#MeToo and feminism's fading credibility | HBR Talk 54
What is the common factor behind instances of social derangement such as witch hunts? Why do we keep lapsing into the mentality of mob justice, despite the obvious lessons of each wave throughout history? 

The trigger in every example has been moral panic. The society of the time deemed a particular belief or idea so sacred as to outweigh all other standards and principles our society holds dear… enough to warrant total disregard for the humanity of the target of their panic, in fact. 

Each instance involved a departure from the existing standards for fair treatment, and an abandonment of any sense of community between those caught up in the growing panic, and anyone perceived to be in the target group. This is fueled by hasty generalizations, wherein any undesirable trait exhibited by one member of the target group is presumed to be characteristic of every member of that group. Vulnerability is attributed to the panicked group, and power to the target group. An accountability gap manifests, with the panicked group becoming less accountable for any results of their actions, and the target group becoming the dumping ground for any slack that creates. 

A threat narrative is built around the target group. Social and political issues or other threats to society are attributed to it, to excuse presuming all members of it dangerous to those involved in the moral panic. Shame and guilt are heaped upon those in the target group, and they are alienated from their peers. This acclimates the panicked population to disregard for the human rights of the target group. They become willing to condone or even promote the imposition of standards, rules, and regulations upon the group that don't apply to everyone else.

Within the frame of that descent into judgmentalism and prejudice, it becomes easy to view seriously unjust treatment of individuals from the target group as a justified response to their reprehensibly aberrant nature. After all, the panicked population has a right to feel safe, don’t they? And they wouldn’t have to do this if the target group would learn to be better. 

We look back at past instances of moral panic with righteous disdain. Boy, were the people who got caught up in those events irrational! That could never happen today, could it? After all, we’ve learned our lesson from the many instances of genocide this kind of prejudice has incited in various nations throughout history. We all know better than to let that happen here, now… right?

Don’t be too sure of that.

This week, we got to listen to feminists and their allies in politics tell us that outside of a courtroom, it’s perfectly acceptable for women to use uncorroborated allegations of intimate partner and sexual violence to destroy every aspect of a man’s life because the one consequence he won’t face from the ordeal is jail. We got to hear them use the word “credible” over and over to describe a vague, unsupported, ever-changing narrative that has been repeatedly contradicted by evidence. 

Lack of evidence, we’re told, does not discredit an accuser. It is irrelevant, we’re told, if multiple witnesses counter her description of the character of the accused. The accusation itself doesn’t even have to be sufficiently detailed, stating when or where the alleged crime is supposed to have happened. In fact, there can even be some physical evidence against the allegation, and the existence of the allegation itself still must be treated as a serious character flaw in the accused man… so much so that it alone is a valid reason to end his career, destroy his reputation, even stalk and harass his innocent family members, including his underage children. His outraged objection to being so maligned is treated as evidence of his guilt, as are his declarations of innocence, and his attempts to stave off treatment of the possibility that intoxication might have made his memory unreliable as proof of guilt. The accused is required to become the media lynch mob’s boogeyman regardless of the facts, and you’re a rape apologist and a reprobate if you remind them that this man is a human being with human rights, just like those of his accuser. 

I’ve watched on social media as ordinary citizens, both left and right, who have not been involved with the men’s rights movement, express their shock and dismay at the circus we’re watching take place around the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme court. 

Many of them are wondering, how the hell did we get here? Why the sudden abandonment of a tried-and-true standard of fair dealing? The presumption of innocence has always been a fundamental tenet of the American justice system, not just because our forefathers said so, but because it is a human rights abuse to punish the innocent for crimes they did not commit. The only way to avoid this is to require proof of guilt before such punishment can be imposed. This is an age-old social standard as well, for the same reason, one that if violated, has been historically demonstrated over and over to lead to hysteria, injustice, societal instability, and eventually, reprehensible violations of human rights standards.

Feminists played a long game to get our society to this point, with an entire sex as the target group. Long before #MeToo, before we were admonished to “Teach men not to rape,” before masculinity was labeled restrictive or even toxic… there was feminist “rape culture” theory. This belief presumes rape to be pervasive and normalized in our society due to common attitudes about gender and sexuality. It relies heavily on that dynamic of vulnerability vs power, and a wide accountability gap between the sexes, particularly in regard to personal boundaries. 

These prejudices originated in existing gender roles and stereotypes, upon which, despite claiming to reject them, feminists actually rely. In order for feminism’s so-called rape culture to exist, there must be a stark gender difference in the value and validity of one’s sexuality, and in particular, one’s desire for sex, and one’s competence to be considered fully responsible for one’s sexual choices. 

As with past moral panics, feminism’s rape culture theory presumes women, the panicked population, less competent to take that responsibility, and therefore less accountable for themselves in the context of a heterosexual encounter. Conditions and circumstances presumed to absolve a woman of accountability for her sexaul choices do not mitigate a man’s accountability. In fact, a man can be presumed more culpable for his choices made while drunk than a woman can for hers made while sober, both in terms of establishing and enforcing her own boundaries, and of respecting his. These expectations and beliefs rely on the existing protective attitude society has toward women, and the existing demand men face to fill the role of protector.

Feminists both do, and do not acknowledge the female gatekeeper, male seeker gender dynamic in heterosexuality. Though they deny its validity, their dogma relies on it, with every admonition presuming any encounter to be initiated by the man and either wanted or unwanted by the woman... with unwanted being the default, of course, regardless of her actions, unless she states otherwise. She is never responsible for his interest, regardless of whether she has put effort into attracting it or not. She is, after all, the vulnerable party in the encounter, regardless of all circumstances.

If a question comes up involving female initiation, any male rejection of it is portrayed as abuse. When a man is the target of a woman’s sexual advances, he is considered responsible for her interest in him, even if he has done nothing at all to try to attract it. He is, after all, the party with power in the encounter, regardless of all circumstances.

Sound familiar so far?

The movement began attempting to impose these conditions on society decades ago, pushing their manufactured moral panic with a combination of existing social norms, feminist dogma, computative chicanery, and propaganda. 

Part of this was done through writing like Susan Brownmiller’s book, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, in which she described women’s social position as that of men’s property, and sexual violence as men’s go-to method of keeping said property in line. Feminists cited this and other feminist dogma as evidence while lobbying congress to gender federal law governing law enforcement’s response to intimate partner and sexual violence during the 70s.

Their chicanery consisted of manipulating research methods and data assessment to obtain inflated rape statistics without showing gender parity in perpetration. During the mid to late 80s, numerous feminists were attempting to achieve this goal using a variety of manipulations. One woman’s method in particular won the approval of feminist publisher Gloria Steinem, who promoted her work in Ms. Magazine. Mary P. Koss’s survey was designed to override the respondent’s agency by applying a feminist-approved label to her description of her experience, rather than asking direct questions and logging direct answers. 

Koss’s survey questions themselves were vague, open to loose interpretation, and worded specifically to include unplanned consensual encounters. This included things like “Did you ever have sex when you didn’t want to because a man gave you alcohol,” a sentence designed to get “yes” answers from active participants in drunken sex acts whether they were severely inebriated, or barely affected, and whether they were unwilling but unable to refuse, or had simply changed their minds. If the woman answered yes, that was counted as a rape. 

Approximately ¾ of Koss’s respondents disagreed with her assessment of their experiences, and nearly half of them went on to have sex with their alleged assailants again, but this did not stop feminists from citing her research as evidence that ¼ of women are raped by the time they graduate college.

At the same time, academic feminists were promoting their narrative with name and shame protests called “Take back the night rallies,” while expanding their university-sanctioned propaganda class, women’s studies, into a full course of study, in order to indoctrinate as many students as possible with that victim narrative.

This process led to an extreme polarization of sexual conduct standards, and a demonization of men in general as sexual predators. The very nature of sexual violence has even been redefined. The standard used to be knowingly and deliberately contravening a victim’s rejection of sexual advances and refusal of sexual interaction. Under feminism’s guidance this has been changed to remove perpetrator deliberateness and the victim’s aversion as elements of the crime, with the wording “against the victim’s will” removed and replaced by “without the victim’s consent.” 

This makes the accused responsible not just for his own intentional behavior, but also for what goes on in the accuser’s head. Neither his intentions or her will matter. Under current standards, she’s not responsible for establishing and communicating her boundaries. He is responsible for leading her through that process and for whatever feelings she has about it later on. This polarization, in turn, was used to push for the imposition of standards, rules, and regulations that apply only to men, presumably for women’s protection. Male victims of female sexual predators, on the other hand, are out of luck. 

Koss’s statistics and the women’s studies victim narrative were used to promote gender-discriminatory laws and policy such as the Violence Against Women act and its updates, the application of Title IX to sexual misconduct allegations on university campuses, the Clery Act, the Education Department’s 2011 Dear Colleague letter guidance, and the Campus SaVE act. Under feminist influence, federal law has chipped away at such due process standards as the right to present exculpatory evidence, the right to the presumption of innocence, and reliance on corroborating evidence. Today, a preponderance of accusers even gets treated as a substitute for evidence, regardless of the individual credibility of their accusations.

That’s where #MeToo entered the picture, following the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, against whom a mix of some credible and some dubious allegations had been made. Promoted by a handful of feminist celebrities, the movement took off like a stampede of spooked cattle, trampling logic, reason, and consideration for victims of female perpetrators in its path.

As during the 17th century Witchcraft panic of Salem, Massachusetts, we have seen sexual assault allegations used as a political weapon, and a social battering ram, scattering men’s reputations and careers in their wake. An orgy of female victim-signalling ensued on social media, with the few women who rejected the narrative vilified as traitors or accused of “internalized misogyny.” When the occasional woman is accused, her accountability is fodder for debate among Me Too supporters, and her accuser targeted with accusations of his own, including attention-seeking, financial interests, and political motivations.

Of course, Judge Kavanaugh’s accusers couldn’t have any of those motivations, could they?