The stories of Whelan and Butler have nothing to do with whether one thinks Kavanaugh and Ronell did nothing at all or behaved appallingly. They have everything to do with the current crisis of American elites in many fields, to include the law and higher education. For the lawyer and the professor are exquisitely similar. Their academic pedigrees are magnificent: Harvard Law School, Yale University graduate school. Their positions in their profession are eminent, if detached from the rest of the world. If you are a liberal you probably do not know or care that Whelan writes often for National Review and is a leading figure in conservative legal circles; if you do not know, or care to know, much about critical theory, the writings of Butler are academic in the unflattering sense of that term. But in their worlds they are, if not royalty, lords of the realm.

Their motives here are also similar: Eminent friends are being taken down at the peak of their professional careers by someone who is, in their worlds, a nobody. It’s outrageous, and it has to be stopped. And if, by so doing, you defame a classmate of Kavanaugh’s, accusing him of attempted rape, or effectively threaten to obliterate a graduate student’s career by lending a mob of literature professors the imprimatur of the MLA, so be it. That is the point and that is the sin: the willingness to stomp hard on a defenseless little guy in order to protect your highly privileged pal.

Of the many forms of cruelty, that directed against those who are weak or powerless is one of the worst.