The #MeToo instant is in a far more delicate place than headlines would lead one to belief.
The New York Times ‘ October 5th bombshell on Harvey Weinstein’s myriad sexually predatory offenses set off a cultural chain reaction that seems really important or frightening or both, depending on who you ask. Wives in Hollywood stood up and shared their stories of sex misbehavior. And then women in the media did, women in the art world did, women in politics did, women in comedy did, and so on.
It was as if we had lanced a culture wound and collectively stood around, astounded by what came out. How was that all there, all this time? How much do we still have to learn?
Meanwhile, men in those world-wides privately pondered( sometimes in late darknes text messages to their female friend: this writer) where it would objective; if they had something lurking in their own past; if the working day, the #MeToo time engulf them too.
When I’d get calls or texts like that, I’d go through the regular reassurance script: False accusations are rare because coming forward about sex misconduct generally sucks for women, especially when they’re accusing powerful boys. Reporters have learned their lesson from the catastrophe of the UVA Rolling Stone story and how that chapter set the campus rape discussion back, arguably to a worse region than it was before. Yes, it’s possible that a sociopath with malicious planned could try and ignite a adversary or settle a score without virtue. Certainly, the barrier to entry is low–a tweet or an anonymously sourced online google report would be sufficient. And, yes, we are able to leveraging bloggers or ideologues to get their tales out without having them reality checked, leaving their subject’s PR team to unexplode the bomb.
I’d tell them, that sort of thing could happen, but it probably won’t, because lies fall apart once you look at them closely enough. And we were able to never be stupid or careless enough, en masse, to refuse to look at things like this closely.
But privately, I’ve been worried that we’re cruising towards the #MeToo moment’s trip wire, the point where a public’s over-credulity is necessary that opportunists could exploit the movement and deliver everything there is gate-crashing down, worse off than before. And then tales of sex misbehavior will again be demoted to cocktail hours and DM’s–feminist ghost tales girls share with each other with the knowledge that the demons that torment us still lurks in corner agencies.
Today, two women accused Senator Al Franken( D-MN) of harassment. Radio host and simulation Leeann Tweeden wrote that back when she and then-prominent comedian Franken were on a USO tour together in 2006, he forcibly kissed her during rehearsals for the prove. Accompanying the story was a photo of Franken reaching for Tweeden’s breasts while Tweeden appeared to be asleep. Franken has apologized and called for a formal ethics investigation into his conduct. Reaction from the left was swift and mainly damning. Democrats have no moral authority on the issue of sexual assault and harassment unless they condemn it from everybody, even their caucus’s class buffoon.
On the heels of Tweeden’s agitating charges, nonetheless, other women being put forward claim that she too had been” stalked and harassed” by Franken. Melanie Morgan teased her accusation with a Tweet, and then aimed curious readers to her website. On her website, she described how Franken called her more than formerly because he disagreed with how she was discussing a policy issue on the radio.
Even making Morgan the extremely generous benefit of the doubt, it’s hard to feign what she alleges Franken did is the same thing as what Tweeden’s picture shows Franken actually doing. Nor is what Tweeden’s picture shows, horrible as it is, the same as what someone like Roger Ailes or Bill Clinton did.
Which gets to a problem. Right now, the court of public opinion is faced with the awkward task of assigning degrees of severity to sexual misbehavior, because, while they all cause harm, they don’t all cause the same amount of trauma and thus don’t merit the same penalty. Furthermore, beating varies by the strength the culprit wields. A senator, for example, should have a far higher moral threshold than, say, a comedian. Writing in The New Yorker the coming week, Masha Gessen steps softly in making this point, warning that the #MeToo time could devolve into” sexuality terror” if we’re not careful.” The differences between rape and coercion are meaningful, in accordance with the rules it is meaningful to draw a distinction between, say, carnage and battery ,” Gessen writes.
One’s political ideology or past advocacy doesn’t mean it’s impossible for a person to be victimized by individual with opposing ideology. But if what she’s written is all she’s got, Morgan’s account reeks of naked political opportunism, of weaponizing victimhood in a way that is so morally bankrupt that it is threatening derail the entire #MeToo dialogue for selfish political intents.
( I guess it also bears mentioning here that while Fox News’ primetime lineup was going up in flames thanks to decades of sexual misconduct to access to illuminate, Morgan was conducting the charge to protect men like Bill O’Reilly–who has decided hundreds of millions of dollars worth of sexual harassment suits during his career–from being burnt for what Morgan called ” questionable” reasons .)
This is how delicate it all is and how dangerous Morgan’s gambit was. Less than 24 hours ago, lawyers for Alabama’s Republican nominee for Senate, Roy Moore, committed a press conference. The purpose of that press conference was to attempt and discount the five girls( well , now it’s at the least seven women, but at the time, it was five) who had accused Moore of sexually seeking them as adolescents. Moore’s lawyers–both men–claimed that they’d never personally witnessed Moore molest any adolescents. Further, they claimed that one of the accusers had a personal vendetta against Moore because he had signed a legal document in her divorce. They said nothing about the other four accusers, including one girl who claimed to the Washington Post that Moore molested her when she was 14.
They didn’t need to discredit all of the women because, in the warped worldview of the Roy Moore apologist, to discredit one female is to discredit all of us.
Writing with virtually creepy prescience at Crooked.com this week, Brian Beutler warned against the coming Breitbart-style weaponization of the” Believe Women” move.” Unfolding against the background of the post-Weinstein revolution, the Moore scandal exposes the conservative propaganda machine in the ugliest and most discounting possible style ,” Beutler writes.” But these cultural changes are all but destined to collide with each other in the opposite guidance, in such a way that exploits both the beneficence of the’ believe girls’ campaign, and the even-handedness of the mainstream media. It is a collision we as a political culture are not equipped to handle, the results of which are almost too awful to contemplate .”
That’s why Weinstein fallout could go up in smoke in a second. Because enough people believe that ladies are all storytellers, that one storyteller will fuck it up for all of us.
This Roy Moore Old Testament-Original Sin-Women Are Liars mindset is the worldview that needs to change in order for women to truly have access to the same opportunities that humankinds have. But its opposite–the notion that women must be believed without any evidence whatsoever–will make the worst among us to exploit the proof loophole and wreak as much shattering as they can before their lies are detected and skewered. At that degree, the loophole irreversibly closes. And if that happens, we’re stuck in Roy Moore’s world-wide, where humankinds are the arbiters of righteousnes and if women aren’t lying, they must have been asking for it.