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 truly important or scary or both, depending on who you ask. Girls in Hollywood stood up and shared their tales of sexual misconduct. And then women in the media did, women in the artwork world did, women in politics did, women in comedy did, and so on.
It was as if we had lanced a cultural wound and collectively stood around, astounded by what “re coming out”. How was that all there, all this time? How much do we still have to learn?
Meanwhile, humankinds in those worlds privately wondered( sometimes in late nighttime text messages to their female pal: this novelist) where it would purpose; if they had something hiding in their own past; if the working day, the #MeToo minute engulf them too.
When I’d get calls or texts like that, I’d go across the regular reassurance script: False accusations are rare because coming forward about sex misconduct generally sucks for women, especially when they’re accusing powerful men. Writers have learned their lesson from the disaster of the UVA Rolling Stone story and how that episode defined the campus rape deliberation back, arguably to a worse place than it was before. Yes, it’s possible that a sociopath with malicious intent could try and ignite a adversary or settle a score without merit. Certainly, the barrier to entry is low–a tweet or an anonymously sourced online google document would suffice. And, yes, they could leverage bloggers or ideologues to get their tales out without having them fact checked, leaving their subject’s PR team to unexplode the bomb.
I’d tell them, this kind of thing could happen, but it probably won’t, because lies fall apart once you look at them closely enough. And we would 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 degree where a public’s over-credulity means that opportunists could exploit the free movement of persons and bring everything there is crashing down, worse off than before. And then narratives of sex misconduct will once again be demoted to cocktail hours and DM’s–feminist specter tales women share with one another with the knowledge that the demons that torment us still lurk in corner agencies.
Today, two women accused Senator Al Franken( D-MN) of harassment. Radio host and modeling 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 demonstrate. Accompanying the narrative 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 mostly damning. Democrats have no moral authority on the issue of sex crime and harassment unless they denounce it from everybody, even their caucus’s class comedian.
On the heels of Tweeden’s disturbing accusations, nonetheless, other women being put forward claiming 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 once because he disagreed with how she was discussing a policy issue on the radio.
Even committing Morgan the extremely generous benefit of the doubt, it’s hard to pretend what she alleges Franken did is the same thing as what Tweeden’s picture shows Franken actually doing. Nor is what Tweeden’s picture show, horrible as it is, the same as what person like Roger Ailes or Bill Clinton did.
Which gets to a problem. Right now, the court of public opinion is faced with the awkward undertaking of designating degrees of seriousnes to sex misconduct, because, while they all cause harm, they don’t all cause the same amount of impairment and thus don’t merit the same penalty. Furthermore, penalty varies by the power the offender wields. A senator, for example, should have a much higher moral threshold than, say, a comedian. Writing in The New Yorker this week, Masha Gessen treads softly in making this point, warning that the #MeToo minute could devolve into” sex terror” if we’re not careful.” The distinctions between rape and coercion are meaningful, in accordance with the rules it is meaningful to distinguish between, say, slaying and battery ,” Gessen writes.
One’s political ideology or past advocacy doesn’t mean it’s impossible for a person to be victimized by person with resisting 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 threatens to derail the entire #MeToo dialogue for selfish political aims.
( I guess the committee is also births mentioning here that while Fox News’ primetime lineup was going up in flames thanks to decades of sex misconduct coming to sun, Morgan was contributing the charge to protect humen like Bill O’Reilly–who has resolved tens of millions of dollars worth of sexual harassment lawsuits during his career–from being fired 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, devoted a press conference. The purpose of that press conference was to assault and discredit the 5 women( well , now it’s at least seven women, but at the time, it was five) who had accused Moore of sexually prosecuting them as adolescents. Moore’s lawyers–both men–claimed that they’d never personally witnessed Moore molest any teenagers. 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 wife 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 nearly creepy prescience at Crooked.com this week, Brian Beutler warned against the coming Breitbart-style weaponization of the” Believe Women” motion.” Unfolding against the backdrop of the post-Weinstein revolution, the Moore scandal exposes the conservative propaganda machine in the ugliest and most discrediting possible style ,” Beutler writes.” But these cultural changes are all but destined to collide with one another in the opposite direction, in such a way that exploits both the beneficence of the’ believe females’ campaign, and the even-handedness of the mainstream media. It is a collision we as a political culture are not equipped to handle, the consequences of which are almost too awful to contemplate .”
That’s why Weinstein fallout could go up in smoke in a second. Because enough people is argued that women are all liars, that one liar 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 humen have. But its opposite–the notion that wives must be belief without any evidence whatsoever–will result the worst among us to exploit the proof loophole and wreak just as much damage as they can before their lies are discovered and skewered. At that level, the loophole irreversibly shuts. And if that happens, we’re stuck in Roy Moore’s world, where humen are the arbiters of morality and if women aren’t lying, they must have been asking for it.