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As firefighters were struggling to contain the wildfires ravaging Southern California, the firestorm of the #MeToo movement burned out of control across America from Hollywood to Washington, D.C. with no end in sight.
This week wildfires fueled by the hot, dry, and at-times hurricane force Santa Ana winds, raged across numerous locations in Southern California. Ventura County, which is just north of Los Angeles, has been hit particularly hard as over 230,000 acres have been scorched with more than seven hundred homes destroyed thus far. Other serious wildfires also broke out in Bel-Air, Santa Clarita, Santa Barbara, Sylmar, Riverside and San Diego and devastated those areas as well.
There were times this week when portions of the Los Angeles resembled a scene out of Schindler's List with black, acrid smoke filling the air accompanied by white ash gently falling to the ground like snow. Air quality was so poor across the city that most schools and parks were closed for the week.
Synchronistically, just as this devastating wildfire was ravaging Los Angeles, another inferno that got its start in Hollywood was wreaking havoc across the country and in Washington D.C., in particular. The out of control wildfire of which I speak is the #MeToo sexual harassment panic that is torching everyone in its path and leaving in its wake a pile of ash where careers used to be.
The #MeToo wildfire started back in October with the revelations of film producer Harvey Weinstein's decades long reign of sexual terror upon the movie industry. The explosion of rage at the diabolical behavior of Weinstein was gargantuan and only gained more intensity as a cavalcade of more women came forward. That blaze of anger quickly spread to other egregious sexual offenders in the movie business like director/producer Bret Ratner, director James Toback and actor Kevin Spacey who all felt the ferocious heat of the #MeToo fire.
The magnitude of the anger directed at Weinstein was so intense that it sustained the #MeToo conflagration as it spread to other tertiary celebrities like actors Jeremy Piven, Dustin Hoffman and Jeffrey Tambor along with comedian Louis CK.
The #MeToo wildfire was not contained to just Hollywood, it spread to newsrooms as well. Today Show host Matt Lauer and CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose were two more well-known logs thrown onto #MeToo fire. They joined MSNBC contributor Mark Haplerin, New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush and NPR Senior VP of News Mike Oreskes, Chief News Editor David Sweeney and most recently New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza and PBS host Tavis Smiley as formerly respected newsman who have had their careers and reputations go up in smoke over sexual harassment allegations.
The #MeToo firestorm also spread to Washington where democratic Congressman from Michigan, John Conyers , Arizona republican, Trent Franks and democrat Senator Al Franken all resigned amidst sexual harassment allegations. Then this week Alabama Senate candidate, Roy Moore, lost his election after allegations surfaced that Moore had a predilection for teenage girls when he was in his thirties.
While many celebrate the success of the #MeToo bonfire at bringing down these high profile men who have used their power to assault or harass their victims, I am less enthused about the direction of the blaze. The problem with the #MeToo campaign is that it is not a controlled burn and is more akin to the wildfire of a sex panic or hysteria.
A “controlled burn” is when, in as controlled a manner as possible, the detritus on the forest floor is burned away in order to avoid a larger, uncontrollable conflagration at a later date. The righteous fury of the #MeToo wildfire means that it not only torches the sick and rotted trees but the healthy ones as well, and has no interest in making any differentiation between the two.
An example of the uncontrollable nature of the #MeToo fire is that it refuses to make any distinction in severity between rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, groping or lewd and boorish behavior. For example, Al Franken (who as both a politician and a comedian I am not a fan of), is alleged to have "groped" or given unwanted kisses to four women and is lumped into the same category as Harvey Weinstein who is accused of raping and sexually assaulting over 80 women and has paid out millions to settle sexual harassment lawsuits. Another example is Emmy award winning actor Jeffrey Tambor, who denies allegations that he made lewd comments toward two transgender women working with him on his show Transparent, is placed in the same category as Kevin Spacey, who is alleged to have sexually assaulted or harassed dozens of young men, some as young as 14.
As it is with all panics and hysterias, the #MeToo campaign has officially banished nuance from any discussion and embraced a draconian zero tolerance. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand made that perfectly clear this week when in a speech calling for Al Franken to step down said,
"When we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, we are having the wrong conversation. We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay, none of it is acceptable."
The emotionalist raging wildfire of #MeToo also does not allow for any semblance of due process, and the burden of proof falls entirely on the accused and not on the accuser. For instance, Senator Franken, who denies the charges against him, asked for a Senate ethics investigation into the allegations in order to best unearth the truth, but in perfect democratic party circular firing squad, self-immolation style, Franken’s colleagues demanded he step down instead, due process and search for truth be damned.
Another foundational belief of the #MeToo movement, which just won Time's Person of the Year Award, is to “Believe All Women”, the end result of which is that the word of every women is sanctified and proof is never a necessity. Just like the L.A. wildfires, the #MeToo sexual harassment hysteria is designed to be indifferent to guilt or innocence and is ultimately only meant to perpetuate its own existence and voracious appetite by blindly devouring anything or anyone that opposes it.
By creating this environment where alleged victims are deified and can never dare be doubted, #MeToo has all but guaranteed that allegations of a sexual nature will be weaponized by those who wish to destroy men whom they deem to be their personal, professional or political enemies, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the targeted men. Just this week Senator Chuck Schumer was lucky to avert an attack by weaponized sexual harassment allegations.
Gillibrand’s takedown of Franken is a perfect example of how #MeToo is a political weapon in what is starting to look like a gender war, where men are taken down by women and replaced by women. Like an arsonist torching a bankrupt business for the insurance money, Gillibrand put the fire to her potential democratic presidential hopeful rival Franken, in order to elevate her political profile and thin the field in the hopes of a presidential run in 2020. Her maneuver paid off as she is now hailed as the democrat’s bravest and best hope to topple Trump.
Despicable men in public life are being held to account for their depraved sexual behavior over the years, and that is a long time coming and they certainly deserve it, but in the vengeful, scorched-earth fury of the #MeToo movement, innocent men will have their names besmirched and their careers annihilated as well.
Some people will say, “who cares” if some innocent men are caught up in the #MeToo flames. That is an understandable feeling to have considering the history of men in positions of authority using their power for sexual means, but it is an ultimately self-defeating one. The reality is that this current sex panic will end, sooner or later. No matter how hot it burns, no wildfire can last forever. And when this current #MeToo wildfire burns itself out and the fever is broken, there will be a terrible backlash against those who cynically misused it for their own purposes.
As intoxicating as it can be to get caught up in the whirlwind of righteous vengeance pulsating at the heart of the #MeToo, the shaming and punishment meted out in cases like Franken, Tambor and Smiley does not seem to fit the alleged crime.
It is deeply disconcerting that supporters of the #MeToo are so blinded by emotional fury that they are incapable of stepping back, letting their white hot emotions subside and allowing the cool waters of justice to flow.
It would be a much wiser and more rational course of action for #MeToo to follow the wisdom of one of America’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, who echoed Blackstone’s famous formula, when he said, “Better that 100 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
Considering that in the #MeToo panic, rational thought is in short supply and wild-eyed emotion rules the day, it is a near lock that Ben Franklin’s sage advice will be entirely ignored because it is emotionally unsatisfying in favor of torches and pitchforks. In fact, if Ben Franklin were alive today there is little doubt he would be labeled a #MeToo heretic by his enemies, or worse yet, tarred as a sexual predator himself, and tossed by the mob into the flames of the #MeToo bonfire to the raucous chant of “Burn Baby Burn”.
UPDATE: Matt Damon is in trouble today for saying pretty much the same thing I say in this article which caused the outrage machine to go into hyper-drive. Alyssa Milano also had a "fierce" diatribe against Damon as well. Ms. Milano is a survivor of sexual assault, so her emotional reaction to the subject is understandable, but as is always the case when emotions run high, logic is in short supply. The reaction to Damon's comments are proof that #MeToo is a panic, or maybe better described as a hysteria (which comes from the Greek word Hystera meaning "womb"), where not only does emotionalism reign but rational thought is chastised and despised. Panics/hysterias, like the Red Scare or the Salem Witch Trials, never look good in hindsight…at the end of the day, #MeToo will end up being viewed in the same way.
UPDATE #2: Right on schedule…the #MeToo panic further jumps the shark with an op-ed from Kathy Lally in the Washington Post. In the article Ms. Lally proudly declares #MeToo!! The one problem though is that Ms. Lally was not raped, sexually assaulted or sexually harassed…no...her claim is that she was #MeToo'd by Matt Taibbi because he made her feel bad by making fun of her in his writing her twenty years ago. Seriously. He didn't even make fun of her in person. Good grief. The allure of #MeToo for women desperate to belong and who crave the identity and power of victimhood is apparently overwhelming, Ms. ally being proof of that. Ms. Lally's declaration is frankly offensive and should be taken as an affront to women who have actually been raped and sexually assaulted. Ms. Lally should be ashamed of herself.
A version of this article was originally published at RT.com.