Union-busting prick Rick MacArthur took some time off from his job of running a great American institution into the ground to defend publishing an anti-#MeToo article that was even worse than the first one he solicited. Anna Maria Tremonti is as masterful an interviewer as Chotiner, but could barely get a word in edgewise as MacArthur just spewed abject nonsense:
Tremonti began by asking MacArthur why he would defend Hockenberry’s essay (in which the former host of WNYC’s “The Takeaway” wrote of being a misunderstood romantic and the victim of an overcorrection of the #MeToo movement). “Before we go there …” MacArthur said. “Hockenberry is in a wheelchair. He is a paraplegic, so that does inform the piece immensely.” The Harper’s publisher then added that the piece was edited by a woman — all before answering Tremonti’s question.
MacArthur went on to call the essay “kind of a sequel to the Katie Roiphe piece,” before explaining the #MeToo movement to Tremonti. He said, in part:
“The #MeToo movement has had an unfortunate tendency to lump together everybody from Harvey Weinstein to the guy who looked at you funny at the lunch room at the office cantine or who maybe sent you a suggestive message. There is a distinction to be made, and the response in many cases has been disproportionate.”
We’ve been through this before but this claim is just ludicrously false. Nobody of any influence is treating these actions as equivalent. Nobody thinks John Hockenberry’s actions were as bad as Harvey Weinstein’s. This is just evasive bullshit from someone unshakably committed to an anti-feminist narrative.
He went on to tell Tremonti that “contrary to what the writer from the Cut said,” Hockenberry’s essay is a “complicated mix of atonement, regret, and an attempt to explore sexual relations between men and women in the modern age.” MacArthur also criticized those who have said that the essay — which is around 7,000 words — is too long. “We’re running into a kind of buzzsaw of illiberalism, refusal to see another point of view at the same time that we don’t have the patience to read and consider,” MacArthur said.
“If you criticize the 7,000 words of mawkish, condescending self-pity from a guy who can’t write, you’re illiberal.” Sarah Palin’s theory of the 1st Amendment rides again! And #LOL at MacArthur asserting that other people aren’t trying to understand the other side.
At this point, Tremonti was finally able to get another question in. She asked MacArthur what Hockenberry being parapalegic has anything to do with the allegations against him — to which MacArthur laughed and said, “It’s hard to get out of a wheelchair and attack somebody.”
Tremonti then attempted to inform MacArthur that sexual harassment doesn’t just entail physical assaults. He, in turn, interrupted her to say that he believes #MeToo must distinguish between criminal acts and workplace sexual harassment. He also accused Tremonti and Spencer of both taking “Soviet-style” tones about the subject. (Tremonti asked in response, “Have you ever worked in the Soviet Union? Because I have.”)
It’s even grosser when you hear it.
This excerpt is perhaps the most telling:
“My point is there’s a difference between [that and] a criminal act, and he’s not been accused of anything criminal,” MacArthur says. “He’s been erased,” he adds without a trace of irony. “[Hockenberry’s] been erased from the culture and he can’t work anymore,” MacArthur reiterates.
Losing a lottery-ticket job is being “erased from the culture.” Oh. Anyway, the clear implication here is that Hockenberry lost his job solely because of #MeToo, which is not actually true:
Also, what of WNYC’s own reporting that before the sexual harassment charges publically surfaced, Hockenberry “missed interviews, arrived unprepared, and even fell asleep on the job”? Those acts remain unaddressed. He does tell us however that his 1974 performance as Zorba the Greek on the high school stage is still talked about in his hometown.
Hockenberry was extremely lucky to get a prestigious job many people could have done as well or better. He was a generic, replacement-level NPR host who apparently was often lazy and unprepared towards the end of his tenure, and he too frequently treated his subordinates badly, sometimes in sexualized ways and sometimes not. Are employers not supposed to take the latter into account? Has MacArthur ever considered the many, many people every year who lose their jobs despite doing nothing wrong at all and can’t get a remotely comparable one? They generally don’t get cover stories at prestigious magazines to tell their stories. Although I guess it’s not surprising that someone who thinks that interns should be willing to work for him for free doesn’t think the mistreatment of subordinates should be a firable offense.
I’ll give the final words to Jia Tolentino:
That Hockenberry could publish so many words about his plight in a prestigious magazine without seriously grappling with the experiences of the women whose lives were affected by his advances—that nearly a year of self-searching brought him to the conclusion that he and a fictional twelve-year-old rape victim were more alike than he’d thought—signals well enough that the power structures facilitating sexual assault and harassment remain very much intact. “I feel sorry for a lot of these men,” Michelle Goldberg wrote, in the Times, in a column about Hockenberry’s essay, “but I don’t think they feel sorry for women, or think about women’s experience much at all.”
Just as troubling, perhaps, is that their editors evidently do not ask them to. The many accusations of physical and sexual assault against Jian Ghomeshi predate the post-Weinstein phase of the #MeToo movement by three years: in October, 2014, three women told the Toronto Star that Ghomeshi had “struck them with a closed fist or open hand; bit them; choked them until they almost passed out; covered their nose and mouth so that they had difficulty breathing; and that they were verbally abused during and after sex.” Within a month, fifteen women told the Star that Ghomeshi had sexually abused them; two more accused him of harassment; two men said that the radio host had fondled their genitals without permission; and a woman said that Ghomeshi had made advances toward her when she was sixteen and he was forty. Ghomeshi was charged with sexual assault relating to six women, and pleaded not guilty; he was acquitted of all charges, in 2016. (One charge was withdrawn in exchange for Ghomeshi signing a peace bond and admitting wrongdoing, though he did so in vague terms.)
After Ghomeshi’s essay was published, Ian Buruma, the editor of the New York Review of Books, gave a chilling interview to Isaac Chotiner, of Slate. Buruma claimed to support the #MeToo movement as a “necessary corrective.” When Chotiner reminded him that Ghomeshi has been accused of numerous acts of sexual assault, “including punching women in the head,” he responded, “The exact nature of his behavior—how much consent was involved—I have no idea, nor is that really my concern.” What Buruma wanted to explore, he said, was the experience of “being at the top of the world, doing more or less what you like, being a jerk in many ways, and then finding your life ruined and being a public villain and pilloried.”
The phrase “finding your life ruined” is remarkably telling. For Buruma and Ghomeshi and Hockenberry, and for many others, the abuse of women is not the problem—naming it, and giving it consequences, is the problem. Hockenberry asks, as if he is writing from a guillotine, “Is my life a reasonable price exacted in the pursuit of justice, or is my situation an injustice born of a deeper dysfunction in the matters of gender and a fear of confronting anything beyond revenges, purges, and humiliation?” Women’s careers and psyches have been torpedoed by male exploitation for centuries, but it is a shame, apparently, for the men who exploited them to have to answer for what they’ve done.
The worst thing about this accursed genre of personal essay—“My Year of Being Held Responsible for My Own Behavior”—may be that it consists, almost necessarily, of terrible writing. It is hypothetically possible for such an essay to model a path forward that does not require dissembling and absolution, for a man to grapple with a history of specific wrongdoing without insisting on his own centrality for several thousand words. But the Venn diagram between serial harassers and abusers and people capable of fundamental honesty may not produce much of an overlap.