Are you sure you heard what you thought you heard?

By Sandy . . . Those in the know have always said that eye-witness testimony is the least reliable of all evidence. The same is true, I am convinced, of ear-witness testimony.

That was apparent recently when following the Kavanaugh hearings on Twitter. In regard to the testimony of Christine Ford, one person Tweeted that she was either telling the truth or was the most accomplished actress he had ever seen.

This was soon followed by another Tweeter commenting what a horrible liar she was and that every word out of her mouth sounded fake and rehearsed.

They had both listened to the same exact words, but they each HEARD the exact opposite of what the other heard.

Even more recently this lesson was brought home to me again in a much more personal way.

The “Registry Matters” podcast – which, incidentally, is not a NARSOL project but an independent venue owned and co-hosted by Andy, who happens to be one our technical volunteers, and the other host is Larry, who is also a NARSOL volunteer – is regularly posted on NARSOL’s website. One of its recent discussion points was about a statement that President Trump has made, saying, “It’s a very scary time for young men in America…” He was alluding to the possibility of false accusations of sexual misconduct being made, and since this clearly intersects with the issues frequently discussed on the podcast, Andy and Larry devoted a few minutes of discussion to it.

I have listened to that segment of the podcast. President Trump is mentioned ONLY in context of having made the statement. The dialogue immediately segued into the need for evidence to support claims, the burden of proof being on the accuser, and the need for due process to be preserved. After no more than five minutes the discussion had evolved into one of “doxing,” and both Andy and Larry spoke vehemently against those who sink to such a level as well as against those who deliberately incite violence, regardless of which side is doing it. The total segment took ten minutes out of the almost two hours of the podcast.

The next day NARSOL received a terse email referencing the podcast and that specific segment and then saying, “I see you’re anti-Trump, anti-Kavanaugh, anti-Republican,” went on to place blame for sex offender registries totally on the “left,” and ended with saying if we couldn’t see the truth, he would end his association with us.

We sent him two emails explaining that the podcast was not part of NARSOL, that NARSOL was politically non-partisan – and that those from both political parties share the blame for onerous sex offender legislation.

The next day NARSOL received another email from another individual. This one also referenced the podcast, although it is doubtful that she had actually listened to it. She quoted the podcast topics and their partial descriptions from the website and then said, “I was dismayed in your latest communication to see you turn this to seeming political endorsements of Trump or the GOP.” After she finished admonishing us for being pro-Trump and pro-Republican, blaming that party for all the ills that plague us, she too threatened to cease her association with NARSOL unless we changed our stance. She too was sent a reply.

As far as I know, neither one has responded to us.

How could two people, in regard to the same thing, interpret it so differently, one as proof of being anti-Republican and the other as proof of being pro-Republican?

The only answer is that people hear what they already believe; they hear what supports the beliefs they already hold.

Those who did not favor Kavanaugh’s nomination heard truth from Christine Ford. Those who did support Kavanaugh heard her speak lies.

Those who believe that the Republican party will be the solution to ending the registry heard nothing but criticism of them in the podcast because the podcast’s hosts did not offer support of their party but discussed the issues objectively. Those who believe that the Republican party is responsible for all of the ills that those on the registry suffer heard praise for them because what President Trump had said was discussed neutrally without criticism of the party.

I heard it, and I heard neither pro nor anti; I heard facts, and I heard opinions that surely transcend all politics: Due process as guaranteed by our Constitution is essential; people deserve to be treated with respect; people who participate in actively harming others, whether through “doxing” or by encouraging violence, are cowards.

At least I think that is what I heard.

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Sandy is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

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