It is human nature to make villains of our victims. We hate those we have mistreated because we have mistreated them. We want to be justified when we are cruel, and so we will eagerly seize upon reasons for why those to whom we have been cruel had it coming. Those we destroy must be evil, contemptible, or both. Why else would we destroy them?
This ugly truth about us explains what has happened to Brett Kavanaugh. Initially he was hated for being a Republican nominee for the Supreme Court, but it is still not universally acceptable to abominate someone only for being an originalist judge. The sexual misconduct allegations made against him justified hatred to an extent that opposing his jurisprudence did not. Everyone who opposed him on political grounds had an excuse to indulge their hatred, on the assumption that he was guilty of the awful crimes of which he was accused.
But what if he is innocent (and barring some sudden new evidence, it seems almost certain that he is): Would his political opponents apologize for smearing him? Would the media apologize for promoting those smears?
They will not. Even as the accusations of sexual misconduct have crumbled, those who promoted them have found new reasons to hate Kavanaugh and proclaim him unfit for the Supreme Court. They admit that perhaps he was not a sexual predator (or at least not demonstrably so), but claim that his anger in response to being called one revealed a disqualifying lack of judicial temperament.
Maybe he was innocent, but he must have lied somewhere in his testimony—about his drinking, or his yearbook, or something—and that would justify all the hatred toward him and disqualify him from the bench. Or even if he was not personally guilty, he might still deserve to be condemned as the representative of a guilty system of privilege.
Those who seek a reason to hate will always find it, so shifting goalposts do not daunt those who are determined to condemn someone. Twitter displayed this evolution in real time, and the daily archives of articles collected by RealClearPolitics offer a plethora of leftists who are eager to convict Kavanaugh of everything but the alleged sexual assaults they originally claimed to hate him for.
This is more than continued political opposition, or the normal disinterest in admitting error. It is about moral culpability. If Kavanaugh is innocent of sexual assault, then those who eagerly condemned him are guilty of slander, bias, and poor judgment. Thus, they have to believe that Kavanaugh is a monster, or else they stand condemned of the vilest slanders. Once the smears started, they couldn’t stop, because if he was innocent then they were conducting one of the most vicious campaigns of character assassination in American political history.
Conceding that he might not be the villain would be an admission that they are villains. And the entire Democratic political and media machine would be implicated in the smears. Senate Democrats read into the record allegations that Kavanaugh was running a gang-rape ring in high school. Media outlets eagerly reported rumor, speculation, and allegation as fact.
This is why the national news media also have to find new ways to condemn Kavanaugh. If he is vindicated, they will have to confront the truth that they are dishonest partisan hacks who gleefully abandoned professional standards to smear a good man. So they strain to unearth every possible youthful wrongdoing, real or imagined, to justify their shameful treatment of him.
Their grotesque violations of professional standards became self-perpetuating, as they now seek evidence of wrongdoing by Kavanaugh that might retroactively justify their previous biased reporting. Reporters are desperately looking into the most trivial details and incidents (what “boof” meant in Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook; whether he threw ice at someone at a bar in college) in an attempt to salvage their reputations and self-respect.
It is human nature to want to think well of ourselves. We want to believe that we are good people. This necessitates that those we hate be guilty, and thereby deserving of the harm that we inflict on them. Therefore we resist evidence that those we have injured are innocent, for that would condemn us, especially in cases where we had been motivated less by evidence than by hatred. Hatred becomes its own justification, as our need to feel good about ourselves drives us to find new reasons for our existing hatreds. We make our enemies into monsters, and then hate them because they are monsters.
At first the Democrats may have hated Kavanaugh because they thought him guilty, but now they think him guilty because they hate him.