Blasey Ford's Redemptive Lie

In the court of public opinion and the U.S. Senate, Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s problem is that Christine Blasey Ford has a narrative and he does not. He has only the forceful and angry denials of an innocent man.  But a counter-narrative does exist, based upon Ford’s own words and actions, which goes to explain why and how she made these false accusations, and without eliding her own agency in making decisions. 

Quite clearly, Kavanaugh has faced a host of patently unfair problems dealing with Ford’s unsubstantiated charge that he sexually assaulted her as teen 36 years ago.  Many are obvious. The elapsed time, the vagueness of Ford’s account, new, even less substantiated allegations popping up from left-wing activists, a hostile media, and the effects of the #Me Too movement.  These force Kavanaugh to prove a negative, against an allegation without a place, time, or shred of physical evidence to contest. 

Republican politicians and conservative media outlets are reluctant to place any blame upon Ford, for fear of upsetting women voters, or appearing insensitive, instead depicting her as a victim of manipulation by Democrats.  However, this robs her of agency, and is arguably itself somewhat misogynist -- wouldn’t Ford, a Ph.d and university professor, understand what’s going on?  Doesn’t her taking a lie detector test, and hiring Democrat operative attorneys while she supposedly sought to remain anonymous, demonstrate this?  Doesn’t her lie about fearing to fly demonstrate that she is willing to subordinate truth to political need?

Does she truly believe this new narrative?  It seems so, which formed the basis of her effective testimony last week.  But belief in a narrative is not truth.  As Senator Booker noted (approvingly), she spoke “her truth” not objective truth. 

We all create narratives about ourselves that are not true.  It is not a male or female thing.  It is part of being human.  Our self-conscious narratives about ourselves are who we are.  They are often incorrect.

Let’s consider Ford’s narrative to see how it was invented. 

When did this event occur?  There is no time.  Not even a year to be precise, much less a month.  The event thus is in a virtual literary realm, timeless, like a legend that cannot be proven or disproven. 

All we know is that it was summer, because Ford begins the tale at the Columbia Country Club pool, where she and Kavanaugh were members.  This is critical, because otherwise she and Kavanaugh were two years apart, and in different social circles, as Kavanaugh has noted.  Yet why, if the meeting that led to the incident began at Columbia, is Ford so uncertain as to its location?  Columbia is not out in the countryside, it is in the middle of a residential area of Bethesda/Chevy Chase, Maryland. In 1985 I went there, on my way back home from basic training in the Army JAG Corps.  A fellow lieutenant asked me to drive him back home from Virginia (we were both Marylanders) but then changed his mind, and preferred to be dropped off at Columbia, were he was a member -- he wanted to parade through the club in his uniform.  The area has changed somewhat in 30-plus years, but at that time still had the feel of a small town, with the fancy Club dominating the area around East-West Highway and Connecticut Avenue.  Even today, while Bethesda has undergone much development, the area by the Club is made up of expensive old homes, which neighbors fight to preserve.  It is hard to believe that Ford would not know where they went.

But more than that, according to her own account, the house can be narrowed down. Presumably the “house party” took place at the home of one of the participants, and according to Ford there were only five -- Ford, her close friend Leland Keyser, Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, and Patrick J. Smith.  Since presumably Ford would know if the party was in her own home, or Keyser’s, it could only have been at one of the boys’ homes.  Why didn’t Democrat staff check it out? All they to do is head to the local library and consult an 1982 phone book.  Why didn’t Dianne Feinstein refer the FBI to the scene of the alleged rape, when there could only be three possible locations?

What of the alleged assault itself?  Ford told her therapist in 2012 that four boys were in the room with her.  She now denies that, claiming the therapist had it wrong, but the therapist’s notes are more credible than her changing narrative.  Her account falls apart with four boys, since it removes Keyser.  Ford would have gone to a “party” alone with four older boys, a reckless thing to do at the time, and probably the real reason she did not report an incident that probably did take place.

The mixed-sex party also allows her to assert the most troubling facet of the narrative, that at one point Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams.  If believed, this removes any possibility that the encounter was a misunderstanding between immature teens, rather than a frightening assault.  But it only works if some people in the house are not in the room with Ford.  If it was as Ford originally told her therapist, all four boys who were in the room, there would be no reason to stifle her screams -- there was nobody in the house but the assailants.

And then her other dramatic point, the uproarious laughter. Ford testified that more than anything else it was uproarious laughter that she remembers.  This strongly suggests that whatever happened 36 years ago, the real crux of the matter is less a sexual assault than humiliation.  However, it is far more credible that four now anonymous older boys mocked her as her original account suggests, not only to create the uproar, but for refusing to service them sexually, and for putting herself in such a compromising situation.  

This doesn’t excuse the behavior of Ford’s probable actual attackers all those years ago, but does explain why Ford never told anyone and pushed aside the memory.  How could she forget the assault if Kavanaugh made it, when by the logic of her own account she would have subsequently seen him repeatedly at Columbia afterwards?  Rather, it appears Ford somehow got herself into a situation in which she was alone in a house with four older boys, a seriously fraught circumstance.  This is why she couldn’t tell anyone, not even her friends, much less her parents, and pushed it out of her consciousness. 

After “recovering” the memory, it became a matter of reworking it into a more acceptable form, one in which Ford is free of any fault -- who can blame her for attending a small get-together with girlfriend and a few Columbia guys -- and to boot, a single attacker is now one of the most important men in the country. 

Ford is a smart and capable woman, a psychologist who has carefully reworked her own narrative to suit her own psyche and turn an embarrassing misjudgment into a heroic stand against a political foe.   She is no longer the mocked ingénue 36 years past.  Let’s give her credit for that, even if her redemptive narrative is mostly a lie. 

In the court of public opinion and the U.S. Senate, Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s problem is that Christine Blasey Ford has a narrative and he does not. He has only the forceful and angry denials of an innocent man.  But a counter-narrative does exist, based upon Ford’s own words and actions, which goes to explain why and how she made these false accusations, and without eliding her own agency in making decisions. 

Quite clearly, Kavanaugh has faced a host of patently unfair problems dealing with Ford’s unsubstantiated charge that he sexually assaulted her as teen 36 years ago.  Many are obvious. The elapsed time, the vagueness of Ford’s account, new, even less substantiated allegations popping up from left-wing activists, a hostile media, and the effects of the #Me Too movement.  These force Kavanaugh to prove a negative, against an allegation without a place, time, or shred of physical evidence to contest. 

Republican politicians and conservative media outlets are reluctant to place any blame upon Ford, for fear of upsetting women voters, or appearing insensitive, instead depicting her as a victim of manipulation by Democrats.  However, this robs her of agency, and is arguably itself somewhat misogynist -- wouldn’t Ford, a Ph.d and university professor, understand what’s going on?  Doesn’t her taking a lie detector test, and hiring Democrat operative attorneys while she supposedly sought to remain anonymous, demonstrate this?  Doesn’t her lie about fearing to fly demonstrate that she is willing to subordinate truth to political need?

Does she truly believe this new narrative?  It seems so, which formed the basis of her effective testimony last week.  But belief in a narrative is not truth.  As Senator Booker noted (approvingly), she spoke “her truth” not objective truth. 

We all create narratives about ourselves that are not true.  It is not a male or female thing.  It is part of being human.  Our self-conscious narratives about ourselves are who we are.  They are often incorrect.

Let’s consider Ford’s narrative to see how it was invented. 

When did this event occur?  There is no time.  Not even a year to be precise, much less a month.  The event thus is in a virtual literary realm, timeless, like a legend that cannot be proven or disproven. 

All we know is that it was summer, because Ford begins the tale at the Columbia Country Club pool, where she and Kavanaugh were members.  This is critical, because otherwise she and Kavanaugh were two years apart, and in different social circles, as Kavanaugh has noted.  Yet why, if the meeting that led to the incident began at Columbia, is Ford so uncertain as to its location?  Columbia is not out in the countryside, it is in the middle of a residential area of Bethesda/Chevy Chase, Maryland. In 1985 I went there, on my way back home from basic training in the Army JAG Corps.  A fellow lieutenant asked me to drive him back home from Virginia (we were both Marylanders) but then changed his mind, and preferred to be dropped off at Columbia, were he was a member -- he wanted to parade through the club in his uniform.  The area has changed somewhat in 30-plus years, but at that time still had the feel of a small town, with the fancy Club dominating the area around East-West Highway and Connecticut Avenue.  Even today, while Bethesda has undergone much development, the area by the Club is made up of expensive old homes, which neighbors fight to preserve.  It is hard to believe that Ford would not know where they went.

But more than that, according to her own account, the house can be narrowed down. Presumably the “house party” took place at the home of one of the participants, and according to Ford there were only five -- Ford, her close friend Leland Keyser, Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, and Patrick J. Smith.  Since presumably Ford would know if the party was in her own home, or Keyser’s, it could only have been at one of the boys’ homes.  Why didn’t Democrat staff check it out? All they to do is head to the local library and consult an 1982 phone book.  Why didn’t Dianne Feinstein refer the FBI to the scene of the alleged rape, when there could only be three possible locations?

What of the alleged assault itself?  Ford told her therapist in 2012 that four boys were in the room with her.  She now denies that, claiming the therapist had it wrong, but the therapist’s notes are more credible than her changing narrative.  Her account falls apart with four boys, since it removes Keyser.  Ford would have gone to a “party” alone with four older boys, a reckless thing to do at the time, and probably the real reason she did not report an incident that probably did take place.

The mixed-sex party also allows her to assert the most troubling facet of the narrative, that at one point Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams.  If believed, this removes any possibility that the encounter was a misunderstanding between immature teens, rather than a frightening assault.  But it only works if some people in the house are not in the room with Ford.  If it was as Ford originally told her therapist, all four boys who were in the room, there would be no reason to stifle her screams -- there was nobody in the house but the assailants.

And then her other dramatic point, the uproarious laughter. Ford testified that more than anything else it was uproarious laughter that she remembers.  This strongly suggests that whatever happened 36 years ago, the real crux of the matter is less a sexual assault than humiliation.  However, it is far more credible that four now anonymous older boys mocked her as her original account suggests, not only to create the uproar, but for refusing to service them sexually, and for putting herself in such a compromising situation.  

This doesn’t excuse the behavior of Ford’s probable actual attackers all those years ago, but does explain why Ford never told anyone and pushed aside the memory.  How could she forget the assault if Kavanaugh made it, when by the logic of her own account she would have subsequently seen him repeatedly at Columbia afterwards?  Rather, it appears Ford somehow got herself into a situation in which she was alone in a house with four older boys, a seriously fraught circumstance.  This is why she couldn’t tell anyone, not even her friends, much less her parents, and pushed it out of her consciousness. 

After “recovering” the memory, it became a matter of reworking it into a more acceptable form, one in which Ford is free of any fault -- who can blame her for attending a small get-together with girlfriend and a few Columbia guys -- and to boot, a single attacker is now one of the most important men in the country. 

Ford is a smart and capable woman, a psychologist who has carefully reworked her own narrative to suit her own psyche and turn an embarrassing misjudgment into a heroic stand against a political foe.   She is no longer the mocked ingénue 36 years past.  Let’s give her credit for that, even if her redemptive narrative is mostly a lie.