The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Sexual Harassment Bonfire Continues in the Wake of the Weinstein Scandal

Posted on | October 24, 2017 | 2 Comments

Famed fashion photographer Terry Richardson has been banned from working for Condé Nast publications including Vogue, GQ and Vanity Fair. Richardson “has been dogged for years by allegations of sexual exploitation of models,” according to the Telegraph.

Last week, one of Hollywood’s top talent agencies fired Tyler Grasham, who had represented many child stars, after he was accused of sexually harassing and/or assaulting young men. Also last week, Nickelodeon fired Chris Savino, creator of the animated series The Loud House, over allegations of sexual harassment, with at least 12 accusers referencing “unwanted sexual advances as well as threats of retribution after the end of consensual relationships.” The Los Angeles Times published a long article Sunday about a long history of alleged sexual harassment by writer/director James Toback. Meanwhile in Silicon Valley, multiple women have made accusations of harassment against Robert Scoble, a well-known commentator on the tech industry.

In London, British GQ correspondent Rupert Myers was fired in the wake of a woman’s accusation of sexual harassment:

Myers, who deactivated his Twitter account after [Karen] Leaver started tweeting her story, is a known feminist who has written stories such as, “Men’s rights activist are cave dwelling idiots.” In the 2015 story, Myers wrote, “There is a new, global group dedicated to undermining significant social change. They wear the mask of an online avatar and use technology to harass, threaten and silence their targets. Their cause? To prevent steps towards the equality of men and women. They are the ‘Men’s rights activists.’”
Daily Caller reporter Ian Miles Cheong had harsh words for Myers, tweeting, “Male feminists who claim the moral high ground, who turn their noses up at the ‘misogynists’ below, are the very demons they claim to fight.”

Amid this inferno of career-ending accusations touched off by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Professor Ann Althouse sounds a note of caution:

What are the rules for going out for drinks with a co-worker? . . .
Let’s not fling ourselves headlong into a new era of sexual repression. . . .
Without knowing more [about the accusations against Myers], I can’t think of what else to say except that conservatives who’ve been crying out about the lack of due process for men accused of sexual assault should not be gleefully enjoying this man’s loss of a job. That would be hypocritical, and your glee is based on the notion that Myers is a hypocrite. That’s double hypocrisy!

This is an important point. The destruction of Harvey Weinstein was a consequence of feminist rage over the election of Donald Trump, whose words and alleged behavior in this regard were so offensive to so many. There was also apparently a “boys will be boys” environment at Fox News. Certainly, there are many Republicans who have not been paragons of virtue, and there is a clear line between (a) conservatives enjoying some schadenfreude at the downfall of liberals who claimed to be champions of “women’s rights,” and (b) self-righteous hubris.

Professor Althouse’s mention of conservative concerns over due process rights in campus sexual assault cases gets right to the point, because many of those cases involve a “he-said/she-said” situation between two drunk students, where it is impossible to know what actually happened. Furthermore, as I pointed out after Vox Media executive Lockhart Steele was fired, we may be witnessing an incipient witch-hunt:

When a witch-hunt hysteria takes hold, differences between minor and major forms of witchcraft soon cease to matter. Amid a paranoid climate of suspicion, any accusation of witch-type behavior will suffice to have the target burned at the stake before sundown. . . .
A witch-hunt has no statute of limitations, nor any standard of due process and, as for evidence, who needs evidence? If a woman says her ex-boyfriend did awful things to her in 2007 or 1997, feminists will applaud her for her “courage” in “breaking the silence,” and nothing that the targeted scapegoat says in his own defense will save him.

In the case of Lockhart Steele, there was allegedly a pattern of bad behavior that had continued for many years, but Steele was reportedly protected by Vox because he “had too many shares” in the company to be fired. This parallels the Weinstein saga, where the Hollywood mogul abused his power as a serial harasser of women, a perpetrator with a well-established modus operandi that involved inviting women to his hotel rooms, soliciting massages, exposing himself, masturbating, etc.

Habitual offenders, abusers of power, and institutional protection of such behaviors — this is the proper focus of sexual harassment concerns. The way the BBC covered for Jimmy Savile, the way the Catholic Church dealt with pedophile priests by reassigning them to new parishes, the way Arkansas State Troopers were employed to protect Gov. Bill Clinton’s womanizing escapades — these were all newsworthy scandals.

There is a danger, as Professor Althouse points out, that a witch-hunt hysteria could obliterate the distinction between such serious abuses and comparatively trivial incidents. Nevertheless, as we watch this bonfire immolate the careers of the famous and the obscure alike, everyone is put on notice that there is a zero-tolerance policy now in effect regarding “unwanted sexual advances.” As a father of teenagers, I’ve been cautioning my kids for years about this, especially when it comes to their online behavior. The Internet is dangerous. Online dating? No, never, period. “Sexting”? No, never, period. The fate of Anthony Weiner should serve as a scarecrow to warn young people against this stuff. And smart young people, now as always, should be instructed to pair up. Find a steady partner and avoid the hook-up carousel. My eldest three children married in their early 20s, and I expect my younger three to follow the same path. Whether or not our society is headed into “a new era of sexual repression,” as Professor Althouse warns, parents in every era have a duty to protect their own children — sons and daughters alike — by warning them against the perils and pitfalls of hedonism. Selah.