We’re witnessing a perfect storm of sorts as various elements of leftist policy and ideology converge into an historical moment in which being accused of sexual harassment/abuse means being guilty. Being guilty, in turn, means the immediate loss of one’s career, one’s reputation, and one’s livelihood.
The accused is not able to confront his accusers, or even know their names, nor does he know, in many cases, that an allegation has been made or an investigation underway. He finds out when he is fired from his job, dragged through the mud, and is, what we’d say in any other circumstance, victimized.
There’s a problem here, one that we on the right may not be as willing to see because the majority of the people being taken down (so far) are unsavory persons populating socio-political worlds—Hollywood, politics, the media—in which we are “the deplorables.” It’s not hard to feel vindicated in some cases and Schadenfreude in others.
However, something very troubling is happening across our country. Not only is every alleged sexual offense from telling a ribald joke in mixed company to violently raping subordinates damned equally, but there is no burden of proof standard. Anyone can say anything about anyone, and the accused is finished, done.
So onerous is the potential for injustice that it’s being compared to the witch hunts associated with the Salem witch trials, a less-than-stellar historical moment that saw many good, innocent people not just lose their jobs but lose their lives based on the word of others.
The contemporary “warlock hunt” for sexual predators is also being compared to the nationally-embarrassing 1980’s hysteria about sexual child abuse, an hysteria that saw many good, innocent people not just lose their jobs but their freedom as they were imprisoned on false charges of sexual child abuse.
Tucker Carlson did a compelling segment on this in which he notes that despite some amount of pleasure on the right at the myriad lefties being forced from public life, principles matter. “Proof,” he notes, “is what ensures that the innocent are not punished.”
The Left Insists Accusers Have the Right to be Believed. Period.
Proof is not needed to end the accused’s career, to deprive him of his livelihood, nor is he given an objective platform on which to protest his innocence. Indeed, protesting innocence is pointless because few will listen to much less believe the accused.
This idea that women don’t lie about sexual abuse or that because of their protected status they deserve to be taken more seriously than the “privileged” males whom they’ve accused of sexual impropriety is faulty on a number of levels.
Not only do people make false accusations in an attempt to seek revenge for some perceived wrong, but they can be coerced or coached to do so. We saw this quite clearly in the ’80’s when well-meaning social services personnel, teachers, and law enforcement worked to enhance and improve the recollections of children of sexual abuse that never took place.
Anyone questioning the veracity of the children’s often coached accusations were reminded that “children never lie.” Absolute nonsense, of course, but that was the silencing cry at the time. “If you don’t believe innocent children, you’re probably a pedophile, too! We’re coming for you next.”
This whole victims have a right to be believed viewpoint has legitimate roots. Rape victims in trials were (and still are) often pilloried for short skirts (they were “asking for it”) and for having a “reputation.” Sexual assaults, as a result, are underreported, and when they are reported, the victim decides not to proceed due to the attacks that would be made on her in court. I don’t think anyone thinks this is a good thing. Sexual assault is a serious crime, and its perpetrators should not be protected by their victims’ fear of further (and public) shame and humiliation.
That said, the pendulum has swung so far that there is no burden of proof at all on an alleged victim. Anyone who claims some sort of sexual harassment, abuse, or assault is deemed to be automatically telling the truth. This has become such a socio-cultural touchstone that tone-deaf Hillary actually thought she could get away with supporting the victim’s “right to be believed.”
There is an unsettling element in the #MeToo movement that there is “justice” even when innocent men get caught up in and have their lives ruined as a result of false allegations. The sentiment appears to center on resentment and revenge for perceived historical wrongs that are used to somehow justify destroying innocent people today. This line of thought goes like this: “so what if innocent men are ruined? How many women throughout history have been ruined by men? Today’s men should suffer the same consequences because . . . erm, men are bad and have treated women wrongly, so . . .um, it’s our turn. Or something.”
Democrats and the Inversion of Justice
In theory, our legal system is designed to protect the innocent at all costs, including the occasional guilty person walking free when the burden of proof is not convincingly presented. Sir William Blackstone famously argued that it is “better that ten guilty men go free than that one innocent man should suffer,” and this premise was later iterated by Benjamin Franklin in 1785, with a significant change to emphasize the underlying principle of the Blackstone Formulation: “it is better one hundred guilty persons should escape than that one innocent person should suffer.”
In the above video clip, Tucker quotes Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) who flips this on its head in discussing the Obama administration’s perverted application of Title IX:
“It seems like we ought to provide more of a legal framework then that allows a reasonable likelihood standard or preponderance of evidence standard,” the Colorado Democrat responded. “If there’s ten people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all ten people.”
“We’re not talking about depriving them of life and liberty,” he laughed. “We’re talking about them transferred to another university.” That line earned him a smatter of applause.
This cavalier inversion of the fundamental premise of U. S. jurisprudence (that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, that it’s better to release the guilty to save the innocent) is not an accident.
The Obama Admin, Title IX, and College Kangaroo Courts
The current toppling of alleged sexual predators across the political, entertainment, and sports worlds is rooted in Obama’s reign. It was during the Obama years that Title IX was exploited and weaponized on college campuses, where the basic tenet that one is innocent until proven guilty was defenestrated.
In the final five years of his presidency, Barack Obama’s administration undertook a worthy and bold challenge: the elimination of sexual assault on campuses. In fact, Obama’s team had a much more ambitious goal in mind. Vice President Joe Biden, the point person for the campus initiative, said at the end of his term that the administration was seeking “to fundamentally change the culture around sexual assault”—everywhere. New rules of sexual engagement between college students were written at the directive of the administration, but top Obama officials said they wanted these to be applied in the workplace and beyond.
. . . . many of the Obama administration’s good intentions went awry. Among the principles and polices that have become entrenched at schools—and are now spilling out into the wider world—are the beliefs that accusers are virtually always telling the truth; that the urgency to take action is more important than fair procedures; that we shouldn’t make distinctions between criminal acts and boorishness; and that predatory male behavior is ubiquitous.
These beliefs have resulted in many campus cases in which the accused was treated with fundamental unfairness, spawning a legal subspecialty of suing schools on behalf of these young men. Examining what happened on campuses shows where the politics and social rules of interaction between the sexes might be headed—and how to avoid making the same mistakes on a larger scale.
As always, the left wasn’t focused on college campuses; this was a dry-run for taking unsubstantiated accusations and trying them in the court of public opinion, with life-destroying results, the new normal. Once ingrained in our culture that the burden of proof was so light as to teeter on the word of a single accuser, the effect would ultimately reverberate though our legal system. Jurors would “just know” that an accuser is always right and the accused is always guilty.
Even as current Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss works to undo this damage, the socio-cultural impact is thundering. It’s thundering not because of some legal or federally-mandated kangaroo court culture (that’s easy to undo) but because that ideology sunk into American awareness. The idea that anyone accused of sexual crimes must be guilty because victims do not lie has become ingrained in our thought process, a part of how we see the world. This is incredibly dangerous.
The Perfect Storm and Its Resultant Warlock Hunt
A culture that insists accusers must always be believed, inverts justice, and restricts the rights of the accused can only lead to disaster.
From the American Interest:
In recent weeks, one after another prominent voice, many of them political voices, have been silenced by sexual harassment charges. Not one of these cases has yet been adjudicated in a court of law. Leon Wieseltier, David Corn, Mark Halperin, Michael Oreskes, Al Franken, Ken Baker, Rick Najera, Andy Signore, Jeff Hoover, Matt Lauer, even Garrison Keillor—all have received the professional death sentence. Some of the charges sound deadly serious. But others—as reported anyway—make no sense. I can’t say whether the charges against these men are true; I wasn’t under the bed. But even if true, some have been accused of offenses that aren’t offensive, or offenses that are only mildly so—and do not warrant total professional and personal destruction.
The things men and women naturally do—flirt, play, lewdly joke, desire, seduce, tease—now become harassment only by virtue of the words that follow the description of the act, one of the generic form: “I froze. I was terrified.” It doesn’t matter how the man felt about it. The onus to understand the interaction and its emotional subtleties falls entirely on him. But why? Perhaps she should have understood his behavior to be harmless—clumsy, sweet but misdirected, maladroit, or tacky—but lacking in malice sufficient to cost him such arduous punishment?
. . . . It now takes only one accusation to destroy a man’s life. Just one for him to be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion, overnight costing him his livelihood and social respectability. We are on a frenzied extrajudicial warlock hunt that does not pause to parse the difference between rape and stupidity. The punishment for sexual harassment is so grave that clearly this crime—like any other serious crime—requires an unambiguous definition. We have nothing of the sort.
. . . . Harvey Weinstein must burn, we all agree. But there is a universe of difference between the charges against Weinstein and those that cost Michael Oreskes his career at NPR. It is hard to tell from the press accounts, but initial reports suggested he was fired because his accusers—both anonymous—say he kissed them. Twenty years ago. In another place of business.
. . . . We are a culture historically disposed to moral panics and sexual hysterias. Not long ago we firmly convinced ourselves that our children were being ritually raped by Satanists. In recent years, especially, we have become prone to replacing complex thought with shallow slogans. We live in times of extremism, and black-and-white thinking. We should have the self-awareness to suspect that the events of recent weeks may not be an aspect of our growing enlightenment, but rather our growing enamorment with extremism.
Women will ultimately suffer the most from this age of the warlock hunt. What man is going to want to hire women? Especially young, attractive, intelligent women?
Revolutions against real injustice have a tendency, however, to descend into paroxysms of vengeance that descend upon guilty and innocent alike. We’re getting too close. Hysteria is in the air. The over-broad definition of “sexual harassment” is a well-known warning sign. The over-broad language of the Law of Suspects portended the descent of the French Revolution into the Terror. This revolution risks going the way revolutions so often do, and the consequences will not just be awful for men. They will be awful for women.
. . . . Given the events of recent weeks, we can be certain of this: From now on, men with any instinct for self-preservation will cease to speak of anything personal, anything sexual, in our presence. They will make no bawdy jokes when we are listening. They will adopt in our presence great deference to our exquisite sensitivity and frailty. Many women seem positively joyful at this prospect. The Revolution has at last been achieved! But how could this be the world we want? Isn’t this the world we escaped?
Who could blame a man who does not enjoy the company of women under these circumstances, who would just rather not have women in the workplace at all?
. . . . Our success and advancement relies upon the personal and informal relationships we have with our colleagues and supervisors. But who, in this climate, could blame a venerable Oxford don for refusing to take the risk of teaching a young woman, one-on-one, with no witnesses? Mine was the first generation of women allowed the privilege of unchaperoned tutorials with Balliol’s dons. Will mine also be the last? Like so many revolutions, the sexual revolution risks coming full circle, returning us right where we started—fainting at bawdy jokes, demanding the return of ancient standards of chivalry, so delicate and virginal that a man’s hand on our knee causes us trauma. Women have long been victims, but now we are in so many respects victims no longer. We have more status, prestige, power, and personal freedom than ever before. Why would we want to speak and act as though we were overwhelmingly victims, as we actually used to be?
Some on the Left Are Also Worried #MeToo Has Gone Too Far
A few leftists have started to speak out, questioning the nature of this warlock hunt hysteria and warning their enthusiastic peers of the unintended consequences of their well-meaning but thoroughly misguided #MeToo mania.
Virtue-signalling, one writer argues, cost a Democrat Senator his seat on the off-chance the #MeToo movement can be parlayed into the removal of President Trump. This is not a good plan.
“You know who’s going to get hurt by this?” a member of Congress asked me recently, referring to the about-time uprising of women against predatory men. “Women.” He explained that male members of Congress are now going to be reluctant to hire a woman when they have the option of hiring a man for a job, and that very attractive women would be particularly at a disadvantage in obtaining jobs on Capitol Hill. (Buxom is out.) Self-protection, in other words, might well lead to a new form of discrimination. And this could travel beyond elected politicians, though they’re feeling especially worried now.
. . . . The whole [Franken] thing happened with startling speed—no deliberations, no process, and no pause for thought, it seemed. The main actors against him got increasingly worked up—and they struck at the first opportunity. The entire episode, from when the first complaint about Franken was aired to when he announced unhappily that he’d leave the Senate, took three weeks; his self-appointed prosecutors turned on a dime, at first supporting and then throwing process (consideration by the Senate ethics committee) to the wind.
There wasn’t even a meeting of the party caucus to deliberate and discuss. (Male Democratic senators with misgivings didn’t want to get in the way of the women.) A group of Democratic women senators got up a head of steam; its ringleader, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, declared, a doctrine of “zero tolerance.” “Enough is enough!” became not just an expression of exasperation but a policy.
. . . . What’s particularly disturbing about the Franken affair is that a senator was driven from the seat he was elected to because he’d become inconvenient. . . .
. . . . What was the inconvenience caused the Democrats by the sudden spout of complaints about Franken? Well, you see, the Democrats—Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer weighed in, probably sounding Franken’s doom—didn’t want to have to answer the “what-about” question when they attacked the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore for the documented charges against him of pedophilia or when they attempted a new assault on Donald Trump’s predatory behavior toward women in the past.
At least one leftist is concerned that the wrong (i.e. right wing and/or broad brush “misogynist”) agenda is being served and argues that it’s important to figure out whose agenda is being served by allegations of sexual misconduct.
This should be a moment when powerful men and the women who’ve protected them say: ‘hey, when we were in charge it didn’t go that well, maybe we should learn to doubt ourselves, and our judgment, maybe we shouldn’t make snap decisions based on our brand-new interest in women as human beings possessed of inalienable rights.’
But instead they’re just finding new grounds to be in charge and to adjudicate all this.
Consider the experience of writer Ijeoma Oluo, who last week said that USA Today asked her to write a piece arguing a feminist position against due process.
She says an editor there told her, “[…] They want a piece that says that you don’t believe in due process and that if a few innocent men lose their jobs it’s worth it to protect women. Is that something you can do?”
They were asking her to say feminists are happy to harm individual men for the good of the cause, and not interested in distinguishing innocence from guilt. She refused. That’s not who she is and not who feminists are.
. . . . A friend who was once a congressional aide remarked to me that when it comes to men in the legislative branch, they’re nearly all guilty of some form of sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, insensitive remarks, and so forth. I suspect a high percentage of powerful heterosexual men in general are guilty of at least Franken’s degree of denigration of individual women, and if such things are grounds for dismissal, fairness would demand we dismiss them all.
But we are not going to find out about all of them. We are going to find out about some of them not because they are the most egregious, but because of other factors—because someone has good documentation to share, because a former victim is not afraid, or because something matters more than that fear, or because it fits a larger political agenda.
. . . . In this moment, we need to ask better questions. Whose agenda is being served in each case? Who decides? How do we weigh degrees of gravity? This is not about men who violated the norms but about the fact that misogyny has long been the norm. Misogynists have been protected and promoted for not decades but centuries. What are we to do about that?
Moving forward, we need to figure out who decides not just these individual cases but how we move past this era of impunity—and who “we” is going to be, because justice for women sure doesn’t include Project Veritas and Mike Cernovich.
We do indeed need to ask better questions at this time. Why, for example, should all accusers be believed to the exclusion of any defense by the accused? Why is it okay to invert justice and argue that it’s okay if innocent people get swept up in the warlock hunt hysteria? How can we undo this now entrenched socio-cultural belief? How, in other words, do we ensure that needed change happens in terms of sexual predation but that we don’t throw common sense, fairness, and decency out with the bath water?
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.