Scandals pepper our history.  Those in public life daily run a gauntlet of falsely conceived accusations of impropriety, as well as some genuine ones.   The media, or hitherto the gutter press, has feasted eagerly on the carcasses of the luckless and the guilty, while those most adroit in the art of escapology survive.

Bad news, people.  We are all ‘The Media’ now.  Escapology is a science of the past.

A couple of centuries ago, the old lady who made the blacksmith ill by concocting the wrong herbal remedy would once have been able to start afresh in another village;  now she faces a lynch mob of millions.

There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.  The internet has given the vultures wings, and no crevasse, no shield of politics or faith can hide you from the rip and tear of their beaks.

Lynch mob?   Witch hunters?  Whatever soubriquet you give to those who get ghoulish pleasure from seeing their quarry squirm, they are very much among us.  And the severity of the crime or the reliability of the evidence is of no concern to them, when it is set against the warped satisfaction of bringing their victim to ruin, without ever really questioning either the morality or the dire consequences of what they do.

I think the trouble started when it was deemed appropriate to include certain offences under the law that do not need corroboration.  I am not saying this is wrong, although it is a very difficult area and one which should be applied with extreme care.  The problem, though, is compounded by the inadequacy of the law in dealing with libel, still less with slander.  Accusations that fall within that category, the more lurid the better, can be offered up to the hanging jury of Facebook without fear of redress.  Are you a journalist in search of your Big Story? Have you an old score to settle?  Do you personally dislike someone in the public eye, or are you simply hoping to make some money?  Then start a rumour, begin the daisy chain of innuendo that will bring the object of your jealousy down.

I have always been uneasy with this situation because there is no proportionality.  By aligning a minor transgression, a naïve or foolish misunderstanding with a real crime, some angry or lascivious act which inspires real fear or creates a scar, we demean those who are true victims – even discourage them from coming forward, because genuine people are naturally shy of administering such blatant excoriation.  It is an erosion of free speech, and it is a breakdown in the rule of law.

This week a senior politician resigned from his position as Minister of Defence because he had to admit to patting a journalist’s knee ten years ago.  To the tuneless thunder of other journalists’ feet as they jumped on the bandwagon, allusions to ‘other offences’ have been made, though lacking proof.  Notwithstanding my personal view that any accusation made by a journalist should be discounted, or at least subjected to very close examination, there can be no doubt the man has shown fallibility.  He has been, at the least, clumsy.  But where once there might have been an acceptance that the ‘rules’ have changed in the last decade or so, an apology made and admonition given (even the journalist herself commented that she did not feel threatened and she thought the resignation ‘absurd’), that will no longer satisfy the ravening horde.  Now it must be ostracism and ruin for a very talented man in fields where sexual ineptitude are irrelevant, and who might have had much to contribute.   And now, of course, the pack is loose.

Any politician in the UK Parliament now has to walk in fear, lest a friendly pat or a playful remark made a generation since is brought from its closet and shaken out in the light of this burgeoning set of new ‘rules’ which the feminist movement is writing down as fast as it can think them up.  Many are being accused who haven’t transgressed but that doesn’t matter.  This thinly clothed hatred of the male sex is glaring out from under every stone and it does not care who it hurts, or how.  Our political balance is at a very crucial point.   When this kind of hysteria infects the slow-witted and the fast-persuaded it can have consequences that are extreme.

Meanwhile, the BBC played host on national television this week to a senior female politician from Her Majesty’s Opposition – a party aggressively seeking power – who told a very insensitive anti-Semitic joke.

I have always admired the Jewish community’s sense of humour, especially when they happily direct jokes against themselves; but I do not think any Jewish person I have known would have enjoyed this particular example (and no, I won’t repeat it, although ‘Harriet Harman’ on YouTube will produce what you need, if you must witness it).  Yet there has been no further coverage of the incident on the BBC or, as far as I know, any other channel, despite concerns over the growth of anti-Semitism on the ‘Left’ of Ms. Harman’s political party.  Ample grounds, certainly, to fuel another witch hunt if you have the taste for it – strangely though, no-one has.

So, where are we?   Has the state of the world so altered that a few injudicious sexist remarks or examples of the latest regime of ‘inappropriate touching’ can bring down a government, altering the future for us all, and promoting to power a zealous party of neo-Marxists with an unhealthy hotbed of racism seething beneath?  Is that really where we are?

Look, there are genuine cases – of course there are.  I have been lied about – we all of us experience that from time to time.  I have also been assaulted, compromised, victimised, and so on.  But I am not scarred, not by any of these things.  My scars have more to do with the viciousness of the mob, and its constant attacks on my freedom.  I was once proud of my nation.  Now?  I’m not so sure.

I am beginning to wonder; if I were young and unattached again, how would I set about forging a relationship with the opposite sex?

The answer is, I think, only in the presence of witnesses.

19 Comments

  1. I have mixed feelings about your post because I know that many women were silenced for years by powerful men with money (like our sitting President) and suffered abuse and humiliation when these men assaulted them or put them in situations where they felt cornered and afraid.

    On the other hand, I think that there are also legitimate misunderstandings between people about desires and intentions, but grabbing someone’s body parts or pushing them beyond where they want to go is never excusable. Drawing these lines is very difficult. But there is an easy if not very romantic way of avoiding problems in ambiguous situations, and it doesn’t require witnesses. It’s called talking. Ask the person if they want to be touched, kissed, etc., rather than trying to read body language and perhaps finding yourself doing something that was not invited or wanted at all.

    I have not heard about the anti-Semitic comedian. Is there a link you can post?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Harriet Harman is not a comedian, but a leading member of the Labour Party. I hope this link will work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBJF6BTBHDA

      Amy, of course, I agree manhandling is unpleasant, and victimising women is not an acceptable use of power. But…and it is a very big ‘but’ …there will always be those who use their ‘advantages’ to succeed – after all, in the society we have created everything is about winning. There will be women equally capable of the misuse of power, something of which I have a great deal of personal experience. If we are to attach some kind of virtue to trial by media we have to acknowledge an inconvenient fact: people lie. Is it really acceptable that someone’s whole career can be destroyed by one uncorroborated statement? Without need for at least some substantiation, some proof? Yet that is what is happening, again and again.

      So when we offer talking as a solution, is not that exactly what the media is supposed to do? It does not appear to me to be working. I am becoming extremely mistrustful, because I earnestly believe we are entering a valley in which no male who moves in society is safe. Witnesses? Certainly. Otherwise I might stand accused in a couple of decades, of some offence which needs not be proven.

      Like

      1. I agree with you that the media and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) in particular have the capacity for abuse—spreading false information, bullying, libel—although also the capacity for great good—spreading accurate information and helping people connect with each other. Reading lots of old newspapers as I do, I can tell you that the media has long been inaccurate, sensationalist, and greedy for sales over truth. Today it just happens faster and spreads further.

        I wonder why you single out males as the ones at risk here. Women have always been and continue to be the victims of media distortions—called sluts, having their appearances and character attacked, being called liars when they tell the truth. I believe that there are far more women telling the truth about being assaulted by men than there are men falsely accused, yet you single out males as the ones who are the targets of media distortions.

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        1. Perhaps I’m not explaining myself very well. I don’t single males out, any more than I claim (see my original post) that media distortion is anything new. There is, however, a case to be made which might justify the hashtag ‘Me Too’, and add the suffix ‘And I Didn’t Get the Part’. I do see males as almost invariably the losers in these encounters, an upsetting number of which (for all the many genuine cases) are malicious. I have some experience in this area – not, in case you are thinking, having been the subject of any accusation myself.

          My argument, which I will repeat, concerns a need for balance – an acceptance that all women are not angels and all me are not devils. If we want to do something useful for the less self-assured members of our next generation, we might dismantle the weird code of sexual ‘signals’ which, at least from my side, require psychic powers to decipher.

          Like

          1. Ah, and I see the women as the losers in almost all of these encounters. And so that’s where we differ! But that’s understandable—we view the world through our own prisms and experiences. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  2. This post highlights the dangers of a pendulum of opinion swinging way to the opposite side of a situation, where all reason is lost. It strikes me that it is manipulation by fear, but who is pulling the strings and how much are we all allowing our strings to be pulled? Xx

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I am not surprised you chaps are confused Frederick. I went with my boyfriend’s family to a girl group concert last week….what I saw there made me so uncomfortable I am going to write about it. Also, I am coming right off all social media. I am not buying into this a second longer. We can talk and converse in an old fashioned way and have reasoned debates without being maniulated thank you very much. Blogging makes genune connections, so I feel balanced in this arena. I value the connection I have with you. Hugs Xx

        Liked by 1 person

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