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  • Richard Farr

Warlocks and witch-hunts

The revelations about Harvey Weinstein, and the sexual predations and or boorishness of other powerful men, are shocking and disgusting. But not enough people have been shocked and disgusted by the self-righteous alacrity with which both accusers and others – most notably the employers of the accused, such as NPR, whose righteousness is pure self-interest – have thrown out of the window a principle that is and always has been central to our freedom under the rule of law: you are innocent until you are proven guilty. The history of “witchcraft” reminds us that women too are in desperate straits where that principle is held in contempt.

Claire Belinski’s The Warlock Hunt, in The American Interest, is the best written and best argued piece I’ve seen so far on our current moment of sexual/romantic angst and confusion:

Revolutions against real injustice have a tendency … to descend into paroxysms of vengeance that descend upon guilty and innocent alike. We’re getting too close. Hysteria is in the air. The over-broad definition of “sexual harassment” is a well-known warning sign. The over-broad language of the Law of Suspects portended the descent of the French Revolution into the Terror. This revolution risks going the way revolutions so often do, and the consequences will not just be awful for men. They will be awful for women. Harvey Weinstein must burn, we all agree. But there is a universe of difference between the charges against Weinstein and those that cost Michael Oreskes his career at NPR. It is hard to tell from the press accounts, but initial reports suggested he was fired because his accusers—both anonymous—say he kissed them. Twenty years ago. In another place of business. Since then, other reports have surfaced of what NPR calls “subtler transgressions.” They are subtle to the point of near-invisibility.

The whole piece is very much worth reading for its sane, balanced, peculiarly adult tone.

By way of addendum, I note that the hapless Democratic Party’s attempt to occupy something they mistakenly identify as the moral high ground – in contrast to the Grand Old Swampmonsters – will be every bit as successful politically as the decision to anoint Hillary Clinton without first listening to either anyone in the bottom two income quintiles or anyone under the age of 40. Looking squeaky-clean to upper middle-class liberals is yet one more distraction from the real work the party should be undertaking, which is to reinvent itself as what it once was, long ago – the champion of the least advantaged.

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