The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Sexual McCarthyism

When a man violently assaults a woman and there is clear, irrefutable evidence that the assault occurred, the man is scum and deserves imprisonment. When men use positions of power to harass women, impact their employment or job prospects or otherwise injure them professionally, they are scum and deserve opprobrium. When men make remarks that belittle women or think them incapable of strong action or leadership, they are jerks or worse and deserve harsh criticism or worse. All of that is true, not because PC or #MeToo says it's true, but because decent human beings have believed it to be true for centuries.

But what happens when one group weaponizes a broadly-held belief that woman should be treated with respect and dignity (like all humans) and then uses that belief as a cudgel? That's called 'sexual McCarthyism' and it is cruel, vicious, indecent and reckless. Toby Young comments:
It is hard to know what has caused this sexual McCarthyism. One claim, often made by #MeToo advocates, is that American universities are in the grip of a rape epidemic and if the authorities don’t start taking their responsibilities to protect women more seriously it will only get worse. In fact, sexual assaults of female college students in the US dropped by more than half between 1997 and 2013. In the same period, young women in college were less likely to be assaulted than those who weren’t. The ‘rape epidemic’ claim is a symptom of the hysteria, not its cause.

My own theory is that a small minority on the identitarian Left have used various Maoist tactics, including public shaming on social media, to persuade people that their doctrinaire positions on #MeToo allegations and a range of other issues – gender is a social construct, masculinity is toxic, climate change is caused by misogyny, etc. – are much more ubiquitous than they really are, thereby stifling dissent.

To think about how this might work, imagine a modern-day version of ‘The Emperor’s Clothes’ set at an American Ivy League college. A skeptical undergraduate is taking a gender studies class and suspects midway through that only a small minority of his classmates actually believe anything the professor is saying. So when she comes up with a particularly far-fetched bit of postmodern Neo-Marxist nonsense – for instance, that menstruation is a social construct – he decides to call her out on it. How do his classmates react, assuming the majority of them share his skepticism?

Unlike in the original story, they don’t immediately burst out laughing and applaud him for his courage. Rather, they look around, trying to gauge the reaction of others and, at the same time, keep their own expressions neutral until they get a sense of what the majority believes. Nothing they see on each other’s faces tells them it’s safe to indicate they share the undergraduate’s skepticism – even though a majority of them do – so they keep quiet. Some of them may even start tutting and shaking their heads, not wanting those they imagine to be in the majority to suspect they hold the heretical view. At this point, the gender studies professor narrows her eyes, accuses the undergraduate of being a misogynist and uses the bias reporting hotline to contact the university’s diversity officer.

A week later, the miscreant has been kicked out even though the professor in question was clearly spouting nonsense and a majority of the undergraduate’s classmates secretly agreed with him.
The phenomenon that Young describes lies at the heart of many politically correct positions. Based on life experience, scientific evidence, and simple common sense, most of us understand that many PC claims are unmitigated nonsense. Yet almost all of us have become afraid to call them what they are—B.S.

Young notes that the Left, once the harsh opponent of puritanical thought, has now become its champion:
Who knows how long this paranoid atmosphere will continue. America seems to go through periodic bouts of hysterical puritanism, which partly accounts for the enduring appeal of The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem Witch Trials.
It is further ironic that the Left has become the champion of sexual McCarthism, adopting the methods and even the language of a man they had vilified in the past. When you ruin a person's life, jeopardize their career, and destroy their reputation using only sexual innuendo coupled with decades-old, unsubstantiated allegations that are almost impossible to disprove, you have become exactly what the #MeToo movement hates—people who harass others to control and intimidate them. If it's wrong to do that to a woman, it's equally wrong to do it to a man.