#MeToo has done a lot of work exposing uncomfortable truths, but now its eagerness to denounce is taking on a censorious tone. #TimesUp is becoming #ShutUp.
Recall that the movement got going when women who had long remained silent felt emboldened to speak up after many years. Yet last week one such woman was telling her story. There was a broad public attempt to silence this Korean runaway who doesn’t know her own birthday and grew up eating out of garbage cans on the streets of Seoul before being dumped into an orphanage. Her adoptive mother, she says, regularly belittled her, abused her and essentially made her serve as a household domestic. Then this crazy momster labeled her daughter “retarded.” After all of this, Soon-Yi Previn doesn’t get a right to speak? Because she’s married to Woody Allen?
I’ve written before about how it’s nearly impossible to believe that Allen is guilty of child molestation when you look at the evidence, but the fanciful-to-preposterous case for his guilt is, 26 years after his alleged crime, suddenly being accepted as gospel by the #MeToo crowd, which in turn has rebuked Previn and also Daphne Merkin, a longtime friend of Allen.
When Merkin’s convincing New York magazine profile of Soon-Yi ran last week, #MeToo told both of them to shut their pie-holes about Woody Allen, forever. (The editor who actually ran the piece, New York chief Adam Moss, seemed to escape censure.) “Let the women speak” somehow turned into “Only certain women should speak.”
Meanwhile, Ian Buruma was forced out of his position as editor of the New York Review of Books for doing … exactly what the New York Review of Books has always done. Although a left-liberal publication, the NYRB has a contrarian streak and prides itself on being contentious, eager to surprise, doubtful of conventional wisdom. In a theme issue about “the Fall of Men” accused of sexual misconduct that typified the NYRB’s brand as a vigorous forum for debate, Buruma published a lengthy piece by the Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, a star north of the border, who wrote about life after being charged with being violent to women.
Ghomeshi was acquitted two years ago of sexual assault and choking after being accused by three women. Since then more than a dozen more women have stepped forward to accuse him of improper sexual behavior.
In an interview published in a Dutch magazine, the Netherlands-born Buruma said he felt obliged to resign his post after being “convicted on Twitter, without any due process.”
Buruma sparked a social-media frenzy both by publishing the Ghomeshi piece and then by taking part in a Slate interview in which he sounded blasé on the question of Ghomeshi’s guilt.
The choice to publish Ghomeshi was meant “not necessarily as a defense of what he may have done,” Buruma told Slate, but he thought readers would be interested to learn what it’s like to be “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.”
Buruma himself promptly was made a public villain and pilloried, not because he has been accused of misbehavior, not because he defended anyone accused of misbehavior, but simply for publishing an essay from a seldom-heard point of view.
Fire him! Cried the mob. But a New York Review of Books that didn’t challenge prevailing orthodoxy wouldn’t be the New York Review of Books. Nor should the editorship of the NYRB be a matter for a snarling mob of Twitterati to decide. If you don’t like what’s in the NYRB, write a letter to the editor.
Somehow “I disagree with you” or even “I disagree with the thing you published” has turned into “your career must be destroyed.” One need not defend Ghomeshi — and Buruma doesn’t! – to agree with the premise that what he has to say might be of interest.
When media outlets run interviews with people who have actually murdered women, does it mean they’re taking the side of murderers? Interviews with Charles freaking Manson used to pop up on ABC, NBC, CBS and in the pages of Rolling Stone until Manson finally shut up and relocated to Hell last year.
If anyone called for Diane Sawyer or Geraldo Rivera to be fired for “giving Manson a platform” or “normalizing a monster,” I missed it. If Manson’s point of view is worth hearing, so is Ghomeshi’s.
As for Soon-Yi, whatever you think of women who stole their mother’s boyfriends, that’s probably not as bad as leading a devil cult of ritual murderers.
To read more on The New York Post click here.