I thought pluralism and the diversity of ideas were good things. But maybe I’m on the wrong planet.
I’ve certainly had some experiences recently that suggest I’m on the wrong planet.
Since this is a sensitive subject, let’s set the ground rules:
- Harvey Weinstein and others who prey on women are pigs. They need to be pilloried.
- Those who don’t prey on women…don’t need to be pilloried.
Here are the “recent experiences” I’m talking about.
On January 10 Catherine Deneuve and a number of French women signed a letter saying, in effect, “the #MeToo Movement may have gone a bit too far.” She was immediately denounced with a scathing counter-statement by Caroline de Haas and movement leaders.
Ms. Deneuve’s point of view is an opinion, meaning it could be right or wrong. Anything wrong with that? Can her leavening point of view be fairly and reasonably added to the long-overdue discussion and debate?
I say yes, as I believe in the honest introduction of new thoughts and ideas to any discussion and debate. I believe in pluralism and the diversity of ideas. I think when new ideas are introduced, their merit or utility should be determined by their equation with the facts. If they don’t fit the facts, they should be thrown out; if they do, their merit should be acknowledged.
This is not the courtesy or respect that was afforded Ms. Deneuve. The condemnation of her was swift and vitriolic, without benefit of contemplation or reasoned review. No quality time was granted to even a brief chin-scratch over whether her point of view might, ultimately, land on the “fits with the facts” side.
Now she has been hounded into an awkward apology. This is the current state of things, rather like Ted Cruz saying “I apologize to any who may have taken my statement out of context.” You have to apologize now, for even advancing a potentially moderating point of view within a movement that everybody acknowledges is legitimate and desperately needed.
Was the apology actually warranted? Let’s listen to what Ms. Deneuve actually said:
"I actually signed the titled petition in the newspaper Le Monde, " We defend a freedom ... ", a petition that generated many reactions, requiring clarification.
"Yes, I like freedom. I do not like this characteristic of our time where everyone feels the right to judge, to arbitrate, to condemn. A time when simple denunciations on social networks generate punishment, resignation, and sometimes and often media lynching. An actor can be digitally erased from a movie, the director of a large New York institution may have to resign for hands to the buttocks put there thirty years without any other form of trial. I do not excuse anything. I do not decide on the guilt of these men because I am not qualified for. And few are.
“No, I do not like these pack effects, too common today. From where my reservations, from the month of October on this hashtag "Balance your pig".
"There are, I am not candid, many more men who are subject to these behaviors than women. But how is this hashtag not an invitation to denounce? Who can assure me that there will be no manipulation or low blow? That there will be no suicides of innocents? We must live together, without "pigs" or "sluts", and I have, I confess, found this text "We defend a freedom ..." vigorous, failing to find it perfectly right.
"Yes, I signed this petition, and yet it seems to me absolutely necessary today to emphasize my disagreement with the way some petitioners individually claim the right to spread in the media, distorting the very spirit of this text. Saying on a TV channel that you can enjoy during a rape is worse than spitting in the face of all those who have suffered this crime. Not only do these words suggest to those who have the habit of using force or using sexuality to destroy that it is not so serious, since in the end it happens that the victim enjoys. But when we sign a manifesto that engages other people, we stand, we avoid embarking on his own verbal incontinence. It is unworthy. And obviously nothing in the text claims that harassment is good.
"I have been an actress since I was 17 years old. I could of course say that I have witnessed situations more than delicate, or that I know from other actresses that filmmakers have cowardly abused their power. Simply, it's not for me to speak in the place of my sisters. What creates traumatic and untenable situations is always the power, the hierarchical position, or a form of influence. The trap closes when it becomes impossible to say not without risking one's job, or to suffer degrading humiliation and sarcasm. So I think the solution will come from educating our boys and girls. But possibly also protocols in companies, which induce that if there is harassment, prosecutions are immediately committed. I believe in justice.
"I finally signed this text for a reason that, in my view, is essential: the danger of cleanings in the arts. Will we burn Sade in Pleiades? Designate Leonardo da Vinci as a pedophile artist and erase his paintings? Unhook Gauguin from museums? Destroy Egon Schiele's drawings? Prohibit Phil Spector's records? This climate of censorship leaves me speechless and worried about the future of our societies.
"I was sometimes criticized for not being a feminist. Do I remember that I was one of the 343 sluts with Marguerite Duras and Françoise Sagan who signed the manifesto "I had an abortion" written by Simone de Beauvoir? Abortion was punishable by criminal prosecution and imprisonment at the time. That is why I would like to say to conservatives, racists and traditionalists of all kinds who have found it strategic to support me that I am not fooled. They will have neither my gratitude nor my friendship, on the contrary. I am a free woman and I will remain so. I greet fraternally all the victims of odious acts that may have felt aggrieved by this forum published in the World, it is to them and to them alone that I apologize.
Quite reasonable, actually. But nobody reads what anybody actually says these says. People wait for their preferred medium to “interpret” for them, which means the genuine, substantive information might be made into malformed or even false news.
So this is the planet I’m on, and this is how I must consume the news, as there’s no alternative planet. We have no idea what outcome might have occurred on an alternative planet where the leaders of the movement actually gave Ms. Deneuve’s original statement of January 10 balanced review, honest reflection, and sensible analysis – an opportunity to see if her opinion equated with the facts and reasonable observation. That’s just not going to happen.
What might have happened if such reasoned review had been given to:
- The few people at Rolling Stone who said, “These statements about the alleged University of Virginia rape don’t seem to be fitting the facts and perhaps should not be published until we can confirm them”?
- The few people at the Brooklyn data center in Hillary Clinton’s campaign who said, “The data show we need to shore up in Michigan and Wisconsin”?
- The few people at CNN who said, “These claims about Trump cavorting with prostitutes and pissing on a bed in Moscow can’t be confirmed by any sources after multiple efforts on our part, and perhaps should not be published until we can confirm them”?
So…is Ms. Deneuve’s original opinion worthy of reasoned review? Apparently not on this planet.
Many readers are remarkably balanced and savvy – certainly savvier than the media. I’m with them, not the media, who tend to be strident, disingenuous, and agenda-laden. Here’s what some readers had to say about the matter:
Samantha C • on Jan 14, 2018 3:34 pm
When an accusation from ANYONE is immediately treated as fact and one’s entire career is flushed down the toilet in an instant, it’s a level of fever and insanity not seen since McCarthy-ism. And the media is insanely irresponsible for pushing these claims out without full fact checking. Guilty until proven innocent. And even if proven innocent, all anyone will remember is the rumor. Careers still ruined.
Maisie • on Jan 14, 2018 3:56 pm
Deneuve presents a rational and sophisticated view. I did not take her comments as an approval of odious behaviour. Before having a knee-jerk reaction people should carefully consider the content of what was written. She and her fellow signatories provide a timely reminder about the witchhunter mentality and the need to proceed carefully. This does not detract from or diminish the courage of women like Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek and others for outing those who abused them.
Luke • on Jan 10, 2018 10:26 am
Catherine Deneuve is more of a woman than any of these other so-called women will ever be. And she’s right. But of course she has a different opinion about something in 2018 and so that means she must be destroyed by the pitchfork wielders on Twitter.
Why am I with the readers instead of the media? Well, let’s take a look at what the media have said about the president:
- [He has] made us the laughing stock of the whole world.
- A yahoo…a barbarian.
- An obscene ape.
- The deepest disgrace.
- A coward, an idiot, a gorilla.
- The European powers will despise us because we have no better material out of which to make a President.
- [He is] a more unconstitutional tyrant and a more odious dictator than there ever was before.
- He is no more capable of becoming a statesman than a braying ass can become a noble lion.
The president was Abraham Lincoln.
(The speakers are The Salem Advocate (Salem, Illinois), George Templeton Strong, The Richmond Examiner, The Brooklyn Eagle, George McClellan, New York World, William O. Stoddard, and The New York Tribune.)