Lena Dunham, queen of the Twitter “Listen and Believe” brigade, former “Girls” star, and self-declared feminist, initially defended her show’s male writer from a claim of rape. Murray Miller, who was also the executive producer on “Girls,” was accused of sexually assaulting actress Aurora Perrineau. This is fascinating, coming from someone who once tweeted, “Things women do lie about: what they ate for lunch. Things women don’t lie about: rape.”
Dunham came out with a lengthy, laborious apologia—which by her own standard would amount to defending rape. “While our first instinct is to listen to every woman’s story, our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year,” she said, adding that the issue is “misreported.”
“We believe,” Dunham added, “having worked closely with him for more than half a decade, that this is the case with Murray Miller.” Dunham believes—but not this woman, this time.
She backtracked of course, adding on to her list of apologies, as well as being dubbed a hipster racist, by her fellow stars, whatever that means. A Twitter bot now randomly generates apologies on behalf of Dunham.
Something curious is taking shape in the American political culture. As Kevin Williamson pointed out, a society obsessed with sex, where vacuous sloganeering propagated in the last couple of election cycles, is winding down under the weight of its own logical contradictions. And there’s more to come. Consider the case of another online feminist and academic, Kate Harding, who wrote an essay on why, particularly as a feminist, she supports Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) remaining in the Senate even after he apologized for his harassment caught, as it was, on film. The reason is as tribalistic and hyperpartisan as it could be, and it resembles the notorious 1998 apologia of Bill Clinton by Gloria Steinem. “Democrats are members of the only party positioned to pump the brakes on Republicans’ gleeful race toward Atwoodian dystopia,” she wrote. Hence, all is forgiven if the perps are on our side.
Liberals didn’t expect the kulturkampf on morality would backfire on them so spectacularly, but they should have. An industry, which even by its own standard of bacchanal libertinism, is infamously loose and amoral, and simultaneously insufferably preachy, was on the forefront of a moral crusade in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. Such a move could be anticipated, as the industry is also infamously liberal, but the line of attack they took turned out to be a miscalculation.
Suggesting that Trump’s personal moral failings somehow discredited the ideas on behalf of which he campaigned, they showed themselves to be an industry which glibly pointed fingers at Donald Trump while laughing simultaneously at Mike Pence, for his own strict moral standards. All this, while also claiming that they are prisoners in an exploitative society like The Handmaid’s Tale. Well, yes, the exploitation is there, but again, they project what exists within their own industry out onto the rest of the country. Meryl Streep’s pompous speech at the Golden Globe Awards last January seems spectacularly ironic in the wake of Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey.
This kulturkampf continued on into tech industry, another hub of liberal activism, where CEOs were forced to resign as the accusations started to spread like wildfire, forcing some companies to brainstorm on new guidelines on hiring women for work. In Britain, the worst hit in this “sexual assault crisis” are the liberal left. From Labour members of Parliament to socialist male feminist columnists, the nonstop allegations keep pouring in.
These are predictable outcomes. The kulturkampf was about to be a supreme irony, as the neo-puritanical fire started by the Left, is burning down the liberal rank and file in both the United States and the United Kingdom. The apologia appearing now is a rushed defense as the visible breach is near, now that sexual puritanism has turned the table. The revolution, yet again ladies and gents, is devouring her own children.
There were legal and clinical definitions of rape and assault. Those lines were blurred with the liberal adoption of identity politics over the last several decades, which gives preeminence to feelings over facts, and everything from workplace gossip, to winks, to serious abuse now falls under the flat descriptor “sexual harassment.” But in following this train of thought, as they’ve done, the Left has discovered itself on an unequal playing field—one which, frankly, they were too myopic to understand.
The result has been and will continue to be predictable as well. In the tech industries there are serious debates regarding hiring of women, or the advisability of closed door meetings. Some British MPs are planning to stop taking on female interns. Booze and socialization in workplaces or colleges are being cut. Some fellow academics, who, in a sort of unwritten Pence rule, are starting to avoid meeting students alone for feedback, unless with other people present in the vicinity. Self-preservation is a natural human instinct, and when the lines of harassment are blurred from the legal definitions to reflect highly subjective interpretations of winking and knee touching, this was frankly inevitable. Who wants to risk reputation, and a ticking timebomb of a lawsuit, anyway?
Although those on the Right will never be exempt from being called out on such charges, on average they do tend to be more socially and morally conservative and the outliers with a tenuous relationship between their words and deeds are likely to prove less numerous than the numbers of liberals who live up (or should we say, “live down”) to a loose understanding of morality and propriety. Cases like Roy Moore notwithstanding, average conservatives value family and chivalry, two social constructs that are under continuous assault by liberals. The damage potential of an all-out no quarters given, morality war was always more likely to be felt hard on the Left.
Some saw it coming. Feminist Rebecca Traister lamented in Slate about the risk of a backlash, now that the severity of the accusation of a sexual assault has been diluted beyond repair. Sorry—too late now. When the smoke clears in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, London and D.C., wouldn’t it be interesting to see men like Mike Pence or Jacob Rees-Mogg standing unscathed?