“If someone did not commit sexual assault in high school, then he is not a member of the male sex,” according to business professor Mitchell Langbert, dismissing the allegations against new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, AKA Justice Gang Rape.
This is not a startling claim from a right-winger. Scott Adams has expressed similar views and economics professor Steven Landsburg once said he’s not sure why raping an unconscious woman is wrong. They don’t always grab attention outside the blogosphere, but coming during the Kavanaugh hearings, this post did. And the implication Langbert has done something in this line himself resulted in a wave of outrage, online criticism and calls for firing. Like most people who say they want to be provocative, Langbert immediately cringed and blustered when it turned out he’d actually provoked people.
Defense #1: there’s nothing wrong with exploring sexuality as a teen: “As long as there is no coercion or violence, it’s not a crime.” Which is true, but as Ford’s account involves coercion and violence, how is that relevant? The post claims Dems and feminists are exaggerating harmless incidents and turning them into “assault” but Langbert doesn’t provide any examples (if he thinks Kavanaugh is example #1, he’s really off-base).
Defense #2: Langbert was writing satire — “It is intended to be taken in the same light as Swift’s claim that Irish children should be eaten” — but dumb liberals took him seriously! If that’s the case, then Professor Langbert shouldn’t quit his day job because satire isn’t his strong suite. It’s true the ending sentiment (“In the future, having committed sexual assault in high school ought to be a prerequisite for all appointments, judicial and political.”) is way over the top, but otherwise there’s nothing outrageous enough to be satire. Multiple republicans have asserted that what Kavanaugh is charged with is just teenage horseplay, or compared him to lynching victim Emmett Till. Langbert’s accusation the Dems are “the sissy party” isn’t out of line with mainstream Republican sentiment either.
More to the point, what is he satirizing? Saying that rape and assault should be required for government positions sounds like a satire on Kavanaugh’s defenders, but Langbert’s on the same side as them. If he’s trying to satirize the accusers, he blew it — he’s making the same arguments about how overblown the attacks are as every other Republican. If he’s satirizing the Democratic view of Republicans, well it didn’t come across that way. And if it takes this much work to tease out, well, the joke’s not funny.
Defense #3: Liberals are mean! Liberals shut down opposing viewpoints! Groupthink! Feminists! Socialism on campus! Pretty much the standard cliches of the right winger under fire.
Perhaps Langbert really thought he was being satirical. However, I’ve seen “I was just being funny!” used too often by jerks who clearly weren’t being humorous to buy this entirely. My guess (and it is only a guess) is that he hoped to antagonize people just enough that he’d get tagged as “controversial” or “provocative” and thereby get some intellectual dark web cred.
If so, he miscalculated. If he thought he was writing biting satire, he miscalculated. If he thought there’d be no blowback, he miscalculated.
I shall now play the world’s smallest violin on his behalf.