December 6, 2017

In the Wake of the #MeToo Movement

Marc Esadrian

No matter where one may reside on the sociopolitical spectrum, I believe everyone can agree that the Harvey Weinstein exposé had beneficial effects. It was a watershed moment, uncovering the presence of hypocrisy living right under the noses of the typically left-leaning Hollywood elite, where sexual predation upon ambitious actresses turned out to be one of their biggest “open secrets.” Weinstein apparently paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades while continuing to run his media giant, the Weinstein Company, but social comeuppance eventually caught up. It’s satisfying to see a rich, powerful hypocrite brought down a notch over his lecherous buffoonery. Predation enjoying impunity due to its power, status, or political hypocrisy is something most sensible people can find common ground to stand against.

But as reports of sexual misconduct accusations rippling and ricocheting across Hollywood and Washington become an almost daily event, it seems the troubling rhetoric of the Me Too movement has gotten rather out of hand, infecting the political and corporate world with a strange brand of witch hunting neo-puritanism that colors men as predators and women as victims in need of swift protection. At this moment in time, the increasing lynch mob that is Me Too sees the slightest gesture of sexual or romantic interest in the workplace as grounds for Victorianesque intervention, if not inquisition. For most reasonable human beings, this should be a concerning spectacle, as most humans have accrued at least a few skeletons in their closets during their lifetimes. The climate today now has many men and women alike wondering if their sexual improprieties will crawl out of the woodwork and lead to the loss of their careers and jobs. It seems that minor sexual inferences—even ambiguous transgressions—are now fertile ground for indignation and harsh corporate review, no matter how long ago they’re purported to have happened. And far too many now accept the rightness of it all as a foregone conclusion.

Whether the reported acts or events are given mature objectivity, much less anything resembling due process, seems entirely irrelevant for the movement at hand: if a woman points a finger, there is a moral imperative now to believe her, or else we’re conspiring agents of what Natasha Lennard might robotically regurgitate as the “system of domination and patriarchal hierarchy.” To believe a rape or misconduct allegation is now synonymous with “believing women” as a whole. You’re either all in with the absolute victimhood of women or out of touch. How did we get here?

A much earlier “Me Too” movement was started over a decade ago by feminist Tarana Burke, with the intent to empower black women who were sexual assault survivors. Today, celebrities like Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan (an alleged Weinstein victim) have given the Me Too movement greater visibility with perhaps a well-meaning push, resulting in the now popular #MeToo Twitter tag. Time Magazine just named all the “silence breakers” of the movement the #1 Person(s) of the Year, in fact. So, like it or not, the politics of painting women as victims has been given a new lease. Yes, occasional men are mentioned as so-called silence breakers, too, but the real motivating force behind the movement is obvious: to unseat powerful men from positions of influence and respect in media, journalism, state leadership, and the corporate sector under the pretense of showing the world how many hidden victims there are of male sexual abuse, despite complex matters of consent and complicity in so-called victims, or the misinterpretations of honest mistakes of judgment.

What the hell is happening? We now live in a country where people lose their jobs when accused of something without proof or trial or in some cases with anonymous accusers? —Kristy Alley

The idea that women are always innocent and need special protection in the workplace from sexual innuendos and ribald humor isn’t new; it far predates Me Too, but with this movement, the polarizing rhetoric, especially in a culture of microaggressions and victimhood, has increased tenfold. Take, for instance, the incendiary declaration that anyone who questions the validity of misconduct allegations is a “victim shamer.” No one wants to catch that bullet in our politically correct climate today, especially businesses and high-profile individuals. But not every celebrity with a vagina is on board with the witch hunt. Actress Kristy Alley irreverently asserted that it’s madness for people to lose their jobs over anonymous allegations. “What the hell is happening? We now live in a country where people lose their jobs when accused of something without proof or trial or in some cases with anonymous accusers?” the actress tweeted.

During a Q&A prior to the 20th-anniversary screening of the film Wag the Dog, comedian and political commentator John Oliver pestered Dustin Hoffman on stage in front of a live audience over recent allegations levied against the actor. Hoffman was beside himself over having to defend against Oliver’s surprise attack indictments. “The so-called alleged comments that are made are truth now,” Hoffman angrily stated while managing to keep his composure, “and if you try to defend it, you’re guilty.” Oliver remained visibly unsympathetic, sucking the air out of the room for more than thirty minutes as the other guest speakers and audience members remained awkwardly silent, until eventually someone shouted at Oliver to move on. (He didn’t.)

In a discussion over the subject on Twitter, a starry-eyed fan commended Mr. Oliver for his bravery in confronting the actor. I found her take on Oliver’s abusive badgering tone deaf, as bullying someone while riding on the wave of politically correct outrage over the sex scandal du jour is hardly something I’d consider noble, much less brave. Many religious tribunals, medieval rabble rousers, and inquisitors have come before him. What Oliver was really doing falls easily under the category of grandstanding to court controversy by putting due process on the chopping block in favor of politically motivated delirium over women, sex, and propriety. These are, by no means, new subjects. At a time when a tidal wave of righteous anger is riding high, it’s easy to go along with the crowd and kick smeared male CEOs, actors, and politicians in the proverbial balls, even if the accusers are anonymous and facts immaterial. Indeed, the heads of the accused are rolling in the court of public opinion. People are losing their jobs and being defamed, in some cases over allegations made by faceless sources. Decades of activism have lead us to this moment of vindication for feminists who have long insisted upon and decried the ubiquity of “rape culture.” But rest assured there will likely be a reckoning for the hysteria of framing an aggressive flirtation or unwanted touch with grotesque lechery, wanton abuse of power, or even rape.

Were I a feminist, I’d feel a little uneasy right about now. Politically supported scandals born of whisper campaigns and anonymous accusers that destroy careers and leave reputations in tatters can result in pendulum swings we can’t anticipate, one emerging example being a new standard of evidence legitimized en masse of late: accusation sans evidence commuted to trial and execution by social media. It’s validating for them now, but might not feel so good when the shoe is on the other foot. Nonetheless, the precedent has been set, and what’s good for the goose may be good for the gander, later on down the road in some shape or form. It also remains to be seen how far we’re willing to take the disease of political correctness and to what depths certain groups wish to harness it as a tool of control and discord will sink to. Finally, after the party is over, how many of these accusations will turn out to be rubbish? What retaliations will emerge against this new culture of shaming and vilifying men? How will this change the structure of the workplace? Might #MeToo backfire and result in less women being hired in sensitive positions? That all waits in the wings for those currently celebrating this viral spectacle of revenge politics.

Me Too has realized feminism’s dream of causing real harm to men under the religion of helping victims—real or imagined. Due process is clearly an afterthought and not on the agenda.

I can’t help but wonder what will arrive next in the wake of this crusade, though in all honestly I needn’t to wonder too long. It strikes me as no coincidence that the desired targets of Me Too have been the usual suspects: powerful males. This turmoil all too cozily serves the agenda of extreme feminist politics mewing about the evils of patriarchy’s structural power and dominance. We know that what modern feminism wants is the destruction of this sacred MacGuffin in its increasingly metastasizing conspiracy theories. More clearly, it conspires to injure maleness and make that injury fashionable, desirable, and now morally necessary. Already, feminist icons are suggesting a shift in the sexes for better leadership, so as to avoid things like this from happening. Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg has gone on record for claiming the solution is to give women more power than they already have in our equality-based society. “Ultimately, the thing that will bring the most change to our culture is the one I’ve been writing and talking about for a long time: having more women with more power,” she posted.

Sandberg’s claim is hopelessly blinkered. She seems to assume that giving more women power is the cure-all, that it will steer our culture from scandal, corruption, and harassment. In between the lines, this claim asserts that the abuse of power is strictly a male problem, but in reality, it’s a human problem. Though I realize it’s sacrilegious to imagine a female engaging in workplace harassment, it does happen. If you don’t believe me, click here and here. And here’s something that reflects well upon men, but is seldom (if ever) spoken about: the reported percentage of women engaging in “misconduct” is actually much higher, as males who encounter female aggression, sexual or psychological, are generally less apt to complain about it. But Sandberg’s comments don’t seem to want to recognize women as anything but victims in need of the same old formula: empowerment, ad nauseam.

Me Too has realized feminism’s dream of causing real harm to men under the religion of helping victims—real or imagined. Due process is clearly an afterthought and not on the agenda. This isn’t anything new for feminism, as a whole, for it has always carefully harnessed victimhood for the sake of aggrandizing its agendas. In a response to the power it perceives as the root cause of evil, it too has created its own powers, attacking males and maleness by fighting perceived structural darkness with its own counter-structural darkness under the distorted assumption that a “bold, scandalous feminism” is more effective at obtaining the standard of justice it seeks—even if that standard is impossible to attain. But such unrealism is not unusual for a religion. Religion, as a rule, sets impossible goals for its followers, and feminism increasingly feels like a religion based upon a struggle against a mythical organization of boogeymen, not a rational response to matters of corruption and power in human societies. Feminism and its adherents nonetheless aggressively cut through the irreducible complexities of human nature with a blunt, rusty razor they imagine is Occam’s, but this is a brand of idealistic and destructive naivety that is now causing serious material harm.  Absent a Neo-Marxist totalitarian regime that socializes the male sex into second-class citizenry (and don’t dare doubt that many would absolutely go for that), feminism’s dream of an ideal world where all women are perfectly protected by a maternal government will never be realized. Human nature is an animal nature. It’s messy, complex, and couldn’t care less about the screaming indignation of self-righteous political movements based upon idealistic fantasies. Humans, both male and female, will use power to their advantage. Being sexual creatures, humans, both male and female, have the natural capacity to exploit the intersections of sex and power, and will. Short of Orwellian thought control that stunts our drives and desires, our species will countlessly commit these brazen, daring, and sometimes outright aggressive acts. Swapping men out with women won’t change these facts, or the reality that romantic/sexual interests can’t be safely walled off from the workplace. Our real goal should be to create mechanisms in the workplace that prevent gross abuse of power, not wage an open, opportunistic war against the male sex.

12-07-17: Updated to add that Senator Al Franken, a man I admire greatly for his stance on net neutrality and mandatory binding arbitration, has been pressured to resign from his seat due to (you guessed it) unproven allegations directed toward him. I invite you to watch this video and find reason to believe he’s not a good advocate for women. Nonetheless, he has been pressured to step down, despite zero evidence of any substantive wrongdoing.

12-08-17: Updated to add that signs of the backlash mentioned in this article have already begun. Click here to read more.


November 11, 2017

Are Universities Necessary Anymore?

Marc Esadrian

The premise of the title above sounds absurd, and certainly is at face value. Most will agree that the halls of higher education are vital to a healthy society. On the subject of education, Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” It’s rather foolish to argue against the wisdom of this statement. Education is, after all, a key to a happy, interesting, more meaningful, and more productive life in our society. Education helps to equip us for the future. It provides pathways to necessary skills and expands our minds. It sharpens our intellects and widens our understanding of ourselves and of the world. It teaches us critical thinking and guards us against thought-killing political propaganda and religious ignorance.

The question this editorial raises, more accurately, is whether universities are effectively teaching these skills and ideas to a significant degree any longer. In the social science faculty at Lund University in Sweden, Erik Ringmar cites a rule of thumb used by the staff that at least 40% of the articles on the reading list of a course should be written by women. According to them, this is necessary to give female academics a more prominent voice. After having barely passed the scrutiny of a university-appointed committee in order to teach a course on the rise of right-wing ideas and their ties to fascism, Ringmar was interrupted and bullied by a couple of students in his class who wanted to understand the roles of women during the period of history he was referencing, even though the focus of his lecture had nothing whatsoever to do with gender roles. Nonetheless, his course on old reactionaries was policed and scrutinized because it did not accommodate the quota for the affirmative action of female authors.

“My course passed the course committee but it was a close call. The student representative on the committee was very critical of my ‘lack of focus on gender issues,’ and a number of other committee members agreed. After an extensive discussion, the course was approved — as long as I promised to include Judith Butler, a well-known contemporary post-structuralist feminist, among the nineteenth-century male reactionaries.” —Erik Ringmar

Elsewhere, a proposed Associated Students of the University of California Riverside (ASUCR) Gender Studies requirement unanimously passed in 2014, supporting the implementation of gender studies requirement courses at ASUCR.  This year, they continued to affirm a resolution in support of gender studies requirements, which, if approved by the university’s academic senate, would make such courses mandatory for all incoming students. Not everyone finds this such a great idea. “Such an inherently liberal-leaning class is likely to be perceived as a form of propaganda or indoctrination on behalf of the liberal-leaning administration that would be charged with approving this requirement,” cautiously writes the editorial board of The Highlander. Their solution? “One [alternative] possibility would be turning this requirement into a series of modules that teach various aspects of gender studies.” It’s here we realize how steeped in the game of political correctness even dissenters are in universities, when the suggested alternative is not outright dismissal of such ludicrous thought policing, but of teaching social engineering agendas in sneakier, less invasive “modules.” Nonetheless, the editorial board adds that “there would need to be strict enforcement of this module (e.g. a hold on quarterly registration for anyone who has not completed it), so that students cannot simply ignore it.” So, an instrument of thought control it remains, only in another form. In attempting quasi-dissent against mandatory gender studies, the editors at The Highlander only accomplish demonstrating how hopelessly attached they are to the foregone conclusions of left-leaning thought control.

Meanwhile, a strange reality of compelled speech has formed through the Canadian Bill C-16 and the Law Society of Upper Canada’s new Statement of Principles. Bill C-16, a well-meaning anti-discrimination bill, adds prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the Canadian Human Rights Act, amends the criminal code to protect people against hate speech, and allows judges to make arbitrary calls on whether crimes are motivated by hate and bigotry or something more innocent. In tandem, the Law Society of Upper Canada’s updated Statement of Principles contains an oath all lawyers must undertake in their practices: to support strategies in the legal workplace (and beyond it, where appropriate) that prioritize diversity and inclusion. A strong, independent bar is commonly considered a check and balance against regulatory oppression, but now a condition of your ability to practice law in Ontario is to promise you will make the rule of diversity and inclusion a priority—or else.

Combined, these legal conspiracies invoke chilling effects on college campuses for professors like Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist and tenured professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, who are increasingly compelled to alter their language to appease the persistent creep of ethics committees in Canadian universities. At the senate hearing of Bill C-16, Peterson was moved to explain why he would refuse to undergo “anti unconscious bias training,” citing, among other things, a lack of credible science behind it. “The science surrounding this so-called charge of implicit bias that’s associated with perception is by no means settled…and is being used absolutely inappropriately,” he stated before the hearing. The fact that a man of his stature must appear before a hearing and articulate why he will not comply with the arrival of nakedly Orwelian regulations seems obscene and laughable, if only it were some form of elaborate satire. But it’s not, and should strike us as a rather concerning mark of left-leaning authoritarianism and its incremental advance toward arresting free speech.

From the day-to-day culture on university grounds, Peterson is seeing a consuming obsession with politically correct speech, emboldened by the new law, especially in the realm of gender-neutral pronouns pushed by the transgender movement. He’s beset on all sides by mobs of narcissistic, non-binary quasi-marxists who are beside themselves as to why he refuses to say their words. “Many disciplines [in universities] have turned into ideological factories,” he explains to Joe Rogan in a discussion about the gender identity controversy, and why he feels that universities do more harm than good now.  “The repository of human wisdom and the attempt to expand that may have already moved outside the universities.” I find that to be an incredibly interesting idea. Universities have accreditation mechanisms that justify their existence, of course, but as Mr. Peterson quips, “they’re doing everything as fast as possible to make their accreditation valueless, anyway.” If universities like Evergreen are any example, he may very well be right about that.

When I think of higher learning teachers, I idealize them as men and women who possess deep and well-rounded knowledge in a particular field they study/practice (Mr. Peterson is exemplary in this respect). While subject to accepted principles of professional responsibility, professors have the natural right to teach, sans interference of some higher authority telling them what to say and how to say it. As a matter of obvious intellectual integrity, they should not be forced to instruct against their conscience, against what they know to be correct for the courses they teach, or forced to include material in their curricula that is irrelevant and/or superfluous, other than to serve a political agenda. But stories we’re hearing out of university culture seem to alarmingly contradict this simple and straightforward premise.

Meanwhile, students who attend universities are navigating the winding roads of life, eager to light the way toward fulfillment and prosperity. They want to equip themselves with the tools needed to succeed in the years to come. They want to expand their minds, not narrow them. They want knowledge, not propaganda. But is this what young minds are being taught today by universities? Or are these places of higher learning, as Peterson so aptly described, little more than ideological factories generating waves of indoctrinated “social justice warriors” agitating for change—change against the patriarchy, change against white maleness, change against the “gender binary,” change against the invisible tyranny of implicit bias? Can we honestly say this is really about education anymore and not designed discord with the intent to intimidate others into thought conformity?

It seems that accreditation is one of the few things left that non-technical universities have going for them. But how long will that conspiracy last? How long will it be before the monetary and psychic vice of so-called higher education is considered too much? How long can students be ground up through the system and expected to pay off the indentured servitude of college loan debt? Maybe the task of education in this increasingly connected age is indeed falling upon the individual and less upon top-heavy institutions. Perhaps sending our children to these bloated, costly, inefficient, and self-aggrandizing echo chambers of activist inanity is not the answer. Maybe the revolution of human knowledge is indeed right at our fingertips, as Peterson suggests. We need only reach out, listen, and learn to think for ourselves, detached from the machinations of politically correct social engineering. Universities are still a reality young minds must contend with, and certainly their value can’t be completely discounted, but I think it’s time we stopped teaching a near religious awe of these institutions and mindless conformity to them. Mark Twain’s words seem more apropos than ever before when we consider intellectual integrity in the modern age: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”