Archive for April, 2014

“Hundreds of people were sent to jail on these imaginary charges”

April 28, 2014

Screenshot 2014-04-26 14.46.48Proponents of the witch-hunt narrative claim that there were hundreds or even thousands of wrongful convictions in child sexual-abuse cases in the 1980s and early 1990s. A prime example of this claim comes from Richard Beck, who is working on a book that will add to the witch-hunt canon next year.

In November 2011, Mr. Beck wrote that “hundreds of people were sent to jail on these imaginary charges.” That claim, as documented in ch. 3 of The Witch-Hunt Narrative, does not stand up to scrutiny. At a recent event at Columbia University, we had the opportunity to ask Mr. Beck about the basis for his claim. He responded that he “wrote that before doing the research” for his book. He added that his statement was just “an internet thing.” This raises a few questions.

Does n+1, where his statement was published, have lower standards for its internet content than for its other publications? Is “truthiness” acceptable at n+1 so long as it’s just online? If not, will there be a correction forthcoming now that Mr. Beck apparently realizes that his claim is not true?

We also look forward to finding out, when his book comes out, whether Mr. Beck adjusted his viewpoint after realizing that what he wrote in 2011 was overblown. Will his book examine why this kind of exaggerated claim has been so widely accepted or will the book ignore that issue and cite, without criticism, the very writers and academics who have propagated these mythical numbers?

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Book Review in the Providence Journal

April 27, 2014

Tomorrow is the official publication date for The Witch-Hunt Narrative. Today’s Providence Journal has the first book review. Here it is.

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The Page 99 Test

April 25, 2014

The Witch-Hunt Narrative is featured today on two blogs devoted to reading: The Page 99 Test and the Campaign for the American Reader. Page 99 might not be the page we would have chosen to highlight; then again, it perfectly captures the complexity of the book. And the campaign for the American Reader; that’s a campaign that we strongly support!

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Re-Visiting Jordan, Minnesota

April 21, 2014
SrwuealThe new issue of the Roger Williams University Law Review is a symposium from the  2013 conference on child witnesses. (Here is the foreword by Prof. Carl Bogus.) The issue includes an article on the Jordan, Minnesota cases by Ross Cheit and Andrea Matthews. Based on extensive original research, the article argues that the Jordan, Minnesota cases were far more complicated  than the witch-hunt narrative has ever acknowledged.

Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker wrote the Jordan cases off with the assertion that “the Jordan youngsters accused their parents of murdering babies.”  In fact, the police interviewed seventy children, thirty-two of whom were named in at least one criminal indictment. Five children eventually made fantastic statements about killing babies; sixty-five never did.

The article also reveals how history professor Philip Jenkins, who apparently did not conduct original research, conflated two children in the case, attributing statements made by a boy (J.B.) who made murder allegations to a boy (J.O.) with the same first initial, but who was earliest in the case and never made any such claims. Jenkins dismissed J.O. and virtually all of the other children in the case for little apparent reason. The article documents significant and overlooked evidence of abuse in the case.

The Jordan cases were a dual tragedy: people were charged who should not have been, and children were not vindicated who should have been. But the witch-hunt narrative remembers only one of those stories.

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Describing Abusive Behavior as “Young Love”

April 9, 2014

Kier Fiore

Kier Fiore

Proponents of the witch-hunt narrative have a particular kind of blindness to real abuse. That is, they don’t see sexual abuse in places where it is obvious to others. The book (The Witch-Hunt Narrative) is full of examples where real abuse is described as a false accusation or false conviction by proponents of the narrative. This post describes an example that could not fit into the book: Judith Levine’s portrayal (in chapter 4 of her book, Harmful to Minors) of Kier Fiore’s conviction for felonious sexual assault in New Hampshire as “young love,” not as a crime.

The case involved a 22-year-old man who met a 13-year-old girl on the Internet and fled town with her after his arrest for statutory rape. Levine claims that the case was “narrated” by the police to fit a social text in which Fiore was the bad guy and the girl she calls Heather was painted as the “victim.”Levine mocked the idea that Fiore was considered “armed and dangerous” while on the run with Heather and she dismissed reports from two ex-wives that Fiore was abusive as “shady and disputed” facts.

But an examination of original court documents reveals a host of errors and omissions in Levine’s version of this case.  Read the rest of this entry »

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