"Why would accusers lie?" is the wrong question

‘Why?’ is a question that is not easily addressed by indisputable evidence. ‘Did she lie?’ is a different kind of question.
‘Why would she lie about something like that?”

That, approximately, is the go-to question put forward in defense of women who come under scrutiny after coming forward with questionable allegations of sexual assault or other misconduct, as in the current matter of Brett Kavanaugh. It is the wrong question.

Or, more precisely: It is the wrong question if what we desire to do is to get as near as we can to the truth of the matter at hand. It is an excellent question if your desire is something else, especially misdirection. “Why would she lie?” is a question that obliges us to engage in mind-reading and redirects us from answerable questions to unanswerable ones. As a rhetorical ploy, it is transparent: Engaging the question puts Kavanaugh’s defenders and would-be defenders in a difficult position, and it puts Kavanaugh’s antagonists in an easier position, from which they may point and shriek that their opponents are victimizing an already victimized woman without any dispositive evidence to support their claim. It’s silly and sophomoric — which, unfortunately, means that it is likely to be effective in our current political environment, which is dominated by hysteria, dishonesty, and stupidity.