tim Kaine oversaw a huge increase in illegal immigration.

    John McCain has done nothing to help veterans.

    South Florida had 5 sanctuary cities while Jeb Bush was governor.

    Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI.

    Hillary Clinton helped a man accused of raping a 12 year old girl and laughed at the girl who was raped.

    As Benghazi victims were left helpless to die, Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed.

    As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton laundered money to Bill Clinton through Laureate Education.

    Hillary Clinton started the Obama birther movement in 2008.

    I wonder who might have made such baseless accusations in an effort to ruin someone’s reputation.

    • Everyone of those statements you listed were either a newspaper opinion, personal opinion news paper article, etc. NONE had been entered in a court of law, under oath, especially during a confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court nominee.

      Some of those statements are true though….especially about Hillary lying to FBI.

      • Sorry – EVERY single quote above was stated by the divider in chief and thoroughly discredited through factual evidence by Politifact. The issue here isn’t that Democrats are immune from specious attacks — they are clearly guilty — merely that Republicans are equally culpable. Apparently Dr. Moffatt is deaf in one ear.

        • Trump did not say those in a court room under oath. He voiced his opinion based on what info he has (and some of those are true). Far different than people under oath in a confirmation hearing, lying, and some on that committee are complacent in destroying a mans life and career based on hearsay.

          • Interesting logic – So our President is free to prevaricate, falsely accuse, and slander anyone as long as he has not been sworn under oath. Furthermore, he never must apologize when his falsehoods become evident. Exactly what flag do you stand for? George Orwell would love it!

            You can’t make this stuff up. Truth is always stranger than fiction!