Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Show Me the Man, and I’ll Show You the Crime

 

new-exoplanet-is-a-virtual-twin-of-earthThe deepest mystery of the Great Purge remains, in my mind, the eagerness of the victims to confess. What prompted these men to say these things?

“I Kamenev, together with Zinoviev and Trotsky, organised and guided this conspiracy. My motives? I had become convinced that the party’s – Stalin’s policy – was successful and victorious. We, the opposition, had banked on a split in the party, but this hope proved groundless. We could no longer count on any serious domestic difficulties to allow us to overthrow Stalin’s leadership. We were actuated by boundless hatred and by lust of power.”

Gudrun Persson accounts thus for the phenomenon:

There is no doubt that torture was used to force confessions. Though by no means uncommon earlier, torture only became an approved method of examination during the investigations leading up to the first Moscow trial. On 29 July, 1936, an official, albeit secret, document was drawn up, sanctioning the use of “all means” to extract confessions. Krestinsky’s submission was clearly the result of a night of brutal torture. Naturally, psychological torture in the form of threats to relatives and the arrest of family members also played their part in the confessions.

But, important though it was, torture was not the whole explanation. Many of the accused were hardened revolutionaries. Prosecuted and punished by the Czar’s courts, they were themselves advocates of hard methods. Here lies an important part of the explanation: ideological loyalty. …

Bukharin’s statement is interesting in that he denied every particular criminal act he was accused of, among them the charge that he conspired to murder Lenin. Nevertheless he pleaded guilty to the charges:

I plead guilty to being one of the outstanding leaders of this ‘Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites.’ Consequently, I plead guilty to what directly follows from this, the sum total of crimes committed by this counter-revolutionary organization, irrespective of whether or not I knew of, whether or not I took direct part, in any particular act.

In his last plea, he explained:

For three months I refused to say anything. Then I began to testify. Why? Because while in prison I made a revaluation of my entire past. For when you ask yourself: ”If you must die, what are you dying for?” — an absolutely black vacuity suddenly rises before you with startling vividness. There was nothing to die for, if one wanted to die unrepented. And, on the contrary, everything positive that glistens in the Soviet Union acquires new dimensions in a man’s mind. This in the end disarmed me completely and led me to bend my knees before the Party and the country.

Torture, yes; ideology, too. But there is something else. Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria was Stalin’s chief of the Soviet secret police apparatus, the NKVD. It was Beria, infamously, who said, “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.” By this I suspect he meant that every man, in his soul, feels guilty. And indeed every man is guilty, or certainly, every man who has been touched by Christian doctrine — even in its most perverted and heretical forms, of which, surely, communism is one — believes it so.

I was thinking of this while reading the story of the downfall of Berkeley astronomer Geoff Marcy:

Geoff Marcy, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley who admitted to violating the university’s sexual harassment policies has decided to resign. …

Marcy, a world-famous exoplanet astronomer and chair of the university’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence apartment, groped, kissed, touched, and massaged at least four students, according to a university report obtained by Buzzfeed late last week. Despite the report’s findings and an admission of guilt from Marcy, the university opted not to discipline him. Instead, the university said it would have zero-tolerance for any future transgressions.

Note: Never did his accusers file a criminal claim. Indeed, it would not seem that he committed anything like a crime:

One of the women, known as Complainant 3, studied astronomy as a graduate student. She spoke on the condition of anonymity because she did not want her involvement in the matter to affect her current job.

According to her account to Berkeley’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, she was at a post-colloquium dinner with her graduate department at the University of Hawaii when Marcy placed his hand on her leg, slid his hand up her thigh, and grabbed her crotch.

She didn’t register an official complaint until eight years later, by which time she’d left astronomy — in part, she said, because of the sexual harassment she and other female astronomers experienced.

We know nothing else about this incident with Complainant 3. Marcy claims that the accusation is “totally absurd” and “plainly false,” and that he “would never touch the knee of someone I didn’t know.” Well, maybe he would, maybe he wouldn’t; I’m inclined to think that if there’s this much smoke, Marcy’s probably creepy and grabby; and if he didn’t grab her knee, he probably grabbed someone’s. So he’s grabby. Women have a range of tools for dealing with grabby guys, ranging from the cold stare of disapprobation to “I don’t date married men,” to “Get your hands off of me or I’ll break them.”

It sounds as if a maladroit astronomer may have had a few too many drinks at a boondoggle conference in Hawaii and made a crude pass at one of his grad students, does it not? Inappropriate, yes, and vulgar, but hardly a terrifying sexual assault. The normal remedy is to say, “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Knock it off.” A sharp slap across his face, perhaps, if his hand truly strayed above her knee. It hardly sounds like grounds for abandoning your professional aspirations entirely and reposing in silent, quivering trauma for eight years before filing a complaint.

The other charges? Massages and kisses, not rape. Distasteful, yes, given that he’s married. But beyond the pale of normal human experience? What exoplanet are these astronomers living on?

Complainant 4, by the way, was not herself harassed. She saw Marcy getting “inappropriately touchy” with an undergraduate during the American Astronomical Society’s 2010 meeting. (We have no idea what the undergraduate in question thought about this.) The mere sight of this “inappropriate touchiness” caused her so much distress that years later, she anonymously dropped a dime on him. And no one’s spoken to Complainant 1, so we have no idea of what she’s complaining.

But the strangest part of this story is Marcy’s public confession:

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 04.31.56“Through deep and lengthy consultations, I have reflected carefully on my actions as well as issues of gender inequality, power, and privilege in our society?”

Why did he humiliate himself like this? Surely he must have known, like Zinoviev, that the ritual of confession would be followed by the ritual of liquidation?

“I would like to repeat that I am fully and utterly guilty. I am guilty of having been the organiser, second only to Trotsky, of that block whose chosen task was the killing of Stalin. I was the principal organiser of Kirov’s assassination. The party saw where we were going, and warned us. Stalin warned us scores of times but we did not heed his warnings. We entered into an alliance with Trotsky.”

It’s genuinely a mystery to me. Why not say, To hell with you? You may kill me, but you will not make me grovel?

What followed was predictable. Anyone who wished to join in denouncing Marcy was invited to do so:

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 04.45.17

The denunciations poured forth from every corner of the world. “What Geoffrey Marcy did was abominable,” wrote UC Berkeley biologist and hysteric Michael Eisen:

… despicable, predatory, destructive and all too typical. … How on Earth can this be true? Does the university not realize they are giving other people in a position of power a license to engage in harassment and abusive behavior? Do they think that the threat of having to say “oops, I won’t do that again” is going to stop anyone? Do they think anyone is going to file complaints about sexual harassment or abuse and go through what everyone described as an awful, awful process, so that their abuser will get a faint slap on the wrist? Do they care at all?… isn’t the fact that this kind of [thing] keeps happening over and over evidence that education is not enough? There HAVE to be consequences – serious consequences – for abusing positions of power.

I fully agree that there should be consequences — serious consequences – for “abusing positions of power.” But when I consider that phrase, I’m put in mind of something like this, not of an awkward astronomer offering a grown woman a backrub.

Last week, Marcy resigned. Only weeks before, he had been rumored to be in the running for the Nobel Prize. He left behind his reputation, his career, nearly $900,000 in grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation, a million-dollar grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, and a $100-million dollar private research effort to find civilizations beyond the earth. The project had been expected to generate as much data in a day as previous SETI projects had in a year.

It’s still not enough. “Defeating sexual harassment,” writes fellow astronomer John Asher Johnson,

goes well beyond expunging people like Marcy from our ranks. It will require a fundamental restructuring of the way we do business, and a reeducation of our field—all of us …

Off to the re-education camps with all of you.

The mob then turned on The New York Times. The newspaper’s crime? Interviewing Marcy’s wife and reporting what she said:

Dr. Marcy’s wife, Susan Kegley, a pesticide researcher, said she supported him, pointing out that he had cooperated fully with the investigation and apologized.

She defended her husband, writing in an email, “Others may interpret Geoff’s empathy and interest as a come-on. I can’t change their perspectives, but I think it is worth all of us examining how quickly one is judged and condemned without knowing all of the facts.”

“The punishment Geoff is receiving here in the court of hysterical public opinion is far out of proportion to what he did and has taken responsibility for in his apology,” Dr. Kegley wrote.

This prompted 276 astronomers and physicists to send a letter of protest:

Re “Astronomer Apologizes for Behavior”, October 11: By emphasizing Geoff Marcy’s apology and his wife’s opinions, this article champions the voice of a sexual predator and minimizes the continued trauma of his targets. Overbye’s piece repeatedly sympathizes with Marcy, portraying him as a misunderstood, empathetic educator who was “condemned without knowing the facts” and given punishment “in the court of hysterical public opinion”. Furthermore, given Overbye’s long history of sourcing Marcy, the piece lacks the objectivity it deserves.

We do know the facts of this case. Berkeley undertook a formal investigation and found Marcy guilty of repeated sexual harassment of students spanning almost a decade. Marcy abused his position of power, betrayed his responsibilities as an educator, and caused profound damage. By overlooking the gravity of Marcy’s predatory behavior, this article discourages women from speaking out and undermines the safety of students.

This story deserves national coverage because it demonstrates an extreme yet persistent problem on college campuses. However, sympathy and support should be given to the survivors, not the perpetrator.

The survivors? Of an unwanted back rub? Since when are women profoundly damaged because a man they didn’t fancy tried to kiss them? You’d think he ravished Tess of the d’Urbervilles. They know the facts of this case? How? From a series of anonymous tipsters, a trial conducted in secret by a body with no legal authorization to conduct a trial, and an article in Buzzfeed?

But The New York Times wasted no time; public editor Margaret Sullivan went straight for the ritual confession:

I also agree with the critics that Mr. Marcy’s wife’s commentary was out of place in this news article; as readers have noted, she’s hardly a credible source here. That was particularly objectionable because Mr. Marcy’s response and his wife’s defense were given priority over the voices of female scientists and even over quotations describing the university’s censure. Meanwhile, the victims’ experiences were given shorter shrift.

In other words, for a number of reasons, the focus in this initial article was off. If The Times continues reporting on the larger topic (a worthy one), there should be no further emphasis on the “troubles” of harassers.

I’m left as baffled by this as I am by the accounts of the Moscow Trials.

Why do they confess?

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  1. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think the people that confess at least in these minor cases in America actually think the confession will be the end of their issue. You say you are sorry, and that you won’t do it again, and then everyone is satisfied. Isn’t that how confession in Christianity works. At least for Catholics, you confess, you are absolved, and then you are good with the Lord. People with more experience know that you should make them prove you did something wrong and then deny it any way. Like Bill Clinton. Heck there is more proof against him of sexual harassment then there is of this astronomer. But, Clinton called them greedy hookers, and his wife said it was a vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and now I’m sure he will win Woman of the Year from any feminist organization.

    Most people are actually honest and have a conscience even if they are creepy gropers. So they do what is expected. Once you admit guilt though you show weakness, and the pack pounces on you. Everyone wants to feel superior by expression righteous outrage. This inoculates them against their own sins real or imagined. Really the only way to break this is to deny everything refuse to cooperate and sue the University for slander. Make the process so costly and drawn out that it becomes untenable. No one actually cares, and if you can’t get your righteous outrage on the cheap why bother.

    • #1
    • October 20, 2015, at 11:11 PM PDT
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  2. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    ValiuthReally the only way to break this is to deny everything refuse to cooperate and sue the University for slander.

    It doesn’t sound as if the University slandered him; it sounds as if one of his enemies leaked the story to Buzzfeed. For reasons we’ll never know, and which may well have nothing to do with this — academic rivalry, a grudge, who knows. He’s obviously not an especially sympathetic figure, so it’s hard to feel deeply sorry for him. But we should all feel uneasy about this:

    “Through deep and lengthy consultations, I have reflected carefully on my actions as well as issues of gender inequality, power, and privilege in our society.”

    That’s the language of a ritual, formalized confession, and no American citizen should ever be forced to make one. I don’t want to overstate it; there’s obviously a significant difference between “public humiliation and losing your career” and “being shot three times in the head against the wall of Lubyanka prison.” But the aspect of ritual humiliation, complete with this robotic and ideological language, is exceptionally creepy — and it is reminiscent of a show trial.

    • #2
    • October 20, 2015, at 11:23 PM PDT
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  3. TeamAmerica Member
    TeamAmerica Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire, In the past, many have compared Communism (or Nazism/Fascism, see Jonah Goldberg) to a secular religion. I agree with Dennis Prager, that in the past century, the most dynamic ‘religion’ in the West has been ‘Leftism,’ left-wing politics embraced as a secular, intolerant religion, a religion sans an Enlightenment. Prager has described our universities as seminaries for leftism, and this is an example perhaps of true believers, zealots, attacking another true believer, even after he confesses.

    • #3
    • October 20, 2015, at 11:59 PM PDT
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  4. MarciN Member

    I am completely at a loss when I read stories like this.

    I truly believe no one knows what justice is anymore.

    It is so bizarre, given the amount of money we spend on education, that the average person, even highly educated professors, do not understand the rules of evidence.

    The American Dream to me is about justice for the individual. Our court system is the very heart of our constitutional rights. It is the most important piece. Everything flows from that, and without it, nothing else matters.

    Whenever I have worked with adults and kids in my various volunteer roles, I have been appalled at the way adults treat children. Adults routinely accuse kids of wrongdoing without any evidence. It is no surprise that these kids have grown to accuse others. It is immoral, but they don’t seem to notice that either.

    My own children in my house were raised on the rules of evidence–unsubstantiated claims of wrongdoing were not allowed. I would dramatically tell my kids and their friends and my little Brownie scouts and whoever else was around, “Justice begins with me.”

    Groundless baseless accusations were a routine topic of conversation in my house.

    I am a fanatic about it.

    Not too many people are.

    It’s scary.

    PS: I’m seizing on this one point to make, but everything in the post is true, and I haven’t anything intelligent to say. The accusers are guilty of far worse than the accused.

    • #4
    • October 21, 2015, at 12:03 AM PDT
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  5. Robert Lux Member

    I think the best, or for me the most unforgettable, insight into Bukharin’s confession is Harry Neumann’s essay “What is Bigotry? A Note on Academic and Un-Academic Philosophers.”

    In fine, it has to be seen as an act of willful or nihilist desperation. Not sure how much this applies to the contemporary cases you’re bringing up. But surely there is a reigning dogmatist, politicized liberal-atheist ideology behind it.

    (Neumann is certainly an acquired taste — quietly the most important scholar of Nietzsche, other than Heidegger. Thomas Krannawitter, author of Vindicating Lincoln, wrote a retrospective about Neumann that’s perhaps the best intro to the man…)

    • #5
    • October 21, 2015, at 12:10 AM PDT
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  6. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    MarciN: The American Dream to me is about justice for the individual. Our court system is the very heart of our constitutional rights. It is the most important piece. Everything flows from that, and without it, nothing else matters.

    I agree with you about that. It’s the great glory of our culture. And while this didn’t go to court, to see every important principle of jurisprudence flouted this way suggests something gone off the rails. The stakes here were very high: he lost his reputation, his career, his income, probably his marriage, unless that marriage is unusually strong — and the US taxpayer, which is the source of all that grant money, lost the chance to see what he could do with it, which might have made a big contribution to our knowledge of the universe. And why? Because four women made anonymous complaints about behavior that is at worst obnoxious and vulgar, after which, he was turned into an example. An example of what? Of a guy who’s known for flirting with the ladies? As if we didn’t all go to school with a few of them? As if this wasn’t part of the fun of being young and working in proximity to interesting, dynamic men?

    • #6
    • October 21, 2015, at 12:20 AM PDT
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  7. MarciN Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    MarciN: The American Dream to me is about justice for the individual. Our court system is the very heart of our constitutional rights. It is the most important piece. Everything flows from that, and without it, nothing else matters.

    I agree with you about that. It’s the great glory of our culture. And while this didn’t go to court, to see every important principle of jurisprudence flouted this way suggests something gone off the rails. The stakes here were very high: he lost his reputation, his career, his income, probably his marriage, unless that marriage is unusually strong — and the US taxpayer, which is the source of all that grant money, lost the chance to see what he could do with it, which might have made a big contribution to our knowledge of the universe. And why? Because four women made anonymous complaints about behavior that is at worst obnoxious and vulgar, after which, he was turned into an example. An example of what? Of a guy who’s known for flirting with the ladies? As if we didn’t all go to school with a few of them? As if this wasn’t part of the fun of being young and working in proximity to interesting, dynamic men?

    I know. I don’t see any crime in this story except the real concrete crime of a person’s life being destroyed on the basis of almost no evidence of wrongdoing.

    This is frightening.

    • #7
    • October 21, 2015, at 12:25 AM PDT
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  8. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    Never apologize. Never confess.

    • #8
    • October 21, 2015, at 12:30 AM PDT
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  9. Cat III, Nymphoid Barbarian Member

    The same people that are destroying Marcy’s life are the ones who don’t want false rape accusations to be punished.

    Edit: I realize after posting this that I’m shoehorning a pet issue into the discussion. A more relevant point is how Bill Clinton continues to be in the left’s good graces.

    • #9
    • October 21, 2015, at 12:51 AM PDT
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  10. captainpower Inactive

    Mike LaRoche: Never apologize. Never confess.

    Apologize to your wife and confess to your priest?

    Maybe I’m assuming too much. With leftism as its own religion, I guess you confess to the mob.

    • #10
    • October 21, 2015, at 1:07 AM PDT
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  11. Mike Rapkoch Moderator

    This is a formalized, ritual confession. It has to be if the goal is to be achieved–get everyone on the same page, form the posse, and ride out into the greater culture to make sure they know their place and what they may and may not believe. To do that, it’s good to have a confession in hand, and a criminal who’s admitted he’s a bad actor. It doesn’t matter that no specific actus rea is asserted, much less proved. We just need proof of a generalized mens rea, and, by jiminy we’ve got it–see his signature?

    The more intriguing question, as you point out Claire, is why he would sign such a confession? I can only guess, but the urgent need to affirm orthodoxy, and to acknowledge what you perceive as the good, seems to compel a type of social suicide. Some how the confessers seem to believe that if they confess to heterodoxy, and even accept their punishment, they will feel a certain redemption and probably secretly hope they’ll one day be allowed to return.

    There was nothing to die for, if one wanted to die unrepented. And, on the contrary, everything positive that glistens in the Soviet Union acquires new dimensions in a man’s mind. This in the end disarmed me completely and led me to bend my knees before the Party and the country.

    • #11
    • October 21, 2015, at 1:07 AM PDT
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  12. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    “He loved Big Brother.”

    • #12
    • October 21, 2015, at 1:11 AM PDT
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  13. Titus Techera Contributor

    I admire your spiritedness, Miss Berlinski-

    • #13
    • October 21, 2015, at 1:44 AM PDT
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  14. Guruforhire Member

    Vox Day wrote a book on this.

    • #14
    • October 21, 2015, at 1:57 AM PDT
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  15. Israel P. Inactive

    Then there was Tim Hunt who groveled up until they decided that he had done nothing wrong.

    • #15
    • October 21, 2015, at 3:00 AM PDT
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  16. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Israel P.: Then there was Tim Hunt who groveled up until they decided that he had done nothing wrong.

    Another disgraceful case. These bother me a great deal.

    • #16
    • October 21, 2015, at 3:46 AM PDT
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  17. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    This is defeat. This is what it means to be broken. These cases bother because they are truly horrible. Each of us is an unknown distance from (or beyond) a breaking point. Seeing a human’s beliefs forcibly altered causes revulsion, and well it should. That’s the survival instinct kicking in, to defend not just the body, but the self, the same way we find maggots or rotten food disgusting. Our bodies are faster than our minds (that is, the intellect is behind some other process in the brain) in evaluating threats and defending against it. It takes years of brainwashing education to reliably defeat these reflexes and respond instead with soothing talk and pleas to consider all points of view equally — even those that want you dead.

    What you allow to be said in your presence — what you allow to remain in your environment — becomes part of you over time. Repetition is the key to winning hearts and minds, and the judicious, intelligent use of fear and force can significantly accelerate or intensify the process. This is why the Big Lie works. Repeat it often enough, and will become truth, or some such.

    I find this stuff horrifying in the same way that I find serial killers and other “monsters” so unnerving. Because they are not a different substance, much of the time at least. They are us, and so are these broken souls who love their enemies and gratefully repent of their own lives.

    • #17
    • October 21, 2015, at 4:27 AM PDT
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  18. Guruforhire Member

    They are using Tim hunts groveling against him.

    • #18
    • October 21, 2015, at 4:27 AM PDT
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  19. Hartmann von Aue Member

    First let me compliment you for using the cover art from the Ward/Brownlee book for a story on an exoplanet astronomer. Subtle.

    And now let me lament that a couple of my personal friends (Ken Howell, Martin Gaskell) faced similar left-wing persecution for different reasons (refusal to accept SSM as valid in the course of teaching Catholic moral philosphy and suspicion of harboring ‘creationist’ sympathies, respectively) refused to yield, and wound up leaving their institutions anyway. Gaskell, at least, won his lawsuit, proving that one does not have to knuckle under.

    • #19
    • October 21, 2015, at 5:06 AM PDT
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  20. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire, the comparison is eerily dead-on. Thanks for drawing it.

    I second Cat’s comment: all this righteous indignation from people who support Bill Clinton? REALLY?!!

    • #20
    • October 21, 2015, at 5:29 AM PDT
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  21. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Hartmann von Aue: And now let me lament that a couple of my personal friends (Ken Howell, Martin Gaskell) faced similar left-wing persecution for different reasons (refusal to accept SSM as valid in the course of teaching Catholic moral philosphy and suspicion of harboring ‘creationist’ sympathies, respectively) refused to yield, and wound up leaving their institutions anyway.

    In one sense, this is even more appalling, because the affront is directly to intellectual freedom. My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that Marcy fell victim to some kind of personal grudge or envy; he probably did deserve at least a good smack for being a thoroughgoing pest around women — but it hardly seems as if he took a fall for defending an important intellectual or moral principle. In another sense, it’s less appalling, because as BDB very aptly put it, above, there’s something about the way they broke Marcy’s spirit and humiliated him — and the way he went along with it, babbling for forgiveness, without a fight — that’s utterly nauseating to contemplate.

    • #21
    • October 21, 2015, at 5:29 AM PDT
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  22. donald todd Inactive

    Guilt by internet. Guilt by public admonition. Guilt by PC.

    And, as was noted above, innocence for Bubba in his on-going war on women.

    A moveable standard of morality depending on who did what, when.

    • #22
    • October 21, 2015, at 5:33 AM PDT
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  23. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    One is reminded of chickens in a coop. Every chicken will turn on the chicken who is lowest in the pecking order. That chicken may begin by defending herself, but eventually not only accepts the abuse, but actually joins the mob by attacking herself. I have seen chickens at the bottom of the pecking order harm themselves, so desperate is the need to fit in with the group. Not surprisingly, lifespans at the bottom of the pecking order are short.

    The moral may be that while these sorts of things may look like moral actions from a concerned civilization, they are really reflexively animalistic rituals.

    • #23
    • October 21, 2015, at 5:33 AM PDT
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  24. David Foster Member
    David Foster Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Much of this behavior on the part of the persecution mob is accounted for by the desire to participate in Circle Dancing, to use Milan Kundera’s phrase:

    Circle dancing is magic. It speaks to us through the millennia from the depths of human memory. Madame Raphael had cut the picture out of the magazine and would stare at it and dream. She too longed to dance in a ring. All her life she had looked for a group of people she could hold hands with and dance with in a ring. First she looked for them in the Methodist Church (her father was a religious fanatic), then in the Communist Party, then among the Trotskyites, then in the anti-abortion movement (A child has a right to life!), then in the pro-abortion movement (A woman has a right to her body!); she looked for them among the Marxists, the psychoanalysts, and the structuralists; she looked for them in Lenin, Zen Buddhism, Mao Tse-tung, yogis, the nouveau roman, Brechtian theater, the theater of panic; and finally she hoped she could at least become one with her students, which meant she always forced them to think and say exactly what she thought and said, and together they formed a single body and a single soul, a single ring and a single dance.

    And submissive behavior on the part of the mob’s victim is perhaps motivated by the terror of being shut out of the circle forever.

    • #24
    • October 21, 2015, at 5:45 AM PDT
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  25. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Ball Diamond Ball: Seeing a human’s beliefs forcibly altered causes revulsion, and well it should.

    I’ve hesitated to write about this because all I know is what I’ve read of it from afar, and this really begs for actual journalism, done by someone who interviews the protagonists and tries to figure out what on earth (or beyond the earth) really happened here. But my gut says that no one had to forcibly alter Marcy’s beliefs: I would guess he was consumed with guilt and self-loathing to begin with — as are we all — and in some way satisfied to be humiliated.

    I don’t want to invade his privacy any more than it has been, but his website links to this, and he’s previously said publicly that he’s suffered from anxiety and depression. I hope that there are people around him now who are watching to make sure he doesn’t commit suicide, because this is exactly the kind of thing — a humiliating loss — that can push someone who’s already fragile over the precipice.

    • #25
    • October 21, 2015, at 5:46 AM PDT
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  26. katievs Member
    katievs Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I dissent, at least in part. I hate the piling-on of the pack. I think the destruction of his career excessive.

    But I don’t like the comparison with ritual confessions in the Soviet Union, as if they were just more extreme cases of the same.

    The apposite difference is the presence of actual guilt.

    And I can’t agree that all he was guilty of is creepiness and vulgarity, since there was, in fact, a power-differential in the cases.

    And, while I think that Valiuth is probably right that the prudential thing to do in the circumstances, if you want to keep your job, is to lie and sue and try to discredit the accusers, I think that that’s horrible.

    Can we make no room in our society for moderate punishment for real wrong-doing that falls short of criminality? Our laws still distinguish between things like “willful” and “unintentional”, between “gross” and not gross; they note different degrees of guilt. Why can’t our extra-criminal findings and responses to misconduct do the same?

    • #26
    • October 21, 2015, at 5:47 AM PDT
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  27. Crabby Appleton Inactive

    Winston Smith gradually came to the tragic realization that in totalitarian and closed authoritarian societies ( like academia and organized science) sanity is indeed statistical. ” Under the spreading chestnut tree…”

    • #27
    • October 21, 2015, at 5:47 AM PDT
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  28. katievs Member
    katievs Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Also, I don’t think apologies, provided they’re sincere and honest, equate to groveling.

    Groveling is a suck-up to Power. An honest apology is a manning up to responsibility.

    I don’t think it’s clear from the story which this was.

    • #28
    • October 21, 2015, at 5:52 AM PDT
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  29. donald todd Inactive

    I remember reading Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, the first two volumes. I remember him noting that any number of communists were absolutely sure that Stalin would have released them as not guilty if only he had heard about their plight. They seemed to have no recognition that Stalin was responsible for the mechanisms that found and convicted them in the first place.

    As I read these days, it appears that the PC mechanisms are finding and convicting people of thought crimes and hate crimes and other social sins bereft the benefit of the law.

    • #29
    • October 21, 2015, at 5:52 AM PDT
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  30. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Ball Diamond Ball: Seeing a human’s beliefs forcibly altered causes revulsion, and well it should.

    But my gut says that no one had to forcibly alter Marcy’s beliefs: I would guess he was consumed with guilt and self-loathing to begin with — as are we all — and in some way satisfied to be humiliated.

    Right — I would put him more in the educated out of existence category. Twenty years of school and then goes to work for the school. Is there a more institutionalized creature than a pure academic?

    Grabbing a crotch is sufficient to call sexual assault, but the rest seems like a heaping plate of dorkitis with a side of jerk. I agree with you that the abject humiliation was disturbing — mouthing the litany of political correctness. But there it was, voluntary. Apparently he had fooled himself into thinking that he was not worn down by the years of conditioning, but that is how conditioning works. When it pulls your leash, you obey.

    As in your post, I am referring to similarities between totalitarian torture regimes, and the sort of insidious brainwashing found all around us. The “force” here is administered gently over time rather than brutally and briefly. As the libertarians like to say in other contexts, he never consented to it until it was fait accompli. Never had a chance.

    • #30
    • October 21, 2015, at 6:03 AM PDT
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