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On Suspiciously Selective Calls For Unspecified “Due Process”

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Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin winks as she speaks during her vice presidential debate against Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

I urge you to read Alexandra Petri’s typically brilliant satire of preemptive assertions that the pushback against sexual misconduct has GONE TOO FAR. This is especially good:

First they came for men I did not like, some of whom had beards that did not look good, others of whom were conservative media personalities, and still others of whom combined those characteristics. But then it started to spread until we were even ruining the careers of people who were accused of minor offenses, like saying “good morning” with a weird emphasis, or eating a sandwich while maintaining eye contact with someone who wasn’t their wife, or emailing a woman a respectful compliment.

Oh no, have none of these things happened? My mistake. I am worried that they will, which is just as bad.

My point is, there is a spectrum. There are some things that are not as bad as other things — yet these feminists don’t agree! There is no distinction made. (That is, there have been distinctions made, but this could cease at any moment.)

Perhaps the idea of putting accusations in a database was not the best means of achieving a desirable end. But a lot of the attacks on the list involve claims of its impact that are purely hypothetical and extremely implausible. The thing is, female journalists are generally not idiots and HR departments are generally not anxious to fire powerful men for minor offenses. As far as I can tell, putting names on a list has caused literally nobody to conflate inappropriately flirty emails and violent sexual assaults. The investigations of journalists accused or rumored of misconduct have resulted in some investigations that have resulted in no sanctions, some that have resulted in sanctions but not terminations, and some terminations. There is no evidence that some collapse of distinctions is happening and there’s no reason to believe that it will happen.

Which brings us to Sully. Let’s begin with the obvious tell:

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.

To state the obvious, removing a condom during sex without consent is serious sexual assault; consenting to protected sex is not consenting to involuntary exposure to STDs and/or potential pregnancy. To argue that this act is not worthy of concern if it did not literally happen in the workplace is bizarre. I don’t think that its the journalists who contributed to the list who are having trouble keeping distinctions clear.

As you can predict, we also get Sarah Palin’s definition of free speech:

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 you’d 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.

To once again state the obvious, criticizing speech, or criticizing the decision to lend a particular forum to a particular argument, are acts of free speech, not the suppression of free speech. Arguing that it was bad to doxx the article of the SMM list is an act of free speech. To pick another random example, if I argue that a prominent liberal magazine should not give purveyors of racist junk science a forum to promote their work, this is an act of free speech, and if the editor chose not to publish this would not be a attack on free speech in any sense. No magazine is required to publish anything. If a Harper’s editor had done the right thing and told Roiphie not to target the author, this would not suppress her free speech.

There’s also this:

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.

Here’s the thing. “Being fired after a serious investigation” is far more due process than the typical American employee receives. American workers are fired, without notice or any process at all, for completely arbitrary reasons all the time. Personally, I think the typical American worker should be protected by a contract that allows her to be fired only for cause or genuine financial exigency, enforced by a union. But that certainly isn’t Sullivan’s view. So who, exactly, has been denied “due process?” What “process” are these generally unspecified victims of “McCarthyism” due? Should this “process” be extended to anyone other than prominent male journalists accused of sexual misconduct? (Note: resigning rather than taking advantage of due process made available to you, due to arguments made by people without coercive autority, is not a denial of due process.) Can you name a single person who is not making “distinctions” about forms of misconduct? This is a jeremiad against a phantom. I’ll let Petri have the last word:

There was an anonymous list, definitely to be used as a weapon in the inevitable War on Men, not just as a tool to be shared among people who wanted to know whom to avoid when they were trying to make their way in their chosen field. Now a small part of the patriarchy is at risk. And let me say this for the patriarchy: It has never done anything to me, and I think we should consider that before we sentence it to death.

This needs to stop, the sooner the better. It is exactly like what has happened in the past with Joseph McCarthy: The Senate is forming a committee and rounding up people suspected of seditious anti-American activities. Well, that is to say, it isn’t quite like that, but there is a list involved, and every time a list is involved I know whom they will come for next. This is why Santa is so frowned-upon in my household.

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