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Today, In Being Part of the Problem


Hey, remember Michael Ian Black, the comedian whose response to Louis CK’s attempt to resurrect his career a mere ten months after being exposed as a gross sexual predator was to chastise us all for our lack of charity? Remember how he basically invented an entire alternate universe version of CK who was really sorry about what he’d done and trying to become a better person, despite the lack of any evidence of such a transformation, not to mention ample evidence—most obviously, the very attempt to try to get back on a stage—that CK was completely unrepentant?

Well, guess what.

Two things that are worth noting: one, Black posted this tweet about twelve hours ago, so long after Kavanaugh’s performance before the Senate judiciary committee had ended. And two, the rest of his feed for yesterday is full of condemnations of Senate Republicans and support for Christine Blasey Ford. And yet not only is he persisting in the fantasy that in the 36 years since he held down a fifteen-year-old girl and tried to tear her clothes off, Kavanaugh has become “a helluva good guy”, he sneeringly condescends to people who call him on that ridiculous belief:

It should go without saying, but: a good guy doesn’t lie under oath. A good guy doesn’t brazenly spread falsehoods that he knows everyone can see through, in the arrogant belief that his privilege will protect him from any consequences or loss of public regard. A good guy doesn’t rant and rave about taking revenge on his supposed enemies while interviewing for a job synonymous with impartiality and open-mindedness. And, oh yeah, a good guy would admit to his wrongdoing, apologize for it, and withdraw his name from consideration for the highest court in the land, in recognition of the fact that he doesn’t deserve to be there. If Black believes Ford, as he claims to, then there’s simply no way to categorize Kavanaugh as a good guy, no matter how many carpools he drives or how nice he is to his poker buddies.

I’m saying all this not to come down on Black again (though I sincerely hope this puts the final nail in the coffin of the notion that he is an ally), but to point to a huge part of the problem that has gotten relatively little discussion, as we’ve all (understandably) lost our shit over Republican perfidy in this matter. People who blatantly don’t care about the safety and wellbeing of women are bad. But so are people who are so deeply invested in constructing a narrative of redemption for abusers and bad actors (privileged ones, obviously) that they irreparably skew the conversation in that direction, and train the rest of us to see villains as misunderstood victims. As journalist Zoé Samudzi writes:

We need to be cognizant of the social pressure to extend understanding and sympathy to abusers, and deny it to victims, sometimes simply by erasing the latter from the narrative. We need to push back against that impulse, even when it comes from people who are nominally on our side. Doing so isn’t uncharitable; it is the only possible path towards real charity for all of us.

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