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January 13, 2018

ANDREW SULLIVAN: It’s Time to Resist the Excesses of #MeToo.

The Deneuve letter rightly insisted: “Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression.” The manifesto observed the censorious Victorianism about some of the rhetoric, and the public invasion of private matters. But the French signatories also worried about due process: “This expedited justice already has its victims, men prevented from practicing their profession as punishment, forced to resign, etc., while the only thing they did wrong was touching a knee, trying to steal a kiss, or speaking about ‘intimate’ things at a work dinner, or sending messages with sexual connotations to a woman whose feelings were not mutual.” South Park, as usual, was ahead of the curve. Its season finale last month portrayed an office romance between PC Principal and a new character, Strong Woman. And at the mere suggestion of an affair between them, everyone instantly projectile vomits in disgust. What other response could there be to the idea of a relationship between co-workers?

And this week, rumors spread of the impending publication of an essay by Katie Roiphe in Harper’s magazine that might take a similarly skeptical tack. Some believed that Roiphe might even hold the instigator of the legendary Shitty Media Men list accountable, and that this person might thereby be subjected to online abuse. And so a Twitter campaign was launched, in a backlash-backlash, to preemptively stop the publication of an essay no one had actually read. One Twitter activist, Nicole Cliffe, went further: “If you have a piece in the hopper over at @Harpers, ask your editor if the Roiphe piece is happening. If it is, I will pay you cash for what you’d lose by yanking it.” This strikes me as a new development for the social-justice left: They now believe in suppressing free speech — even before they know its content! It also strikes me as ominous for journalism as a whole. When journalists themselves wage campaigns to suppress the writing of other journalists, and intend to destroy a magazine for not toeing their ideological line, you can see how free speech truly is on the line. Why not simplify this and publish a blacklist of writers whose work, based on previous ideological transgressions, cannot and should not be published?

Oh, they’re working on that.