MeToo is a prime example of feminism winning through intimidation. The movement neglects a long list of big, blatant, relevant facts. Yet almost no one publicly decries these omissions - or publicly declares that feminists have low credibility. Why not? Because they’re scared. They’re scared of how feminists typically react to criticism of MeToo. They’re scared of how feminists might react to criticism. Above all, critics fear that if they speak out, they might get MeToo’d next.
What are the big, blatant, relevant facts I have in mind? While I confess that I’m a little scared of feminists myself, I’m not too scared to share my top ten.
Accusations are not the same as guilt. The media and activists standardly equivocate between “X is accused of bad behavior” and “X is guilty of bad behavior.” And they usually focus on the lurid details of the accusation rather than the credibility of the accuser.
False accusations are roughly proportional to fame. If five unrelated individuals accuse a complete nobody of bad behavior, that’s revealing. You have to ask yourself: “What are the odds that five crazies just happened to target one obscure dude?” The more famous you are, however, the more people know you’re alive. By definition! So even if false accusations are 1-in-100,000 events, we should expect five false accusations against every innocent person known by 500,000 people.
Success motivates false accusations. Fame aside, successful people are natural targets for false accusations. If the accused is a failure or even a mediocrity, “Why would they make this up?” is a fair question. If the accused is a star, however, accusers have abundant credible motives to lie. Financial gain. Jealousy. Currying favor with the enemies of the accused. And of course, revenge.
Misunderstandings vastly outnumber false accusations. “Not lying” ≠ “Correct.” Human interactions are riddled with misunderstandings. Person X often sincerely feels like Person Y treated them terribly, even though Person Y sincerely feels like they did nothing wrong. Yes, one person’s hug or joke or smile is another person’s “sexual harassment.”
Some people are hypersensitive. While misunderstandings are ubiquitous, they are not random. Some people give others the benefit of the doubt. Others habitually interpret other people’s behavior as malevolent.
Siding with hypersensitive people is unfair. Seriously, why should life revolve around the world’s most easily-offended people?
Women are more likely than men to be hypersensitive. On Myers-Briggs personality tests, women (70/30) are much more likely than men (40/60) to be Feeling rather than Thinking. On Five Factor personality tests, women score about .4 SDs higher in Neuroticism (or .4 SDs lower in Emotional Stability). Furthermore, since people partly measure their personality relative to what’s typical for their gender (When a man says “I’m emotional,” he often means, “I’m emotional for a man”), these self-reported personality gender gaps understate true personality gender gaps. Since personality follows a bell curve, we should expect women to heavily outnumber men at the extreme end of the sensitivity spectrum.
Siding with hypersensitive people causes loneliness and isolation. Once society starts siding with the hypersensitive, people revise their behavior. They don’t merely shun the hypersensitive. They shun anyone likely to be hypersensitive. If things get bad enough, they shun by default: I won’t interact with you until you convince me that you’re not hypersensitive. Besides crushing friendship and love, this also hurts careers. Yes, MeToo really did sharply reduce both mentoring and co-authoring.
Sympathy is a better predictor of complaining than grievance. The most-oppressed people in the world generally keep their mouths shut, because they know almost no one cares about their suffering. The most-entitled people in the world complain a lot, because they know listeners will take their complaints seriously. If innocent men are living in fear of MeToo, why don’t they publicly complain? Probably because they correctly expect little sympathy.
Humans have a pro-female bias. Specifically, both men and women care more about female well-being, and especially female suffering. You can see this in the classic “women and children first” maxim in emergencies. You can see this in the casual enslavement (“conscription”) of men during major wars. And you can see this in the equation of female accusations with male guilt - and the studious neglect of misunderstandings. Upshot: Humans are prone to inflict severe harm on men to remedy even trivial harm on women.
Do MeToo activists actually deny these ten truths? Rarely explicitly. They just speak, write, and punish in willful disregard of these big, blatant, relevant facts. And sow fear to discourage anyone else from pointing out their omissions.
What’s the alternative? Common sense and common decency. If we have strong evidence that anyone is guilty of horribly mistreating anyone, punish the accused harshly. If the evidence is weak but the accusations are horrible, say, “Sorry, we won’t take action without much stronger evidence.” If the accusations are mild, say “You’re adults; this doesn’t really concern the rest of us” regardless of the strength of the evidence. And if there’s strong evidence that the accusations themselves are false, we should remember to punish the accuser harshly.
But wait, there’s one last thing.
If an activist makes a habit of ignoring my ten truisms, they’re aren’t just error-prone. They’re accusing others negligently. So while some of the accused may ultimately turn out to be guilty of serious wrong-doing, we know that accusers who ignore my truisms are guilty of serious wrong-doing already.
Reading this piece, I think of the Kavanaugh hearings where Blasey-Ford accused a powerful man of a crime with no evidence, faulty recollection, and no corroboration other than her emotional telling of an event that may or may not have happened decades ago. Ugly as it was to watch, it was likely a good event in that the weaponized accusation failed, as it should have, and that the 'believe all women' mantra was seen as a tool for partisan gain and no longer a pure cry for justice.
"So even if false accusations are 1-in-100,000 events, we should expect five false accusations against every innocent person known by 500,000 people."
Empirically, do we see this? I am not sure how to measure "known by 500,000 people." Does this mean that those 500,000 people just know your name? Follow news about you? Have met you in person?
Off the top of my head, I would guess that most moderately-famous people don't have five accusations against them, although it could be that there are accusations I don't know about. Weaker accusations may well not have gotten far in the news in the pre-MeToo era.
If we don't see the five false accusations against such people, it could be that false accusations are rarer than hypothesized. Or it could be that false accusations are proportional to other metrics more than "fame" and "success" broadly defined.