Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Sexual Inequality Party - Continued

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Former WalMart worker Gina Pitre at her home. Photo from New York Times.


by Frank Brenner

This comment was posted the other day on our website. It relates to the SEP’s position on #MeToo.

Have you read today's entry in this continuing saga of All Sex Scandals* Are Political Scandals? While an interesting history involving Charlie Chaplain, it swerves into delusion by the implicit comparison with Weinstein. It of course continues to ignore the fact that the vast majority of posters of #metoo-tagged experiences are in the working class. The success brought to Jessica Chastain by association, apparently, wipes out the millions of incidents exposed by working women (and some men) during this wave of communication.

I agree with the comment and wanted to add something about yet another obscene WSWS article on this subject matter, this time on Harvey Weinstein’s arrest in New York a couple of weeks ago. The article is obscene in the same way their article on the Cosby trial was - it has not a word of sympathy for Weinstein's alleged victims but it has a lot of sympathy for Weinstein.

Once again there is the harping on due process in a thoroughly bourgeois legalistic manner. Due process is indeed a democratic right, but so is consent, about which the WSWS has absolutely nothing to say. In none of these articles will you find any discussion, or even mention, of sexual abuse or misogyny.

Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. They quote - uncritically - Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman as follows: “Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood and to the extent that there is bad behavior in that industry, that is not what this is about… Bad behavior is not on trial in this case.” A couple of paragraphs later, the WSWS writer, David Walsh, reiterates Brafman’s point: “As Brafman indicated, the distinction between ‘bad’ behavior and criminal behavior is being ignored.”

How odd to hear a supposedly Marxist publication quote approvingly a highly paid fixer for the legal problems of the rich and famous like Brafman engaging in what’s known in public relations as spin. While it’s true that in the cascade of sexual misconduct accusations that have come out of #MeToo, there have been some where the line between what I’ve called being a prick and being a predator has gotten blurred, this is precisely NOT true in Weinstein’s case.

The charges for which he was indicted in New York are for rape. And in fact, 13 women have so far come forward to accuse Weinstein of rape, while more than 80 have accused him of sexual harassment. All these accusations may be false or unprovable in court (which, let it be noted, is not the same thing), but as accusations they go way beyond “bad” behavior, as do the various women’s accounts of their encounters with Weinstein. We are not dealing here with somebody who allegedly engaged in inappropriate touching or told some off-color jokes. Weinstein is in a whole other league.

But it’s the remark about the casting couch that’s even more noteworthy. “Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch …” This kind of cynical comment is what you’d expect from a well-heeled legal hack, but since when do Marxists buy into such cynicism? The casting couch is, and always has been, an abomination. For Marxists that matters hugely in how we understand a case like Weinstein’s. We don’t simply take this for granted. That’s what bourgeois ideology does: the casting couch is like the poor, it will ‘always be with us’. In falling over itself to defend an alleged sexual predator like Weinstein (or a convicted one like Cosby), the WSWS parrots this ideological garbage.

Of course, like any other accused Weinstein has a right to due process. But like Cosby he is able to afford the best legal counsel money can buy. We are not talking about some poor unknown who is being hauled before the courts and railroaded to jail - the real violations of due process that go on every day in American courts. We are talking about a member of the elite, a plutocrat, who has the resources to make sure he gets his day in court, and then some. That the trial will be a media circus is totally predictable, but that doesn’t necessarily preclude Weinstein getting what passes for a fair hearing in the bourgeois justice system. OJ anyone?

A far greater legal concern is the way in which women who bring sexual assault accusations to court are subjected to character assassination in order to undermine the credibility of their accounts, which is a major reason why (to cite RAINN, a leading anti-sexual violence organization), out of 1000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free. About this terrible and ongoing miscarriage of justice, the WSWS has nothing to say. But it does make a point of expressing its disapproval for Weinstein’s accusers: “If anything undermines sympathy for the women involved, it is their perpetual insistence on responding in the most vengeful and socially blinkered manner.” This pontificating betrays not a trace of empathy for what it must feel like to be sexually violated.

I’ll just mention another recurring trope in WSWS articles on #MeToo - guilt by association. Hillary Clinton and Kirsten Gillibrand are used for that purpose in this article. We might as well denounce the civil rights movement because LBJ passed the Civil Rights Act.

One point I want to underscore is made in the comment above: that the WSWS “continues to ignore the fact that the vast majority of posters of #metoo-tagged experiences are in the working class.”

As it happens, on the same day (May 23) the New York Times carried a lead story on Weinstein’s arrest, it also carried another story titled: “Low Paid Women Get Hollywood Money to File Harassment Suits”. It’s a story that anyone concerned with the rights of working class women would have been eager to cover. Here are the opening paragraphs:

“Gina Pitre had come to dread working at WalMart. A manager, she said, used to touch her inappropriately and make suggestive comments. Ms. Pitre, 56, who earned $11.50 an hour fulfilling online orders in D’Iberville, Miss., said she felt degraded and angry.

“Ms. Pitre saw a television news segment this winter about how female Hollywood stars and producers had started Time’s Up, a group to help women combat harassment. A related initiative, the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, connected Ms. Pitre with a lawyer and is helping fund her lawsuit against WalMart and one of its managers.

“Hollywood, it appears, is starting to make good on its promise to focus on women outside the limelight and broaden the #MeToo movement.”

So far 2700 women have contacted the fund with harassment complaints, many coming from the arts industry, federal government, education, health and (like Pitre) retail. The fund puts these women in touch with lawyers who might be willing to take their cases. It also provides them with $3000 to pay the initial lawyer’s fees, and as much as $100,000 if the case eventually goes to trial. It also put Pitre in contact with Our WalMart, a worker advocacy group, to develop a publicity campaign to broaden the impact of the court case. This led to an open letter to WalMart’s CEO which Pitre co-signed with film actress Susan Sarandon, calling for a revamp of the company’s harassment policy.

This story came out 3 days before the WSWS article on Weinstein’s arrest. They said nothing about it - and that is deliberate. They are willfully blind to sexual abuse, to the violation of the rights of millions of working class women. So blind in fact that they suppress information about the resistance some of these women are putting up as a result of #MeToo. But when it comes to the legal perils of a rich and powerful man, the WSWS is eager to speak out.

One final point I want to make: In the comments section of this and other WSWS articles on #MeToo a few critical voices have pushed back against the usual chorus of sycophants. Trying to make sense of how a supposedly revolutionary socialist party could take such a deplorable position, one commenter speculated that this was actually case of “conditioning” readers to become members of a cult, the idea being that if you’re willing to swallow something as outrageous as this, you’ll be ready to swallow anything. There are certainly cult-like features to the way the SEP operates, and it’s always a telling sign when a political formation encourages sycophancy. But one doesn’t have to resort to a conspiracy theory to figure out what’s going on here.

The SEP are sectarians, it’s a disease that’s taken hold in the very marrow of their politics. And the one thing sectarians hate (even more than having their sectarianism exposed) is any spontaneous upsurge of the masses. They react to it with instinctive hostility. #MeToo is such an upsurge. It has all kinds of problems, as spontaneous movements always do. And it takes place in the absence of any widespread radicalization of the working class, which is in a way the biggest problem.

But that’s the point about spontaneous movements - they don’t come into existence out of some planned political strategy, they emerge naturally, as it were. The pressure of the masses’ frustration at the oppression and indignity of their lives hasn’t been able, as yet, to find an outlet on class issues, so instead it breaks out in reaction to the pervasiveness of sexual abuse. To a sectarian that feels almost like an existential threat - hence the visceral hostility and fear of the WSWS rhetoric on this issue. It will be the same way when spontaneous movements of workers emerge.
References:

The WSWS article on Weinstein’s arrest: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/05/26/wein-m26.html

The NY Times article: “Low Paid Women Get Hollywood Money to File Harassment Suits”:






14 comments:

Reese Mittane said...

This article is completely ridiculous.

The #MeToo movement represents a "spontaneous movement of the working class?" A political campaign launched in the editorial offices of the New York Times which had its origins in the persecution of Julian Assange somehow represents something positive for workers or women in general for that matter? Of course, when an actual spontaneous movement of the working class emerges, such as rail strikes in France or teachers' strikes in West Virginia and Oklahoma, you have nothing to say about it.

Also, you are are once again placing a false dichotomy between consent and due process. This has extremely ominous, indeed, quite fascistic implications. You should think those through carefully. If not, at least your readers should. Essentially what you're arguing is that the reliance on a preponderance of evidence gives too much of an advantage to the accused and guilty verdicts should be obtained, if necessary, without it.

In fact, due process is a mechanism in which a determination of consent or lack thereof during sexual intercourse can be found during the course of a legal proceeding. You are essentially arguing that the courts are too clumsy and unwieldy to achieve the verdict you desire. The whipping up of a lynch mob atmosphere are better avenues for this apparently. This is about as far from Marxism as one can get. In fact, it's even quite far away even from bourgeois liberalism in its best years. I would imagine that after a reading of "To Kill a Mockingbird," you'd tell us that Atticus Finch's defense of Tom Robinson showed the limitations of due process of law and utterly ignored Mayella Ewell's "right to consent"

This kind of attitude is precisely why you shamelessly shed crocodile tears for the alleged victims in these case. The revolutionary party is not made of stone, obviously, and expresses sympathy for the plight of individuals but its primary concern is for the plight of the working class as a whole and the implications of the #MeToo movement for it. Ask yourself this, if men (and for that matter women as some high profile incidents involving California politicians now shows) can have their careers and reputations destroyed on the basis of a mere allegation regardless of the truth of it, what does that mean for the working class itself as it emerges more fully into political struggle?

As I said in a post on your last article, you've essentially allowed yourself to fall into a political trap set for you by the Democratic Party and the mainstream media. The emergence of mass opposition to Trump had to be channeled into a reactionary direction. Noone wants to see women abused by powerful men after all. What is this abuse though? Garrison Keiller inadvertently laying his hand on a woman's back? Aziz Ansari having a sexual encounter with a woman who soonafter revealed it to be consensual? A single inappropriate comment by Morgan Freeman which may have just been misinterpreted and taken out of context?

I suppose you'll say that these were all powerful capitalists who got what they deserved? At whose hands, the capitalist state itself?

More importantly, however, is that you have a wrong understanding of social class as defined by Marxism. Class is not determined solely by the size of one's bank account although that certainly will give one a good estimate, but has to do with one's relation to the means of production. The bourgeoisie rages ruthless war against the working class and other capitalists are caught up in the struggle not to mention elements of the pettit bourgeoisie and upper middle class. The working class must fight to defend the democratic rights of all classes affected by the violence of the capitalist state.

This odious apologia you're making for #MeToo should be rejected by all who have an interest in the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with socialism.



Anonymous said...

The WSWS has lost a lot of credibility over the years (as documented by Steiner and Brenner) but their stance on the Metoo phenomenon is perhaps the most shameful and hard to accept. The sheer quantity of articles and words written in denigration of the MeToo movement by the WSWS was what led me to stop frequenting their site nearly as often as I once did. Their passion for defending the "due process" of very wealthy capitalists against the mainly working class women they exploit sexually has me constantly shaking my head incredulously. And you are right about the sycophants who come to defense of the WSWS in the comment sections of their articles. Cult-like indeed.

Adam Cortright said...

I couldn't agree more with what Reese says above. This absurd campaign against the SEP seems lifted from the pages of something like Jezebel or Wonkette. Brenner may be a dull bulb, but surely he's not dumb enough to believe the WSWS doesn't have sympathy for rape victims, or that the task of the revolutionary party is to shed hot tears in every article written on a campaign pushed by the ruling class for nefarious reasons. Like Steiner, he is being entirely disingenuous and grossly opportunistic, simply because of his distaste for the SEP. The result is unprincipled and ugly.

I repeat my earlier question--Mr. Brenner, have you no sense of decency? At long last?

Adam Cortright

Stephany said...

Thank you again for being the voice of reason. I noticed the article on their website, but didn't bother to read it. Their positions on this matter have become predictably disappointing.

Kristina said...

"And it takes place in the absence of any widespread radicalization of the working class, which is in a way the biggest problem."

This is not only delusional, it's powerfully revealing .

When was the last 6 month span of time in the US that as many workers, and further women workers, were on strike? Teachers have been coming out in opposition to decades of bipartisan austerity, to say nothing of the youth protests against violence.

Thanks for making it clear who you're politically oriented to, and whose concerns really count.

C. said...

In regards to "due process", with which the WSWS seems to be very concerned. One has to look at headlines such as a recent on here in New Orleans regarding 10,000 untested rape kits and wonder where the articles on that are. I have done several searches, both at the site, and on Google, (keywords "rape", and "rape kits" with "wsws.org" as the other keyword) and have found nothing. I did find, when "rape" was the keyword, ample articles on the "witch hunt" of #metoo. That phrase, "witch hunt", turns up in at least a dozen articles on the site in the past year.

When will their attention be turned to the victims of rape, who do make an appeal to the "justice system" and are left out in the cold, at best? When will they ask the question of why literally millions of women -working class and poor predominately - have used the #metoo hashtag to tell about some pretty serious incidents of actual rape, rather than calling their local PD? Could it be because there is a centuries-long pattern of blaming rape victims, vilifying them in court (if they get that far), and disregarding the (often painfully) collected evidence f the crimes that *were* committed?

The WSWS has turned its eyes away from the experience of masses of working class people in favor of what's up at the high academic and Hollywood levels. While these things are important to see and analyze, a working class (supposedly) party should be paying some attention to what conditions under which people live.

Very rarely any more are there articles about the working class beyond strikes, or the run-up to strikes, and then the follow-up of how successful their "intervention" was - never mind that the "intervention" did nothing to prevent another concessions contract. There had been some excellent work done in years past (the series on conditions in Appalachia about a decade ago stands out), but this seems to have fallen away completely.

But Spacey et al are to be protected at all costs!


HighProfileHermit said...

How is this Adam Cortright still here, after he said he was done with this site forever? He just can't help himself in defending the purity cult of the WSWS.

Anonymous said...

I’m an immigration attorney and I’ve been following your debates with the WSWS. I am appalled that you have been calling the MeToo attack on due process “left wing” without any idea of the devastating repercussions this campaign is having on the most oppressed. My clients, for whom due process is already scarce or nonexistent, are under unprecedented threat by the Trump administration. Each new day brings news of some unspeakable crime committed against immigrants. Under these conditions, I have seen people deported, torn from their families based on “allegations” of sexual assault or harassment.

One case I currently have involves a man who was falsely accused of rape. His future (and those of his wife and children) are far less secure today because of the MeToo hysteria, which you are helping seep into courtrooms across the country. Your position is that my client should be damned and deported without question. Your blind and right-wing position on this issue indicates to me that you have nothing to do with revolution and nothing to do with the interests of the working class.

You sound like the Trump administration attorneys I have the displeasure of seeing in court. Sometimes your arguments are word for word, like when you wrote:

“Once again there is the harping on due process in a thoroughly bourgeois legalistic manner. Due process is indeed a democratic right, but…”

This is exactly how they sound. You should be ashamed to write such lines, which expose your total disdain for due process. In fact, because of this line alone I purchased David North’s book The Frankfurt School, Postmodernism, and the Politics of the Pseudo-Left.

One more thing. Using the search function on your website, I see you have written ZERO articles on the attack on immigrants. As you have remained silent, the Trump/Obama duo have deported millions of people. They are setting up tent cities for immigrant children. The WSWS, to its credit, has written hundreds of articles on immigration in the last years alone. You have written nothing because you are nothing. For the sake of my desperate clients sitting alone in immigration detention centers, please stop poisoning the airwaves with the garbage you post.

Anonymous said...

Though I agree with the gist of Reese Mittane's criticism, the writer makes a mistake that needs to be clarified. The "preponderance of evidence" standard applies in a civil suit. That is, the side in whose favor the evidence tilts is said to "preponderate" and wins the case. However, this is not the standard in a criminal case, in which a defendant is facing the loss of his liberty and, perhaps, his life. Here, the "reasonable doubt" standard applies. That is, even if the evidence tilts against the defendant, a juror who retains a "reasonable doubt" as to the guilt of the accused should vote for acquittal.

Which leads me to ask Mr. Brenner the following questions. 1) Were he on trial, accused of engaging in some form of non-consensual sex and facing, if found guilty, a lengthy prison term, would he willingly waive the "reasonable doubt" standard? 2) Would he feel that he had been dealt with fairly if he were then found guilty even though jurors retained reasonable doubts about the truth of the charges against him? Further, would Mr. Brenner feel he could receive a fair trial if the judge instructed the jury that 1) they should not, prior to hearing evidence, accord him (Brenner), a presumption of innocence; and 2) that they should, on the other hand, assume that the testimony against him by the female accusers is probably true?

Are Mr. Brenner and Mr. Steiner are prepared to state publicly that they would be willing to accept the waiver of the reasonable doubt standard were they on trial, and would not object to the judge instructing the jurors that their female accuser or accusers are to be presumed to be telling the truth and should be believed? Unless you are prepared to state this unequivocally, your attacks on the SEP and its defense of legal due process and the presumption of innocence are dishonest and hypocritical.






Anonymous said...

Response from an ex-SEP member to Anonymous Immigration Attorney:
Individual rights, including the rights to due process, cannot be viewed in separation from the legal and political system under which an individual lives. In essence, at this time in history, the due process is thus a bourgeois right under the capitalist system. If you are indeed, as you claim, an immigration attorney, you must know that it is not necessary for your client to be wrongly accused of rape to be deported if he, under the current law is classified as "illegal" (the horrific term sanctioned by the legalized system of oppression). What very often seems to be the case, immigration attorneys directly profit from the current legal system as they charge their clients horrendous amounts of money without any promise of actually helping them, since they are aware of the legal principles unfavorable to undocumented immigrants we live under. Many make fortunes at immigrants' expense. The solution is not to bow to the bourgeois law and navigate through it, but to strike it at its very core - to fight for legal changes to immoral and oppressive legislation, just like it was done in case of fighting slavery in the past. This should be your moral obligation, not crying about how some twisted reps of the state could potentially use the metoo movement against immigrants, which is quite ridiculous.
As to your accusation that not writing about immigrants somehow makes the creators of this blog "guilty" of not supporting immigrants - wsws is not the only online paper to write in defense of immigrants, in fact liberal press is full of such articles, from NYT to Guardian, so what's your point?
It is actually your comment "You have written nothing because you are nothing" that reveals your nasty disposition towards those with a difference of opinion (strange, because legal attorneys usually avoid this type of language).

Anonymous said...

Hi
As a regular WSWS reader and supporter, I have a number of questions for this blog. Despite your attacks on the WSWS coverage of MeToo, there are a number of specific issues that I don't think you have given a clear position on (correct me if I'm wrong), even though these issues have been central to the WSWS's coverage. If you can answer any of these, that would be helpful, I think:

1. What do you think of the suicide of Jill Messick? Do you agree with the WSWS analysis of this - that it was related to the hysteria surrounding the Weinstein case?

2. Similarly, what is your view on the Labour MPs in Britain being driven to suicide after allegations were made against them?

3. What was your position on the letter by Catherine Deneuve denouncing the MeToo campaign, or its French equivalent? Similarly, what did you think of Margaret Atwood's statement?

4. What position do you take on the campaign against Woody Allen?

5. What is your position on the campaign against Sherman Alexie?

6. What is your position on Kevin Spacey being sacked from House of Cards, his deletion from All the Money in the World, and the cancellation of his Gore Vidal biopic?

7. What position does this blog take on the campaign against Polanski?

8. In Australia, leaders of the MeToo campaign want to change the defamation law to make it easier for people to make anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations in the media. What is your position on this?

9. What is your position on the witch-hunt of Yale student Saifullah Khan, which continued even after he was acquitted of rape? More broadly, what position do you take on Title IX and the sexual harassment policies adopted at Harvard and other colleges?

10. What is your position on the Brock Turner case and the campaign against the judge in his trial?

11. What is your position on the removal of Democrats Al Franken and John Conyers over the allegations against them?

12. What is your position on the sacking of James Levine?

The WSWS has written at least one article on each of these issues, making a strong case that the media's campaign is completely reactionary.

TJ

C. said...

Regarding the Anonymous Immigration Lawyer's post - the full sentence reads: "Due process is indeed a democratic right, but so is consent, about which the WSWS has absolutely nothing to say." It is often the habit of those who are not thinking dialectically to obscure half the picture if it does not fit with their purposes. What of consent? Is this not a germane element in this whole situation? It certainly has not seemed so in the WSWS coverage- going back before #metoo to (at least) the Brock Turner case, about which they lamented the outrage around the incredibly light sentence that the convicted rapist received.

There, as with #metoo, the "due process" argument served as a shield to some deeply troubling views on rape, consent, and indeed, due process itself. Their sudden defense of the judge in the case, against whom petitions for removal were filed - because it would be upsetting to "due process" --the due process offered by the bourgeois justice system, let us not forget! -- was atrocious. Hardly in the course of their writings did they even reference the victim, and even then, they did so dismissively at best. Meanwhile, they decry the "...sheer volume, crudity and violence of the attempt to demonize the Stanford student..." (From: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/09/10/turn-s10.html )

Alex Steiner said...

Response to TJ:

I will respond to your question about Margaret Atwood as I think it can serve as a measure of our attitude toward all your questions. Atwood is someone for whom I have enormous respect and I do think she raises very good points about the desire of some - she calls them "good feminists" to abandon due process. And we can certainly agree with that.

One of the false arguments made by apologists for the WSWS is that a critique of the limitations of the concept of “due process” means we are for abandoning due process.

And here is another false argument:

A person is accused of sexual misconduct without any evidence. Some feminists who are associated with #MeToo condemn this person. Therefore, the #MeToo movement is a reactionary witch hunt.

But note that whereas Atwood is defending due process against the “good feminists” who would abandon it, nowhere does she condemn the entire #MeToo movement. She writes,

"The #MeToo moment is a symptom of a broken legal system. All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn't get a fair hearing through institutions – including corporate structures – so they used a new tool: the internet. Stars fell from the skies. This has been very effective, and has been seen as a massive wake-up call. But what next? The legal system can be fixed, or our society could dispose of it. Institutions, corporations and workplaces can houseclean, or they can expect more stars to fall, and also a lot of asteroids."

Am I a bad feminist?


The "broken legal system" - the inability of victims of sexual abuse to get a hearing – is something the WSWS consistently ignores. #MeToo is a reaction of outrage against that broke legal system. Atwood is cautioning #MeToo not to take the next step and abandon the legal system but instead try to fix it. But this is where we come up against the limitations of bourgeois justice. She does not indicate how it can be fixed or question whether it can be fixed.

In practice "due process' is an abstraction that codifies existing rules of evidence which themselves are hardly free of biases. That's not an argument for abandoning all rules of evidence, but for thinking critically about them. For instance, the statute of limitations - one that differs in every state. Why is it different for some crimes (particularly crimes against women) than others? This is just one example of built in ambiguities and biases involved in the abstract concept of "due process" and its closely related concept of "equality before the law". We may have more to say on the idea of “due process” and “equality before the law” in a future installment, but for now I want to leave you with the thought that while we support these principles, neither can we, as Marxists, be blind to their limitations as integral components of a bourgeois legal system. I think the #MeToo movement, through its more progressive voices such as Atwood, is saying something similar.

What is horrendous about the WSWS coverage of questions of sexual abuse is its willful blindness to the voices of the victims and its consistent denial that what we have, in Atwood’s words, is a “broken legal system”. Defending due process is fine, but to do so in the context of ignoring the broken legal system is perverse and an indication of deep seated misogyny masquerading as “revolutionary thought”.

Anonymous said...

I’d like to add something to Alex’s last comment. I discussed Kevin Spacey’s case and the WSWS take on it in my post Willful blindness on sexual abuse (http://forum.permanent-revolution.org/2018/03/willful-blindness-on-sexual-abuse.html)

Since TJ asks about the Catherine Deneuve letter, let me address that here:

This letter, published in January and signed by 100 French women, made some valid criticisms of #MeToo. The WSWS saw this letter as a vindication of its position, but it could only do so by cherry-picking the letter’s contents. In fact the letter clearly states: “The Harvey Weinstein scandal sparked a legitimate awakening about the sexual violence that women are subjected to, particularly in their professional lives, where some men abuse their power. This was necessary.” This is sharply at odds with the position of the WSWS, which vehemently rejects the idea that #MeToo represents “a legitimate awakening” about sexual violence. It considers #MeToo to be nothing other than a witchhunt and a scam.

It has always been our position that there is valid criticism to be made of #MeToo, particularly its blurring of the distinction between behaving badly and committing the crime of sexual assault, which was the gist of the Deneuve letter’s criticism. But, as I wrote in the Willful blindness post, “it’s necessary to draw a distinction between criticism of #MeToo that is legitimate and criticism that isn’t. In the latter category I would put criticism that serves to downplay or marginalize the social scourge of sexual abuse.” That’s precisely what the WSWS is guilty of, which I’ve documented in several posts.

One final point on the Deneuve letter. Shortly after it came out, Deneuve felt compelled to distance herself from it when one of her fellow signatories argued in a tv debate that women could have sexual pleasure while being raped. Deneuve called this statement “spitting in the face of all those who have suffered this crime”. She went on to say that while she stood by her criticism of #MeToo, she also wanted to make it clear that she was opposed to “conservatives, racists and traditionalists of all kinds” who wanted to suppress discussion of sexual violence against women.

Needless to say, this part of the story about the Deneuve letter never made it on to the WSWS. But it offers an object lesson in the dangers of the kind of illegimitate criticism of #MeToo that the WSWS engages in, which downplays the underlying reality of sexual violence against women. You end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and from there it’s no big stretch to spinning out rationalizations for rape.

Frank Brenner