- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 17, 2004

At long last there is some reconsideration of the child molestation hysteria that has sent innocent people to jail for long terms behind bars, often with zero evidence and with testimony from children who have been heavily pressured or manipulated by “experts.”

Genuine child molesters certainly belong behind bars and a case could be made they should never be allowed out again. But that is wholly different from saying an unsubstantiated allegation should be automatically believed in a court of law.

The New York Times Magazine had a long article Sept. 19 featuring one of the children who falsely accused a man who spent 15 years in prison as a result. The “victim” now says it was all a lie. Why did he lie? “Experts” leaned on him to say what they wanted, and he was just a youngster at the time.

Were those “experts” trying to frame this particular man? Probably not. More likely, they just had a set of preconceptions about the world — a vision — that made them believe the accused man was guilty, so they saw their duty as getting the child to testify in a way that would secure a conviction.

CBS News probably didn’t set out to frame President Bush with a forged document about his National Guard service. More likely, the story they heard fit their vision of the world so strongly they believed it — and brushed aside any witness or expert who told them something different.

Visions are powerful things. For some people, visions make facts unnecessary and can even override facts to the contrary.

In the years leading up to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, V.I. Lenin developed a whole vision of the world’s past, present and future. Though he spoke in the name of the workers, he never bothered to ask what actual flesh-and-blood workers thought. In years of exile before returning to lead a revolution, he never bothered to go where workers lived or worked.

Lenin was just the first of the 20th century’s great vision-driven dictators. Like Adolf Hitler and Mao Tse-tung after him, Lenin was ready to sacrifice the lives of millions to his vision.

Even in democratic nations, there are people who can impose their vision on other people, with no consequences for being wrong and no requirement they prove themselves right.

Social workers have for years tried to stop white couples from adopting orphans from minority groups because it counters their vision. They don’t need a speck of evidence to back up their preconceptions.

Many minority children have been ripped out of the only homes they ever knew by social workers who sent them off to live with strangers, or a whole succession of strangers in foster homes. Someone has a vision that is better than letting them grow up with a white couple who raised them from infancy.

Everyone has visions, but not everyone is in a position to indulge or impose them on other people, without suffering any consequences for being wrong. Even the biggest businesses can find themselves staring at red ink if their idea of what the public wants turns out to differ from what the public will buy.

Federal judges, however, pay no price for being wrong. This is so even if the costs to others — sometimes the whole society — are catastrophic. When murder rates skyrocketed after 1960s judges started conjuring up new “rights” out of thin air for criminals, there were no consequences for those judges, who had lifetime appointments and were unlikely to live in high-crime neighborhoods.

The political left has long favored putting more and more decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong: not only judges but zoning boards, environmental commissions and, internationally, the United Nations and the World Court. This is a vision of the wise and the virtuous imposed on the lesser people, the rest of humanity.

Egalitarians are often in the vanguard of those seeking to promote this most dangerous of all inequalities — the inequality of unaccountable power in the service of a vision.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.



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