What does it say about a movement whose members demand its loyalists pander to them by satisfying their desire to see objective notions of justice dispensed with in favor of something much more arbitrary and summary? Nothing good. Hillary Clinton indulged the feminist left’s most totalitarian impulses in the heat of the Democratic primary campaign when she insisted that alleged victims of sexual assault have “the right to be believed.” Only after being rightly shamed for her callous and unjust assertion did she abandon it, but political media’s lack of interest in this tone shift betrays the scale of Clinton’s offense to propriety.

“I want to send a message to every survivor of sexual assault: Don’t let anyone silence your voice,” Clinton told an audience of supporters last September. “You have the right to be believed, and we’re with you.”

Clinton’s campaign was apparently so proud of this turn of phrase its social media team tweeted it from Clinton’s personal account and included it on the candidate’s official website in a section highlighting the matter of on-campus sexual assault. In February, this line was quietly removed from the campaign website. The move deserved much more attention than it received.

Not only is it offensive to suggest that objective evidentiary standards in cases involving on-campus sexual assault are problematic, it is also dangerous.

Those on the left who are justifiably concerned by the prospect of underreported campus sexual assaults are undermined by their comrades who don’t want to see the crime prosecuted at all—at least, not in a court. The feminist left has included in its list of demands that episodes of sexual misconduct on campuses be arbitrated on those same campuses, and explicitly because standards for conviction and disciplinary action are lower than they would be in the courts.

These Star Chambers have the support of lawmakers in states like California and New York, both of which have passed “Yes Means Yes” laws, which rely on the lesser legal standard of “affirmative consent” to establish guilt in an assault case. “It makes it very easy for prosecutors to coerce plea bargains, or angry former sex partners to put someone in prison,” said Brookings Institution Fellow Stuart Taylor Jr. of this new standard. “They hardly even have to lie.” In May, amid a motion to amend the Model Penal Code to include affirmative consent, the American Law Institute’s 93rd annual meeting in Washington D.C. rejected this new standard by voice vote.

The threat of vengeful rape hoaxes is no abstraction. Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz turned her alleged ordeal at the hands of a fellow student into a widely lauded art project characterized by the Christ-like torture of carrying her mattress wherever she went. She abandoned the pretense of her attack when faced with the prospect of having to demonstrate the claim in a court. Similarly, the suffering endured by Rolling Stone’s “Jackie” was cause for a national conversation on fraternity culture, resulting in the brief shuttering of all fraternities on the University of Virginia campus, before the story of a gang rape initiation was exposed as a fraud. Court filings later suggested that her non-existent attack was a fabrication designed to stir jealousy in a male student with whom “Jackie” was infatuated.

These are just the most high profile of recent incidents, all of which were first adjudicated on campuses. There are very real consequences for those who are accused of this kind of heinous violence; just ask those members of the Duke Lacrosse team who were falsely accused of assault, if you can find them.

“The higher education insurance group United Educators did a study of the 262 insurance claims it paid to students between 2006 and 2010 because of campus sexual assault, at a cost to the group of $36 million,” wrote Slate’s Emily Yoffe in an exhaustive piece on the subject. “The vast majority of the payouts, 72 percent, went to the accused — young men who protested their treatment by universities.” These victims did not enjoy the “right to be believed” on their respective campuses, but they found it in a courtroom.

Objective jurisprudential standards have come to be seen by the activist left on campus as tantamount to victim-blaming. In combating the scourge of on-campus sexual assault and in rightfully calling any unwanted sexual conduct a crime, however, the activist fringe has sacrificed that most American of values: the presumption of innocence. That Hillary Clinton thought it was appropriate to pander to those fanatics who see objectivity and evidence as suspect was an insult to the public’s intelligence. Now that it’s scrubbed from her website, you won’t hear much about “the right to be believed.”  That alone exposes how potentially damaging this lapse in Clinton’s judgment was.

An earlier version of this post noted that Clinton amended her website in August after BuzzFeed published an essay on on Juanita Broaddrick.

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