Let Me Be Frank, Kevin Spacey, innocent until proven guilty, and the merits of Agnosticism

A witch hunt with merit? Maybe. But a witch hunt, nevertheless

I'll get to the Kevin Spacey part in a bit. But let me babble first. (skip the first two paragraphs if you want me to get on with it.)

If there's anything I've learned from being an atheist teenager who grew up obsessively arguing with Christian fundamentalists on the internet, it's that people tend to stick to their guns once they've acquired a belief of any kind. It's also that people feel almost obligated to have an opinion on everything. "I don't know, so I won't weigh in" never seems to be an option. Everyone always feels the need to pick a side. Agnosticism's never satisfying enough. We need answers. And if we don't have enough to be certain, we tend to just go with our gut. Either that or jump onto the assumption of everyone else's gut. I mean... if that many people say something, they couldn't be wrong, could they?

When I say this sort of stuff, people always think it's a jab at the group I'm arguing against. When I was stuck in militant atheist mode, they thought I was just talking about this being a fault in religious people. When I do it to #MeToo people, it's generally assumed that I'm just a misogynist implying that women can't think correctly. If I call out Trump supporters, I'm a biased libtard. If I call out people exaggerating Trump's evil, racist ways, I'm a "deplorable" who's probably racist himself. People miss the common denominator here: it's never about what side thinks better than the other. It's not about sides or any particular groups. It's just a natural flaw in the brains of humans. All humans. Whatever side you're on is as irrelevant as what religion you're part of. The problem isn't what you believe, it's why we believe. I wrote an entire article about it here.

So what does this have to do with Kevin Spacey, his allegations, and his Let Me Be Frank video? (I'm going to assume you already know what I'm referring to, if you're here). Because it's just another example of how humans jump to conclusions, act before all evidence has come to light, and how the strength of numbers empowers you to hold onto what you think.

I'm just going to be copy and pasting a discussion I had on the comment section of YouTube on the matter. The video I was watching wasn't the Let Me Be Frank video that Kevin Spacey posted but, rather, a clip from the Jim and Sam Show where they watch the video and discuss it. I began scrolling through the comments after listening to the clip and notice that one comment after another would speak of how Spacey was a child molester, and they'd say so with so much confidence. And all I could think was: what do they know that I don't? After all, I've read all the same articles on the matter that they have. In fact, judging by the misinformation of I kept seeing circling around, I've read more than most have. And what's my verdict on the matter? Honestly, I don't have one. Spacey could be a child molester, he could be a guy who just uncharacteristically hit on a 14-year-old while drunk once, it could be a complete misunderstanding altogether, or it could be not true at all. Regardless of how common sense anything may seem to us, the fact is that we just don't know. (A lesson I learned years ago from the Michael Jackson allegations, which you can find another article I wrote about here.)

And I already know what you're thinking: "JUST hit on a 14-year-old?! Like that's no big deal?!" Of course it's a big deal, if true. However, if that's the worst he's ever done, it's not as big of a deal as it's being said to be (although, if true, it certainly comes with suspicious implications that should probably be looked into by whoever does that sort of thing). While a lot of what I'm saying is about admitting when we don't know something, it's also about how we blowing things out of proportion due to the assumptions we make. And when it comes to labeling someone as something as heinous and socially damaging as a pedophile or racist, it seems to me that we should require a very particular degree of certainty before we drive in our daggers. The entire reason we require such evidence in court is that we don't want to accidentally ruin the life of an innocent person "just in case", regardless of how compelling the little evidence we have is. Otherwise, we risk making ourselves into the monsters we're trying to punish. The road to Salemn was paved with good intentions, after all.

But anyways. Here's a clip of the video I was commenting on and the discussion that arose after it.

Obviously, the topic gets people heated (then again, what topics don't anymore?). But something I've noticed is that, as usual when it comes to news and allegations, most haven't actually appeared to have read the original stories at all. It's all simply become a game of telephone, almost, where they'd hear headlines and outrage, and base their opinions and assumptions on that, as opposed to actually deciding anything on their own. I don't typically use the word "brainwash" (as it feels like it implies a conscious washer, who's purposely trying to pull one over on people), but it feels like something akin to that which is going on in our society. Because people don't decide anything for themselves. They decide based on whatever the general consensus is of any media or news outlet (or environment) they trust. As I've tried to get across from the beginning, however, this isn't about Spacey or any one particular issue. Regardless of his guilt or innocence, this all boils down to the bigger issue of us, as people, not thinking or drawing conclusions in the correct way.

I remember reading a book by Carl Sagan once (Demon Haunted World, I believe it was), where even then, he was talking about how much people are lacking in critical thinking skills and how little they utilize the scientific method in everyday life. It's something we demand in court and in science, where the truth has its most importance, but nowhere else. He proposed they teach these things in school, instill them in our minds from an early age, and to continuously have classes about them all throughout our education. And I'm inclined to agree. Otherwise, how else can we nip this stuff in the bud?

It makes no difference if anyone's conclusions are right or wrong. The problem continues to be that we draw the conclusions before we've earned them. We draw them based on feelings and fears as opposed to evidence and careful consideration. And while we may get lucky and punish the bad guy this time, and maybe even the next time, eventually we won't, and an innocent will get hurt (as I'm sure many already probably have). Is that really the precedent we want to set? Is that really how we want to be?