Why would conservatives and liberals reach completely predictable ideological conclusions about simple factual testimony - like the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas sexual harassment dispute? Ilya Somin suggests an answer. It's

a consequence of the all-too-common assumption that our ideological adversaries are not only wrong but also evil - or at least far more likely to be so than those who agree with us. If you believe that liberals are, on average, likely to be morally corrupt, then it would be rational for you to assume that a liberal is more likely to be lying than a conservative and thus to automatically believe Thomas over Hill even in the absence of clear proof. And vice versa if you hold the reverse view.

But Hill, at the time, was a conservative appointee! These nuances are lost in the culture wars, of course. Or, rather, they have to be denied. And so the partisan right subsequently insisted that Hill was actually a closet-liberal (and mediocre at her job to boot), as well as a liar. Thomas - about as mediocre a justice as one could imagine - was nonetheless touted by Bush I as the best candidate for the job regardless of race. Yes, many conservatives claimed that with a straight face - and still do!

I remember the hearings vividly. I was much more comfortable within the conservative world back then. I still thought it was obvious that Hill was telling the truth. In sexual harassment suits, I tend to believe the women. And I couldn't see Hill's motive for putting herself through all that for no reason. I also believed Paula Jones, of course, and most of the other victims of Bill Clinton's petty, ugly abuses of power. But the Clinton sexual harassment wars merely confirm Somin's argument, don't they? All the conservatives believed the women in Clinton's case. And almost all the liberals - and the feminists - trashed the abused women. In the cycle America has been in since the sixties, the truth is barely relevant.

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