October 19, 2018

#MeToo Faces Reality Check

“American opinion has shifted against victims,” The Economist says. They keep using that word…

This headline at The Economist suggests the incessant bluster that’s girdling #MeToo is taking its toll: “After a year of #MeToo, American opinion has shifted against victims.” That’s the takeaway from a YouGov poll in which the eagerness to impulsively “believe all women” who allege sexual wrongdoing is found to be fizzling.

“In the first week of November 2017, YouGov polled 1,500 Americans about their attitudes on the matter, on behalf of The Economist,” according to the report. “In the final week of September 2018, it conducted a similar poll again. When it came to questions about the consequences of sexual assault and misconduct, there was a small but clear shift against victims.” By the numbers:

The share of American adults responding that men who sexually harassed women at work 20 years ago should keep their jobs has risen from 28% to 36%. The proportion who think that women who complain about sexual harassment cause more problems than they solve has grown from 29% to 31%. And 18% of Americans now think that false accusations of sexual assault are a bigger problem than attacks that go unreported or unpunished, compared with 13% in November last year.

Paradoxically, it’s females, not males, who are most responsible for these shifts. As the report adds: “Surprisingly, these changes in opinion against victims have been slightly stronger among women than men. Rather than breaking along gendered lines, the #MeToo divide increasingly appears to be a partisan one. On each of these three questions, the gap between Trump and Clinton voters is at least six times greater than the one between genders.” The partisan divide is routine in this polarized political atmosphere — not to mention also quite ironic given the Clintons’ licentious history — but the fact that women appear to be growing more hesitant to cast stones suggests more of them view the #MeToo movement as sophomoric and even deleterious given the rather significant lack of due process.

Even The Economist deserves some scrutiny. It uses the word “victims” three times, including in the title — “American opinion has shifted against victims” — yet the more appropriate term would be “accusers.” A victim implies the existence of concrete and/or corroborative evidence. But that’s oftentimes not the case. Just this week we learned that a male student is taking legal action against Pittsburgh’s Seneca Valley School District after some fellow female classmates accused him of crimes he didn’t commit. A tape exists in which the girls, who claimed they were sexually assaulted, concede it was all a hoax. The reason? In their own words, “I just don’t like him” and “[I] would do anything to get him expelled.”

This is why we have due process — because the idea that “women almost never lie about rape is a lie.” Except even in the Pittsburgh example it came too late. The male student faced expulsion and even imprisonment before the tape exonerated him. Yet he can’t erase the harrowing experience, and his reputation is irreparably tarnished. Yet a growing chorus of leftists want due process abolished because it supposedly undermines the #MeToo movement. By the way, the accusers — or “victims,” as The Economist would prefer to call them — at the school remain unpunished.

The concept of #MeToo absolutely should be applauded. The problem is that the movement itself has devolved into a no-questions-asked morass wherein presumptions are treated as facts. It has been used by celebrities and politicians alike to paint a broad brush that unfairly portrays the situation. In truth, false allegations are likely to be just as hellish as real ones. Finally, it’s worth pondering what this poll would look like in the aftermath of the Brett Kavanaugh witch hunt.

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