There's a consensus aborning: There should be zero tolerance for sexual harassment, exploitation and violence of any kind. Enthusiasm for the new dawn varies widely. Some think it's a great feminist or moral awakening. Others see an era of witch hunts, prudery and weaponized politics in our future.
Put me down for all of the above.
As a conservative, this seems natural to me. Almost every good thing comes with a downside, and virtually every bad thing comes with an upside.
We've seen cultural, political and religious awakenings before. The abolition movement also brought with it
Whenever popular passion swamps politics, true-believing zealots and opportunistic demagogues will exploit that passion. The zealots will overreach. The demagogues will demagogue -- using a good cause to destroy political enemies and defend unworthy allies.
These are just the recent lowlights. A host of prominent journalists as well as
We shouldn't stand for any of it. And yet, the severity of our intolerance should run on a spectrum. Rape should put you in jail. Making a pass at a subordinate in the workplace should have consequences. Making one at a bar? It depends. Taking harassment seriously also requires making serious distinctions.
The problem is that the logic of zero tolerance often renders every bad act as equally unacceptable.
As much as I dislike Franken, making a gross pass at an adult woman is different than molesting a 14-year-old girl. Groping a woman's backside is not the same thing as raping a woman. And yet Franken's name is routinely listed alongside Moore's and Weinstein's. Some of this leveling is simply journalistic laziness. But a lot of it is partisan demagoguery and opportunism.
Partisanship also leads to what you might call anti-leveling: people who ignore wrongdoing on "their side" even as they attack their enemies.
When asked why people should judge the accusations against Moore and
Denials should matter, and accusations absent additional evidence should invite skepticism. But the upshot here is that alleged miscreants should simply deny rather than admit wrongdoing and apologize. According to this logic,
Worse, implicit to the
But the most dangerous and corrupting force in all of this is not the weaponization of bad behavior, but the weaponization of hypocrisy. The pastor
This obsession with hypocrisy leads to a repugnant immorality. In an effort to defend members of their team, partisans end up defending the underlying behavior itself. After all, you can only be a hypocrite if you violate some principle you preach. If you ditch the principle, you can dodge the hypocrisy charge. We're seeing this happen in real time with some of Moore's defenders, just as we saw it with Clinton's in the 1990s.
We'll sort it all out eventually, but not before it gets even uglier.