April 28, 2014
Proponents 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?