It seems then that the average heterosexual British man, be he a journalist or not, is in considerable peril.
Giles Coren and Brendan O’Neill have observed the Kriss and Myers cases and decided they constitute a threat. Coren worries that “Ping out a couple of unwanted crosses into the ether and the world could fall on my head.” O’Neil is concerned that “in Britain a journalist can now have his career destroyed on the basis of one accusation.”
I’m anxious that I’m taking Coren a bit too literally. However, he has tweeted in praise of O’Neill’s piece so I’m assuming they’re in broad agreement. He’s certainly been clear that the Myers case is a problem:
Neither Myers nor Kriss is Fred West. They’re not even Harvey Weinstein. But are they just poor saps who made mistakes that any old poor sap could make?
Coren writes of what happens when a man grows older and his sexual interest is that much less welcome and how his behaviour must change to suit. Patter and flirtation coming from the fitter men, the younger Corens if you will, are apparently to be considered less creepy than that from the less fit. Are such men never to be with the women they fancy most? Must they simply retire from the fight and never even try lest they inflict upon a woman “a bad night out with a weirdo who doesn’t know how to court”? This is perhaps a concern.
But that’s not what happened here.
Those crosses at the end of an email. I use them too. Often to men but mainly to women. And like Coren I also worry that charm, friendly touches, the crosses, they’ll be gone. Verboten. What a loss to us if our interactions are forced to become so very clinical and regulated. But that’s not what happened here.
so in Britain in 2017 journalists can be hounded out of their profession by allegation alone.
Allegation? Allegation alone? When an innocent man can be dispossessed of his reputation and livelihood by nothing but allegation, especially the dreaded single allegation, why yes, O’Neill is not exaggerating when he compares this with denunciations to the Stasi. But guess what? That’s not what happened.
Here’s what happened.
Kriss wasn’t brought low merely from an allegation. Why? Because he confessed. Although O’Neill tries to write that confession off as some sort of worthless result of mob torture, Kriss’ words are quite clear:
Today an allegation of sexual harassment and aggression was made against me, and I want to address it here. My behaviour was absolutely unacceptable, beneath both me and especially the person involved, and there’s no excuse for it. I’ve apologised privately to her, and I’m apologising, publicly, now.
He was free to deny it and didn’t. Not everyone is as fearless in their writing as O’Neill and caving is certainly an option for many but Kriss is no wallflower keen to bend to the whims of critics. He admitted the charges, ergo, it was not just an allegation. To pretend otherwise is dishonest.
Myers was not just downed by an allegation either, there were lots of them. And he too apologised, to one of his accusers specifically and to the planet in general (now deleted). Sure, perhaps he made up the apology due to fear of the mob but if he did so a whole host of people he tried it on with are telling porkies.
But what’s wrong with trying it on? Like Kriss, Myers was accused of obnoxious behaviour while out with women. But that came later. First he was accused of bothering them by constantly messaging them, of being a creep, spamming them with unwelcome requests from a married man asking to hook up. That might not seem a big deal, it might fall into the category of the chap that “doesn’t know how to court” or the clumsy man sending unwanted crosses in emails. But this was not to the one woman the old romantic couldn’t help but love. Nor was it just your average guy looking to get some. The volume was an indicator of a problem.
It was a long-held open secret that if you were a young woman in media there was a great chance you were being constantly tapped up by Myers. His M.O. included the promise of advice, or guidance. The senior man looking out for the up and comer struggling for work. That’s not a misplaced and clumsy attempt to get some action. An unwelcome advance is one thing, untold numbers of them to untold numbers of women, that’s a compulsion. A grim one. Once this was exposed came the further claims, by more than one person, that if the bombardment of requests resulted in a date then more immediate creepiness was in store. Unwelcome physical lunges, refusals to leave taxis when asked. Is this akin to Coren and his crosses dilemma?
Coren writes :
And when one female accuser comes out, more come. Inevitable as the rain. Sometimes it is hundreds, as with Weinstein. And then without any cross-examination of the stories, the man is finished. No trials or second chances.
Coren further complains about the lack of ‘habeas corpus’. Others complain about ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and the ‘rule of law’. O’Neill fears a climate of accusations bringing people down means ‘we are veering towards uncivilization’. This isn’t law, this is the realm of manners, custom and morals. OJ Simpson was innocent after being judged not guilty. Were his endorsement deals cruelly snatched from him? Was his subsequent lack of acting work a travesty?
Prison, a record, a conviction. That’s for a jury in a court with a judge. The rest is for society. It’s trust and reputation. That is civilisation. You can complain about the burden of proof or the degree of punishment in relation to the offense but unless you’re saying we can only speak or act following a trial, perhaps we should keep the legal jibber jabber to a minimum.
And if people’s reputations are at stake and should be valued, what of the reputation of the woman who says she’s been contacted by many others saying X has done Y? That was the case this time and I trusted that woman’s reputation more than Rupert Myers’. Especially when her information matched things I’d heard about him for years. He can call bullshit on her if he chooses. Hell, he’s a barrister working in the paradise of libel but I don’t expect to see a case coming. O’Neill mocks ‘I believe her’ but mocking ‘I believe ALL OF THEM’ is somewhat more difficult.
That photo shows a man who drugged and raped women. Myers is not that man, not even close. But the principle so brilliantly expressed remains true: an allegation is just an allegation but a huge pile of allegations, over years, is something else altogether. Have we reason to believe that women are imagining the same creep en masse? “I saw John Proctor all up in my DMs.”
When a man is a wrong’n, not the sort to sign emails with a kiss but somebody you’d warn a friend about, they tend to have done it more than once.
Both of these men have lost work now. Both men had Twitter blue ticks and the name of the magazines that fired them in their bios. The appearance of being in a position of note is how Myers gets to act like there might be advice, a commission of work, an introduction at the other end of his messages rather than an undesired lunge. If GQ don’t want their reputation assisting the industrial pick-up techniques of one Rupert Myers then they don’t need anything more than multiple accusations and an apology to decide to cut ties with him. What should they require? A trip to the Old Bailey? When large numbers of women pipe up with the same complaint that’s when you have reasonable grounds to act. To believe. To judge. To condemn.
But does the reaction match the events? It certainly doesn’t match what we’re used to as so much of what used to pass as normal no longer does. Just like black people no longer have to expect racist jokes in the canteen, nor do women have to expect what Myers and Kriss have done. But were Myers and Kriss operating from ignorance like some poor guy a few decades out of date? No.
When the Myers case leaked to the surface it was due to somebody’s exasperation at his continued posting about the rights and wrongs of how women are treated and respected. His preening at his ‘successful evolution to 21st Century man’ was revealed as agonising sanctimony. The hypocrisy of a man being a creep at night and scoring endless woke points as an anti-creep through pious retweets by day became too much. And then when it broke, the more serious allegations popped up because women were willing to get it off their chest. Good. No doubt this is something else which the imperilled journalists of O’Neill and Coren can easily avoid by not being stupendously obnoxious hypocrites.
One misfired flirt and I could be out of a job, publicly shunned, end up in prison. The women are out there who could make it happen. The historic crimes, real or imagined, are waiting to tumble upon one wrong move.
This anxiety expressed by Coren might well be genuine. A lunge shouldn’t be conflated with rape. A single clumsy flirt shouldn’t end careers. But the examples of such a fate befalling a man are yet to be realised. This is not what happened here.
Yes, we must be on our guard. Single allegations, anonymous allegations, allegations credibly denied, these must be factors considered and the arrival of a mob shouldn’t lead straight to the appeasement of said mob. But that’s not what happened here.
These two articles smack of the man who laments ‘you just can’t say anything these days’. It could be fair in the right circumstances – things can go too far. But is it apposite as a reaction to, say, complaints of hurling racial abuse? Were the actions of Myers and Kriss just the equivalent of a misplaced phrase as Coren suggests?
If we want to see progress, and if women are right to expect to not be treated as they were by these individuals, and many others, what is meant to happen? How else will the system work? What are O’Neill and Coren hoping will happen in place of what just has.
I’ll continue putting little xx’s at the bottom of emails. And perhaps even smiling at a waitress. And if one day many women club together and accuse me of being a bully and a creep, misusing a position, of making unwanted sexual advances (plural), then I’ll know Coren and O’Neill were onto something and wish I had been on their side. But if that doesn’t happen, I’ll know the pair of them just beat the shit out of a ridiculous straw man.