Social-media campaigns often get my back up,writes Ella Whelan over at Spiked Online,
especially those designed to ‘raise awareness’. And the #MeToo hashtag in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal is no exception.In that perspective, Insta-Wife Helen Smith asks a pertinent question:
… As with all social-media trends, it’s hard to know what is true and what is exaggeration. #MeToo is particularly tricky to judge. Some have tweeted about actual experiences, ranging from being whistled at to being sexually assaulted. Others have simply said ‘me too’, leaving the rest to the imagination. Some have argued that they don’t need to say what happened to them, and insist that asking women to prove they were harassed is a kind of victim-blaming. One journalist tweeted: ‘Reminder that if a woman didn’t post #MeToo, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t sexually assaulted or harassed. Survivors don’t owe you their story.’
Last week on spiked, Brendan O'Neill argued that the hysteria surrounding the Weinstein scandal was like something out of The Crucible [see excerpt below]. The past few days has borne this out. This is now a witch hunt by social media. Every celebrity and public figure, no matter how low down the pecking order, has felt it necessary to come out and denounce Weinstein and declare that the ‘survivors’ are brave, pioneering and strong.
… It’s hard not to wince at the morbid excitement among some feminists, who feel they finally have a hate figure through which they can cast judgements on the rest of society. Weinstein was a sexual predator, they argue, and this proves all men are probably predators.
… And who are these men? What have they allegedly done? Many of the allegations being made by the #MeToo brigade have nothing to do with sexual harassment. Calling someone ‘hot’ or ‘babes’, wolf whistling or shouting ‘show us your knickers’ at a passing woman… that isn’t sexual harassment; it’s immature behaviour. Should women have to put up with idiots with bad manners? Of course not. But should we be labelling such behaviour sexual harassment? Are all rude men sexual predators like Weinstein? No.
It’s time we clarified what sexual harassment really means. It’s not just the occasional offhand comment or unpleasant exchange. By labelling everything from shouts on the street to glances at the bar as sexual harassment, we denigrate the term. The panic about harassment and women’s safety is spinning out of control. Listening to some feminists, you’d be forgiven for thinking women are in danger every time they step into the street. And that we need more regulation and more law to protect women and control men. Cat-calling is now a hate crime in Nottinghamshire. Calling on the state to protect women from men smacks of a Victorian, patronising illiberalism.
Is the Weinstein scandal just an excuse to try and further the anti-male political agenda?The author of The Kinder, Gentler Military (How Political Correctness Affects Our Ability to Win Wars), Stephanie "Legs" Gutman, chimes in:
Here’s the problem with #MeToo-ism and the chortling over Weinstein (even if he was a big Hillary donor, etc, etc): they have become an excuse for a feeding frenzy. The mantle of victimhood is too tempting to pass up, so accusation and grievance is spreading.
… It’s all getting balled up together: the subjective and the conflicted with the clear-cut and very serious. And as the show rolls on, other victims are empowered, as they say, to come forward.
… We all know how this movie ends. The frenzy of accusation and airing of grievance will roll down the proverbial mountain like the proverbial snowball, collecting more people, more hazy definitions and more anecdotes in its wake. What the snowball will crush – what to a large extent it has already crushed – is normal, relaxed, even… can I say it?... flirtatious interactions between men and women.
… Sexual-harassment allegations can make you rich.
Women are better protected now from the real, nasty kinds of sexual harassment – the kind we see in the Weinstein case, where someone who has financial power over another demands a quid pro quo – but a lot has been lost.
… There’s been a lot of speculation about why the Harvey Weinstein charges – which are decades old – are being unearthed now. Perhaps the people who long for the ultimate male/female Safe Space – presumably a space where every male is neutered – are responding, if only unconsciously, to DeVos. Certainly the #MeToo people, who’ve chosen to take a story about one man and make it a story about all men, are.
Across the media and Twittersphere, on TV talk shows and in newspaper gossip circles, the allegations against Weinstein are treated as truthswrites Brendan O'Neill pointedly.
Almost as final judgements. He’s guilty as sin – that’s how you feel, right? Admit it. It’s how I feel. I’m just not sure I should.Related: "Is Harvey Weinstein a monster?", can you learn "to distinguish between real abuse and an unwanted come-on?", and other pointed questions from our victim-worshipping world
That Weinstein denies the allegations is treated as immaterial, as if the right of individuals to deny accusations against them, and to be presumed innocent of those accusations until found guilty of them, were insignificant. As if this right were not the building block of justice and the thing that separates our fair societies from the finger-pointing hysteria of pre-modern or tyrannical regimes.
… Here are some things about the Weinstein scandal that I think should be causing more concern.
Trial by mediaEveryone loses out when the media act as judge, jury and executioner. Even when it’s respectable outlets like the New York Times and the New Yorker, which have been at the forefront of reporting the Weinstein allegations, playing the moralistic role tabloids normally adopt in relation to accused famous people.
… Media trials are wrong. If you have been assaulted or raped by a man, go to court, please. We want these men off our streets. Trial by media both sensationalises and diminishes allegations. It sensationalises them by packaging them up in as titillating a way as possible, for sales and retweets. And it diminishes them by treating even something as dreadful as an allegation of rape as a thing Ronan Farrow should write longreads about rather than something a judge and jury, on behalf of us, the citizenry, should rule on and potentially punish.
… If Weinstein did not rape women, then what’s happening to him right now is ugly. But if he did, then it isn’t ugly enough. Alleged rapists should be in court, under the judgement of society itself.
Guilt by associationOne of the most disturbing things in the Weinstein scandal is the media and moral pressure being heaped on anyone who ever met him to denounce him now. Loudly and publicly. Actors and actresses are being strong-armed to say how disgusted they are with Weinstein. Tough luck if they believe in the process of justice and would prefer to withhold their own personal feelings until that has been served. That isn’t an option now.
Woe betide any Weinstein associate or contact who doesn’t now point a finger and say, ‘I CONDEMN’. The Guardian went so far as to publish a list of 28 Hollywood names who had failed to respond to its insistence that they slam Weinstein. It’s like a new blacklist. All these people were subsequently ridiculed online. Denounced as rape apologists, enablers of evil, corrupted by their own silence. There’s a pre-modern feel to it. ‘Denounce the devil or we will presume you are in concert with the devil.’ Last night’s Newsnight on the BBC was trailed with this line: ‘Tonight, Jez Butterworth publicly denounces Harvey Weinstein.’ Roll up, roll up. Butterworth will now escape censure. He has saved himself.
This media naming and shaming of people who have merely worked with Weinstein is the thing that most makes this seem like something more than the exposure of one man’s alleged behaviour; which makes it feel more like an act of intolerance, almost of hysteria.
The silencing of disagreementThat possible hysteria can also be glimpsed in the fury visited upon anyone who questions whether Weinstein is evil, or even guilty of everything that has been alleged. When fashion designer Donna Karan rather foolishly asked if some women invite male advances – overlooking that it’s abuse, not advances, that is being alleged – she was turned instantly into a global pariah. Her reputation is destroyed, we’re told. People are boycotting her clothes. Her business will be ‘throttled’, experts say. Some people are posting photos of themselves destroying her garments. ‘BURN IT’, say tweeters of her clothing. She’s a ‘disgusting human being’ and we should ‘burn her clothes’, online commenters cry. What is this? Burn the witch’s wares?
…That this isn’t an open, level-headed search for justice and instead has become something darker and weirder is clear in these clampdowns on anyone who speaks out of turn. …
The search for moral cleansing‘Cleanse yourselves’, said actress Rose McGowan on Twitter.
McGowan was paid by Weinstein after an ‘episode in a hotel room’ in 1997. She was telling ‘dirty’ Hollywood to cleanse itself. This is a dominant theme in the commentary on Weinstein: malevolence is widespread, hidden everywhere, and it must be exorcised. ‘We all know a Weinstein’, columnists say. Do we? This is what the Weinstein scandal has become, or threatens to become. A national cleansing; an American cleansing. The use of alleged crimes to search for evil, and expel evil, and make ourselves Pure and Good once more. Again, not unlike Salem.
• Weinstein Scandal: Isn't the real problem the 1960s sexual revolution, which has lead to leftists spending much of their time scolding us about our sexism, racism, and retrograde morality?