How could the people surrounding [FILL IN THE ENTERTAINMENT FIGURE] stay silent?

How could the people surrounding [FILL IN THE POLITICIAN] stay silent?

How could the people surrounding [FILL IN THE RELIGIOUS FIGURE] stay silent?

How could so many stay silent when they knew — or at least had heard — about the sexual abuse of the bad guys? Why didn’t they speak up? Not the victims — we know that victims very often blame themselves, destroy themselves out of guilt or fear. The others. The agents; the aides; the publicists; the administrators. Why didn’t they do anything? Why didn’t they speak up?

The answer is almost always the same: they didn’t speak up — and we don’t speak up — because we’re seeking to protect something. Not someone — we often despise those we protect. Something. Something larger: a political or religious institution, a cause or piece of art. It’s easy to ignore abuses of individuals when we can minimize them as collateral damage in pursuit of a higher goal.

We hide behind various rationales. Sometimes we tell ourselves that particular allegations aren’t credible — even though if someone made the exact same allegations about opponents of our agenda, we’d rush to the barricades demanding justice. Sometimes we go silent about those on our side of the aisle — after all, the other side is even worse! Sometimes we get wishy-washy about our standards — was it really so bad?

Whatever our rationale, it stinks. It stinks to high heaven. It’s immoral, unbiblical, indecent.

None of this means we should leap to conclusions about every allegation. Not all allegations are equally credible. But whatever our standards of credibility, they must be consistent. We can’t move the lines out of convenience or allegiance to our desired ends. If we find an allegation credible, we have an obligation to shout about it. If we can’t agree on that, we can’t live in a community together. We’ll just break down into tribal affinities unified by goals — and the only thing we’ll have in common is our willingness to use any ends to achieve our variant goals.