MORAL PANIC: The Warlock Hunt

The #MeToo moment has now morphed into a moral panic that poses as much danger to women as it does to men.

Claire Berlinski writes: #Metoo, of course. Women are not going nuts for no reason. We’re fed up with feeling prickles down our spine as we walk alone on dimly lit streets. Fed up with thinking, “If he feels entitled to send me that message, what might he feel entitled to do to if he knew where I lived?” Fed up with strangers who smack their lips and murmur obscenities at us. Fed up with thinking, “No, I don’t want to go to his hotel room to discuss closing the contract. I’ll have to tell him my husband’s waiting for me to call. ‘My husband? Oh, yes, he’s pathologically jealous, bless his heart, and a bit of a gun nut…’” My husband is perfect in every way but one—he doesn’t exist—but he has served me so well over the years that I’m willing to overlook his ontological defects. I shouldn’t need him, but I do.

I’ve been fortunate. My encounters with law enforcement have been contrary to reputation: The police have taken me seriously, once arresting a stalker when he failed to heed a warning to cease and desist. But too many women have been murdered because they could not persuade the police to take them seriously. That stalker doubtless believes he was “unjustly accused” and “his life destroyed” by a hysterical woman. He’s full of it. I’ll bet he did the same thing to many women before me. Sexual predation tends to be a lifelong pattern.

Among us, it seems, lives a class of men who call to mind Caligula and Elagabalus not only in their depravity, but in their grotesque sense of impunity. Our debauched emperors, whether enthroned in Hollywood, media front offices, or the halls of Congress, truly imagined their victims had no choice but to shut up, take it, and stay silent forever. Many of these men are so physically disgusting, too—the thought of them forcing themselves on young women fills me with heaving disgust. Enough already.

All true; yet something is troubling me. Recently I saw a friend—a man—pilloried on Facebook for asking if #metoo is going too far. “No,” said his female interlocutors. “Women have endured far too many years of harassment, humiliation, and injustice. We’ll tell you when it’s gone too far.” But I’m part of that “we,” and I say it is going too far. Mass hysteria has set in. It has become a classic moral panic, one that is ultimately as dangerous to women as to men.

If you are reading this, it means I have found an outlet that has not just fired an editor for sexual harassment. This article circulated from publication to publication, like old-fashioned samizdat, and was rejected repeatedly with a sotto voce, “Don’t tell anyone. I agree with you. But no.” Friends have urged me not to publish it under my own name, vividly describing the mob that will tear me from limb to limb and leave the dingoes to pick over my flesh. It says something, doesn’t it, that I’ve been more hesitant to speak about this than I’ve been of getting on the wrong side of the mafia, al-Qaeda, or the Kremlin?

[Read the full story here, at The American Interest]

But speak I must. 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.

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 iftrue, 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?

In recent weeks, I’ve acquired new powers. I have cast my mind over the ways I could use them. I could now, on a whim, destroy the career of an Oxford don who at a drunken Christmas party danced with me, grabbed a handful of my bum, and slurred, “I’ve been dying to do this to Berlinski all term!” That is precisely what happened. I am telling the truth. I will be believed—as I should be … (read more)

Source:  The American Interest

Claire Berlinski is a freelance journalist who lives in Paris. She is crowd-funding a book about European politics, Brave Old Word: Europe in the Age of Trump. She would be grateful for your support.


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