The #MeToo minute 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 culture chain reaction that feels truly important or scary or both, depending on who you ask. Girls in Hollywood stood up and shared their stories of sex misconduct. 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 weave and collectively stood around, astonished by what “re coming out”. How was that all there, all this time? How much do we still have to learn?
Meanwhile, humen in those worlds privately pondered( sometimes in late night text messages to their female friend: this writer) where it would end; if they had something hiding in their own past; if the working day, the #MeToo instant 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 humen. Correspondents have learned their lesson from the disaster of the UVA Rolling Stone story and how that episode set 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 virtue. Certainly, the barrier to entry is low–a tweet or an anonymously sourced online google record 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 movement and bring it all crashing down, worse off than before. And then stories of sexual misconduct will again be relegated to cocktail hours and DM’s–feminist phantom narratives females share with each other with the knowledge that the demons that torment us still lurks in corner offices.
Today, two women accused Senator Al Franken( D-MN) of harassment. Radio host and model 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 reveal. 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 mainly damning. Democrat have no moral authority on the issue of sexual assault and harassment unless they denounce it from everybody, even their caucus’s class buffoon.
On the heels of Tweeden’s perturbing 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 devoting Morgan the extremely generous advantage 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 chore of assigning degrees of severity to sexual misconduct, because, while they all cause harm, they don’t all cause the same quantity of harm and thus don’t merit the same punishment. Furthermore, penalty varies by the power the delinquent wields. A senator, for example, should have a far 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 instant 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, assassination and battery ,” Gessen writes.
One’s political ideology or past advocacy doesn’t mean it’s impossible for a person to be victimized by someone 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 threatens to derail the entire #MeToo conversation for selfish political purposes.
( I suppose it also carries mentioning here that while Fox News’ primetime lineup was going up in flames thanks to decades of sexual misconduct coming to illumination, Morgan was producing the charge to protect men like Bill O’Reilly–who has settled tens of millions of dollars worth of sexual harassment suits 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, made a press conference. The purpose of that press conference was to onslaught and discredit the five women( well , now it’s at the least seven wives, but at the time, it was five) who had accused Moore of sexually seeking them as teenagers. 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 wife 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” movement.” Unfolding against the backdrop of the post-Weinstein revolution, the Moore scandal discloses the conservative propaganda machine in the ugliest and most discrediting possible fashion ,” Beutler writes.” But these culture changes are all but destined to collide with one another in the opposite guidance, in such a way that exploits both the beneficence of the’ believe women’ campaign, and the even-handedness of the mainstream media. It is a crash 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 believe that wives 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 humankinds have. But its opposite–the notion that girls must be believed without any evidence whatsoever–will produce 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 phase, the loophole irreversibly shuts. And if that happens, we’re stuck in Roy Moore’s world, where humankinds are the arbiters of morality and if women aren’t lying, they must have been asking for it.