Sexual Harassment: Welcome to Today's Salem, circa 1692

Back in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, 19 people were hanged, one pressed to death, and four died in prison accused of witchcraft.  Numerous theories have been posited over the years for this action ranging from moldy rye bread to hallucinogenics to mass hysteria.  The mass hysteria theory probably holds the greatest weight.  Over 200 people stood accused so I guess we can count our lucky stars that only 24 people died as a result of the accusations.

It all started when two youngsters, age 9 and 11, exhibited behaviors that were interpreted as being of a supernatural origin.  Although they knew nothing of human psychology at the time, the phenomena took on a life of its own.  Those on the fringes of society as well as some others were caught up in the mass hysteria of accusations which were adjudicated before sham courts.

I am afraid we are seeing this happening again in 2017 with the recent spate of sexual harassment charges being thrown around.  Lest we forget, we do not live in 1692 Salem, but in the United States of America that happens to have a Bill of Rights.  Today, this writer finds it absolutely astounding that so many so-called conservatives, or so many so-called admirers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights would be so apt to rush to judgment against people accused of certain actions that may have occurred many decades ago.

It may be true that in certain cases, the circumstantial evidence against the accused is pretty good.  But, as we have seen in cases of mass hysteria, it takes one to start the ball rolling.  In 1692, it took two prepubescent girls to do it.  And there is no closing the floodgates once the accusations start.

We can look at each case and judge it for what it is worth.  Was Bill O’Reilly guilty?  Out-of-court settlements that do not assign blame or accept culpability seem to indicate a certain level of truth in the accusations, although we will never know “the truth.”  Hiring investigators to impugn the integrity of accusers, as in the Weinstein instance, also indicates some level of truth to the accusations.  Then, of course, there are the instances of admission of guilt such as those from the comedian Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey.  Since the Weinstein allegations, the New York Times lists 21 people in the entertainment industry accused of sexual harassment.  Eight have admitted the accusations were accurate.  All have suffered through voluntary resignation or firing.

Recently on these pages, there has been a lot of commentary about Alabama Senatorial candidate Roy Moore and an alleged incident three decades ago.  This writer has heard and read all the comments about dating protocol in 1970-1980’s Alabama.  It means little.  By the same token, neither is it pedophilia as some have portrayed it.  It is a little creepy by most standards, but creepy is not a crime in America.  Regardless, the charges are made by a single woman with a shady past (leaving aside her alleged political affiliations or motivations).  To this writer, the timing of the revelations and the background surrounding them leaves a wisp of suspicion regarding her motives, or those of Moore’s detractors.

Instead, many have tried and convicted Moore absent any proof.  The fact that some ex-boyfriend of the accuser told him of this allegation is hardly proof.  The point is that many self-proclaimed constitutional conservatives have somehow magically and conveniently forgotten about the Fourth and Fifth Amendments which underlie a basic premise in our system of law- a person is considered innocent until proven guilty.  I would even posit that Harvey Weinstein should be afforded the same cover of our Bill of Rights as much as one personally wants to see some Democratic mega-donor taken down.

The constant stream of accusations also has another effect of basically causing fatigue.  One needs only one of these accusations to be proven a sham to convince others that the more likely true ones are likewise shams.  Does this so any service to those who were truly the victims of sexual harassment?

While everyone rushes to judgment and tips the scales of justice in favor of the accuser, it makes one no better than those who perpetuate a belief that a campus rape culture exists.  Or that the Duke lacrosse team was a collection of testosterone-driven rapists.  Or that Lena Dunham was raped by a Republican conservative while at Oberlin.  Or any other of the later examples thus disproved.    The rush to judgment makes those actual cases of true sexual harassment less believable once they are made.

It appears that although everyone is due their day in court, in the court of public opinion once accused, you are guilty…no questions asked.  To add insult to injury, we now accept the innocent off-color joke or misplaced hand to be a crime worthy of termination and pariah status.  In a managerial position, I cannot number the times I put my hand on the shoulder or back of a female employee when counseling them for something, nor the number of times someone put their hand on my back or shoulder.  Today, that is considered an unwanted sexual advance to some.

This is not to underestimate or minimize the degree of sexual harassment that exists in the workplace with females overwhelmingly the victim.  But just as the feminist Left has attempted to stretch the definition of sexual assault, the definition of sexual harassment has likewise been stretched.

Finally, one can expect there to be more revelations because we are living in a period of mass sexual harassment hysteria.  No one is going to die as in 1692-93 Salem, Massachusetts, but when the hysteria breaks we will be left with a string of potentially innocent people ruined for life.  Once the media frenzy dies down and the rush to judgment of guilt abates, I doubt those who profess a love for our Constitution and the Bill of Rights will feel any remorse for the reputations left in their wake just as those who sentenced 24 people to their deaths in Salem in 1692 lacked any remorse.

After all, in today’s world, the ends justifies the means.  And isn’t that what we supposed conservatives accuse the Left of all time?  Does that make us better than them, or on the same level?

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