The US government claim that alleged 'terrorists' are not entitled to the usual presumption of innocence, whereas among left-wing activists, it is alleged sex offenders who are given that distinction. The logic of both political extremes is identical. Both sides believe that, because some crimes are particularly bad, those accused of those crimes should be treated differently, that they should not be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
We reject bourgeois justice. But the presumption of innocence is not bourgeois - it was already in place among the Anglo-Saxons some 1500 years ago. Unlike the government, anarchists are not about to put suspected offenders in concentration camps. But the suspension of the ancient right of presumed innocence is as dangerous in sexual offence cases as in any others. To mention just one example, in the 'Satanic child abuse' panic of the early eighties, numerous parents were falsely convicted on ridiculous charges of sexually abusing their children during Satanic rituals . The accusers were a holy alliance of self-righteous feminists, Christian fundamentalists and cops. But first, my argument that feminism is taken too seriously among radicals.
The Portland anarchists are holding a series of 'consent workshops'. Why? Because of "...the instances of sexual assault that were tearing up the anarchist community in Portland and Eugene just a year and a half ago. It's great that I haven't been hearing of any further assaults in that time, although that doesn't mean they haven't happened..." .
It is true that, because you haven't heard of something, doesn't mean it hasn't happened. But it doesn't even occur to the author of this article that the fact that she did hear of sexual assaults doesn't mean that they did happen. What was 'tearing up the anarchist community' was not sexual assaults, but false allegations of sexual assaults.
The journal "Do or Die" is a British radical environmental magazine with a class content. But this has not innoculated it against crackpot ideas from the other side of the Atlantic - sort of mad cow disease in reverse. "Let Patriarchy Burn!", is a typical piece of loony feminist nonsense . The only reason it was published is because it was written by a woman, and because the editors of "Do or Die" suffer from the inverted sexism of guilty liberal men. The article is typified by vague allegations which cannot be proven in principle, lack of evidence for the concrete allegations which can, and outright lies. The author claims that the radical environmental movement is riddled with oppression of women, rape, machismo, etc.. This is the exact opposite of the truth. The founding meeting of "Earth First!" in Britain, and the subsequent evolution of the environmental movement, were harmed by the uncritical acceptance of American-style feminist manipulation . The instigators of these divisive tactics are not necessarily women, who are sometimes less interested in making sure there is a 'women-only space', or adding up the number of times women have spoken, than the blokes. Affirmative action not only allows feminism to have an undue influence, it also allows other aspects of American identity politics to divide the radical opposition. "Do or Die" would not have published a statement entitled 'Abandon Your Privilege' had it not been slipped in under the cover of 'a feminist rant'.
Why are 'rants' by women taken seriously? . I think it's sexism - the archaic notion that women are incapable of rational thought, so they should be given special license to use emotions in place of arguments. The Satanic ritual abuse panic exposed how easily liberals are led astray by feminists: "If many ritual-abuse cases were so easily discredited, even as early as the late 1980s, where were the doubters in this country whose public protests might have dampened the panic? They existed, but glaringly absent from their ranks were the prominent civil libertarians who usually denounce police overzealousness and witchhunting. So taken were these people with the feminist and pro-child pretensions of ritual-abuse claims makers that they failed to question the hysteria, even as dozens of defendants were marched off to prison desperately insisting on their innocence" . The book "Satan's Silence" clearly shows the feminist movement's complicity in the Satanic abuse scare. Anarchists are as easily cowed by feminists as the rest of the left - when feminists claim there is an outbreak of sexual violence, no-one challenges them, for the same reason that 'civil libertarians' failed to challenge the Satanic abuse hysteria - too much respect.
In fairness, the authors explain why feminists supported the weakening of the presumption of innocence which allowed the police and social services departments from Oildale to the Orkneys to frame up numerous parents of horrific crimes on entirely false evidence. The 'burden of proof' allows the defendant a lot of leeway. If a woman accuses a man of rape, his attorney is allowed to say things like "what were you wearing?", "you wanted it, didn't you?" and other insinuations, which are deeply offensive if the allegations are true. But, with the presumption that the defendant is innocent, you don't know they are true until they are proven. As long as that presumption exists, accusers have an uphill struggle. That's the price of avoiding false convictions. "Satan's Silence" proves this beyond doubt. If it is traumatic for an adult victim of sexual violence to be called a liar in court, it is even worse for a child. Video evidence, recorded (and doctored) tapes, and other unreliable approaches were allowed for this reason. The result was false convictions. There is no easy answer to this problem. But however fair you try to be, however complex the issues, however much you try to see things in context, you cannot tolerate lies.
Anarchists oppose the state, but this does not solve the problem. Lies can be believed, false convictions can take place, 'justice' can be done, without the state being involved. Mob justice is often worse than state justice. To give credit to the author of the Indymedia article cited above , she does not advocate violence against alleged offenders. "Confrontational warnings of revenge attacks"  is probably just a fantasy, but there was an outbreak of mob attacks on alleged paedophiles - all of whom were innocent - a few years ago in Britain, and anarchists in Germany shot someone accused of rape.
At the root of all this is clearly an emotional issue. This, I believe, is part of a wider problem - emotions overruling reason in political decision-making. Emotional blackmail is obviously a major factor in American politics, and anarchists are as guilty as anyone. You might expect that people agreeing or disagreeing with this article are likely to be divided by gender, because women are more likely to be the victims of a sexual assaults than the victims of false allegations, and men the opposite. Inevitably, we tend to be aware of things which harm us before others. But I wouldn't be surprised if some of the more outraged reactions to this piece come from men, who make the worst feminists. And I can't conclude without mentioning the women who stand up against feminist blackmail and insist on the evidence.
It is important to regain context and a sense of perspective. Feminists do not commit violence - except against language, truth and logic . False allegations rarely result in attacks, but they do cause division, demoralization and defeat (Eugene). So what do I propose? As far as the anarchists are concerned, I am not suggesting that they should change. The 'ultra-left' are a more extreme version of the left, and the feminists in their ranks ditto. I'm not sure that arguing rationally against political correctness will do any good . It might result in a more sophisticated kind of feminism - the kind that started the Satanic abuse panic. If there is one positive feature of radical feminism, it is that it is too mad to have any influence outside the left. It is arguable that the tolerance of lies, the concessions to feminism and other forms of emotional blackmail, among anarchists, environmentalists and other radicals, are symptoms of irreversible decay. Whatever movements emerge in the future to contest the ruling order, they will be innoculated against mad cow disease.
1. 'Satanic Crack Dealers in Child Abuse Scandal', Wildcat 15, w15-moral-panics.html
2. 'The Dark Side of Sex', portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/12/306653.shtml
3. 'Let Patriarchy Burn! - a feminist rant', 'Do or Die' no. 8.
4. 'Earth First! - Which Planet Are They On?', Wildcat 16,nw16-earth1st.html
5. "Rachel's Blog", rachelfeministrants.blogspot.com/2005/01/really-angry.html
6. "Satan's Silence", Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker, NY 1995
7. 'Wilful Disobedience', Portland, 2004
Footnote: from Philadelphia, 19 July 2005: