America, America – STOP

Stop. Stop Stop Failing US History.
For several years in the early 1950s, according your oral and written history, you were seduced by a demagogue US Senator named Joseph P. McCarthy, who had exaggerated his wartime record, gotten himself elected to the Senate, and then, in 1950, decided to start a campaign against Communists.
Every group in the USA except for one, that should have been acting as a check and balance on abuse of power, then proceeded to say and do next to nothing as McCarthy ran a full-bore persecution campaign using the House Un-American Activities Committee as his own personal kangaroo court forum,. The media swallowed his progressively more ludicrous statements like credulous nodding dogs. (Nothing much has changed). The Senate and the House of Representatives stood idly by. The President did not say anything of consequence (Eisenhower apparently disliked McCarthy and his methods, but, like many politicians of the era, preferred to say nothing of substance publicly).
McCarthy’s abusive power trip was finally ended in 1954 when he was called out by the US Army. Suddenly, nobody wanted to be associated with him, and he died a few years later, having seemingly drunk himself to death. But the damage that he caused to lives, careers and industries took a long time to heal.
Folks, we have McCarthyism unfolding right now, in the form of the backlash (long overdue, I will say) against endemic and pervasive inappropriate and abusive behavior by men in positions of power over women in workplace situations.
So far the main areas where the backlash is pervasive are the entertainment and media sectors, and politics. Bit let nobody be fooled. The level of bad treatment of women in corporations and government was been every bit as bad as those industry sectors. They wre merely shielded by a lower level of consistent public scrutiny.
This backlash has been a long time coming.
However, as those of us who have been on the plant know only too well, humans have a tendency to lurch from one non-optimal extreme to its polar opposite.
Along the way, we are watching the appearance of McCarthyism in front of our eyes. Unsourced or anonymous accusations are being made public against people. This is not good. We have a legal system based on due process for a damn good set of reasons. Mostly, this stems from the idea that maybe, just maybe, you don’t charge ahead and punish people without some verifiable, corroborated and substantive evidence.
What I am seeing unfolding right now is a rush to tar, feather and run men out of town on a rail. The level of vengeful enthusiasm is both salutary and frightening.
Now, I am a white male, so some people reading this will probably already be mouthing “who the **** does this misogynist enabler think he is, mansplaining to us about how to tolerate sexual misbehavior? ***k that”.
Sorry, you will be missing the point.
The point here is a simple one. If you want to run a society based on attempting to compensate overnight for decades of abuse of power by, in revenge, engaging in abuse of the power of publicity and the power of sanction, you are heading down a dangerous path. Vengeful behavior is what turns disagreement into demonization, persecution, skirmishes, fights and wars. This will not end well.
We are starting to head down a dangerous path, with media of all kinds feasting on any anonymous allegation or claim with cries of “See! I knew he was an asshole all along!”. This is not measured, sensible application of logic and careful analysis. This is mob-like behavior, the bayings of groups who seek revenge, not judgment.
Would you like to be put on trial by opinion poll?
Because that is what is happening now in the United States. We currently have all manner of people advising Senator Al Franken to resign because a majority of people asked about the allegations against him think he should resign. Ditto Roy Moore in Alabama.
That is not how politics works, folks Franken was elected by the electors of Minnesota. If those electors decide he is no longer fit to represent them, they can un-elect him. The electors in Alabama can also decide if they want to elect Roy Moore or not.
In the meantime, if the Senate wants to investigate Al Franken’s conduct they can do so. So can law enforcement. However, those latter activities will be based on due process, including the evaluation of evidence. That will require real people to provide evidence, and be prepared to testify in public. This may be difficult for them. However, that’s due process for you. It is not quick or simple.
Right now, the world of social media is full of people who are signing on to any number of cockamamie ideas and theories about just about everything. Many of these people seem to be quite happy to believe anything bad about people or groups based on little to no evidence. They are, individually and collectively, behaving like intellectually comatose credulous dimwits.
I have one question for those people: would they be OK if I showed up at their house and arrested them on suspicion of a felony based on evidence from anonymous sources that I am not going to reveal, and by the way, they are going to stay in jail because the internet social media discussion forums have already decided that they are guilty?
Yeah, I can see them not liking that process all of a sudden.
This is where we are and where we are headed. The destination is undefined, but it will not be a good place to be if we do not wise up and stop behaving like vengeful dimwits.


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