Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Me too, and me too, and me too, and me too, …

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A common, by now unimaginative and hackneyed, scene in U.S. television and movies shows a person of authority (e.g. a principal) about to swoop down on a protagonist (e.g. a teacher) for some perceived sin (e.g. being unconventional or homosexual) in front of a group of comparatively powerless people (e.g. a school class). Suddenly, one brave soul from among the powerless steps forward in the protagonist’s defense. A long tense pause follows, and then another voices his support. A second tense pause, a little shorter this time—and another supporter. After a third pause, quite short this time, another one or two supporters declare themselves—and then the rest of the group cannot join fast enough.

Such scenes are a good illustration of what makes me greatly troubled by the “me too”* take on showing support, admitting something, pointing out culprits, … To take a more real-life example: Someone who stood up for gays or came out of the closet in 1977** was doing something brave, not just risking condemnation by his peers but quite possibly exposing himself to physical danger—and very few did. In 1987 things had changed a bit, but the area was at best highly controversial, and standing up or coming out could still be a major contribution—made by comparatively few. By 1997, homosexuality had gone a long way towards losing its stigma and was not a very big deal for large parts of the younger generations, but was not yet a mainstream phenomenon; standing up or coming out could still contribute, but far less than earlier, and was far less dangerous—and a reasonably large number of people did. In 2007, homosexuality was well in the main stream, nay-sayers were frowned upon, and people were coming out in droves***. 2017? We are now at a point where heterosexuals are more likely to have to explain themselves, where a TV show without at least on homosexual character feels like the exception, where objections towards “gay marriage”**** brings out the villagers with torches and pitch-forks , …—and still there are people jumping on the “me too” band-wagon, protesting how much must be done against “intolerance”, and seeing themselves as the brave heroes or enlightened minority.

*Apart from the correct phrase almost always being “I too” or even “and I”, but that correction would not mash well with the latter parts of this post.

**The years and implications will vary with geography and should not be taken as more than illustration of the principle—certainly not as an historically accurate overview. (I suspect that the text holds reasonably well for e.g. large parts of the U.S., however.)

***In my impression, those who remained in the closet often either had concerns relating to specific individuals, e.g. a parent with a known aversion, or were held back by (possibly justified) reasoning like “my boss would probably be OK with it, but if he is not then my career could be set back considerably”.

****Another unfortunate phrase.

Sorry, band-wagon-eers: By now you are not heroes, you are sheeple who just follow the main-stream without an ounce of courage. For celebrities, the suspicion of cheap attention seeking has to be added. In 1997 you might have had my respect—and you definitely would have in 1977. Today, I might go as far as seeing you as part of a problem…

A particularly interesting recent example is the situation around Harvey Weinstein and the “#MeToo” Twitter campaign, paralleled, if on a lesser scale, by a number of more individual cases in the past (e.g. the accusations against Bill Cosby):

Allegedly*, Weinstein has a very long history of sexual abuse towards actresses. Yet, until very recently, this was not public knowledge and no-one seemed to publicly care—the more surprising, since the list of actresses includes quite a few women of considerable success**. Even if worst came to worst and raising accusations actually became a career ender***, these are not people who would see themselves living off food-stamps. Why did none of them try to cause a stir in the past? If what happened to them was that bad, why did none of them try to protect the next generation of actresses from the same experiences?

*I have seen somewhat conflicting claims to what he has and has not admitted and do not wish make any assertions in either direction. See the below discussion on presumption of innocence, however.

**I can understand very well if a barely adult actress at the very beginning of her career chooses to not speak up. Neither, apparently, were they all in that situation, nor did all of them remain in that situation.

***And not leaving the career untouched or even giving it a boost through the extra publicity and courage shown, which might or might not have been the case.

Then, earlier this year, allegedly after decades of misbehavior, the news breaks—and we are inundated with “me too” claims. Real courage there…

Now, I lack the detail knowledge of what (allegedly or not) happened in any specific case, and I have no psychic powers enabling me to understand what motivated each of these individual women. However, there are a number of conceivable scenarios in which actresses come off as bad as Weinstein. For instance, allegedly a number of them accepted hush money to keep quite about their experiences—willingly taking into account that others would later find themselves in the same situation… (And possibly committing breach of contract by later coming forward despite taking the money.)

Excursion on behavior as a result of feedback: A particularly problematic point is that in situations like these a lack of sufficient or sufficiently early protest could have strongly contributed to the problem. Such behaviors are highly unlikely to continue for a prolonged time unless the benefits outweigh the costs for the perpetrator. With too little protest or too much success, it is even possible that he fails to realize that certain behaviors are inappropriate. Consider two situations: In the one, nine out of ten women remain uncooperative but silent and the tenth gives him a blow-job. In the other, the tenth sends a knee to his groin. In which of these situations will we see what long-term behaviors? What self-perception and perception of own behavior? Humans are not rats in a lab—but some aspects can be quite similar. (More generally, much of intersex interactions is driven by past experiences. Consider e.g. a rich and famous athlete who is used to women wanting to be with him. He might, especially when not among the brightest, not interpret a negative reaction correctly. Or take the guy with the sleazy pick-up line that instantly turned a given woman off: Chances are that it does work with sufficiently many other women that it pays for him to keep using it…)

Excursion on presumption of innocence: A very disturbing secondary element of the recent waves of accusations is that people are being fired, outright fired, based merely on the accusations. This leads us to a very dangerous territory of deliberate false* accusations for reasons like personal gain or revenge: Jack and Jill compete for the same promotion—good-bye Jack, congratulations Jill. Jack is Jill’s boss and (rightfully) fires her for incompetence—goody-bye Jack, welcome back Jill. Jack voted for Trump and Jill is in tears over Hillary’s failure—good-bye Jack, chin-up Jill. Etc. It is of paramount importance that such drastic actions only be taken in clear-cut cases (e.g. after a confession or a conviction), and that, for interim measures, the interests of the accused are given due concern.

*While this is not a behavior that I would expect from the average woman, there are enough non-average women who would resort to such tactics. Common feminist claims like “a woman would never lie about rape” or “a woman would never lie about her children being abused” are demonstrably (and very…) false—and the lie is often calculated, e.g. to avoid a revelation of infidelity or to gain the upper hand in a divorce. Some previous discussion and links to other sources are present on [1], [2].


Written by michaeleriksson

November 23, 2017 at 5:53 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] Recently, I wrote about the negative phenomenon of people not standing up when it matters and when there is some personal risk involved, only to jump on the band-wagon when everyone else is already on-board—when one more protester does not matter and when a combination of safety “through being the main stream” and safety in numbers makes the danger negligible. […]

  2. […] have repeatedly written about both the “me too” phenomenon (cf. [1], [2]) and the low-quality and/or feminist dominated reporting by SVT teletext (cf. e.g. […]

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