Beware the rape allegation bandwagon
"#MeToo" is the social media meme of the moment. In a 24-hour period, the phrase was tweeted nearly a half million times and posted on Facebook 12 million times. Spearheaded by actress Alyssa Milano in the wake of Hollyweird's Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal, women have flooded social media with their own long-buried accounts of being pestered, groped or assaulted by rapacious male predators in the workplace.
Count me out.
It's one thing to break down cultural stigmas constructively, but the #MeToo movement is collectivist virtue signaling of a very perilous sort. The New York Times heralded the phenomenon with multiple articles "to show how commonplace sexual assault and harassment are." The Washington Post credited #MeToo with making "the scale of sexual abuse go viral." And actress Emily Ratajkowski declared at a Marie Claire magazine's women's conference on Monday:
"The most important response to #metoo is 'I believe you.'"
No. I do not believe every woman who is now standing up to "share her story" or "tell her truth." I owe no blind allegiance to any other woman simply because we share the same pronoun. Assertions are not truths until they are established as facts and corroborated with evidence. Timing, context, motives and manner all matter.
Because I reserve the right to vet the claims of individual sexual assault complainants instead of championing them all knee-jerk and wholesale as "victims," I've been scolded as insensitive and inhumane.
"TIMING DOES NOT MATTER," a Twitter user named Meg Yarbrough fumed. "What matters is what is best for EACH INDIVIDUAL victim. You should be ashamed of yourself."
CNN anchor Jake Tapper informed me, "People coming forward should be applauded." But applauding people for "coming forward" is not a journalistic tenet. It's an advocacy tenet. Tapper responded that he was expressing the sentiment as a "human being not as a journalist." Last time I checked, humans have brains. The Weinstein scandal is not an excuse to turn them off and abdicate a basic responsibility to assess the credibility of accusers. It's an incontrovertible fact that not all accusers' claims are equal.
Some number of harrowing encounters described by Weinstein's accusers and the #MeToo hashtag activists no doubt occurred. But experience and scientific literature show us that a significant portion of these allegations will turn out to be half-truths, exaggerations or outright fabrications. That's not victim-blaming. It's reality-checking.
It is irresponsible for news outlets to extrapolate how "commonplace" sexual abuse is based on hashtag trends spread by celebrities, anonymous claimants and bots. The role of the press should be verification, not validation. Instead of interviewing activist actresses, reporters should be interviewing bona fide experts.