Dr. Ford’s Poetry

The American Civil Liberties Union has announced that it will deviate from its policy of political neutrality and oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, “in light of the credible allegations of sexual assault against him.” I believe comprehensible is the word they wanted. And Dr. Ford’s allegations are comprehensible because they do not ask us to believe something we cannot under any circumstances believe, such as that a middle-aged Judge Kavanaugh traveled back in time to assault young Miss Ford, or that young Kavanaugh assaulted her in Maryland while he was at the same time playing the cello to a packed house at Carnegie Hall.

Everything that Dr. Ford tells us happened might have happened, because such things do indeed happen in the more or less the way Dr. Ford says they happened. This is why Dr. Ford’s story is believable.

But, believability is not credibility and comprehension is not grounds for assent.

This is evident when we consider that Judge Kavanaugh’s defense is also perfectly comprehensible, perfectly believable. Assuming that the dreadful party actually took place, I (at least) can easily conceive that young Kavanaugh might not have been there (“young Kavanaugh in attendance” not being entailed in the proposition “dreadful party underway”), just as I can conceive that, being there, he in fact refrained from groping and grinding Miss Ford (although I cannot conceive that, being there, he refrained from, say, breathing or appearing to the senses of other party-goers).

Neither story is absurd, which means discordant with the known ways of the world. But the world is full of stories that are neither absurd nor true. We call these stories fictions or, better yet, poetry. And as Aristotle long ago taught us, all forms of poetry are

“in their general conception modes of imitation . . . the manner or mode of imitation being in each case distinct” (Poetics I).

Now Aritstotle goes on to detail many different modes of imitation, most of which do not concern us here, but at length comes to the difference between poetry and history. The difference is not meter and rhyme, for “Herodotus might be put into verse,” but that

“One relates what has happened, the other what may happen” (Poetics IX)

What “has happened” is, of course, history, whereas poetry is an imitation of what “may happen.” This does not means that poetry imitates some particular action or event that has yet to occur, since that would be impossible and absurd. It means that poetry gives concrete form to what the poet wishes to represent as the underlying way of the world. This is why the poet shows us

“how a person of a certain type will on occasion speak or act, according to the law of probability or necessity” (Poetics IX).

In other words, a poem illustrates a theory of the world, and this is why Dr. Ford’s testimony, even if it is not history, will still be received as poetry. It is poetry because it illustrates the way that a feminist believes “a person of Judge Kavanaugh’s type will on occasion speak or act, according to the law of probability or necessity.”

And this is why her testimony will remain true in a poetic sense even if it is found to be untrue in historical sense.

With this in mind, I think we can understand why the ACLU has forgotten the difference between comprehension and belief, and why so many other people suffered a failure of critical faculties when Dr. Ford told them “he did me wrong.”

43 thoughts on “Dr. Ford’s Poetry

  1. Pingback: Dr. Ford’s Poetry | @the_arv

  2. Thank you for this very thoughtful response to a messy situation. As long as we’re talking about believability and credibility, let me throw a hypothetical situation out there for others to judge its believability (I won’t even ask about credibility).

    Let’s pretend that Brett Kavanaugh, though nominated by a Republican president, was a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of Roe v. Wade who had unmistakably voiced his “pro-choice” views throughout his career. Then Dr. Ford contacted Senator Feinstein with a very believable account of how the judge had assaulted her during their high school years (details of the misdeed much like what we heard in the non-hypothetical account last week). Filled with indignation and outrage, Senator Feinstein took up the cudgel on behalf of her aggrieved constituent, revealing it at a late stage of the hearings. Her Democratic colleagues shared her outrage, demanding further investigations and vowing to block the confirmation at any cost, etc. etc.

    Is anyone persuaded that such a hypothetical situation would be at all likely? I, for one, am not. If the judge were enthusiastically pro-choice, I’m convinced that any allegations brought against him would be pooh-poohed by those on the cultural left, EVEN if they were more believable than Dr. Ford’s account. We should not forget that, in spite of all posturing to the contrary, this whole circus has been about abortion. If abortion were taken out of the equation, the theatrics would not have reached these proportions.

    • Well we have the not exactly parallel of Harvey Weinstein, who was a major contributor to pro-choice and other Democratic causes but still was brought down. Wouldn’t have happened a couple of years ago but times are changing.
      The charges against Clinton, which were largely shoved under the rug, are also being re-examined in light of these changes.

  3. Pingback: Dr. Ford’s Poetry | Reaction Times

  4. Actually, it’s the oddness of the accusations against Mr. Kavanaugh that makes me suspect that Dr. Ford is telling the truth. One feels as if there must be some missing context to explain how this is the sort of thing that tends to happen, and ordinary people don’t add that sort of off-ness to their fictions. Like that second guy who supposedly jumped on top of them. What’s up with that? Or the second lady who says that Mr. Kavanaugh stuck out his penis at her, or rather that she heard somebody say it was him because she was insufficiently lucid to know herself. That’s an oddly indirect accusation of a minor offense at the cost of some embarrassment to the accuser. I had gotten the impression that false rape accusations tend to be much more straightforward.

    That’s a vague impression, admittedly, and I’m glad it’s not my job to decide whether Mr. Kavanaugh is innocent or guilty.

    • It has struck me that a competent writer of fiction stories could easily craft such a script as Ford relays. The competency of a writer of fiction consists in his/her believability, in harmonizing with the unexpectedness of the components of human interaction.

    • I’ve thought that before too. Counterpoints, in my opinion:
      Hypothetically: One senator made the accurate argument that someone with a propensity for sexual deviancy of that kind doesn’t just stop doing that and clean up and lead a long successful untarnished life such as Kavanaugh has led. Kavanaughs Character in his career in my opinion weighs heavier than his alleged misdeeds in highschool, and their absurdity seems designed to pander to an audience than accurately frame the accused.
      Jurisprudentially: Kavanaugh should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is on the accuser, not the accused. If these women had these experiences and did nothing, the law has no recourse to them. It was available at the time, and they chose not to use it. Something is deeply unsettling to me about this decades-old-sexual-harassment trope that has been drummed up. It doesn’t feel just. I can’t quite explain why. This is even worse because Kavanaugh at the time was supposed to be a Minor. Are not records sealed and closed? Should a new entry be added to the books 37 years after the fact, and all his subsequent work disregarded?
      This is a deeply disturbing course of action and I hope 1- that Kavanaugh is confirmed; 2- That he is found innocent; 3- That those who falsely accused him are swiftly and harshly punished for their defamation; and 4- that the law is clarified about this strange and concerning practice of mob-accusation when politically expedient.

    • Bonald, this is pathetic.
      First, Ford’s claims have no supporting evidence. None. Those who were allegedly at the gathering deny such a party ever took place. Ford’s friend (the person who allegedly invited Ford to the party) denies ever knowing Kavanaugh. So clearly there was no such party.
      Of course even if there were such a party, too many important details were “forgotten” by Ford. Where the house was. Whose house it was. How she got home. When the party was. Why no one asked her about her abrupt exit.
      And of course even if she is telling the truth, it’s been 36 years. If John Brennan can be forgiven for being a member of the Communist Party during the height of the Soviet Union, Brett Kavanaugh can be forgiven as drunkenly groping some girl in high school.
      But Ford isn’t telling the truth. Her body language gave her away during her testimony. She spoke with an affected voice, which made her sound like she was pre-pubescent and non-threatening. She tucked her chin into her neck to make herself smaller and helpless. Think she lectures to college students with that tone and posture?
      She also faked her emotions, including sniffles and inflections throughout. But did she cry? A keen observer would notice that during her sniffle-attack she never once lifted her chin to let the sinuses clear. This shows there were no tears. Remember how she never needed a tissue?
      The death knell to her story was in the way she “remembered” key details when pressed by the prosecutor…imagine someone asked you to describe something from your past, maybe what your childhood home looked like or your bedroom. Memories of this sort are pictures in your mind, and to retrieve them you naturally look up for brief periods of time.
      When describing her “memories” of the room and events surrounding that night, Ford never did this. In fact, when questioned she looked to the side, as if she were trying to remember something she had written down.
      Don’t for a second believe this liar. This whole thing is a set up with heavy involvement from Dianne Feinstein.

      • GW:

        … when questioned she looked to the side, as if she were trying to remember something she had written down.

        I haven’t watched any of these “hearings,” but assuming the above is accurate, my comment is that this is precisely the way a guilty child acts when questioned by an authority (father, grandfather, uncle, or other authoritarian adult) as to the nature of his (mis)deeds in a given situation, or when bearing false witness against his neighbor. Have we forgotten that the correct response to this sort of evasiveness is to (authoritatively) say to the individual, “look at me,” or, “look into my eyes when you answer me”? The answer is that, yes, we have forgotten it. Which is a natural consequence of forgetting what authority is and how properly to exercise it.

      • Yes, exactly right about her ridiculous acting job.

        She’s lying. 31 years ago (13 y.o.) a creepy faggot violently groped my junk in a movie theater. I remember every detail: which theater, which movie, the exact moment in the movie, where in the theater I was sitting, the month and year, what he looked like, said, etc.

      • I think it’s risky to base conclusions on these sorts of details like one’s body language or on one’s own ability to recall details of past events. These sorts of things might be suggestive, but to claim that a person is telling the truth or lying based on these sorts of psychological projections I think is a hard sell.

        People are different, not everyone reacts the same way to things, and not everyone has the same ability to recall things.

      • Not just the body language. The ridiculous acting job – strong woman is suddenly demure and mousy when trying to be credible– who’s her acting coach?

      • Eh, so maybe she’s been coached, so what? That doesn’t really prove that she’s lying.

        These armchair psychological musings reek of desperation on the part of Kavanaugh partisans.

        And there’s no need to do so. There are no corroborating witnesses, and as far as I know, not much evidence whatsoever beyond Ford’s say-so. So why not stick to that? Much stronger ground, methinks.

    • Sailer’s coverage of this, as well as some friends texting me about it, have resulted in me following this more than I otherwise normally would have, having lost a lot of interest in the media circus that is face-and-name politics.

      I also find Ford’s narrative of what happened perfectly plausible. (Ramirez’s story also sounds very much like the sort of depraved hijinks that go on at colleges. The gang rape story, on the other hand, not so much.). She might be lying about certain details or exaggerating certain details, or she might be misremembering things, but my impression is that it’s unlikely the story is made up whole cloth.

      However, my opinion is that it is immaterial whether or not this incident happened: given that the alleged incident happened 36 years ago and that there are no corroborating witnesses, short of Kavenaugh confessing or a credible witness coming forward, there is simply no way to verify whether it actually happened.

      If we lived in a society with any semblance of normality, these accusations would have been dismissed as impossible to verify and thereafter ignored. Unfortunately, we don’t.

      And an FBI investigation? How absurd. What on earth are they going to investigate? Are they going to consult some talmudic numerologists to divine the secret meanings of high school yearbook scribblings? Perhaps they can throw Ford into the Potomac and see if she sinks or floats.

      I don’t care much if Kavenaugh gets confirmed or not. I do care that a possibly innocent man – a man with a wife and young children – is having his reputation destroyed over something that is unverifiable.

  5. It is clear to me now that all men dwell in the belly of Ungoliant. Everything is understood in the context of that sort of world, that is, her putrid belly.

  6. She is very probably a sociopath, one who can tell a bald-faced lie very confidently and convincingly. But who can tell for certain? We have to look at the corroborating evidence: she has none.

    But Kavanaugh’s corroborating evidence is weak in one respect. Mark Judge’s letter says that he never saw Kavanaugh “act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.” Rather underwhelming! Did he see Kavanaugh act in some other manner? Maybe what he saw was the difference in interpretation that men and women typically make when assessing physical contact between the sexes.

    Suppose I say that Kavanaugh is 90 percent believable. That means there’s a 10 percent chance he’s lying. Would this lie be acceptable to the Orthosphere? Christianity says no, but I would say yes, a hundred times yes. And this is what separates me from Christianity.

    It’s acceptable because Kavanaugh would bring the conservative jurisprudence to the Court that the nation sorely needs. This is all ends justifying means, right? Whether the end justifies the means depends on the particular end and the particular means. Kavanaugh is not hiding a murder to gain a seat on the high Court. But he may be hiding a borderline sexual groping of a teenager.

    Orthosphereans may find consolation by telling themselves that they believe Kavanaugh 100 percent, and thus not have to face even the probability that he may be lying. But in fact, no one can totally erase such probability barring dispositive evidence.

    • Until quite recently (let’s say about fifty years ago), Christianity had a very realistic understanding of human sexuality. This is why it disapproved of young men and women drinking beer and cavorting in an their bathing suits while Mom and Dad were out of town. In the poetic vision of Christianity, groping and grinding were likely to follow because that was the way of the world. Of course, if drinking, cavorting, groping and grinding did occur, the poetic vision of Christianity also allows for repentance and atonement. The idea that a man or woman is incorrigibly blackened by sin is alien to Christianity. If Kavanaugh is guilty (which appears unlikely) and pious (which appears likely), I can only suppose he has repented and atoned. It is not at all clear that he needs to have asked forgiveness from Dr. Ford.

      • If Kavanaugh is guilty, then he is lying under oath, which does not seem very consistent with his having repented and atoned.

        So I would think either that Kavanaugh is telling the truth, or that he has not repented and atoned.

        That’s not to say that a man who had repented of such an action would be required to tell the whole world of it: a man ought generally to hide his past sins from his children, provided he can do so without lying. But I would think a man of integrity who had done what Kavanaugh is accused of doing but who had since repented and atoned would have simply withdrawn his nomination.

        The fact that he didn’t is a point in favor of Kavanaugh’s telling the truth, I think.

    • Sociopath?

      The female mind seems to be oriented towards subjectivity and feeling and less towards objective reality. As a result, many women seem to be good at creating a false reality (or an embellished reality) in their minds and actually believing it’s objectively real. Yes some men have this ability too and some women don’t do this but…..

      I don’t know if this makes them liars/sociopaths or not. If you really believe a falsehood you created in your own mind, is it a lie?

  7. I’m aware that no sin incorrigibly blackens the soul (except a sin against the Spirit), and that Kavanaugh may indeed have made a confession. But how do you handle perjury before the Senate?

    Kavanaugh is aware of some things that ordinary conservatives have not yet awakened to. He knows that there are different standards of justice for conservatives and liberals. Sen Cory Booker also groped a 15-year old and even wrote about it. But he did it in the form of a mea culpa and it is apparently accepted. The list of unapologetic sexual misconduct on the left side of the ledger is quite long.

    No amount of public self-mortification would wash away the sins of a Brett Kavanaugh even if he were to apologize. It’s the Roy Moore story all over again. This is the heart of the matter, because I don’t know how our current state of politics can go on with different standards of justice for conservatives and liberals. If we will require angels to save us from the annihilationist policies of the left, then we won’t be saved from the annihilationist policies of the left.

    • His stout denial suggests innocence to me, since a lawyer with a guilty conscience would leave himself an out in case new evidence or testimony should arise. He would not risk perjury to get onto the Supreme Court because a perjury conviction would end his career as any sort of judge, or even lawyer. With that said, it is reasonable to ask how much honesty one owes to malignant liars.

      • Re: “…it is reasonable to ask how much honesty one owes to malignant liars.”

        That is all I’m asking. For myself, on the tiny chance that Judge Kavanaugh is lying, I would put it in the same category as saying “No” to hiding Christians in your attic when the Islamic State comes knocking.

      • But if he is lying, then she is not a malignant liar.

        Of course, I would prefer that he is innocent for my ideological convenience, but his defenders are far too certain.

      • Bonald @ If Dr. Ford’s account is untrue, she probably isn’t lying. A cloudy memory of clumsy making out may have been massaged by her therapist and then weaponized by Democrat politicians. My understanding of therapy is that it aims to re-write memories so they no longer cause shame, guilt and neurosis. Functional adjustment is the goal, not truth. This is why the memories of a person who has undergone therapy are even less reliable than the memories of ordinary people. I’d lay the charge of malignancy at the feet of the Democrats, who saw Dr. Ford as a useful tool.

      • Hello JMSmith,

        This is a remarkable claim about how therapy works. Could you recommend a reference for me to read? I’d like to be able to make a point to others of this fact that therapy manipulates memories by design.

      • This is what I took away from reading Philip Rieff’s Triumph of the Therapeutic (1966) and My Life among the Deathworks (2006). From Deathworks: “The guiding elites of our third world are virtuosi of de-creation, of fictions where once commanding truths were.” “Third world elites are characterized by their relentless promotion of the clean sweep.” In Rieff’s system, “third world” essentially means postmodern, and he understands the postmodern age under the symbol of the “therapeutic.” He is a Freudian, and far from consistent from one page to the next, but my general sense he understands therapy (and a therapeutic culture) as construction of a useful past. This means reshaping memories so that they motivate a person (or a people), rather than demoralize them.

        This seemed to match what I observed in friends who went through therapy. They became somewhat happier because they now told the story of their life in a way more flattering and consoling to themselves, but they also (and unsurprisingly) became more selfish. I take this as a fairly sure mark of someone who has undergone therapy: comfortable in their own skin, but not all that concerned by things beyond that skin.

        Riff is, or was, a big name in culture theory. I don’t know what clinical psychologists think of him. His first book had a huge influence on Christopher Lasch, especially The Culture of Narcissism.

      • Dude, Scott in PA, I would suggest backing away from politics, it appears to be seriously corrupting for you.

        I just watched A Man for All Seasons recently. In one scene, Thomas More insists that the king will not give evidence to support a false accusation against More. When asked why, More replies: “Because evidence is given on oath, and he will not perjure himself. If you don’t know that, then you don’t yet know him.”

        A man who was an adulterer, who divorced his wife, who rebelled against his Church and usurped its authority, who executed an innocent man, yet for all that, could not bring himself to lie under oath to God.

        Lying under oath is serious business.

  8. I don’t know how an allegation of this nature can be entertained, even for a moment. It’s as clear as the nose on one’s face that it is merely a means to the end of wrecking Kavanaugh’s nomination. If it succeeds, it will mean that the law now serves the liar.

    • It’s poetic truth triumphing over historic truth. People on the right talked of “narrative collapse” when the facts about Travon Martin and Michael Brown came to light, but then people on the right learned that poetic truth beats historic truth. The historical fact that one man was not beastly is much less important than the poetic fact that men in general are beastly.

      • It is perverse to apply the word ‘truth’ in this context. It is a lie, there is no reason to think otherwise.

      • The word truth my not be quite right, but neither is the word lie. A lier knows he is lying, and does not imagine that what he says is true “on some level” or “in some respect.” I think the speaker of what I call “poetic truth” knows his words are not true in the vulgar and literal sense, but he imagines that they are true in some higher sense. We need proper terms if we are to think clearly about the mythopoetic mind of the Progressives. They are gnostics, not rationalists.

  9. The requirement of evidence is an essentially Christian principle. There was no evidence against Christ, only a cruel unanimity. In Late Antiquity, before Christianity became the majority’s faith in the Roman Empire, fear of false accusations was widespread. Both Petronius and Apuleius write about them. Apuleius was himself falsely accused and only escaped a dire consequence because he was a damned good lawyer who represented himself at trial and called on corroborating witnesses.

    As for sociopathy — it is rampant in the academy. So yeah, that woman is undoubtedly a sociopath. What, after all, is truth?

  10. A sociopath is immune to social shame, but academics are, individually, highly sensitive to social shame. That’s why they are such rigid conformists. But the academy has become what we might call a sociopathic structure in which rigid conformists can become corporate deviants.

  11. Truth is objective reality. A lie is a lie, whether or not the person speaking it is aware of it or not. No matter how much they might believe it, the lie cannot be made true.

    I would still be very confident that this woman was not unaware. That one creates a drama does not mean that one believes it. More likely it’s putting on an act in the hope of more effectively deceiving others.

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