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Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:21 AM

Why I think Alan Dershowitz is a contrarian.

A lot is being said of Alan Dershowitz serving on the Orange One's defense team for the impeachment trial. There are lots of reasons why this is odd, not least of which Dershowitz's previous alliances with the Democratic Party. So a lot of people are saying things like "he's lost his marbles" or "he's lost it."

I don't necessarily think so, and there's a reason I think that way.

First - yes, he was on the defense teams that let OJ walk and got Epstein a scandalously light sentence. Assuming he played a major role in those defenses, that doesn't necessarily mean he's nuts. It means he's amoral, but it also means he's a good defense attorney, and that he did his job well. That being said, these were defense teams. Dershowitz wasn't the lone defense attorney, and I've never seen an accounting of who on these teams did what. So he might have been present as window dressing, for all I know.

I think he's a contrarian. I'm an academic, and I encounter such people all the time. These are people who adopt positions contrary to the consensus. They don't necessarily believe them, but they like the notoriety and attention that comes from being a lone voice in a crowd. Almost every academic field has them.

There's a difference between a contrarian and a denialist. Most of the academics or think tank inhabitants claiming that human-driven climate change has stopped, or that human activity isn't to blame, are doing it for the money, political bias, or both. They may also like the attention, but the main motivators are either financial or political. Contrarians may make money from public appearances and whatnot, but it's all about the attention.

Anyway - why do I think Dershowitz is a contrarian?

I decided this when I saw him comment on the Amanda Knox case.

Ms Knox was an American college student who was studying in Italy when her British roommate was murdered. The local police decided that Ms Knox and her Italian boyfriend were involved in some sort of sex orgy gone wrong. Ms Knox was arrested, interrogated with neither a defense attorney nor interpreter, and eventually convicted of the crime. Her conviction was overturned on appeal and she came back to the US, but the Italian system lets the prosecution appeal acquittals (something they initially did to deal with corrupt judges); her acquittal was overturned, she was convicted again, and the second conviction was also overturned. So she's been cleared, but it took a long time.

The media - especially, though not exclusively, the Italian and British tabloids - went nuts over this. They published all sorts of salacious stories about Mx Knox and/or the crime, most of which were either bullshit, misinterpreted beyond all resemblance to reality, or taken way, way out of context.

If one actually looks at the facts of the case, it becomes very, very clear that the crime was committed by a lone intruder. Every bit of forensic evidence used against Ms Knox or her boyfriend was later shown to be misinterpreted or contaminated. Her "incriminating statements" and "odd behavior" were only incriminating or odd in the tabloids; in reality, they were perfectly normal given the circumstances.

Eventually, almost every legal expert in the US agreed that Ms Knox had been railroaded - that this was a classic case of tunnel vision in which law enforcement decided what happened and framed everything they saw in that context. Mx Knox was obviously innocent of this crime, and the police and prosecutors involved in the case gave a textbook example of how not to investigate a violent crime.

I say "almost" because one American lawyer took the opposite view - Alan Dershowitz.

This is when I decided he wasn't just an amoral defense attorney, but a contrarian. He wasn't involved with the case. He didn't have to open his yap about it. And yet, open his yap he did - and what came forth were claims that the evidence against Ms Knox was very strong. Given his defense of OJ Simpson, where the evidence against his client was pretty solid, this struck me as flat-out absurd. It was like claiming that ghost pepper sauce is as mild as milk, but that strawberry jam is a fiery condiment sure to cauterize your taste buds.

Then I remembered that he works at a university, and it all fell into place. He's a contrarian academic. He may or many not have thought Ms Knox was guilty (just as he may or may not have thought OJ was innocent), but he adopted his position based on his perception of consensus and desire to move in the opposite direction.

Anyway - my tuppence. I think it's worth considering as we watch him on cable news.

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Arrow 49 replies Author Time Post
Reply Why I think Alan Dershowitz is a contrarian. (Original post)
cab67 Jan 2020 OP
democratisphere Jan 2020 #1
cab67 Jan 2020 #4
dewsgirl Jan 2020 #2
cab67 Jan 2020 #3
Mike 03 Jan 2020 #13
hlthe2b Jan 2020 #5
cab67 Jan 2020 #6
hlthe2b Jan 2020 #7
cab67 Jan 2020 #8
bluedye33139 Jan 2020 #9
Voltaire2 Jan 2020 #10
cab67 Jan 2020 #26
Voltaire2 Jan 2020 #41
greenjar_01 Jan 2020 #29
FM123 Jan 2020 #11
cab67 Jan 2020 #25
Dennis Donovan Jan 2020 #12
Mike 03 Jan 2020 #20
denbot Jan 2020 #14
cab67 Jan 2020 #48
Mike 03 Jan 2020 #15
Mr. Ected Jan 2020 #16
cab67 Jan 2020 #24
Mike 03 Jan 2020 #17
cab67 Jan 2020 #22
Mike 03 Jan 2020 #28
cab67 Jan 2020 #47
MaryMagdaline Jan 2020 #37
snowybirdie Jan 2020 #18
OnDoutside Jan 2020 #19
Mike 03 Jan 2020 #21
cab67 Jan 2020 #23
Mike 03 Jan 2020 #31
cab67 Jan 2020 #38
greenjar_01 Jan 2020 #27
cab67 Jan 2020 #44
greenjar_01 Jan 2020 #49
empedocles Jan 2020 #30
cab67 Jan 2020 #45
aeromanKC Jan 2020 #32
dawg day Jan 2020 #33
rickford66 Jan 2020 #34
scrabblequeen40 Jan 2020 #35
cab67 Jan 2020 #46
MaryMagdaline Jan 2020 #36
cab67 Jan 2020 #43
rufus dog Jan 2020 #39
cab67 Jan 2020 #42
kentuck Jan 2020 #40

Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:24 AM

1. Dershowitz is a attention monger, grandstander and showboater,

along with being a total ass.

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Response to democratisphere (Reply #1)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:27 AM

4. Agreed, but he's a particular type of attention monger, grandstander, and showboater.

One can get attention without running against consensus. Cable news is full of such people.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:25 AM

2. Is Jonathan Turley a contrarian?

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Response to dewsgirl (Reply #2)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:26 AM

3. I think so, to some extent.

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Response to dewsgirl (Reply #2)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:47 AM

13. He came to my mind too.

This all may be a good point, but I question the relevance because they are putting their skills to a questionable use.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:28 AM

5. for all his bombast, he is not a constitutionalist.

His expertise was in civil liberties and criminal defense.

So, he may be a "contrarian," but he's a deluded, poorly informed, and just plain WRONG (on the constitution) contrarian whose entire career the past 5 decades has been an attempt to gain and remain in the limelight. He seeks celebrity as much as Giulliani. They are two peas in a pod.

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Response to hlthe2b (Reply #5)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:32 AM

6. I agree with you in part.

But not completely. He's only really cast himself as a constitutional scholar (to my knowledge) with respect to the Damp Lord.

Moreover, if he really was centrally involved with the OJ and Epstein cases, he's not entirely deluded or poorly informed. Deluded, poorly informed defense attorneys don't get those kinds of results.

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Response to cab67 (Reply #6)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:34 AM

7. Deluded & poorly informed on the constitution. I said he earned his reputation on criminal defense/

civil liberties. Ask anyone who had him for a professor for those related courses and they will sing his praises. Ask them if they are relieved to have had someone else for Constitutional Law and they will likewise signal great relief and disdain for Dersh in that respect.

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Response to hlthe2b (Reply #7)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:37 AM

8. righto.

I agree with you on that.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:42 AM

9. He says he opposes impeachment no matter who it is or what they do

And that makes me wonder: Why take him seriously then? He literally stated in an interview this week that he would oppose any impeachment at any time no matter what the issue was.

That's because he believes that the executive cannot be called to account in our system, and that the ballot box is the only remedy for executive misconduct.

He apparently has never read the constitution.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:43 AM

10. He moved far right after 9-11.

Heís not a contrarian he is a rightwing asshole.

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Response to Voltaire2 (Reply #10)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 11:08 AM

26. Contrarians can be assholes.

They can also have political biases. The position he took on the Amanda Knox case argues strongly for a contrarian identity; Donald Trump himself came to Knox's defense, calling for all sorts of boycotts against Italy. Trump was also shocked - shocked! and disappointed! - that Knox supported Hillary Clinton.

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Response to cab67 (Reply #26)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 02:54 PM

41. Sure, but he is primarily a rightwing asshole.

An apologist for the idiocracy.

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Response to Voltaire2 (Reply #10)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 11:11 AM

29. Correct

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:44 AM

11. Dersh may be a contrarian, and love the sound of his own voice

but I don't think that he is doing what he's doing because he likes the notoriety and attention that comes from being a lone voice in a crowd. He is not a lone voice. He is part of the big fat trumpy chorus that sings with people like Giuliani who used be something.

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Response to FM123 (Reply #11)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 11:06 AM

25. Yes and no.

There is, indeed, a loud crowd trying to support the Damp Lord - but not so much in law schools. At least, not in law schools not affiliated with an evangelical institution. Dershowitz is part of a large chorus beyond Academia, but it's little more than the backup for a doo-wop group in law schools.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:45 AM

12. I think it's simpler than that. His *true* involvement w/ Epstein is known to Bill Barr.

Bill Barr's using it as knife to his throat to get him to say *anything* he wants him to, including making a Constitutional argument that is nonsensical to *EVERY* other Constitutional scholar.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #12)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 10:03 AM

20. Also, he might think that participating in this trial will change the subject from the Epstein case

and related lawsuits. If I recall correctly, his work has suffered from the lawsuit. He "stepped away" from Harvard and fewer appearances on TV.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:48 AM

14. Why think Alan Dershowitz is a piece of shit.

He is a complete scumbag, just like his supporters and those who attempt to excuse his actions.

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Response to denbot (Reply #14)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 04:46 PM

48. In no way am I excusing anything.

I have no use for Dershowitz. That his actions can be understood in a particular context doesn't legitimize them.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:50 AM

15. FBI Profiler John Douglas was also one of the first people to ridicule the prosecution's theory

in the Knox case. I don't remember who spoke up first.

Thanks for mentioning the Knox case. It is truly hard to understand how Italian authorities ever came to believe some of the things they believed about that homicide. Most investigators without much experience could have figured this out IMO.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:51 AM

16. Contrarian, perhaps, but equipped with the flimsiest, paper-thin arguments and evidence

Which he touts as being as viable and irrefutable as the well-proven mainstream view.

AKA disinformation. Like Russia. Like FOX. Like Trump.

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Response to Mr. Ected (Reply #16)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 11:04 AM

24. This is something denialists, contrarians, and crackpots all share in common.

They find themselves forced to defend indefensible positions. And they employ similar rhetorical tactics to do so. The difference is the motivation.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:53 AM

17. Just for clarification

Are you arguing that Dershowitz took Amanda Knox's side because nobody else would, or because he's an investigative genius who objectively evaluated the case and came to the conclusion the Italian authorities were completely misguided?

Was it a moral issue with him, or did he want publicity?

John Douglas took her side out of deep moral conviction that an injustice had occurred.

The distinction seems important.

I promise I'm not trying to be a smart ass but what is the relevance? He's still going to provide cover to Republicans to vote against removing a dangerous president. He's misusing his "gifts" (if "contrarianess" is a gift).

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Response to Mike 03 (Reply #17)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 10:46 AM

22. Dershowitz thought Knox was guilty.

Or said he thought so, anyway. His actual beliefs might not have been involved.

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Response to cab67 (Reply #22)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 11:10 AM

28. My bad! I see what you are saying.

Your observations are good. The reason they unnerve me is because there's no discussion of ethics, although I see in a sense this is the whole point.



So is contrarianism a purely intellectual exercise, or an intellectual form of sociopathy? (Rhetorical question, I think)

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Response to Mike 03 (Reply #28)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 04:45 PM

47. In most cases, sociopathy.

There are some who enjoy "playing devil's advocate" for the sake of the rhetorical game, but such people usually make clear at some point what they're doing.

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Response to cab67 (Reply #22)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 12:17 PM

37. Even worse, he thought the US should not interfere in her behalf

even if she were ACTUALLY INNOCENT. the fact that she was afforded due process and had a trial was enough for the US to step back and let Italian justice system work things out. So if our government knows for a fact that Iím innocent, it should let me rot in jail in a foreign country if Iíve had due process. Process is more important than truth.

Actual innocence is what he hammered home to the appellate court to get von bulow a new trial. Itís what inspires a lot of appellate courts to overturn guilty pleas and convictions based on DNA, etc.

Iíve hated Dershowitz from the moment he said our government should stand down with respect to Amanda Knox

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:59 AM

18. But at least

he keeps his underwear on when getting a massage by an underage teen! A buffoon!

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 09:59 AM

19. Is that fancy talk for "nobber" ?

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 10:07 AM

21. We used to have a phrase.

When a great movie director would do a hack B-film for a quick buck or a grab at commercial legitimacy we said he or she had "prostituted their talent." I'm having some difficulty not seeing Turley and Dershowitz in the same light.

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Response to Mike 03 (Reply #21)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 11:02 AM

23. This isn't mutually exclusive of being a contrarian.

When money is involved, a contrarian will sometimes jump at the opportunity. This brings them close to the contrarian-denialist boundary.

The key is to look at actions taken when there's no stake involved. Dershowitz had no horse in the Amanda Knox race, but spoke up anyway, and said things that were patently absurd.

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Response to cab67 (Reply #23)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 11:14 AM

31. I appreciate what you are getting at.

I find it difficult to discuss this without bringing ethics into it, but that could be a failure on my part (for the purposes of this discussion).

"The key is to look at the actions taken when there's no stake involved." This is a crucial point.

In some situations, something might be "at stake" we're not aware of.

I apologize if some of my posts seemed confrontational. I actually find your ideas worthwhile for discussion in a clinical sense, but with so much at stake I think it's important to remember the immense consequences of his position in this trial. I find it hard to have this discussion without considering the ethics of the situation. But I appreciate how clinical your examination is.

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Response to Mike 03 (Reply #31)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 01:45 PM

38. Much appreciated.

Admittedly, my own direct experience with contrarians is in my own field, where issues of ethics donít really cause anyone harm.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 11:10 AM

27. Lots of people continue to believe Knox and Sollecito involved

including Meredith Kercher's family.

In any case, Dershowitz has a long and massive history of being a right wing reactionary. He's not simply a contrarian. He's a right wing activist.

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Response to greenjar_01 (Reply #27)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 04:39 PM

44. This is indeed unfortunate.

With respect to the Kercher family, it's also not unexpected. It's not unusual for a victim and/or the victim's family to continue to believe the person originally convicted of the crime is guilty long after that person is exonerated. Even when the exoneration comes with scientific certainty (e.g. DNA evidence conclusively proves the biological evidence is not from the exoneree). There are all kinds of reasons for this.

After the exoneration of Michael Morton for the murder of his wife in Texas, his wife's family remained frosty toward him. Someone involved in the case said something to the effect that one cannot just drop a hatred as strong as that.

The Kercher family suffered horrifically in three ways. First, their loved one was taken at far-too-young an age, and taken in the most violent way imaginable. Second, law enforcement on the scene bungled the investigation, and the forensic technicians and prosecutors compounded their bungling with bungling of their own. (Video of the on-scene investigation shown at the second trial, but not at the first, actually drew laughter from the spectators - it was that badly bungled.) Third, all of this was played out through a tabloid media that stooped below even their own well-earned reputation for lacking journalistic integrity. I can't imagine a worse convergence of misfortune, and because of how this was all handled by people the Kercher family trusted, they will probably never get peace. My heart really does go out to them.

As for others who think Knox and Sollecito were involved - people believe all kinds of things. They believe 9-11 was an inside job. They believe there really were WMDs in Iraq just before the invasion. They believe vaccines cause autism, chemtrails are a thing, climate change and evolution are Marxist plots to mislead the people, and Trump can read and write.

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Response to cab67 (Reply #44)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 05:06 PM

49. People certainly believe all kinds of things

More so when they deeply want to.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 11:12 AM

30. Ego, at some level, often involved?

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Response to empedocles (Reply #30)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 04:39 PM

45. Usually.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 11:23 AM

32. Dersch is giving the GOP an excuse to acquit.

His rhetoric is gobbliegook, but it sounds constitutional and scholarly. Ari did all he could from laughing in his face during his interview the other night, but Dersch's legal and scholar background will give the GOP all they need to satisfy them in the moment and vote to acquit.
The history books will savage them however. Hopefully so to will the people at the ballot box in November.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 11:49 AM

33. Good point-- he knows being contrary is what gets attention.

Notice how often he refers to having voted for Hillary Clinton-- which is very easy to say, because no one is in the voting booth with him. He says that to piously claim that he is acting "contrary" to his own politics when he helps Trump.

In fact, he has been trying very hard to get Trump to notice him for 3 years now, trying to get hired, trying to get in the massive Trump orbit. And it's pretty funny that now he has finally made it, he's getting contrary AGAIN, or pretending to-- "I don't really want this. I'm not part of the team. I'm just giving a lecture like I did at Harvard."

I wonder how no-witness McConnell can justify letting this one person -- "NOT ON THE TEAM"- get up there and opine for an hour.

Also, we've heard Dershowitz say (not very persuasively), that "abuse of power" is not impeachable and not illegal for the president. (Though others say that's exactly what "high crimes" means-- that because you are president, you have the power to commit crimes others don't by abusing power.)

I don't think he's going to persuade many (and will annoy many) with his argument that the president can do anything he wants because he's the president.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 11:53 AM

34. On the other hand, Ken Starr is just a Republican house painter.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 12:05 PM

35. If by "contrarian" you mean a danger to democracy,

...I agree.

There are honest intellectuals. And then, there are intellectually dishonest media whores. Alan Dershowitz is NOT in the first group. Big difference.

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Response to scrabblequeen40 (Reply #35)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 04:43 PM

46. Most contrarians are intellectually dishonest.

They have to be - otherwise, they wouldn't say the shit they say or do the shit they do.

Case in point - I co-moderated a session at a professional meeting several years ago. The last speaker was a hard-core contrarian on a particular issue. His abstract had originally been rejected, but the program committee relented after complaints of "censorship" (as opposed to editorial judgment) were thrown at them. The resulting talk was unintentionally funny throughout. More than once, the speaker was flatly contradicted by the pictures in his own presentation.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 12:06 PM

36. This is a good explanation for his behavior

It had also occurred to me that when the woman is the victim (oj, von bulow) or the accused (Knox) or the accuser (Ford, Daniels, et al) he finds himself on the other side.

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Response to MaryMagdaline (Reply #36)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 04:25 PM

43. This is a very good point.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 02:36 PM

39. Occam's razor ....

Occam's razor is more commonly described as 'the simplest answer is most often correct,' although this is an oversimplification. The 'correct' interpretation is that entities should not be multiplied needlessly.


He is an attention whore douchebag who has some deep issues with females.

But feel free to search deeply for some other reason to justify his horrible behavior.





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Response to rufus dog (Reply #39)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 04:25 PM

42. I'm reminded of an old Far Side cartoon.

It shows scientists observing a room full of people. One of them says, "Yes, they're all fools. But what kind of fools are they?"

I sometimes think that, when dealing with a fool (or, in this case, douchebag), it helps to know why he or she is acting foolishly (or douchebaggishly). It gives me an advantage when getting others to recognize the fool (or douchebag) before them.

Moreover, I'm not searching deeply. I simply recognized a pattern of behavior I see all the time in groups of academics.

I will acknowledge one thing - many of his being-on-the-contrarian-side activities happen to align himself either against a woman or with someone known to have harmed women.

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Response to cab67 (Original post)

Sun Jan 19, 2020, 02:41 PM

40. But he is a consistent contrarian...

From O.J., to Epstein, to Trump, he likes to argue a contrarian viewpoint.

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