Updated at the end to include a response to an argument made re: Moore.
Yes, of course, there is the long pattern of claims of rape and other examples of sexual misconduct that have been revealed to be completely untrue and fabricated… the Duke lacrosse team… the Rolling Stone fiasco… Tawana Brawley… almost certainly Anita Hill… but this essay is going to assume, for the sake of argument, that there is an underlying legitimate basis for the claims. But the false claims are not irrelevant to this post, and the point I will be making, so we will do well to remember the larger context.
We might begin with the Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey allegations, which are noteworthy for a number of reasons. First of all, there is the fact that as near as I can tell, neither men have denied the accusations. Secondly, there is the irony that they are said to refer to an ‘open secret’ among a group of people who are constantly berating their fellow Americans for their various moral depravities. Not to put too fine a point to it, but for example it seems that whatever Donald Trump is accused of doing, most of Hollywood actually has done it, is doing it now, or has been looking the other way on for decades.
As I write, I see reports that Louis C.K. is being accused, as well as Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Roy Moore. Louis C.K. is not talking and Moore is denying the charges, and given how quickly the liberal drive by media has lodged accusations in the past, only to have them revealed as outright fabrications, we should not be too hasty in accepting them as legitimate.
But let’s assume that all of these accusations through the media are actually legitimate. In nearly every case that I’m aware of, the incidents occurred years earlier. Even decades earlier. Why, then, are we only hearing about them now?
Rape and many other kinds of sexual behaviors are against the law. These laws are there for the purpose of allowing us to prosecute bad actors. However, if someone does not avail themselves of the laws, then these prosecutions cannot happen. There is a serious problem with trotting them out as allegations, shopped to the media. The criminal procedures offer protections both to victims and to the accused. However, as we see so often, no such protections exist in the media for the accused. Indeed, we see over and over again how people are deemed guilty based on allegations alone, largely because we have a grotesque media culture that engorges itself on such situations, calling it ‘news.’
This is a horrible way to run a society.
That’s why the Weinstein-Spacey allegations are somewhat unique. By not defending themselves at all, they essentially conceded the charges made against them. This, I think, is telling. First of all, I think it means that they are unconcerned about any long term fallout. I suspect they figure that their Hollywood friends, many, if not most of whom, are already engaged in the same kind of behavior or worse, are going to eventually ease up on them. I suspect they understand that for normal people, being crucified in the media is a fate nearly as bad as enduring the criminal justice system, but since they are not normal people, it is far better to drink the cup of media agony than put up a fight and end up in court.
It is one thing for people guilty of the charges to make such calculations, but for innocent people, there is little recourse if one is falsely accused by the media. It’s called the ‘drive by media’ for a reason. At least in a court trial, evidence is heard and evaluated, and verdict is rendered. If someone is innocent, they may very well be able to prove this in court. But if they are convicted in the court of ‘public opinion’ there is no way to get one’s reputation back.
A further advantage to trial by media: there are certain ‘victims’ who would prefer not to be cross-examined in such a way that their false statements could get them sent to jail.
The bottom line is that if you are sexually assaulted, it is not commendable to wait 40 years before bringing out your allegations, and it is not commendable to bring out those allegations to the media. And society should not tolerate it. If someone is sexually assaulted, they should promptly report it to the authorities so that the scum bag can be put in jail and deterred from committing similar acts against other people. On top of that, its a little silly to think that we can root out such behavior in our society if we allow it to unfold over many decades; I mean, the proposition is absurd on its face. Obviously if you want the behavior brought under control, it must be dealt with quickly and effectively as soon as it manifests.
However, this spate of allegations has an entirely different feel about it. The claims smell spurious, and the media’s participation in spreading them smacks of something despicable in itself. I began by assuming that the claims in many of these cases are legitimate, but one does not end someone’s reputation on claims alone. If the whole purpose appears to be to bring someone down in the media, it calls into question whether or not the cases are legitimate at all. If someone doesn’t want to be disbelieved when they make their accusations, then perhaps they ought to level them before it seems obvious that they get something out of it.
On the way things are proceeding, any American could be destroyed merely by someone saying that they were sexually assaulted. No evidence required, or even desired.
Its easy to see how this could eventually backfire on the people who most revel in it. It is easy to see how it might then be too late.
Everyone is fixated on the Moore thing, but my blog post is NOT a response to Moore…. because I am not a tool. My post is focused on a broader, more dangerous pattern. To that end, I recently made these comments to a friend:
I am aware that you said you didn’t know if he was guilty or not. That’s not what I said. What I said is YOU DON’T CARE if he is guilty or not. And that’s a real problem.
For example, you expressed doubt that Hannity appropriately grilled Moore. I suppose you want Hannity to really go after Moore, taking bits of flesh out with every question. You want Moore subjected to vicious interrogation and cross-examination, as befitting a pedophile. Very good, then! Let’s run pedophiles into the ground! Ah, but what if Moore is innocent? Well, then you will have subjected to him to punishment that he never deserved in the first place.
And you don’t care.
My interest in this is not limited to Moore. See #3 on my blog priority list.
We’re talking about a trend that is facilitating several very dangerous currents in our society.
1. Delaying prosecution of sex offenders has the obvious effect of allowing these people to inflict more harm over the ensuing years, creating a climate where the offender draws the obvious implication that if no one is bothered by his behavior, it must not be all that bad. Not pressing charges on a rapist obviously leaves the rapist to rape more women, which he will be inclined to do, and if it is ‘lesser’ offenses, such as exposing oneself and so on, he will be even more inclined.
2. I’ve only been following it moderately but it seems that in all these cases, the behavior was an ‘open secret.’ (Moore again seems to be an exception, in that there was no hint of anything until just this week, FWIW). This means that not only the perpetrators, but the many people around them, allowed bad conduct to persist for years. Yes, this meant more people victimized, but ponder as well the kind of culture we’re talking about where these things fester. Now picture yourself or loved ones possibly coming into contact with that culture, and think about what might happen to them. You were oh so concerned that no one would come to your defense if you were falsely accused, but you exhibit an utter lack of concern when the same thing is already true for countless others, past, present, and as I warn, future.
3. It must mean something that in some of these cases, the people did not deny the charges, allowing themselves to be flayed by the media. While it does help us bystanders determine whether or not there was something to the charges, it suggests that these people (Weinstein, Spacey, and now CK) believe it is in their best interest to accede to the charges rather than put up a fight. My hunch is expressed on the blog: they know that media storms will likely pass, but jail time is far from ideal. Actually innocent people would prefer the trial in a court of law to the media storm, because they at least can clear their name.
4. While all this is going on, there is a widespread pattern of false accusations that are proved later to be false, but which were gleefully accepted on their face by, yes, a largely liberal population, who rarely come across a ‘victim’ they won’t adopt as their own. Here there are at least 2 categories, 1., the trial by media vs 2., the trial by a criminal court. In America, people are innocent until proven guilty, at least in the eyes of the law. This is not an accident. It was put in there because of a long pattern of abuses by the British and other European powers who, like you, thought it fine to treat someone as a criminal even before it was proved he was a criminal. Our system, while imperfect, attempts to balance the rights of the accused with the rights of the accuser.
Here, the cases of Weiner and Cosby are noteworthy, as, for better or worse, they were actually given a chance to defend themselves because, unlike in pop culture, the criminal justice system is not allowed to treat someone like a criminal until they are actually shown to be a criminal. The media by trial dispenses with all of that, and this dangerous trend is facilitated further when the media drops the chum in the water, and the unprincipled sharks gather to join in the mauling.
5. This is the climate that my children will be coming of age in. My sons are going to have to find women to marry in an era of microaggressions and false accusations; My sons and my daughter might be sexually molested by people who are known already to have a long history of sexual misconduct. My sons will grow up in a culture that thinks it is a wonderful idea to wait 40 years or more before lodging an accusation.
I have already instructed them that they will have to be on their guard throughout, that the Billy Graham rule must be taken seriously, and so on. Some of this advice is warranted at all times. But some of the advice is unique to our age, where people are destroyed for no other reason then the fact that the media makes money destroying people because people enjoy watching people be destroyed. Do they know if the people being destroyed are guilty or innocent?
Why, they don’t even care.
How is that going to end well?