Should we “believe the victims”?

Joanne Wypijewski challenges one pole of convention left wisdom in asking whether we should “believe the victims”?

The answer to the question is clearly yes-if the victims are, say, those of the El Mozote massacre, those being foreclosed on from having purchased fraudulent mortgages marketed by the big banks, or citizens of Flint supplied poisoned water by the State of Michigan.

On the other hand, the answer is sometimes no: for example, in his memoirs, Henry Kissinger presents himself and others who prosecuted our genocidal policy in South East Asia as “victims” of the anti-war movement, “endlessly persecuted” by protestors who would not grant them a moment’s peace. This is one “victim” I choose not to believe. Two others in this category are Ruby Bates and Victoria Price who claimed to be rape victims of the Scottboro boys. Another falsely claiming victim status is Tawana Brawley who was suckered by the huckster Al Sharpton into filing a luridly false report of police abuse. Also, it appears that it was a mistake to believe Emma Sulkowicz‘s claims for victim status-as Columbia University did and which will almost certainly be forced to pay a massive civil settlement (quite appropriately) for having done so. Finally, it appears that three SUNY Albany students who charged that they were victims of a hate crime had simply invented the story. I myself might have passed it on-I’ve forgotten whether I did. If so, I apologize for not having been sufficiently skeptical.

In short, there is no general rule. To assume that one must always “believe the victims” is by no means politically progressive. In fact, as it is based on an inherent distrust of institutions, including state institutions which are the only mechanisms which can enforce a just and equitable social and political order, unconditionally “believing the victims” implicitly supports a distinctly reactionary philosophy of governance.

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