Hard to look away from Twitter the past few days, because I’ve watched this happen with half a dozen different activist men in recent years and it’s always the same story. And so, not specifically about the situation at hand, but about every time this happens.
What I’ve learned is that the real test is what happens after the accused makes a statement. One that muddies the waters, takes partial responsibility, questions the stability of his victims, implies ulterior motives. One that exposes a flawed process, or sheds light on true-yet-unflattering internal politics that make things seem “complicated.”
He’s been reflecting carefully, you know. On his values. He was going through a tough time, before this. He is “dismayed” and “dishearted” and “troubled” and “ashamed” and “hurt.” If there is truth to these allegations, if that’s what the victims “believe happened” then he wants to make it right with them. His is a politics of ownership. He is an ally. He is kinky. He is sorry for your misunderstanding.
But he can’t face specific allegations because his lawyer advised him against it. There are no specific allegations to face because his accusers are anonymous. The victims never spoke to him directly: why is that? Why come forward now? There has been an ongoing campaign for some time, you know, to discredit him, to hurt him. That much is probably true. He accepts some wrongdoing. He is humble.
And if only he had been given a chance to clear this whole thing up, but people are so quick to judge. The court of public opinion that built his career turned on him. People don’t have all the facts, but he can’t share them either–the lawyer, remember? Is it progressive to cast people out of our communities like this?
The pitch of these statements is always the same. People will feel discomfort in their hearts but they will retreat anyway. It could be true. That is the point of the genre. He’s taking some space.
The people that matter will be spoken to, quietly. They will tell others how it’s “destroying him,” how he’s suffered enough. It’s “complicated,” but they’re not at liberty to discuss. He’ll be kept on payroll, somewhere.
A year will go by and eventually you’ll notice that he’s consulting again, albeit in a slightly different community. He’s got a new writing gig, he’s on a different conference circuit now. Less public, but still powerful, maybe even more untouchable than he was before. Because you’re not really sure, are you? You weren’t there. Let it go.