Back in 2017, when the Me Too movement broke on the heels of the widespread accusations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein, I wasn’t particularly surprised. Hollywood full of sexual predators? Color me shocked. The next thing you’re going to tell me is that Wall Street is full of crooks and the Catholic Church full of child molesters. When Weinstein was indicted the following March for rape and sexual assault, I raised one of my eyebrows. We live in a culture where powerful men, even serial rapists like Weinstein, rarely if ever pay much of a price for their crimes. Court settlements and gag orders basically allow the wealthy to buy the right to commit rape or sexual assault. This February, when Weinstein was found guilty and handed what was in effect a life sentence, however, I was flabbergasted. I assumed he would simply plea out to a lesser charge, get a slap on the wrist, and perhaps have to fork over some more money.
The Me Too movement, along with the Black Lives Matter, rose up in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the murder of Trayvon Martin by a self-appointed vigilante and the murder of Michael Brown by a police officer. By the mid-2010 is became clear the the criminal justice system in the United States was broken. While the courts would impose draconian sentences on working-class, minority youth for drug possession, or threaten Aaron Swartz with decades of jail time for what basically amounted to an ill-thought-out protest against the price of academic journals, it essentially gave police officers the license to kill. No District Attorney would mount an effective case against local police officers, with whom he, or she, worked closely on a regular basis. Black Lives Matter took advantage of the widespread availability of good quality video cameras and high-end cellphones to document just how widespread police brutality against minority youth really was. The Me Too Movement, in turn, set up what was essentially a court of public opinion to shame rich and powerful sexual abusers in a way their victims, who were usually bound by court settlements and gag orders, couldn’t, and in a way the criminal justice system wouldn’t.
Me Too was a necessary corrective to a bought and paid for criminal justice system that refused to punish the rich and powerful. Soon, however, it became infected with an extremist ideology that refused to make any distinction between an Al Franken and a Harvey Weinstein, a Louis CK and a Bill Cosby, a “shitty media man” who might have sent a few creepy personal messages to a strange woman online, and a Roger Ailes. Not only did some women deliberately conflate wealthy and powerful serial rapists with the male gender as a whole — there’s nothing worse in radical feminist circles than to state the obvious that “not all men” are rapists and sexual abusers — many radical feminists seemed to focus on trivial social offenses at the expense of serious crime. There was almost a kind of feminist version of “broken windows policing,” the now discredited idea that if you arrested fare beaters in the subways and handed out sentences for public drunkenness the more serious crimes would take care of themselves. Catcalling, acting like a jerk after having had one too many drinks, making off color jokes, inappropriate behavior online indicated that sexual abuse was universal in a way that the Harvey Weinstein rape mill didn’t. Most men can’t afford court settlements and gag orders. Almost any man can afford to shout out “smile” at an uninterested woman in the subway.
Of course, as a man, I’m not really in a position to judge how common rape and sexual assault. are. I don’t get cat called. Nobody tries to slip knockout drugs into my drink at bars I never go to anyway. I can walk pretty much anywhere I want, anytime I want without having to be worried about getting assaulted by someone bigger and stronger than I am. What’s more, it became obvious reading personal testimony on social media by woman who didn’t strike me as particularly radical that the problem of sexual assault was far more common than I had realized. Every woman seemed to have a story, not of some bad experience with a drunken 19-year-old in college who couldn’t hold his liquor and who hadn’t yet learned how to socialize with the opposite sex, but of being propositioned by men in their 30s and 40s when they were children. I started to believe that women who hadn’t been sexually harassed were a tiny minority, that almost every teenage girl at some point in her life had some creepy 40-year-old uncle trying to corner her in the closet at the family reunion, that every recent college graduate got propositioned by her boss at her first job or internship.
Then along came Joe Biden and Tara Reade. Reade, who worked as a low-level-staffer for the then Delaware Senator Biden has gone public with an accusation that back in 1993 the current Democratic nominee shoved his hands up her skirt and penetrated her vagina with his fingers. I have no idea whether or not it’s true. I probably never will. In spite of the Me Too movement, rich and powerful men still rarely if ever pay any penalty for sexual assault. Donald Trump has had multiple rape accusations leveled against him and it hasn’t hurt his popularity, even among Republican women. Brett Kavenaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by a former schoolmate, sits on the Supreme Court. To this day, no major figure on Wall Street, as far as I know, has been publicly shamed for inappropriate sexual behavior. With the notable exception of Al Franken, who could have easily fought the accusations against him if he had wanted to, the fallout from the Me Too movement seems to have been limited to powerful men in the media and entertainment industry. They obviously have better lawyers at Goldman Sachs than they do in Hollywood. Nevertheless, in spite of how I probably won’t ever really know the truth about Joe Biden and Tara Reade, the tawdry little event that allegedly took place back in 1993 seems believably commonplace. A powerful man assaulting an employee? Haven’t feminists been telling me for years that it happens all the time?
Tara Reade, 56, worked as a staff assistant to Mr Biden from 1992-93 when he was a senator for the US state of Delaware.
In recent interviews, she has said that in 1993 her former boss forced her against a wall and put his hands under her shirt and skirt after she delivered him his gym bag.
“There was no exchange, really, he just had me up against the wall,” she said to podcast host Katie Halper in March 2020.
“I remember it happened all at once… his hands were on me and underneath my clothes.” He then penetrated her with his fingers, she said.
“I remember him saying, first, as he was doing it ‘Do you want to go somewhere else?’ and then him saying to me, when I pulled away… he said ‘Come on man, I heard you liked me,'” she said.
How is it then that the same radical feminists who have been trying to convince me for years that men who don’t commit sexual assault are far more common than men who do commit sexual assault so reluctant to believe that Biden, who not only has a long history of inappropriate behavior towards women, but stood in the way of credible testimony of detailing similarly inappropirate behavior by Clarence Thomas, is not only innocent of Tara Reade’s accusations but is being set up by Vladimir Putin and the Russians? Michelle Goldberg at the New York Times, for example, argues that “Reade seems almost engineered in a lab to inspire skepticism in mainstream Democrats, both because her story keeps changing and because of her bizarre worship of President Vladimir Putin of Russia.” Amanda Marcotte at Salon, in turn, suggests that Reade has been duped by the ever disreputable Oliver Stone into thinking too much of those wily Slavic untermenschen.
When asked about it, Reade told Salon she had been writing a novel about Russia at the time and “the blogs read political because I was kind of in that immersion of doing Russian stuff for this novel.” She also told Salon that she had been influenced by Oliver Stone’s pro-Putin documentary and a Russian friend who praised Putin.
After doing “more research,” she told Salon she now feels differently about Putin, although if that’s true her change of heart seems to be quite recent. In February 2020, Reade scolded actor and major Sanders supporter John Cusack “not to repeat xenophobic propaganda against Russia” and lamented that “Putin in 2006 was Hollywood A listers darling now he is the evil master mind.”
(Note: Back when I had a Twitter account Cusack blocked me for being too pro-Russian but that’s another story. Nevertheless, if I ever get mugged, please let it be known that I hate the Russians as much as any good American. In fact, as a Lithuanian American, it’s in my DNA to hate Russians. Bad Russians. Bad Russians. Send the Germans back in. Resurrect Zombie Napoleon. Nuke the bastards. USA USA USA. )
My gut feeling is that Michelle Goldberg and Amanda Marcotte probably think Joe Biden is guilty. I doubt either of them is dumb enough to believe Putin put Tara Reade up to it. They’ve simply decided that beating Trump is so important that one little sexual assault 25 years ago is the lesser of two evils. Indeed, we saw a similar dynamic back during the Monica Lewinsky affair, when so many feminists chose to defend Bill Clinton against the Christian right, even though his actions towards his 23 year old intern were clearly predatory, if not necessarily illegal. What’s more, it seems to be the sad case that American women have not only accepted the idea that most men are toxic, but that there’s little use in hoping that things could get any better. All men are sexual predators, but men also have most of the money and the social status. Men, like capitalism, are going to be in power forever. So you condemn some and you protect others. Trump should go to jail, just like Harvey Weinstein. That mangy looking guy who spread his legs next to you in the subway needs to be shamed. Louis CK should never been allowed to perform again. But Bill Clinton and Joe Biden are so important to the feminist cause that you have to look the other way when they get caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. In other words, the Me Too movement, which has brought genuine sexual predators to justice, has temporarily been canceled.