Article: It's Time to Resist the Excesses of #MeToo
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2018-01-13 04:36:52 UTC
By Andrew Sullivan


A month or so ago, a friend and I mulled over when exactly the backlash
to the then-peaking #MeToo moral panic would set in. Mid-January, we
guessed, and sure enough here we are.

No, we were not being clairvoyant, just noting certain dynamics. The
early exposure of Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, and Harvey Weinstein--
achieved by meticulous, scrupulous journalists and smart, determined
women-- quickly extended to more ambiguous and trivial cases.
Distinctions among many different types of offenses-- from bad behavior
at private parties to brutal assault and rape of employees and
co-workers-- were being instantly lost in the fervor. Punishment was
almost always the same-- social ostracism and career destruction--
whether you were Mark Halperin, who allegedly sexually assaulted women
in his workplace, or Al Franken, damned because of mild handsiness and
pretending to grope a woman's breasts as a joke. Any presumption of
innocence was regarded as a misogynist dodge, and an anonymous online
list of accusations against named men in the media was created and
circulated with nary an attempt by its instigators to substantiate a
single one. Within a few weeks, the righteous exposure of hideous abuse
of power had morphed into a more generalized revolution against the

This kind of mania will always at some point exhaust itself and this
kind of zeal will always overstep. In a free society, a pushback was
inevitable, and healthy. The extraordinary journalist Masha Gessen led
the way, with ruminations on sex panics. (My own discomfort with this
is, like Gessen's, affected by my experience of what similar panics have
done routinely to gay men in the past.) Daphne Merkin has noted how our
current discourse all but strips women of agency and sex of eros. Dave
Chappelle, in his sublime new Netflix special, used comedy to make a
similar point: Sexual abuse is real and evil, but if you're talking to
someone on the phone who appears to be masturbating, you can always, you
know, hang up. You can also do what a British female journalist did when
she felt an unwelcome hand from a powerful government minister appear on
her knee. She told him to knock it off, and if he didn't remove it,
she'd punch him in the face. (She later dismissed the incident, which
led to the minister's resignation: "He tried it on, I turned him down.
Now move on.") Then there's the nascent notion, among many Democrats,
that Al Franken's banishment from the Senate was obviously overkill.
Then came the open letter signed last week by a hundred French women,
including Catherine Deneuve, who don't see themselves as helpless,
powerless, forever-victims of men. Money quote: "A woman can, in the
same day, lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of
a man, without being a 'slut', nor a cheap accomplice of the
patriarchy." Imagine that: enjoying being the sexual object of a man!

No one is or should be defending abuse of power. It's foul. I'm glad
certain monsters have been toppled. (For the record, I routinely believe
the women in specific cases. I believed Anita Hill, Paula Jones,
Kathleen Willey, and Juanita Broaddrick and did so on the record.) But
nuance, context, and specifics matter. The Deneuve letter rightly
insisted: "Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a
crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression." The manifesto observed
the censorious Victorianism about some of the rhetoric, and the public
invasion of private matters. But the French signatories also worried
about due process: "This expedited justice already has its victims, men
prevented from practicing their profession as punishment, forced to
resign, etc., while the only thing they did wrong was touching a knee,
trying to steal a kiss, or speaking about 'intimate' things at a work
dinner, or sending messages with sexual connotations to a woman whose
feelings were not mutual." SOUTH PARK, as usual, was ahead of the curve.
Its season finale last month portrayed an office romance between PC
Principal and a new character, Strong Woman. And at the mere suggestion
of an affair between them, everyone instantly projectile vomits in
disgust. What other response could there be to the idea of a
relationship between co-workers?

And this week, rumors spread of the impending publication of an essay by
Katie Roiphe in Harper's magazine that might take a similarly skeptical
tack. Some believed that Roiphe might even hold the instigator of the
legendary Shitty Media Men list accountable, and that this person might
thereby be subjected to online abuse. And so a Twitter campaign was
launched, in a backlash-backlash, to preemptively stop the publication
of an essay no one had actually read. One Twitter activist, Nicole
Cliffe, went further: "If you have a piece in the hopper over at
@Harpers, ask your editor if the Roiphe piece is happening. If it is, I
will pay you cash for what you¹d lose by yanking it." This strikes me as
a new development for the social-justice Left: They now believe in
suppressing free speech-- even before they know its content! It also
strikes me as ominous for journalism as a whole. When journalists
themselves wage campaigns to suppress the writing of other journalists,
and intend to destroy a magazine for not toeing their ideological line,
you can see how free speech truly is on the line. Why not simplify this
and publish a blacklist of writers whose work, based on previous
ideological transgressions, cannot and should not be published?

Pretty quickly, others on Left Twitter offered money for other authors
to pull their pieces from the issue-- and a few writers said they had
agreed to do so. Cliffe was admirably blunt about her intent: "If I have
my druthers, the March issue of Harper's will consist of a now-toothless
200-word piece on the list that doesn't name anyone and a long
meditation from the editor on raw water." Then this Twitter threat: "If
Katie Roiphe actually publishes that article she can consider her career
over." Meanwhile the very people who were up in arms about possible
online harassment of the list organizers, went online to call Roiphe
"pro-rape", "human scum", "a ghoul", a "bitch", "the definition of
basura", a "bag of garbage", and "a misogynistic bottom-feeder". That's
another thing with ideological fanatics: Irony tends to elude them.

And then the final twist Wednesday night: One Moira Donegan outed
herself as the creator of the list, and wrote a long essay defending

The essay is, to my mind, eloquent, beautifully written, even moving at
times, but baffling. I read it waiting for the moment when she took
responsibility for what she did, or apologized to the innocent people
she concedes may have been slandered. But it never came. It's worth
recalling here exactly what she and others did. They created an online
forum in which anonymous people could make accusations about men whose
careers and reputations would potentially be destroyed as a consequence.
There was absolutely no attempt to separate out what was true or untrue,
what was substantiated and what was not. "Please never name an accuser"
she advised upfront in the document. And then: "[P]lease don't remove
highlights or names." No second thoughts allowed. The doc openly
concedes its grave claims should be "taken with a grain of salt". In her
essay, Donegan actually cites this as exonerating evidence, as if
reckless disregard for the truth were a positive virtue for a
journalist, and not actually a definition of libel.

I've read the list-- as almost everyone in media has. I felt like taking
a shower afterward. It includes charges that have absolutely nothing to
do with workplace harassment. Someone is accused of "creepy DMs or texts
especially when drunk", "weird lunch dates", or "being handsy-- at the
very least-- with women at parties". One man is accused of "secretly
removing condom during sex", with no claim of workplace misconduct at
all. Another is damned for "flirting", another for taking "credit for
ideas of women of color", another for "multiple employee affairs,
inappropriate conversation, in general a huge disgusting sleaze ball".
And this chorus of minor offenses is on the same list as brutal rapes,
physical assaults, brazen threats, unspeakable cruelty, violence, and
misogyny. But hey, take it all with a grain of salt!

The act of anonymously disseminating serious allegations about people's
sex lives as a means to destroy their careers and livelihoods has long
gone by a simple name. It's called McCarthyism, and the people behind
the list engaged in it. Sure, they believed they were doing good-- but
the McCarthyites, in a similar panic about communism, did as well. They
believe they are fighting an insidious, ubiquitous evil-- the
patriarchy-- just as the extreme anti-Communists in the 1950s believed
that commies were everywhere and so foul they didn't deserve a
presumption of innocence, or simple human decency. They demand public
confessions of the guilty and public support for their cause... or they
will cast suspicion on you as well. Sophie Gilbert just berated the men
at the Golden Globes for not saying what they were supposed to say. It's
no wonder that today's McCarthyites also engage in demonizing other
writers, like Katie Roiphe, and threatening their livelihoods. And just
as McCarthyites believed they had no other option, given the complicity
of the entire federal government with communism, so today's McCarthyites
claim that appeals to the police, or the HR department, or to the usual
channels, are "fruitless"-- because they're part of the patriarchal
system too! These mechanisms, Donegan writes, have "an obligation to
presume innocence", and we can't have that, can we?

Donegan insists that she was extremely naive and believed that an online
document containing these explosive details-- distributed among
journalists no less-- would be kept "private". (Did she think this is
1995?) Donegan also argues that "it was intended specifically not to
inflict consequences", and yet the crowd-sourced document that I read
ends with the words: "Let it burn y¹all"-- even if those aren't her
words, they seem to speak to an intent of the authors and promoters of
the list. She expresses no regret about crowd-sourcing anonymous
allegations with the potential to destroy lives-- just regret that "I've
learned that protecting women is a position that comes with few
protections itself". For this, Donegan has been showered with wave after
wave of praise on Twitter, with the overall impression that she is being
extraordinarily brave.

And maybe she is by finally going public. Getting doxxed by alt-right
loons is a horrifying experience no one should have to endure. I'd
defend her right to basic respect and decency, as I would anyone's. But
I'll tell you what's also brave at the moment: to resist this
McCarthyism, to admit complexity, to make distinctions between offenses,
to mark a clear boundary between people's sexual conduct in a workplace
and outside of it, to defend due process, to defend sex itself, and
privacy, and to rely on careful reporting to expose professional
malfeasance. In this nihilist moment when Bannonites and left-feminists
want simply to burn it all down, it's especially vital to keep a fire
brigade in good order.
2018-01-13 04:53:52 UTC
The feminist totalitarians, and pussy-lib men behind this are no more credible than Black Lives Matter. What they are really doing, is expressing their frustration that they can't honestly compete with men except perhaps at the most basic of tasks.
2018-01-13 13:05:11 UTC
Post by RichA
The feminist totalitarians, and pussy-lib men
Well anonyshitted!!!!
Michael OConnor
2018-01-13 05:10:21 UTC
It took a little digging to track down the Shitty Media Men list. I didn't recognize any of the names on hte list, I don't know of any of them are guilty or innocent, from what I've read while looking for it several of them did lose their jobs due to the publication of the list. Some of the things these men were alleged to have done included rape, but were charges brought against them? I don't know.
2018-01-13 08:43:50 UTC
Post by Michael OConnor
It took a little digging to track down the Shitty Media Men list. I didn't recognize
any of the names on hte list, I don't know of any of them are guilty or innocent,
Why do you say they are 'shitty', then?
Michael OConnor
2018-01-13 16:39:08 UTC
Post by b***@gmail.com
Post by Michael OConnor
It took a little digging to track down the Shitty Media Men list. I didn't recognize
any of the names on hte list, I don't know of any of them are guilty or innocent,
Why do you say they are 'shitty', then?
I didn't give it that name, that is what the list is actually called. The Shitty Media Men list was created by some woman a few months back in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein saga and other women added to the list where they named guys in the media who they were supposedly done wrong by and said what they did. The woman who first created the list supposedly came forward a few days ago. The name "Shitty Media Men" was mentioned in the article at the top of this thread, which got me looking for it before I tracked it down.