Five days ago I wrote a diary on the allegation against George Takei, and why I felt the case against him was weak. Many commenters saw my point but others pilloried me. Among their arguments was that there was no evidence of a right-wing plot to smear Dems with sexual assault allegations (aside from very intense Putin-bot activity as evidenced by Hamilton 68). Which is a fair argument.
Stone has been banned from Twitter, but of course he has helpers to tweet for him, such as this one.
Thanks to makoeyes987: this Stone surrogate account too —
...and: InfoWars too.
Now look at the timestamps on those tweets. They’re all within nine minutes of each other — from 1:12 to 1:21 a.m. Nov. 16. Several hours before Leeann Tweeden, who is connected with Fox as a six-year employee of Fox Sports, and has appeared on Hannity, broke her Franken accusation.
(Having Fox on your resume lessens your credibility with me, unrelated to whether you were sexually assaulted.)
So now let’s visit Hamilton 68 and see what the bots and trolls in Putin’s public-discourse-distorting factories are tweeting their standard right-wing talking points about, as I write:
(Aside: I don’t think enough Americans realize that large-scale Russian attempts to mold the discourse in the US did not stop once the election campaign was over. They’re still doing it. This is why Hamilton 68 was created. See also OllieGarkey’s diary for more info, including about the claim that the USO photographer is saying the Franken photo was staged: apparently it comes from a Russian bot. Perhaps to forestall the genuine photographer’s account? Or perhaps just to confuse things; remember, playing both sides against the middle is one of their tactics.)
So how did Stone know with such certainty and precision that Al Franken would be next, and how does he know there will be allegations against a “long line” of Democrats? And how is the timing so convenient — just as the tide is turning against Roy Moore? A “long line” of Dems will get accused... in the run-up to the Alabama senate special election?
Now this is not slam-dunk evidence that there is a right-wing/Russian plot to take advantage of the #MeToo movement to smear Democrats. But it is certainly circumstantial evidence.
Of course there must be motivation; to see that, I invite you to do the thought exercise of playing the game from their side.
One powerful man after another is being disgraced and having his career destroyed by allegations — including their own Roy Moore. These men are all being charged, tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. I wrote a comment in another diary reminding sexual assault survivors that we are powerful, as we can bring down powerful men.
What drives the court of public opinion here? The natural human disgust at sexual assault, which is felt most by people of compassion. The natural rage of former victims, which is felt most by women, and the natural guilt about it of men, which is felt most by decent, caring men. And then there’s the reaction against the traditional discrediting of accusers: an insistence on believing them that is found most among liberals.
So look how a fake allegation against a Dem, especially a Dem who passionately defends sexual assault victims, is a win for the right wing. Liberals themselves will be inclined to believe it, driven by their own morality. Any liberal who doubts it will be attacked by other liberals (amply helped by the Trumpcult and the bots) as a hypocrite or rape apologist. Liberals will be emotionally crushed by disillusionment to see one of their champions found guilty (before he’s actually been found guilty), adding to their cynicism about powerful men in general.
However it gets even bigger and more evil than that. They cannot lose even if their plot is exposed and the accuser, or, better still, multiple accusers, are discredited.
Why? Because, in far too many peoples’ minds, that discredits ALL accusers.
Including those accusing Roy Moore and... Donald Trump.
And discrediting all accusers is exactly what is needed for powerful men to be able to go back to getting away with systemic sexual violation!
This plot, if it’s real, is mass abuse and violation of all women victims, and sexual abuse victims in general.
Al Franken is actually anticipating this and trying to forestall it himself. From the last paragraph of his latest statement:
And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed.
Think the right wing would be above such tactics here? That an issue so sensitive as sexual assault is one they’d never sink so low as to take advantage of? (I saw a comment or two in my Takei diary from people who said they’d rather believe that Takei was guilty than being falsely accused. Guess what: reality isn’t always what you’d rather believe it is.)
The Oval Office occupier is proud of his pussy-grabbing. His whole career and life demonstrates how he considers women nothing but objects for his use. And such an initiative would be another use of the old Karl Rove technique of making your adversary’s strength into a weakness. The right-wing noise machine facilitates it. Remember swiftboating? And now there’s Russian intelligence involvement as well, and advanced techniques such as provokatsiya (sowing discord) and dezinformatsiya (spreading lies to sow confusion about an issue). (See here for more on their skill set.)
Trump, Putin & the whole fascist gang would love to take advantage of and then destroy the #MeToo movement.
Because sexual abuse survivors are powerful.
Now before you sink into hopelessness and depression — because if you are a decent person, this possibility is horrific, and hopelessness and depression can follow — note that there are solutions. The principles behind rule of law, as well as research/investigation/science in general, require us to look at these cases in a fair and careful way.
1) Take each case on its individual merits. Too many people have said “if you condemn Roy Moore you have to condemn Al Franken.” No, you don’t. In fact, to judge both rationally, you must not. Absent the evidence, Moore could be guilty and Franken innocent. Or the other way around. You must look at the evidence.
2) Don’t make factual errors. I cannot count how many commenters on DKos today have said that Franken said he doesn’t remember the rehearsal, when that’s not what he said at all, or hasn’t denied the more severe allegation, when he has. He said (in both statements) that he remembers the rehearsal differently than Tweeden. That means he does remember it, and denies her version.
3) Consider all possible explanations and weigh their relative plausibility. Even the ones you don’t like. This isn’t about what you like. Do not rush to judgment, but carefully consider the evidence there is for each explanation, and its plausibility. The reputation of both the accused and the accuser (with respect to credibility, e.g. working for Fox, but not previous sexual behaviour, e.g. Playboy bunny, as that does not excuse sexual abuse) are fair game. You are looking for the explanation that is most plausible. If you cannot be sure, do not say you are. That is intellectual dishonesty.
4) Don’t get weighing evidence that sexual abuse happened mixed up with justification for sexual abuse. There is none. You only confuse the issue, cause more arguments and discredit yourself.
5) Look for patterns. If there really is a plan to put a “long line” of Democrats “in the barrel,” it will give us an opportunity to do this. Because this is a new situation, I am not sure, but I think that there will be features that distinguish genuine media sexual assault allegations from false ones. I have noticed some patterns already in two cases I suspect of being false, George Takei and Al Franken, vs. ones I think are genuine either due to overwhelming evidence, e.g. Roy Moore, or an admission, e.g Louis CK:
- there’s a single accuser rather than multiple ones
- the accuser approached news media (or, in Tweeden’s case, was the news media) rather than news media approaching them (WaPo was careful to point this out in their original Moore story)
- the accuser did not ask for an investigation or charge or say that they had previously attempted to find some sort of recourse, unsuccessfully. (In my Takei diary, or perhaps a comment, I wrote that Takei, if he’s innocent, should try to initiate an investigation somehow, or at least welcome one; Franken, interestingly, has done exactly that)
- the news media outlet they went to was not a major, established one that did a comprehensive investigation with fact-checking
- recorded media that the accused says depicts clowning around was used as substantiation (a Howard Stern interview and a photo, respectively) of more severe abuse that was not recorded
- Russian bot/trolls allocated the vast majority of their resources to the accusation while it was trending on Twitter
- the accused has a solid reputation as a champion of women’s concerns including with respect to sexual assault/abuse
- he displays that in his response, even if it is a denial, rather than making excuses for his behaviour (e.g. “I ask the girl’s mother”).
[Edit: John Ziegler notices some of these and other anomalies here.]
With the Franken case we can also now say that Roger Stone knew about it beforehand. Same with every Dem politician who gets accused from now on.
Of course we cannot expect (or require for purposes of evidence) all the above patterns to repeat with all cases. Or other patterns not to emerge. To observe patterns as cases unfold you have to let the set change if it will. Eventually it will stabilize.
6) Stay calm. If you’re not, wait until you are before you make your judgment. Your full intellect is not available to you while you are not calm. Consider that someone might purposely be trying to upset or trigger you. In case your emotions are being purposely exploited, don’t let it happen.
7) Listen to your gut. If something seems wrong or fishy, it might be. Look at it straight on and see if there is evidence for it, however, before becoming certain.
Basically, we don’t want the #MeToo movement either to turn into a mob-mentality witchhunt-type phenomenon, OR be used and then discredited by right-wing manipulations. Part of our responsibility in supporting and maintaining the movement is to remain loyal to truth. That, I hate to say, means questioning an accuser when there is reason to, because a false one that gets through discredits all the real ones.
Any more good tips I see in the comments I’ll add here, with credit.
This is ugly stuff; the way to deal with it is with care and calm. In other words: when they go low, we go high. It’s not just nice; it’s necessary.
I’m an SMWM (single mom with mortgage :-) ) who earns every dollar I earn by writing. If you’d like to support my work on DKos, please consider sending a donation my way. Suggested amount $3. Update: thanks to everyone who has sent me some love so far, but especially those who have been particularly generous. You know who you are. <hug!!>
See this interesting comment by COMAlite J. Seems three videos claiming a second woman has come forward were posted at the same time from different YouTube accounts, sourcing her own right-wing website. They use robot voices and graphics that seem to be stolen, and she calls him “disturbed” and “obsessive,” but the substance of the accusation is a political debate and not sexual at all. As COMAlite J points out, Russian interference happens across all social media, not just on Twitter.
CBS has a statement from Tweeden’s radio station in their story about Roger Stone knowing beforehand:
"In the 11 years since Al Franken forcibly kissed and groped Leeann Tweeden, she has never kept it secret. She has spoken about it to friends, family and co-workers. It was her decision to go public, and both the KABC News Department and all of us at TalkRadio 790 KABC were proud to support her," it said. "A very small group of us discussed the best day to come forward, taking into account primarily when Leeann felt ready to do so. Once that decision was reached, we tipped off some of our news partners so they could prepare to cover what we knew was a very significant story. This was done starting in the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov 15th."
"None of us involved in the decision on when to go public coordinated with any group, campaign or individuals outside of the news industry. The KABC News Department is wholeheartedly committed to the full, fair and timely reporting of the unbiased truth, to the best of our ability. We have no political agenda. Leeann's story is not about keeping secrets, it's about letting the truth be known."
They issued this statement today (Nov 17) presumably in response to news stories about the Stone tweets.
However, before Tweeden broke the story, Stone absolutely knew: 1) there would be an allegation against Franken, 2) when, and 3) that it would claim “grabby” behaviour. See the tweets above. So KABC is lying. Either Stone was told by Tweeden or someone among her family, friends and co-workers, and just couldn’t resist bragging and gloating on Twitter several hours too early. (He’s not big on impulse control; potty-mouthed personal attacks got him thrown off Twitter.)
InfoWars knew even roughly what the specific allegations would be (see the tweet above). Is this conspiracy-theory site, which claims there was no Sandy Hook shooting but only an elaborate hoax, a “news partner” of KABC?
The stink is getting thicker.
Kossack Seashells cites Daily Beast in a diary about how Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has been the victim of a false multiple sexual assault allegation from a fake Twitter account, as exposed by good sleuthing by the Beast reporters. However, pro-Trump sites and accounts are spreading it.
Kossack DoctorWho makes an interesting observation in a comment on that diary:
Two Jewish senators accused in as many days... Huh.
I might have to add that to my list of patterns.
I know I am a little late adding this, probably because I don’t feel like polluting the diary with his mentally-ill spew.
This is a president who makes childish jokes with people’s names but can’t even spell them, has a sick imagination and does not believe in “innocent until proven guilty” at least when it comes to Democrats.
This is a president who not only doesn’t hold rule of law sacred, but doesn’t even understand the concept.